Ssireum at the Sand Fest in Busan

If you spend enough time in Korea, you'll eventually run into two topless dudes leaning against each other in a sandy ring.  Ssireum is Korea's version of wrestling and it adds a few wrinkles to any versions one might see elsewhere.  First, the grapplers are basically bound together by the fact that they must hang onto their opponents belt with both hands.  One hand even gets wrapped into the opponents belt.  The wrestlers try to pull their opponents off their feet and then dump them into the sand, winning the round.  Second, the match ends as soon as somebody's body hits the sand.  Don't expect any UFC face smashing or muay thai flying knees.  This is pretty much two guys trying to pull each other into the sand.  Still, ssireum has a long history, going back hundreds of years and is known as Korea's national sport.  There's a certain grace to the whole thing, but if you blink, you tend to miss the match as it's basically just one move, one throw, one sweep, and then done.  Last weekend at Busan's Sand Fest, we caught a ssireum tournament on Haeundae beach.  It seemed fairly casual as the guys involved were just wearing shorts and peeling off their t-shirts as they walked up to the sand pit.  Still, once the match started they were all business.  As always, here's 10 pictures and some foolish comments.

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