What Is Korean Judo (Yudo)? (Unique Origins Revealed)

Judo is an Olympic sport, a martial art, and a self defense system. It’s origins are definitely rooted in the Asian continent, but is the internationally known throwing art the same in all countries and have similar roots? More to the point, what is Korean Yudo (Judo)?

Korean Judo (Yudo) is a form of Japanese Judo that can be found in South Korea. The pronunciation is different because the sounds in the Korean and Japanese languages are different. Yet, the two styles are essentially the same. Both go by the same international sport rules systems.

That being said, there are some slight variations not only in language, but in application. There is also an interesting route that brought the Japanese martial sport to the peninsula. To read more about this and other aspects of Yudo, read on.

Is Judo Korean Or Japanese?

If Judo is known by one name in Korea and one name in Japan, does it have something to do with the style itself being different? Is Judo a Japanese art or is it a Korean art?

Judo is a Japanese art based on techniques of traditional Jujustu that could be performed at full speed without causing competent training partners serious injuries. Though it is a Japanese art Judo has spread to Korea and around the world through cultural exchange, sport, and even conquest.

Korean Yudo is the Korean version that is popular in South Korea. The ‘Y’ in the name is different because of language and pronunciation mostly. The international sport rule system is the same and even many of the Japanese names of the throws are used by some Koreans training with them.

There are instances of Korean Judo-dojos using all Korean terminology. The techniques all tend to be the same even if the names are different for competition purposes. There are some uniquely Korean techniques that some groups may train in, but they are normally for self defense and not competition use.

Judo Vs Yudo

So if Korean Yudo is essentially the same as Japanese Judo, are there variations in Yudo versus Judo and what are the differences?

In international sport, the rule systems are the same for Yudo and Judo. The sport is regulated by international and Olympic Judo committees. In self defense, there are claims that Yudo has more emphasis on newaza or ground grappling techniques. Though, this is not an official trait of Yudo.

What is the difference between a standing throwing focus and a ground grappling focus? There are a couple of issues to consider…

  • Judo rules apply in all sport related matches to essentially both are standing throwing focused in those situations.
  • In self-defense or non sport training individual practitioners may focus more on the ground techniques.
  • This may be more of a cultural or current trend reasoning than anything inherent in the style itself.

There will also be some slight variations at times regarding grips, entries, and pivots for Korean vs Japanese Judo throws. This usually doesn’t provide a noticeable advantage in competition as these variations are usually slight.

Judo has a limited number of techniques and to be successful a competitor must simply have better timing and execution than an opponent. Most competitors focus on only a handful of the techniques for their attacks and defenses. Small variations normally become negligible.

What this means for adults is that Korean Judo or Japanese Judo will look predominately the same even if some train them slightly differently. For kids, there will be no real change at all since most variations between the two will involve submissions which are not applicable to them.

Where Did Judo And Yudo Originate?

Most all cultures have a martial fighting system used by militaries throughout the ages. In Japan Jujustu or Jujitsu is that art. It was developed over many generations of fighting soldiers. How is Judo connected to Jujutsu?

Judo came from Jujitsu as its founder Jigoro Kano selected the techniques that could be practiced at full speed on resisting partners without causing severe injury. This developed into a sport that soon gave birth to the most famous of all martial arts icons: the color belt system.

The jacket throwing system we see today in Japan, Korea, and around the world all had its start with the Japanese Samurai way of fighting and the Jujitsu movements that were collected from it.

I recommend the most popular and well made brand of Judo gi (uniform) for any aspiring Judoka (Judo student). Fuji makes a very durable and comfortable gi and you can get one for you or your kids shipped directly to you from Amazon. Get your Fuji Judo Gi to start off or continue your training.

When armored opponents were met on the battlefield and swords, naginatas, or spears were lost, empty handed striking did little damage against the wooden breastplates and helmets. Grappling with its throws, strangulations, and joint-locks was the fighting method of choice.

Judo was born as a martial sport in much later times of peace. It was born from Jujutsu.

How Did Judo Come To Korea?

In 1910 Japan officially annexed the Korean peninsula. Though, the Japanization of Korea and its people had begun a few years earlier when Korea became a protectorate of Japan, it was fully implemented in 1910.

Judo as a sport was part of the Japanization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Japan not only ruled the Korean peninsula through the Governor-General of Korea, but instituted programs to spread Japanese culture. Judo, Kendo, and Karate were mandated whereas Korean martial arts were banned.

Though the introduction of Judo was less than desirable for those looking back at it through history, it has no doubt taken a strong hold on South Korean society. Korean Judo is a very popular martial sport with Korea fielding Judo competition teams for all major international events.

Even with the checkered past between Korea and Japan, most all Judo in Korea hold allegiance to the teachings and guidance of the Kodokan in Tokyo. This is the training hall and main headquarters started by Jigoro Kano in the early 1900s.

