Kicks to take center stage at Cheongju fight festival

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Kicks to take center stage at Cheongju fight festival

The Asian Games are just a couple of weeks away, but they're not the only sporting event on the peninsula that will provide plenty of thrills -- a martial arts festival will kick off Sept. 27 in Cheongju.

The North Chungcheong province city is the birthplace of taekgyeon, a martial art that dates to the Goguryeo Dynasty (37 B.C.-A.D. 668), is the precursor of taekwondo, and will be the focus of the festival.

Like taekwondo, taekgyeon is a kick-intensive martial art. But it has more grabbing and pulling moves than its grandson, and is more fluid and artistic, to the point that some spectators say it looks peculiar. Overall, taekgyeon incorporates elements of judo, kung fu and the traditional wrestling sport ssireum as well as taekwondo.

A fighter in a taekgyeon match must keep his feet in restricted places on the ground while maneuvering to strike his opponent.

Organizers of the festival, which is free to the public, expect some 700 martial artist experts from 31 countries to attend. There will be 32 foreign and 18 domestic teams at the event.

Shaolin kung fu experts will come from the Song Mountain temples of central China. Karate masters will fly in from Japan. Muay thai kickboxers will come from Thailand. And fighters skilled in Brazil's dance-like capoeira will demonstrate their prowess.

Among the highlights will be a competition between college-aged Japanese sumo wrestlers and Korean ssireum wrestlers. The match will take place on the third day of the festival, Sept. 29, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Taekgyeon performances are scheduled for the first and last days of the festival. A special taekwondo event will be staged after the opening ceremony.

Ten booths will line the exterior of the Cheongju athletic complex, providing spectators with opportunities to ask experts about the martial arts and their philosophies.

The organizers also plan to create an organization that would connect the major martial arts organizations around the world.

The festival's opening ceremonies are at 2 p.m. Sept. 27. The last day of the event is Oct. 3. Further information can be obtained by calling (043) 850-5171 or visiting http://210.90.200.7/musul/index.htm.

by Brian Lee

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