The Seoul Women’s University’s gym is filled with the intense heat and passion of the students practicing judo every week. These students are members of Just, judo-ists who practice judo for fitness of their mind and body.
The goal of Just members is to participate in the annual university judo contest held at the end of every year. The sophomores help freshmen get into shape during the training sessions, and a professor in charge of physical education occasionally comes to provide guidance to the students. Although the active members of the club are freshmen and sophomores, senior club members also visit Just during sessions to give advice. Also, Just has active connections with other judo clubs in universities including Korea, Kyung-hee, and Inha university. They meet with other judo club members and have collaborative training sessions as well, and learn a lot through such interactions.
“Such interactions with other universities are important to us,” said Park Ji-hyo, the current leader of Just. “Although we try the best we can, we still have some flaws or lack skills that we are not familiar with. Other universities, on the other hand, have an advantage over us, because of their long tradition and organized system. Therefore, Just members learn extensively through interactive training, and we always look forward to training together.”
Although there are many universities with judo clubs, Just is currently the only judo club at a women’s university. When interacting with other co-ed school clubs, Just members have noticed that male members easily outnumber female members. Being the only judo club in a women’s university, Just is one of a kind in their field.
“One member who applied for the club wanted to learn Judo to overpower her younger brother,” Park said. “When she and her brother used to fight, she always lost because of the physical differences. Her younger brother was taller and bigger, inevitably giving him the upper hand. However, after she learned judo, her brother learned the hard way that he cannot underestimate her anymore.”
The current representative of the club had her own reason for joining Just.
“I’ve always wanted to learn judo since I was little,” Park said. “When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who was rather shy and quiet. However, when a bully in our class tried to bully her friend, she stepped up and fought for her friend. After seeing her protect her friend like that, I thought it was really cool of her. So I asked her where she learned to do her moves, and she told me that she was learning judo.”
Since then, Park confessed that judo had unconsciously slipped into her mind. But as time went by, she became too busy with her studies that she did not have a proper chance to learn judo. When she entered university and heard that there was a judo club, she instantly signed up and has been learning judo ever since.
One of the benefits of learning judo is that it helps to improve students’ fitness. This is easily witnessessed in the beginning of the training. When new members join the club, for the first few weeks after training, they are bathed in sweat, breathing heavily due to intense workout, whereas old members look less worn out. Although members only meet once a week, their fitness improves over time.
However, as the annual contest comes near, the members meet more than once a week to practice. They have always achieved good results from the contest. Last years achievements were two bronze medals and one silver medal from an individual round and a group competition. This year, the members are trying their best to achieve the best results through their hard practice, once again.
“For me, I guess the charm of learning judo is gaining confidence,” Park said. “Although it is partly related to strength and size, judo is more about using the right skills and strategy to beat the opponent. So, even if the opponent is bigger or stronger than you, after learning judo you no longer need to shrink away. Instead gain the calmness to carefully analyze the other’s tactics and plan your next move. Acquiring that kind of confidence is what makes judo so irresistibly attractive.”