The first written record of ssirum in Korea appears in the History of Koryo
ssirum originated as a duel or martial art contests during prehistoric times, then evolved into a sport as the nation developed. There are references to a competition similar to ssirum in the History of the Post-Han from the Three Han States of China and the History of the Early Choson Period by Shin Chaeho. In addition, there is a painting on the western wall of the main chamber of an ancient tomb from around the 4th century AD, Koguryo, which depicts a scene from a ssirum match.
The first written record of ssirum in Korea appears in the History of Koryo. In the account, King Chunghye ordered his warriors to wrestle each other, which he enjoyed watching tremendously. In the Chosun Dynasty, the popularity of ssirum grew to the extent that it is depicted in paintings by such artists as Kim Hongdo, and recorded in many documents.
Even during the Japanese occupation, interest in ssirum grew and competitions were held nationwide. More recently, ssirum has become standardized and circular ssirum is now the principal form of the sport. The tradition is continued with yearly professional ssirum tournaments.
Spirit and Etiquette
Korea's traditional philosophy combines the concept of the well-being of humankind with elements of Buddhism, Confucianism and silhak, or practical learning. In particular, Confucianism, which has had the most profound impact on Korean thought, is deeply concerned with form and ritual, and this influence can be found in various aspects of ssirum, including the pre-match rituals, the actual movements, the preparation rituals, and in the closing rituals.
The ssirum wrestler gets into the proper state of mind by expressing etiquette through his body movements. They influence the condition of the mind and the movement of the body. Etiquette concerns three basic elements, heaven, earth, and man, and the movements of the hand, leg, and waist are classified as heaven, earth, and man, respectively.
ssirum has developed into various forms in different regions of the country. In the form known as right ssirum the satba is tied around the right thigh, the waist satba tied around the waist, and the opponents put their right shoulders against each other. This form is traditional in Hamgyong, P'yongan, Hwanghae, Kangwon, Ch'ungch'ong, and Kyongsang regions. In contrast, left-ssirum, in which the satba is tied to the left thigh is found in the Cholla region and parts of Kyonggi province.
Apart from these two types, waist-ssirum or belt-ssirum, in which the satba is tied around the waist and the opponents pitting their right shoulders against each other, is a popular form in Okinawa, Japan and other islands. Ppassirum, in which the satba is tied loosely around the right thigh and held by putting the left elbow through it with the right arm placed against the waist, is still practiced in areas around the Jilin region of China.
Techniques and Movements
The techniques of ssirum are designed to make an opponent fall, or have any part of the body above the knees touch the ground first. Because the names of each technique differ according to each region, it is difficult to classify the types and the names of techniques under a single heading. ssirum techniques, however, are gradually becoming standardized. In 1983, they were organized into 54 classifications by the Korean ssirum Federation.
The most basic part of ssirum is the elementary stance and it is classified into hand, waist, and leg techniques. Based on these, linking techniques are classified for each technique and a comprehensive technique is formed based on these linking techniques. For the most part, ssirum techniques/movements are composed of 21 basic techniques, 16 flipping techniques, 13 linking techniques, and 27 comprehensive techniques.
1) Striking the Front Portion of the Knee
This technique is used when either the opponent's center of gravity is off-balance, with the right leg placed too far in the front, or the opponent leaning on his competitor. As the most typical example of hand technique, it is frequently used by athletes who weigh lighter than their opponent. First, you pull the opponent's waist and thigh satbas, then lower yourself. As soon as you loosen your grip on the waist satba from the right hand, you strike the opponent's right knee. You then take the opponent's shoulder and push it diagonally to the right and move your body clockwise.
2) Striking the Back Part of the Knee
This is a technique used when the opponent's center of gravity is placed on his hips, the opponent's left leg is placed in front of the right leg, or when the opponent steps back. First, you pull the thigh and waist satbas while lowering your body and move slightly to the right. Then, you take the palm of your right hand and place it in the back of the opponent's left knee, around the outer portion of the left leg. While pulling the left knee, you push the opponent's body backwards.
3) Pulling the Back of the Knee
This technique is used primarily when the loop of the opponent's thigh satba has sagged downward and the knee is folded, or when the opponent's right leg has come forward too much. It is more effective to use when the opponent's center of gravity is placed on his hips. First, you pull the opponent's thigh and waist satbas and pull the back of the right knee with the palm of your right hand. Afterwards, you push the opponent's shoulder with your right shoulder. When pulling the back of the knee, you must pull it between your legs.
4) Striking the Side Portion of the Knee
This technique is used when the opponent begins to lean during the match, as if he is pushing, or when the opponent's center of gravity leans too much to one's left side. First, you pull the thigh and waist satbas and move the body to the left. You then take your right palm and grab the outer portion of the opponent's right knee. Afterwards, you move your left leg backwards, place your hips between the opponent's legs and turn him over by twisting him to the left.
5) Pulling the Ankle
This technique is frequently used when; the opponent's leg is sticking out too much, the opponent's center of gravity is on his left leg or his hips, or any situation similar to this. First, you pull hard on the opponent's thigh and waist satbas and lowers your body. You then grab the back of the opponent's right ankle with your right palm and make the opponent fall by pushing him with the right shoulder.
1) Hooking Technique
A technique in which you make the opponent fall by hooking the opponent's right leg with your right leg. It is used when the opponent's right leg is placed closely to your right leg or when the opponent's body is close to your body. Because the offensive and defensive positions are the same, there is a great danger you, attacker can be taken with a flip. Therefore, when executing this technique, it must be done quickly and precisely with your body position lowered. You slightly straighten the waist satba as you moves the left leg, then hook the outer portion of the opponent's right leg with your right leg. Afterwards, you take the control of the opponent as if pressing the opponent's upper body with his shoulder.
