Category Archives: Ssireum traditional sport of Korea

Ssireum traditional sport of Korea

Welcome Message

Even though ssireum has over 5,000years of history, we are always working to reach out to new generations. Our mission is to imorove the lives of ssireum players and to continuously popularize our traditional sport. For those who are interested in ssireum, you have reached the right place! But to truly experience ssireum you should see it firsthand by coming to one of our exciting matches. Your presence will encourage our players and in turn help to support our traditional sport. The future of ssireum is ahead of us and we should work together to help invigorate this important part of our culture. Your interest and support are invaluable. We appreciate your help in advancing the future of ssireum.

Many thanks!

Mr. Te-Jung Choi



  • Contemporary Ssireum

The following information was recorded through verbal communication with Mr. Gyuhang Lee . The initial televised ssireum broadcast was conducted by Mr. Lee in 1972 on Korean Broadcasting Service (KBS) and Mr. Lee would go on to MC for the sport over the next 30 years. Mr. Lee felt that ssireum would be a hit with Korean audiences and conferred with leading ssireum expert Mr. Taeseong Kim  to help convince KBS producer Mr. Jaegil Kim to make ssireum broadcasts part of the televised sports lineup. An arrangement was struck and over the next nine years ssireum was irregularly broadcast on KBS as no formal playing season had yet been established. During this time the ensuing desire to regularly manage and promote competitions gave birth to the first professional ssireum association in Korea founded in 1981 by Mr. Haesu Kim, Mr. Kim Taeseong, and Mr. Jaegil Kim, and Mr. Kim Dongsu with the backing of KBS. n April, 1982 the Folk Ssireum Committee began to organize. In March, 1983 they launched their first formal event. Then on April 14th, 1983 they sponsored the first Universal Championship which was held at Jangchung Gymnasium in Seoul. The event drew an enormous crowd of spectators and was reported to be the most widely viewed sporting event ever in Korea though the television ratings data have been lost to time. After this event the nation was abuzz with talk about ssireum and the popularity of the sport rose considerably.


  • Ssireum-jang

Korean Ssireum Association The ground on which the wrestlers compete is sand. The arena is on a stage which has a height of more than 70 cm. This enables a spectators to see the competition. The diameter of the circle is 7 m. For the prevention of the players injury, there is a 2 meter zone which surrounds the sand. The sand (in bounds) is approximately 10 to 20 cm deep but is filled so that the in-bounds is level with the out of bounds zone. See Figure below.

  • Satba

The garment is placed around the right leg(Figure 1)and tied with a knot, forming a ring around the thigh(Figure 2). The garment is ourposely tied so that one end can be looped around the wrestler like a belt, going behind his right side and returning to the front from his left side(Fugure 3). The end of the garment is then tied to the thigh ring(Figures 4-5). The garment, in the shape of figure five, appears like a belt and garter on the wrestler.

  • Bokjang(uniform)

Player’s uniform Korean Ssireum association has selected one company to manufacture the uniform, a pair of shorts, for competition. These certified uniforms are only acceptable clothing for competition. The mark of the ream (school, company, or province) adorns the shorts along the outer right leg seam.


Insa (Saluting)

The wrestlers stand two meters apart facing each other with arms at their sides and feet together. While watching the opponent’s eyes the wrestlers bend at the waist, moving the upper half of body to a 30 degree angle from the ground. The salutation begins and ends all Syrum(Ssireum) competition, be it practice sessions or formal competition.

Baro Japki (The starting position)

Participants kneel facing each other and each participant grasps his opponent’s sash. The right hand grips the belt at the opponent’s waist. The left hand runs through the belt at the outside of the leg. Both hand grips are such that the thumb is inside the belt with fingers wrapping the outside with palms down. as if gripping a bar.Both participant bend at the waist keeping the back straight. The head will rest at opponents right side. The right foot is forward between opponent’s leg with slight bend at knee and supports ¨÷ of the body weight. Feet are shoulder width apart.

Type of Competition

Syrum(Ssireum) participants compete as either professionals or as amateur wrestlers. At the amateur level competition occurs at the city. province and national level. The amateur level emphasizes team competition but does have individual advancement and grand champion competition. Professional competition is held at the national level only. This level emphasizes the individual advancement and the grand championship. The professionals are typically post-college age and previously competed at the amateur level. During tournament competition individual champions are determined for each weight class. The competitor who advances by winning each match through the final match is the champion for his weight division. Two or three times wrestlers regardless of weight. This is to determine the champion of the champions. The grand champion is recognized as a true hero of Korea.

