A traditional Korean wrestling sport, Ssireum, was officially introduced in Nigeria with a first amateur competition organized by the Korean Cultural Center Nigeria (KCCN).
The two-day event held over the weekend from Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja attracted at least 30 participants with winners emerging afterwards during its demonstration.
In the end, Tosin Olaniyan and Suruola Faari emerged victorious.
Olaniyan beat Philip Yina Labba and Chisom Adati to take first place in the men’s category of the tournament, while Faari swept third-placed Bella Daniel and Emeka Maryann to win the women’s category.
Those who lost were placed second and third respectively.
Talking about the sport, KCCN Head Coach Gbolahan Ogumuyiwa said, “Ssireum is growing fast in the world today. Taekwondo is the number 1 martial arts in Korea, but I tell you that in the next few decades, Ssireum will assume such a position that it will start to feature in the Olympics.
“In Nigeria today, as we embark on annual Ssireum events, we will come to a point where we will have Ssireum clubs all over the country. We want to bring it to school because the school system is the base place to develop any sport. Our goal is to organize Ssireum clubs in primary and secondary schools. Over time, we will have associations at the state level and then at the national level. At the moment where you have it at the NUGA Games and the National Sports Festival, then the sport is here to stay.
The coach also spoke of the virtues that Ssireum exudes: “Beyond wrestling as a competitive sport, Ssireum teaches athletes humility; and individual strength and skill.
“Just like other Korean martial arts I’m used to, courtesy is very important (in Ssireum). When people come to the ring/arena, they come with humility; no one comes into the arena with arrogance. Also , the arbitrator’s decision is final.
“It’s a sport that tests your strength. Beyond strength, there is technique and skill. Any skill shown without skill might not give you the expected result. People think taekwondo is the only traditional sport in Korea, but there are many other martial arts of Korean origin that are doing well in Korea.
He said it is expected that the sport will soon be introduced into the Nigerian Universities Games (NUGA) and the National Sports Festival (NSF).
However, Blueprint understood that Ssireum is a traditional Korean game usually played during Chuseok.
It is played between two players where both players hold each other satba, a red and blue band tied across their thigh, and whoever whose upper body is pinned to the ground first loses.
It is played on various occasions including traditional feasts, market days and festivals.
Different regions have developed variations of the ssireum based on their specific origins, but they all share the common social function of the ssireum – to enhance community solidarity and collaboration. As an accessible and low risk of injury sport, ssireum also offers a way to improve mental and physical health. Koreans are widely exposed to ssireum traditions within their families and local communities: children learn wrestling techniques from family members; local communities organize open wrestling tournaments each year; and instruction on the element is also given in schools.