Ssireum is a Korean traditional sport, where two people stand up and compete using their strength and skills. Ssireum is very popular in Korea, but not as popular as it was in the former glory days. People who love the sport have been trying to revive its status to its level of previous glory. The Ssireum team of Dankook University (DKU) won the 10thGurye national collegiate championships. The Dankook Herald(DKH) interviewed our Ssireum team coach, Joo Doo-sik.
Q: The DKU Ssireum team won the tenth ‘Gurye National University Jangsa Ssireum competition’. This was right after winning the ‘Chuncheon Soyang River National Jangsa Ssireum championship’. Both victories successfully brought the glory back to the sport in just six years. How does that make you feel?
A: Despite our handicaps, our athletes did a terrific job and took first place. This is why I think it's a meaningful victory. Currently, all university sports teams are intimidated by the restrictions by the Ministry of Nation and Universities. Also, matches of Ssireum are composed of seven weight divisions, but our team has only nine people, so it’s a challenge to fill seven weight divisions with our limited roster. In fact, despite our lack of large physiques, Lee Kook-hee, one of our athletes won five of the seven tournaments and ensured his ace role in our team.
|▲The Ssireum team of Dankook University won the 10thGurye national collegiate championships. (Photo from DKU websites)|
Q: What is the most difficult thing when practicing or competing?
A: Ssireum has a unique characteristic in that a sparring partner is absolutely necessary for the competition to take place. We had a hard time adjusting our schedule to cover the matches. Players often exercise at night because they had to take classes in the morning. For this reason, morning practices were hard for us.
Q: There must be sometime that you and the athletes were quite worn out. What became the tonic for your team?
A: Self belief that athletes can win tough matches or overcome tough situations is the most important dynamic. Although Ssireum is an individual sport, team competition is equally important too. If we compete against another team, each team director assess how well each team member performs. So it gives a huge boost to the team when one of our athletes we thought would lose, actually wins. This time our athletes managed to defeat bigger ace players and as a result, had a chance to win the competition. This reinforced the beliefs among our athletes and their performance.
Q: What do you think is the most important thing when you lead the Ssireum team?
A: First, the most important thing to teach them is manners. We place a lot of importance on politeness since Ssireum itself is a sport that values manners. Ssireum players should respect each other and the crowd.
Second, we develop the athletes focus so that they can concentrate under any circumstances. Ssireum requires more concentration than any other exercise and quick decision making. During practice, I try to create an environment that is closest to a real match. By doing so, players can concentrate better.
Lastly I systemize all the activities of the athletes. We regularly check their physical strength at the Sports Science Center in Chungcheongnam-do and utilize the results to complement their weak points.
Q: We heard that Lee Guk-hee(weight class: 108kg) defeated an opponent (weight class:140kg) whose weight class was higher than his. It wouldn’t have been easy for him to compete against a heavier player. Why do you think he was able to win?
A: Lee Guk-hee is a great athlete who won four times when he was a freshman. He won five times this year. Considering that force is proportional to weight, it is amazing that he defeated an athlete 30 kilograms heavier than him. I think he won because he is an energetic competitor with strong muscular power.
Q: It is obvious that the final goal of DKU Ssireum team is to be the best team at the upcoming competition in November. What are the players been doing to prepare?
A: It is an amateur sport and the 99th National Sports Festival will be held in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do. Our divisional matches will be held in Jeongeup, so we are currently conducting joint training sessions with the local team.
Q: Is there anything you want to say to Dankookians(Students of Dankook University)?
A: Many people think that Ssireum is obsolescent these days, but they are wrong. In Korea, there are 20 business teams and 15 college teams. And if our members are asked to join a business team, we will have achieved a 100% employment rate. Our team member Lee Guk-hee received a lot of down payment. Counties and cities have hosted 4 National Ssireum contests a year, and broadcasters have also aired these contests.
|▲ The Ssireum team coach of DKU Joo Doo-sik is interviewing with the Dankook Herald.|
In 2012, the Korean government enacted a law regarding Ssireum. The Ssireum Promotion Act was designed to preserve and promote it our traditional sport globally. Through the law, support for Ssireum Associations has become a real possibility. Moreover, after 4 years of preparation, we have been advancing a scheme to record it as an intangible cultural heritage asset on UNESCO’s list by the end of this year.
Coach Joo Doo-sik stated in our interview, “I am proud of myself for trying to revive Ssireum. We have been trying to take chances that people can enjoy diverse activities regarding Ssireum. Besides, we are in the process of combining forces with the North Korea Ssireum Association.” The DKH could feel his passion for Ssireum during the interview with him. He is always thinking about how to develop the sport and how to promote it with people. This interview clearly revealed his attempts to revive the glory of Ssireum. We can learn from him and his passion. The DKH hopes to see them win the next National Jang-sa (man of great strength) contest.
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