I have had the pleasure to attend two seminars given by Heejin Lee in Seoul, Korea. One seminar was held on Yongsan Army Garrison, for the soldiers on base. The other was a women’s only seminar held at Heejin’s gym, Queen of Jiu Jitsu.
Heejin Lee is the first woman in Korea to earn her BJJ black belt. She earned her jiu jitsu black belt on August 24, 2013 from John Frankl. She is active in the jiu jitsu community in Korea, and opened her own school, Queen of Jiu Jitsu. She is a native Korean speaker and around a high-intermediate English speaker.
At the seminar on Yongsan Army Garrison, there were 40 students, mostly white belts with Army Combatives experience, and some with almost no experience. There were several blue belts, and a couple upper belts as well. Nearly everyone was a native English speaker.
At the women’s only seminar at Queen of Jiu Jitsu, there were 20 women in attendance, 19 of whom were white belts. I was the only colored belt there. There was a mix of foreigners and Koreans.
Heejin gave well thought out seminars. They were well structured, and all the techniques built on one another. In both, there was ample drilling time, which was incredibly nice. I was able to drill each of the techniques at least 10-20 times, rather than the very fast 2-4 times at most of the regular BJJ classes I have attended. During this time Heejin was actively monitoring and observing, helping, and fixing.
After this, there was sparring. One thing I thought was wonderful was that during the women’s only seminar, she made a point to encourage all the women to roll as much as possible, since it was rare for women to get a chance to roll with other women of varying size, ability, and level. In both seminars, there were too many people to roll simultaneously, so people were broken into groups. I had a chance to spar numerous times with a variety of people.
The overall atmosphere was pleasant. Not too serious, but not informal. Some of this may have been because in the Yongsan seminar, Heejin was not teaching in her main language. She was smiling and supportive throughout both.Throughout, I felt encouraged, supported, and like I was learning important points.
Both of the seminars taught the same techniques – side control escapes. Heejin worked carefully on some of the aspects that would specifically help a smaller opponent escape from a larger opponent, including a nearly invisible step that gives the person on bottom a few extra inches of room to escape.
Everything built upon itself in a logical order. Thought had been put into this. Heejin showed herself to be an active teacher with high interaction with the students. She showed enough techniques that we were able to learn some new things, but few enough that we would be able to retain more. In the Yongsan seminar, she had a black belt or two in attendance, and he mentioned learning about techniques that would be helpful for his smaller students – things he had not actively considered.
Heejin took questions while sitting in a circle. One of my favorite moments was when a very large man was having difficulty with a technique. He showed Heejin on a guy his size, and sure enough – he couldn’t quite do it. It looked like there were some physical difficulties. She pointed out an incorrect placement/angle, then demonstrated it accurately on him. It was a really cool point – where she was able to do it, even despite being nearly a foot smaller than him, but with his incorrect technique, he couldn’t do it against someone his size.
Here is a video of one of the techniques she showed. There is language hesitation, but you can still see her skills as a teacher. She supplements lack of language proficiency with clear physical movements, repetition, and demonstration. She showed on smaller and then larger guys. In this video she demonstrates how just a small 1 inch adjustment can be a difference between getting smashed and not.
Here you can see how she was helping folks during the seminar. Everyone was drilling, and she was individually helping folks. It was really great how hands on she was.
I attended Heejin’s seminar in August and in November. In both cases, I retained at least one or two important points, even months later. For me, that makes the seminar totally worth it. It wasn’t about learning something fancy, it was about refining and honing.
I think Heejin is a great teacher. I’ve gone to some women’s only classes with her, mixed gender seminars with her, and women’s only seminars. I think she’s fantastic, she’s accurate, and she’s an attentive teacher. I would happily pay to go to any seminar she gives, and I would encourage anyone else to go as well.