Judo High School in South Korea (한국의 유도 고등학교)

South Korea has always been, and will continue to be one of the dominant forces in the sport of judo.  Whenever a Korean team is present at an international-level competition, you can be certain that their players will be in contention for a spot on the podium.

The reason is simple; they have a tried-and-true, well-oiled training machine that churns out World and Olympic champions continuously.

They own a blueprint, and the blueprint goes something like this: take a geographically small country that produces world-class talent each generation and employ those players back into a complete end-to-end program that begins in a fully integrated school training system.

Here in Busan, Korea’s second largest city, there are a number of school judo teams.  They begin in elementary school and continue up through university. There’s even an all-girl’s middle school judo team here.

At high school age, natural strength and dexterity are really setting in; and that’s what we have here.  This is the Haedong High School judo team. My famous instructor trained here long ago.

In school programs like this, players train 5 days a week – once each day on the mats, and each day in the gym.  At Busan Sports High School, another high school program for example, there are full-time living quarters for athletes to wholly commit themselves to training and studies.

On this very mat is likely a future world contender.  Great talent is typically drafted by the system in Seoul which will put players in their gold medal producing programs, but it begins in halls like this.  Each of the big cities in Korea has programs much the same.

If you want to be a champion today, you need to eat, sleep, and breathe judo.  If you’re a Korean and you want that gold medal, just show up for practice.

The rest usually takes care of itself.



한국은 유도분야에 있어서 지금까지 그래왔던 것 처럼 앞으로도 계속 두각을 드러낼 것입니다. 한국팀이 세계대회에 출전할때마다 수상 단위에 오르는 쟁탈전이 될거란 걸 여러분도 잘 아실겁니다. 이유는 간단하죠.; 한국유도팀들은 검증된, 능률적인 훈련으로 올림픽 챔피언을 잇달아 만들어내고 있습니다.
그들은 청사진을 소유하고있고 그 청사진은 다음과같다 할 수 있습니다. 각 세대가 세계적인 재능을 발휘하는 지리학상으로 조그마한 나라를 생각해보세요. 그리고 그러한 재능의 선수들이 전적으로 통합된 각 학교 끝과끝을 이어주는 훈련 프로그램을 완성하게됩니다.
한국의 두번째 도시인 이곳 부산에는 몇몇 학교 유도팀들이 있습니다. 초등학교부터 대학교까지 유도팀들이 있는데요. 심지어는 여자중학교 유도팀도 이곳에 있습니다. 고등학교 나이에는 힘과 재주가 자리잡기 시작하고; 그렇기에 우리가 오늘 이곳에 온 것입니다. 이곳은 해동 고등학교 유도팀 입니다. 제가 좋아하는 관장님도 오래전에 이곳에서 훈련받으셨죠.
이런 학교 프로그램들은 주간 5일 씩- 하루에 매트에서 하는 훈련과 헬스장 훈련이 있습니다. 부산체고나 다른 고등학교 프로램들도 예를 들면 선수들이 공부와 함께 훈련에 전적으로 헌신하도록 풀타임 사분기 연습이 있습니다.
바로 이곳 이 매트가 이들의 미래 세계의 도전인것이죠. 재능이 뛰어난 유도선수들은 전형적으로는 서울에서 금메달을 향한 프로그램같은 훈련들을 받기도하지만 그 모든 것이 바로 이런 연습장에서 시작된다는 겁니다. 한국의 각 대도시에는 모두 비슷한 프로그램들이 있습니다.
여러분이 오늘의 챔피언이 되려면 여러분은 바로 유도를 먹고 자고 숨쉬고 해야되는거죠. 여러분이 한국분이시고 금메달을 원하신다면 연습 시간엔 꼭 나타나셔야되겠죠!
그러면 나머진 알아서 되는거구요.


  1. Avatar A Passerby says:

    Hey Tom,

    I really enjoyed your writing and videos. Guksagwan has such long history, and anyone who lives in Busan is really lucky to have Guksagwan dojo in their city.

    Anyways, I started to learn judo in Korea, but I’m still a novice. I learned basic skills like 굳히기 and 한팔/양팔 업어치기, and I’ll soon learn 밭다리 and then start to do 자유연습. But now that I’m going back to the U.S, I’m worried about judo practice. A judo dojo around my place have a relatively long history and fame, but when I watched their videos, I wasn’t that satisfied. Quite a few higher belts were making mistakes my master told me not to make… They seem to focus on strength a lot, rather than techniques. (The dojo was UJF certified.)

    I also feel like a master here knows what techniques and training suits better for me as I’m an ethnic Korean.

    I’d like to know the difference between dojos in Korea and the U.S. in general. I don’t know how many you’ve been to in both countries, but I’d just like to hear your personal experience. How did you get used to dojos in two different cultures? Am I worried for something I shouldn’t be worried?


    • That’s really great that you got involved in judo in Korea. And, yes, Kuk Sa Gwan is a very special place. I’m blessed to have found it.

      Judo in Asia is very different than in the West. It’s much more integrated into everyday culture. Asia means the continent of Asia. It’s huge throughout central Asia and East Asia. It never really caught on in America. Maybe for a short time in the 80s and 90s. Thanks to Jimmy Pedro, we’ve experienced some great success recently and hopefully those players will pass it on. Even the notoriety of Rhonda Rousey has helped judo. But still, the numbers are falling. In East Asia (Korea and Japan) it will always be strong. Central Asia is now a super dominant force.

      Judo in America depends on local clubs and many of them are fantastic. The tendency is to be a little harder style than in Asia. It’s impossible to compete with Korea and Japan, relatively small countries with countless champions and fully integrated programs.

  2. Hello from Israel!!
    We would like to visit Korea in summer 2016 for 2 weeks training session with korean judoka aged 12-18!! Would you help us please to find judo training school in Seoul or other parts of Korea and accomodations for 2 weeks. Some of our judokas are very well trained so we would like to find equal judokasparring partners in Korea!! Our delegation is about 20 people ( including 15-17 judokas and few coaches)
    Have a nice day & looking forward to hearing from you soon !

    • It’s really tough to schedule outside of Korea. I’m no longer in Korea, but I would recommend trying to contact the IJF or even the Korea Judo Association. They may be able to help you out. Good luck!

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