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Five Key Facts About Sumo, A Sport Like No Other


The quintessentially Japanese sport of sumo stops the nation through the six large tournaments per yr, with hundreds of thousands glued to the reside motion on TV.

Here are 5 key details concerning the roly-poly sport which dates again centuries, has hyperlinks to the Shinto faith and performs a central position in Japanese tradition.

Nearly nude

Sumo wrestlers squeeze their cumbersome frames right into a mawashi, which seems like a child’s nappy or diaper however is definitely rigorously designed sportswear.

It is the one factor worn within the ring and likewise permits wrestlers to grip their opponent as they grapple.

The belts may be greater than 9 metres (30 toes) lengthy, produced from cotton when coaching and silk for official tournaments or “bashos”.

To slip into the belt, the bare wrestler first passes the mawashi between his legs. Then, with the assistance of assistants, he spins round so it matches snugly across the waist.

It should be tightly tied on the again, each to make sure it stays on however maybe extra importantly to forestall opponents from with the ability to dig their fingers too far down within the belt, giving them a extra stable grip.

The guidelines of the sport

The winner is the wrestler who manages to shove his opponent out of the dohyo, the sacred clay ring 4.55 metres in diametre. The different manner of successful is to throw the opponent in order that a part of his physique aside from his toes touches the ground.

A bout is steeped in Japanese traditions rooted within the Shinto faith, beginning with wrestlers rinsing their mouths with purifying water and the sprinkling of salt earlier than every match.

The contest begins with the bone-shuddering “tachi-ai” the place the 2 wrestlers come collectively in a loud conflict of flesh — and often heads.

In this image taken on August 28, 2019, a sumo wrestler prepares for a bout throughout a coaching session at a steady in Tokyo. PHOTO: BEHROUZ MEHRI / AFP


This is taken into account an important a part of the bout — “if you fail in the tachi-ai, you have an 80 percent chance of losing. You have to work hard on it,” Georgia-born sumo star Tsuyoshi Tochinoshin defined to AFP.

Slapping is permitted to the physique and the face however hair-pulling and punching are strictly forbidden. Only the horizontal portion of the belt can be utilized as leverage.

It is technically doable to dodge a collision within the hope of forcing an opponent to topple over underneath his personal weight, however this tactic is frowned upon.

While it’s true that the overwhelming majority of wrestlers are huge, there is usually a big distinction in weight — a 200-kilo (440 kilos) fighter may simply lose to a 120-kilo opponent.

Men solely

The dohyo is taken into account a sacred area and ladies, seen as “impure”, are banned from getting into. This reached farcical lengths in 2018 when feminine medics rushed to assist an official who collapsed within the ring, solely to be shooed away.

If girls enter the ring, it must be “re-purifed” with copious portions of salt. The head of the sumo affiliation Hakkaku did apologise to the medics in 2018, however accusations of sexism stay.

Sumo has additionally been dogged by a number of scandals lately together with allegations of bullying, unlawful betting and hyperlinks to organised crime.

Stable profession

Throughout their careers, wrestlers are housed in so-called “stables” run by a stablemaster underneath strict guidelines and a fierce hierarchy.

Trainee wrestlers sleep in a big dormitory on tatami mats, have to hold out a number of home chores and successfully act as servants to the extra senior sumo professionals.

There is a brutal coaching routine, fuelled by gargantuan parts of chankonabe, a calorific stew designed to pile on the kilos.

‘Moral energy’

There stays a debate in sumo over which is most essential: the “shin” (coronary heart or spirit), the “gi” (approach) and the “tai” (bodily power) however Tochinoshin is in little doubt — “it’s the heart,” he exclaims instantly.

Experts usually declare to have the ability to predict who will win from the pre-bout rituals of stomping across the ring and eyeballing the adversary.

“In a fight between two opponents of equal strength, the only thing that can make the difference… is their moral energy,” wrote Kirishima, a properly revered fighter who reached the rank of ozeki, in his 1996 memoirs.


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