It wasn’t until seven months into my time living in Korea that I discovered Jeonju. A small city cradled in the bottom west part of Korea. Within this city I found a precious corner of jiujitsu in Korea.
This part of Korea is simply gorgeous. It’s small size and spacious layout breeds a chilled, laid back atmosphere to the city.
Though foreigners aren’t in abundance, the locals seem un-phased by your presence, which is surprisingly a stark contrast to cities like Daegu; the 4th largest city in Korea.
Given the small size and stature of this cute city, you wouldn’t expect much of a scene for jiujitsu. Fortunately, you would be dead wrong to think that.
Van Jiujitsu has raised the bar for Jeonju’s jiujitsu tenfold.
Though a new club, it’s rise is inevitable, and it’s been making waves within weeks of opening.
Below I’ll go into why that is, and everything you need to know about this awesome club!
As I mentioned above, Jeonju isn’t as world renowned as most of the major cities in Korea. This is by no means a reason not to visit.
The city is home to some of the most authentic, vibrant and delicious attractions that Korea has to offer!
The Hanok village sits at the top of the most popular things to do in Jeonju.
Though many Hanok villages occupy various cities in the country, Jeonju’s is one of the most widely regarded.
Not only is the village teaming with history, there are countless ways one can indulge themselves.
This includes shopping, donning the famous Hanbok garb, and sampling the world renowned cuisine to your heart’s content!
Considered by many as the culinary capital of Korea; Jeonju certainly sets the bar when it comes to Korean food done right.
One of the most famous of it’s specialties is the chocopie. A delicious cake-like confection, with a creme or strawberry jam filling.
Be sure not to get this from any old store, as you’ll find imitations dotted around all of Jeonju.
Below you’ll find the location of one of the original, authentic Chocopie bakeries.
Head to the article on my website for a live, interactive map.
Another key player in Jeonju’s food industry, and by far the most popular meal is their Bibimbap.
Luckily for you, you’ll be able to find this signiture dish in most restaurants around the city, however you’ll find it at its tastiest in the Hanok Village.
The culinary treats don’t stop there however. You’ll sure to find the pinacle of Korean food in many other recipies through out Jeonju!
Explore Jeonju’s Fascinating History
Jeonju has a deep and thriving history that is paraded through monuments and buildings through out the city.
You really are spoilt for choice over places like these to visit.
Such places include The Gyeonggijeon shrine, which was built in 1410, and reconstructed in the 1600s!
The shrine is home to a famous portrait of the dynasties founder, and also acts as a library.
Jeondong Catholic cathedral, one of the first and oldest Romanesque buildings in the region, is another fascinating site to visit.
Finally just a two minute walk from Jeondong is the Pungnammun gate.
This is the only surviving gate of the four that once surrounded the now leveled castle.
Be sure to check this artifact at night, as the lights make it especially beautiful!
All of these facets of Jeonju somewhat distract people from the fact that it recently became a pioneer of jiujitsu in Korea!
For more information on awesome things to do in Jeonju, check out Nomadasaurus!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets get down to brass tax.
Though Jeonju is full endearing experiences, which merit multiple visits in their own right, I had another reason for being there.
That was to visit Van Jiujitsu.
There aren’t many gyms in Korea that I would happily travel the width of the country for. Van Jiujitsu is most certainly one of them.
Below I’ll give you an insight into what makes this gym so special, and everything you need to know before you go there.
Before we get into that, here’s a brief insight to the lay out of the inside of this awesome gym.
Head to the article on my website for a live, interactive map.
The gym is easy enough to find when you get to the location. Just be sure to look up, and you’ll see the following symbol:
You’ll also see this sign on the other side of the building:
Spending a lengthy stay in Vancouver, Partick has been long acclimated to western culture and jujitsu.
Not only does he speak completely fluent English, but he also holds a black belt from Vancouver Alliance, an old school gym that has the same mentality.
As a result, Patrick’s jiujitsu is self defense orientated, and is concerned with preserving Jiujitsu as a martial art rather than a sport.
He’s full of devastatingly effective techniques that work wonders in self defence situations.
Some schools get so engrossed in the competition mindset that they’re more concerned with sweeping and holding than submitting.
Patrick is always hunting for the submission, and has truly creative and brutal ways of achieving it.
I could only marvel as he was doing his work.
After being annihilated Patrick gave me some vital advice about jiujitsu, from more of an overarching perspective, than individual techniques.
The advice went something like this:
“In Jiujitsu, you need a plan which has a specific goal at the end. Your route to a series of positional hierarchies should already be laid out in your mind. Don’t just rely on figuring out your next move at each position.”
I’m definitely paraphrasing, however the philosophy still stands.
Since learning this I’ve been refining my plan, and I’ve noticed some big improvements in my game, and my approach to jiujitsu.
Due to the fact I could only visit on a Saturday, I unfortunately didn’t get to experience a standard weekday class at this nugget of jiujitsu in Korea.
I did however get to experience a self defense class, conducted by Patrick himself.
Classes like this make up part of the reason why I mention that Patrick preserves “old school jiu-jitsu”.
During the class, Patrick had us drill a technique for escaping side control, along with a technical stand up after being pushed down. All techniques were drilled with the emphasis of being conscious of punches to the head.
The students were almost brand new during this class so he kept it very basic.
In light of keeping it basic, the lesson was reserved solely for drilling.
The real fun started after the class when me and Patrick got straight to rolling… and did I mention I got smashed?
Similar to the Lucas Lepri gym in Daegu, Gracie university in Seoul and Taiwan BJJ in Taipei, Van jiujitsu screams professionalism.
Not only does Patrick run a thoroughly thought out training schedule for his students, he also teaches it brilliantly. He’ll go into so much detail above the transitions in each technique, and explain it in both English and Korean!
The gym itself is another key part of Van Jiu-jitsu’s professionalism. Everything is pristine, and as you’ve seen, the lay out is absolutely gorgeous.
In terms of the general vibe of the place, everyone I met there was super welcoming, and just happy to meet you.
Given the small size of Jeonju, I was surprised to find a large foreigner (westerner) presence at this gym. This is most likely due to Patricks fluent english, and his wide reaching friendship circle through out Jeonju.
In terms of the level, being a new gym, the students were generally new to the art. Make no mistake though, this place is guaranteed to boom in the near future, bringing people from all walks of the jiujitsu life!
Normally I include multiple gyms in one article, however I knew that this place deserved its own piece as as soon as I stepped on the mats.
Visiting this gym was an absolute pleasure, I can’t recommend it enough.
It’s reignited my hope that Korea isn’t just a place for competition jiujitsu, that old school jiujitsu really does have its place out here. You just need to know where to look.
Hopefully this article has made that an easier endeavour for you :).
If you found this article informative, you’ll find plenty more like this at roamingrolls.com! A website full of guides and articles on jiujitsu and travelling!