Some general facts on this great Japanese sport
The origins of Sumo date back over 1500 years and are steeped in Shinto tradition. However the rules and rituals in its current form were mostly developed in the 20th century.
Sumo Wrestlers are known for their large girth and huge stomachs. Their weight varies from 200 to over 500 pounds. Interestingly there are no weight divisions in Sumo and it based strictly on skill. It is not uncommon for a 200 pound wrestler to fight a 400 pounder and beat him. However there are 70 winning strategies
The Sumo ring or ‘Dohyo’ is considered very sacred. In the top divisions, salt is thrown into the Dohyo to purify it prior to the match. The Dohyo is 18 x 18 feet and 2 feet high. The ring has a diameter of 15 feet.
Women are never allowed inside the Dohyo, including the stablemaster’s wife or ‘Okamisan’, who acts as a mother to the younger wrestlers. The Mayor of Osaka challenged this in the early 2000s, but her challenge was rejected.
Younger wrestlers have to rely on their elders/donors for money, as they receive no regular salary until they prove themselves and advance up the ranking order. There are six level or ranked divisions, wrestlers are promoted and demoted within and between these divisions based on the merit, wins/loss and records. It is an extremely complex system, for instance wrestlers can advance to the top division and wrestle there for 10-15 years, without ever winning the tournament.
Sagari is the wrestler’s waist belt, adorned by stiffened silk cords which serves merely as ornamentation. It is legal for a wrestler to grasp the sagari, but they fall off so easily so it is virtually no use for them to do so. Grabbing the waist-belt is called ‘Mawashi’, is another matter entirely!!
Wrestlers of the Yokozuna rank- highest ranking wear the hair in a style resembling the leaf of Ginko plant. Apparently this hairstyle also provides some cushioning for their heads in the case of a fall
Gyoji is the term for a Referee. He wears a hat of a very distinctive style, it is called Eboshi. Performing a mostly ceremonial function, he constantly encourages the wrestlers to grapple.
Yobidashi, perfoms an important ceremonial function- ‘Announcing the Contestants’. The Yobidashi’s stentorian shouts are critical for audience arousal, as the waits between bouts could last for an hour or more.
Some Sumo one-liners
· Who has the largest pupils? A Sumo instructor
· You know that I have a body of an athlete. And by athlete, I mean a sumo wrestler.
· A scary thing to do to your girlfriend on Halloween… is ask her if she’s going as a sumo wrestler.
· I heard your mom won a gold medal. I didn’t even know they had Sumo wrestling at Olympics.
· In Japan, finding a sumo wrestler means finding someone who’s been on a high calorie diet for many years. In America, there’s (at least) one in a Walmart near you.
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