Weight Classes

Individual Competition and Team competition are conducted according to weight classifications. The weight classes allow wrestlers, regardless of their size, to participate against opponents who are approximately the same weight. The weigh-in is conducted the morning of competition by the Syrum(Ssireum) officials. At the amateur level for individual competition there are seven weight categories. For the professionals there are two weight classes: Baekdu weight(over 100.1 kg) and Hanra weight(below 100 kg).Syrum( Ssireum) participants are allowed to compete at one weight class above the weight at which they weighted-in.

Illegal Wrestling Maneuvers

Syrum(Ssireum) competition is a fierce contact sport but does not allow certain moves to be used. For the safety of the wrestler, maneuvers which deliberately cause injury are prohibited. Such illegal activities include the following :

  1. Choking or twisting the neck of the opponent.
  2. Twisting or bending appendages against normal range of motion.
  3. Butting the opponent with the head.
  4. Kicking
  5. Slapping or hitting the opponent.
  6. Blocking opponent’s view or poking his eyes.
  7. Bending the fingers against the joints.
  8. Stalling and avoiding contact with the opponent.
  9. Deliberately moving outside the contest area or intentionally pushing the opponent out of bounds.
  10. Purposely untying the Satba in order to get a rest.
  11. Marking meaningless cries, remarks or gestures that are derogatory to the opponent.

Officiating Staff

For a Syrum(Ssireum) match, the officiating staff is composed of two persons, the referee-in-chief and three assistant referees. Referee-in-chief is located in the contest area and has the opportunity to move about during the match. His main responsibility is to determine the winner. The assistant referees, located in chairs at the side of the contest area, assists the referee-in-chief by providing information from a different vantage.

As the match begins the referee-in-chief holds the attention at the center of the contact area under the spotlights. In professional competition, the referee wears a costume similar to a type worn by ancient Koreans during the time of the three kingdoms, 400 AD. The referee-in-chief has the sole responsibility for the conduct of the bout. He signals the beginning of matches, points out fouls, and proclaims the winner. Referee-in-chief moves about in a crouched position, attempting to detect any body part other than the feet, touching the ground(i.e. “fail”.) The Referee-in-chief is responsible for stopping the wrestling when the situation may cause on injury to a wrestler. The assistant referees may signal that the situation is dangerous or illegal but only the referee can stop the match.

The referee is also responsible for determining which wrestler should be initiated and awarded the victory when both wrestlers fall to the ground. If the referee can not determine a winner, the assistant referees and the referee-in-chief meet in the center of the contest area to discuss and decide the winner of the fall. In the event of a split decision among the three officials, the referee-in-chief makes the final decision. The referee-in-charge signals the victor of a fall by raising an arm in the direction of the winner’s color.

Cirtera for Winning and Regulation

The objective of Syrum(Ssireum) is for one wrestler to make the opponent fall to the ground. A fall is defined as the event in which any body part other than the feet touch the ground. Typically the wrestler who secures two out of three falls is declared the winner and advances to the next round of the tournament. For the championship of each weight division and for the grand championship, three out of five falls are used as the criterion for determining the winners.

Syrum(Ssireum) participants compete for the falls during a three minute match(regulation time). If neither wrestler has scored a fall at the end of regulation time, wrestler are given a one minute rest. This is followed by a three minute overtime period of wrestling.

At the start of overtime both wrestlers are assumed to have one fall each. The winner is the next one to execute the fall. In the event where no overtime fall occurs, the wrestlers are weighed and victory is awarded to the lightest wrestler. The area for competition is a sand-filled circle. For competitors to be awarded a fall, at least one foot must be bounds. If a wrestler initiates a fall with both feet out of bounds, the fall is not awarded. Competitors are encouraged by the official to compete in the center of the contest area. The clock is stopped when wrestlers go out of bounds and the match time resumes when both contestants have returned to the starting position at the center. Scoring that occurs before the referee can restart the match is not awarded.


It may be said that are two type of Syrum-one(Ssireum-one) when the wrestlers start by griping each other’s Satba and the other when they do not. The average time required for a match is about 10seconds very few go on for over three minutes. When they do, the customer roar and ask for more, but that’s what really takes it out of a wrestler.

The following description includes some of the throws most commonly seen. but there are countless variations, depending on exactly how a man is thrown, pulled, pushed, slapped, kicked, and so on, either down or out. To describe them all would require a volume in itself. Syrum(Ssireum) techniques involve lifting, throwing, twisting, tackling, and tripping. In some respects, wrestling is a science, for most maneuvers employ the principle of leverage.

There are hundreds of holds and maneuvers but the wrestler should not try to master every one. He should rather learn and perfect those that suit his body the best. It is better to be an expert at a few holds than mediocre at a great many. You should study all the available techniques for your maneuvers so that you can be certain you are employing the best available methods.

Great strength is an asset but not a prerequisite in wrestling. Knowledge of leverage points, quickness, and physical conditioning are far more essential to success.