A spicy side to bloody bouts

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A spicy side to bloody bouts

Two leading figures in the world of gyeoktugi, a bloody, no-holds-barred sport combining elements of many martial arts, greet each other inside the ring.
Only these girls’ arms and torsos aren’t bulging with muscles.
Rather, they’re svelte, sultry and attractive. Chat them up between fights, however, and they’ll insist you not take them for sissies or mere showgirls.
“We have to work out every day as hard as competitors to prepare for a match,” says Park Gye-yeong, who, along with Kang Ha-na, is a well-known “round girl” ― a woman who entertains audiences through dance or funny gestures between blood-soaked three-minute rounds of gnashing, punching and kicking. “Practicing our dance steps and walking style is also necessary.”
The two ladies didn’t intend to become round girls from the get-go. For instance, Ms. Park, 23, wanted to become an actress. As a young girl, she held some roles, then went on to enjoy stints as a fashion model for magazines and a veejay for a cable TV channel.
For her part, Ms. Kang, 22, dreamed of flying ― as a flight attendant. Her hopes were grounded, however, when she didn’t score high enough on the exam.
After coming in second place in a racing-girl contest, she was plucked to be a model for gyeoktugi competitions.
Money is not the allure in being a round girl. So what does attract these talented women to the ferocious ring? “As a matter of fact, fighting is quite attractive,” says Ms. Kang, adding, “after blood is spilled during a game, [the players’] encouraging each other is really touching.”
Ms. Park says, “Of course it was scary the first time.”
But now she says, “The sound of punching, ironically, helped relieve my stress.”
Today, both women have become huge fans of gyeoktugi. The fighting scene is incomplete without them. It’s gotten to the point some people attend matches just to see them.

by Sung Ho-jun
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