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U.S. Navy crew playing jegichagi with Korean students
Jegichagi is a Korean traditional outdoor game derived from the Chinese game Cuju in which players kick a paper jegi into the air and attempt to keep it aloft. A jegi is similar to a shuttlecock, and is made from paper wrapped around a small coin.
In Korea, children usually play alone or with friends in winter seasons, especially on Lunar New Year. Briefly explaining the rules, the player kicks a jegi up in the air and keeps on kicking to prevent from falling to the ground. In a one-to-one game, a player with the most number of consecutive kicks wins. In a group game, the players stand in a circle, and take turns kicking the Jegi. Players who fail to kick the jegi upon receiving it and let it drop to the ground lose. As a penalty, the loser tosses the jegi at the winner so that he can kick it as he wishes. When the loser catches the jegi back with his hands, the penalty ends and he can rejoin the game. This has developed, and people combined two or three materials and made new ways of playing jegichagi. Though the game was traditionally mostly played in winter, it has become a year-round game.
Although there is no written record about the origin of Jegichagi, historical legends states that the game was developed from young martial artists’ training which involved kicking a small leather pouche. Jegichagi has been developed in a different way.
Samguk Yusa, a collection of Korean historical legends, states that Goguryeo people was skilled at Cuju, which was first known in the 3rd-2nd century BC in China's Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) and which was eventually developed to be jegichagi in Korea. Also, it says that Kim Yushin of Silla stepped on and tore off Kim Chunchu's otgoreum, two long ribbon ties in Korean traditional costume, under the mask of playing jegichagi and had his sister sew it back on. Through that event, Kim Yushin's sister eventually married and became wife of Kim Chunchu, later Muyeol of Silla.
In 2000, Korean Jegichagi Association was founded to make new rules in order to fit this traditional game well into today’s generation. Although jegichagi is well known as many of other famous traditional games in Korea, the game is losing its popularity. In effort to keep traditional jegichagi alive within children’s mind, the Board of Education in South Korea ordered jegichagi as one of the required activities in physical education courses in school, usually 3rd or 4th grade.
In August 2011, an American company released a children's toy called Kikbo based on the Jegichagi.
Traditionally, a jegi is made by taking a coin with a hole through the middle, and a sheet of hanji paper. The paper is folded in half, the coin is placed in the middle of the folded paper, and the paper is folded several times again with the coin still inside the paper. A sharp object is then used to pierce a hole through the paper, also passing through the hole in the coin. Each end of the folded paper is then inserted into the hole, and the ends of the paper are unfolded and torn into strands.
A simpler method is to place a small pile or two or three coins in the centre of a 25cm square cut from a plastic bag or tissue paper. The paper is bunched around the coins, and the coins are tied in place with string or a rubber band. The loose part of the bag or paper is then cut into strands.
The most important factor of good jegi is its weight, which should be around 10 grams (0.35 oz). If it is too light, it is very hard to control jegi since it falls to the ground before the next kick is ready. However, if it is too heavy, it is hard to kick the jegi high enough.
Players kick the jegi into the air using inner side of the foot. The winner of the game is the player who kicks jegi the most times without letting it fall to the ground.
Other ways to play include:
A way to practice jegichagi is to use a tied jegi, where a length of string ties the jegi to a fixed point such that it hangs in the air. In this way, a player can continue hitting it without having to pick up the jegi every time it falls to the ground.
Beginners have a habit of placing the arm towards the front while kicking jegi with the thought that the arm helps balancing the body. However, it does not. When using the right foot to kick jegi, it is better for the right hand to be held at the hip.