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 Home >> Theme Tour >> Sports
Traditional Korean Sport - Ssireum

Ssireum is the most popular traditional Korean sport. Ssireum has been a part of Korean history for 5000 years. Ssireum is a game played by men, and also a popular form of entertainment. Two wrestlers pull, push, and try to turn each other upside down during each round. If the game is played competitively, a player loses the game when his upper body touches the ground.
Traditionally, Korean people have Ssireum contests during the Tano Festival on the fifth day of May, by the lunar calendar, and during Chuseok, which is on the 15th of August by the lunar calendar.   But, in recent years, people have begun to hold Ssireum competitions in various regions, in any season except winter.   Winners of Ssireum competitions receive titles such as Cheonha Jangsa, Baek Du Jangsa, and Halla Jangsa after finishing the competition. Professional Ssireum is a very popular spectator sport among the young and the old.

Origin of Ssireum

Two competitors are sitting face to face on their knees in the center of a large circle of sand.   Red and Blue bands are bound around their waists and thighs.   Then, holding the opponent's thigh band with one hand, they stand up simultaneously at the order of the referee.

Wall paintings depicting Ssireum games have been found in tombs, located in Man Joo, which date back to the Goguryeo Dynasty.   Based on this evidence, we suppose that Ssireum existed in that period.   We also believe that Ssireum existed in the Goryeo Period also, based on a document that records a certain King watching a Ssireum match.   Since then, the game has become entertainment for men on traditional Korean holidays, such as Dano, Baek Joong, and Han Ga Wi, a.k.a. Harvest Moon Festival, in the various regions.

As for the basic posture of the sport, the competitors hold their opponent's thigh band, which is bound about the waist, with their right hand, and with their left hand hold on to the portion of the band which is bound about their opponent's right leg. Then they struggle against each other, locking their shoulders together.   
As for the skill of Ssireum, it may be divided roughly into two basic skills, which are throwing and counterattacking.   Throwing involves pulling the opponent toward you, lifting him up, and throwing the opponent to the ground.   Many other skills such as pulling, pushing, or turning the opponent, with ones hands legs and feet are necessary for the competitor to throw his opponent to the ground.   Counterattack skills are designed to defend ones self from being thrown to the ground.

Rules of the game

In competition, the winner is the first competitor to throw his opponent to the ground.   A Ssireum match consists of 3 rounds of wresting in which one opponent must get 2 wins. If there is no winner after 3 rounds, the competitor who has a heavier weight or, the competitor who received more warnings, automatically loses the game. When the referee gives a competitor a first warning, the competitor receives a half score for that round. If he receives a second warning, he loses one round.   If he receives three warnings from the referee, he loses his right to compete in the game.   

In addition, if a competitor commits an infringement such as strangling or throttling his opponent, twisting or breaking the arms of his opponent, shaking his fist at his opponent, head butting his opponent, kicking his opponent, or covering his opponent's eyes, the competitor is disqualified from the competition.
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