When I first came to Korea back in March of 2005 to live and teach on Ganghwa Island I had no idea what to expect in terms of Korean children school yard games . . . and I would have to say that I experienced some pretty big culture shock when I saw the ‘riding horse game’ (note: I just asked what the name of this game was and a major debate ensued among four ajusshi Korean teachers in my office, so there could be other translations/names for this game).  Another suggested translation was ‘dancing children’ but I think the other name makes more sense.

One student is a kind of ‘anchor’ and they stand with their back against something sturdy like a wall, or in this case a fence.

Then four or five guys (I only saw the girls play a few times, mostly it was guys because it’s a VERY rough game) bend over and put their heads between the legs of the guy in front of them, and grab the legs to brace themselves . . .

. . .for the IMPACT of the opposing team’s jumper–yes, I said JUMPER!

In case you didn’t believe me here’s another shot of the 3 guys who have already jumped onto the horse.  They all make sure to take about a five to ten feet running start and then launch themselves into the air to land on the backs of the ‘horse’ . . . after each jumper lands, or in some cases falls off the horse, everyone screams and yells and laughs in delight . . . meanwhile I watch with an intense look of horrified-oh-my-god-somebody’s-going-to-break-their-neck-should-I-stop-them-or-what-face . . .

The goal of the game is to get all your team’s jumpers onto the horse without falling off, or for the horse to not fall down and survive while some of the jumpers fail to land successfully . . .

Later on I found out that this game had indeed been banned at schools because of student injuries–but the school I was posted to had all of 99 students, and was located in Hwado: a two-street hamlet located next to Mani mountain.  I realized pretty quickly that enforcing ‘modern’ rules from ‘big city education offices’ out on an island that was only a few kilometers from North Korea didn’t really get taken seriously, lol.

Ah, memories . . .

J

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