2) Hooking inner leg
A skill executed when the opponent's weight is shifted to his left leg and that leg is placed near one's right leg. Also it is best when you have your posture lower than his. The key is to pull his leg and waist satbas close to yourself and hooking your right leg over right below his knee joint and pull toward you. You finish the technique by shoving your shoulder against his upper body to have him lose his balance.
3) Lightly knocking outer leg
This is a skill similar to one called patdarich'igi which is done while shifting the opponent's weight anti-clockwise. Or it can be done when the opponent's right leg is coming near your right leg. You cross your leg to the opponent's corresponding leg from the outside and spin your body to the left. With this motion, you slip your buttocks in between the opponent's legs and bouncing the opponent off the ground, you drop the opponent to the ground with the leg action.
4) Hooking the opponent's leg in the shape of a hoe
This skill is done when the opponent is trying to lift you and swerve you to the side. Specifically, when the opponent's right leg is rushing toward you or is protruded, you hook the heel of the opponent's leg and push him down onto the ground. You pull the opponent's leg and waist satbas toward you and then make a hook on the opponent's heel. You need to squat a bit and push with your right shoulder.
5) Crossing the opponent's leg halfway
When the opponent advances toward you or backs out from you, you capitalize on that momentum and half cross your right leg to his left ankle. By pulling his leg and waist satbas, you press your right leg to his left ankle area. You then take a left step forward and while pulling hard on his leg and waist satbas, you drop him to your right.
6) Striking the opponent's foot
This is a skill used mostly by wrestlers and is best used during a prolonged match where the athletes are almost in an upright standing position. There are two kinds of this technique, the right and left ones. While pulling the opponent's leg and waist satbas and when the opponent is trying to hook your leg in the shape of a hoe (see above), you push your leg to the direction that the opponent is pulling you. Then turning slightly back to your right, you tap the opponent's left leg with your right and have him fall to the ground spinning.
7) Half-crossing outer leg
This is a skill where you subdue your opponent by hooking your right leg to his outer left leg. This skill is used to counter the opponent's efforts to lift you and swerve you to the side, or a similar technique involving the trunk. It's commonly used when the opponent's left leg comes near your right leg. You pull the opponent's leg and waist satbas, and lowering your posture, push him backward with your upper body. While hooking his left leg from the outside with your right leg, you drop him to your right by pulling at his waist satba. At this moment, you press your chin and upper body to the opponent's right shoulder.
1) Tilting opponent to side
This is the most commonly used waist skill, preferred by tall and heavy wrestlers. You pull the opponent up toward you, and when he is almost lifted up off the ground, you spin him to your rightside and drop him on the ground. There are six different applications - three of them are explained below.
① Lifting opponent and swerving him to side
This is the basic of lifting techniques used often by taller and burlier wrestlers on smaller opponents. You first left your opponent by tugging hard at your opponent's satba. Then with your right leg, you push the opponent's right leg to your left side. You then pull at his waist satba and turn your upper body to your right back side.
② Spinning and swerving
This is a technique where you, using the momentum and centrifugal force, you left and drop the opponent to the ground. You first lift the opponent's leg and waist satbas and move your right leg to the outer edge of the opponent's right leg. You then pull the opponent's waist satba to your right waist area and take the leg satba to your left waist area. Making a circular motion with your left leg, you lift him with the momentum and the tapping of your waist.
This is used when you are knee to knee and are about to execute a Lifting opponent and swerving him to side. When he comes in for the attack, you drop him by using his momentum and your bouncing maneuver with your waist. When the opponent comes in for a Lifting opponent and swerving him to side, you lower your posture and pull hard on the waist and leg satbas of the opponent. You then lift your opponent off the ground by turning your whole upper body to your right and bouncing your waist. Using your left leg as the axis, you move your right leg to the back of your left leg.
2) Tugging at satba
This is the most common form of offensive and defensive maneuver in ssirum. You overpower the opponent with your upper body and follow through using the spinning motion of your left leg. Pulling the opponent's leg and waist satbas, you lower your posture and move your right leg in between the opponent's feet. Then pressing your upper body against his, you press further when you have your left foot spun toward the back of your right foot.
This is often used when the opponent's body weight is shifted to his left and his left leg is bent. This can also be effective against a smaller opponent. Pulling the opponent's leg and waist satbas, you lower your posture while having your back upright. You then take your right leg to your right in a diagonal line. Moving your left leg half step to the back of the opponent's right leg, you further lower your posture and push him toward your right diagonal direction.
This skill is most effective during a prolonged match when the opponent loses his grip on your satba or a smaller opponent comes in deep toward below your stomach. You use the strength and flexibility of your waist and flip him down to the ground. There are three variations: the frontal flip, left-shoulder flip and right-shoulder flip. We examine the frontal flip.
5) Frontal flip
Lowering your posture, you pull at the opponent's leg and waist satbas. When the opponent lets go of his grip and folds his arm around you, you advance forward and dig your head in between his legs. Further lowering your buttocks, you raise your head using your waist and have him fall over your back.
1) Hooking the arm
This skill is used when the attacker's waist satba has come out of the left hand's grip and the opponent is trying to take his arm out of the waist satba. In a prolonged game, when the opponent is trying to free his right hand from the waist satba, you take your left hand under the right arm pit of the opponent and pull. Then you move your left leg forward in between the opponent's legs. Finally, pressing your body close, you spin and drop him to the ground.
2) Thrusting away
In a prolonged game when the opponent's weight is shifted forward, you spin your whole body to have the opponent fall to the ground. Pulling both strands of the satba, you move your right leg toward the opponent's right leg. Using your right leg as the axis, you make a half circle with your left leg. Then spinning your right leg backwards, you let go of the left hand and pull at the satba from his back and drop him to the ground.
(photograper: Park seungwoo)