Adventures in Ssireum


Yesterday was the 33rd Gyeongsan JaIn Festival. As part of the festival, foreign women were invited to compete in a Ssireum wrestling tournament. Having never voluntarily competed in an athletic event, I don’t know why I decided to sign up, but I did. I was expecting to eat sand in the first round and enjoy the rest of the festival from the benches. We had 1 hour of training/practice on Wednesday, then hopped on the bus on Saturday to go to the tournament.

In Ssireum, each match is determined by the winner of 2 out of 3 rounds. In order to win, you must throw your opponent to the ground, without your knees or hips touching the sand first. All this is done in ankle deep sand, and clutching your partner’s satba or belt.

Somehow, I managed to win 2 of the 3 rounds in my first match. Apparently, I did the same in my 2nd match (time spent in the ring became increasingly blurry as I started getting tired and sore) and advanced to the semi-finals, where I was finally knocked out of the competition. I must say though, I’m glad I was beaten when I was. If I had won, the girl I’d have had to fight in the final was a bulldozer disguised as a woman.

Today, I’m sore and bruised (in places I hope to never be bruised again!!) but can admit I had a pretty good day – athletic event and all.

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