The Art of Sumo Wrestling as a Sport
Sumo wrestling may have started out as a form of entertainment in the Edo period of ancient Japan, but it quickly became a sacred ritual due to the many practices leading up to a sumo match. Professional sumo wrestlers are treated with the utmost respect in Japan because of the sport’s deep interconnectedness with Japanese culture.
How to Sumo Wrestle
On the surface, sumo wrestling will look like two gigantic individuals slamming their bodies into one another, trying to force each other onto the canvas or out of the ring. Although this is the objective of each bout, there is strategy behind it based on Japanese tradition.
Sumo wrestlers are not just encouraged to pack on weight, they’re required to do so if they want to compete competitively. Wrestlers must also wear a mawashi, or the thick band of cloth covering their bottom half; and grow their hair long and tie it in a knot to maintain tradition.
Rules of Sumo Wrestling
- Instead of weight classes, sumo is separated into six divisions based on the wrestler’s ability: the top division being makuuchi (maximum 42 wrestlers), juryo (fixed 28 wrestlers), makushita (fixed 120 wrestlers), sandanme (fixed 200 wrestlers), jonidan (around 185 wrestlers), and jonokuchi (around 40 wrestlers) being the lowest.
- A sumo ring is about 15 feet in diameter. The canvas is made of clay or hard sand.
- Before a match takes place, each wrestler must purify the canvas by throwing salt onto it. This is staying rich with Japanese tradition.
- To begin a match, each wrestler will clap their hands to reveal they’re not hiding a weapon or foreign object. Then, each wrestler will take stance about three feet from each other.
- There are three ways to win a bout. You can win by pushing your opponent out of bounds, lifting your opponent by belt or body out of bounds, or taking them to the canvas.
- A wrestler will be disqualified for illegal techniques like biting, choking, hair pulling, low blows, or close-fisted strikes. They can also be disqualified if their belt becomes damaged to the point where it’s coming undone.
- There are no ties in a sumo match, and each match typically lasts less than a minute.
This may sound ridiculous, but professional sumo wrestlers are actually prohibited by the Sumo Association from driving their own cars after a fatal accident to a prominent wrestler. Another neat fact about sumo wrestling is that foreign wrestlers must have a firm grasp on speaking Japanese if they want to compete in Japan. Sumo wrestling is all about keeping tradition.
Written by: Devin Pickell