Ssireum (also called Sirum, Korean: 씨름) is a traditional Korean sport. Among Korean folk games, Ssireum boasts the longest history. It is depicted in wall paintings in the royal tombs of the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 BC to 660 AD), showing that Ssireum dates back as early as the pre-Three Kingdom era.
Ssireum is a popular game on Dano and tournaments are held in the summer and autumn. Since ssireum tests physical strength and is a show of strength and masculinity, winners in the past were often awarded with a bull.
Ssireum symbolizes the national spirit of the Korean people. Ssireum is a contest of physical strength and technique in which two contestants compete in direct contact against each other. It is a form of wrestling found only in Korea. It is somewhat similar to the 8th century AD Japanese sport of Sumo Wrestling. There are other types of belt wrestling around the globe, best example being Glima and closely related Breton wrestling in Europe.
Method of play
Ssireum is played within a circular ring which is covered with thick sand. The two contestants begin play in a standing grappling position, each grabbing a belt (known as a satba) which is wrapped around his opponent\'s waist and thigh. The match is awarded to the wrestler who forces the other contestant to touch the ground with any any part of his body above the knee. Unlike sumo, pushing your opponent outside of the ring does not warrant a win, just a restart. Normally, professional ssireum is contested in a best-out-of-three style per opponent.
There are 3 weight classes in professional wrestling; lightweight(Han La, named after the second highest peak in Korea), heavyweight (Baek Du, named after the highest peak in Korea), and open (Chun Ha, literally meaning under the heavens, perhaps best interpreted as world champion).
Traditionally ssireum was contested with the top portion of the trouser rolled down to provide grip. The use of "satba" was invented with the birth of professional ssireum in the mid-20th century. There is some movement to restore this traditional method of grip, in spirit of maintaining its cultural and traditional roots, but it is met with some resistance as the use of "satba" has taken a strong hold. Professional league is dwindling in popularity and many wrestlers have turned their attention to MMA fighting, even though ssireum involves no striking or submissions of any kind, as means of making a living. Choi Hong-man, former champion of ssireum, is enjoying considerable success in the K-1 scene. Unfortunately, the future of professional ssireum remain dark, with only one team remaining