To read more articles like this I recommend reading some of my others…

Is Judo Popular In South Korea?

Korean Judo or Yudo is a very popular martial sport in South Korea. The international competition circuit always sees Korean Judoka and Korea has its share of medalists. So, how popular is it?

Korean Judo is popular in Korea and for Korean Judoka competing around the world. Children to college students can study Judo as curriculum in school. Yong In University has an internationally renowned sports athletics curriculum which includes Taekwondo, Kendo, and Judo.

When I visited Yong In University I was blown away with the Judo training hall. It is modeled after the Kodokan training hall in Japan with elevated stadium seating all around a central enormous tatami covered floor.

The level of Judo was amazing along with the training in other martial sports. You won’t find levels of Judo and participation in many countries around the world rivaling even the program at this one South Korean university.

It may be surprising to many, as it was to me, that Korean universities like YIU have entire degree programs in the martial arts. Of the 5 colleges in the university, one is the College Of The Martial Arts. You will find the competition and demonstration teams for Korean Yudo there.

Is There A Korean Judo Team?

International competition is a major part of a countries Judo program. All major countries of the world have judo teams so what does that mean for South Korea?

South Korea has a very successful and popular Judo team. The South Korean national Judo team attends all major competitions and is in contention for medals in nearly every one. Korea had a team competing in every Judo Olympic competition since the first in 1964 when Kim Eui-tae won bronze.

The international Korean Judo team not only spreads awareness of Korean athletics, it is a form of ambassadorship for the Korean culture and nation. A similar situation happens with many nations.

Is Korea Good At Judo?

Korea has had many very successful Judo teams and Judoka over the decades. In nearly every competition they enter they are a threat to stand on the medal podium.

Korea has a very good international Judo team with good standing in most all weight categories. There are several standout Judoka that have come from Korea over the years. They are an exceptional team that has many contenders for world titles.

Not only do they have a good team each year, there are some exceptional standout individual competitors. Here is a list of some of the top all time great Korean Judoka and the number of international competition medals they have earned.

Korean Legendary JudokaNumber of International Medals
Jae-Bum Kim14
Min-Sun Cho13
Sung-Sook Jung11
Hyung-Yoo Ha9
Ki-Young Jeon6

According to the International Judo Federation (IJf) and their points list by country, Korea makes the top ten in Judo each year. It is not unusual for the Koreans to even hold a spot in the top 5 countries in the world.

These points are awarded for placements in competitions by each weight class and in men and women divisions. All of the points are then added and each country has a total points score.

Is Korean Judo Also Good For Kids?

We can see that Judo in Korea is popular and very successful internationally for adults, but what about for kids. Since one of the main purposes of this site is to help parents make decisions about the martial arts, parenting, and education for their children, is Korean Judo a good choice for kids?

Korean Judo is an excellent grappling sport for kids. It develops many of the physical skills that will help them throughout their life. Korean Judo like the sport in many other countries increases balance, coordination, and muscle tone. It is also a great motivator and source of self discipline.

There is also the self defense side of Judo that is very effective and even safe. Unlike many other forms of martial self defense, Judo doesn’t employ strikes of any kind.

The emphasis in Judo is on takedowns or throws and holding attackers in holding positions on the ground until they cease or help arrives. This is unlike other styles that rely on strikes, joint injuries, or strangulations.

Judo has a great blend of fitness, discipline, and practicality for any child. It is also a great style for shorter or larger children because of its emphasis on throwing and wrestling rather than jumping, spinning, and high kicks.

To read more about kids and Judo, see some of my other articles…

The Korean Judo (Yudo) Takeaway…

Judo is an Olympic sport based on jacket throwing and wrestling. This means competitors employ gi or uniform tops to throw one another for points.

This is the same goal, sport, and rule system in Japan as well as Korea. Though in practice there are claims that Korean Judo (Yudo) has a bit more emphasis on ground grappling, in competition there is little difference. Throws are the main focus.

Korean Judo is a very popular sport in Korea and their international teams and competitors place high in most competitions. They regularly rank in the top ten and even top 5 countries for Judo in the world.

Korean Judo is great for self defense in kids and adults. It is a very controlling art which emphasises throws and controlling pins rather than striking an opponent into submission. For adults, safe choking techniques can also be used to subdue attackers until help arrives.

Though Judo is the same in the sport arena, the reintroduction of uniquely Korean techniques has made the self defense aspect of Korean Judo slightly different than the Japanese version. To be honest, to those not skilled in the art and viewing the two, there would be no difference in their use and application.

Mathew Booe

Mathew Booe is a father of four, husband to Jackie since 1994, retired international competitor with over 50 wins, an international seminar instructor, a master instructor of hundreds of Little Ninjas each week, and the one bringing you the great content like you just read. Sign up for the newsletter to hear about his upcoming books before they are released to the public.

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