Sumō is one of Japan’s oldest sports and even though its popularity has decreased over the last decade, it is still watched by a huge number of fans around the country. The six annual professional tournaments are enormous events, which are eagerly watched either live or on TV. In this article, we will tell you about the sport, its rules and its heritage.
The traditional wrestling sport of Sumō (相撲) is a symbol of Japan and part of its cultural identity, and it has been practiced for more than 2,000 years. Sumō began as a simple battle of strength before its transformation into a religious ritual to secure rich harvests.
The rules of today’s Sumō are very simple – either force your opponent out of the ring or make your opponent touch the ground with any part of the body other than their feet.
Punching, gouging, and kicking are prohibited whereas slapping and tripping are allowed. It is allowed to grab the opponents belt anywhere around the waist but the groin area. Pulling an opponents hair is not allowed.
Sumō wrestlers often rely on strength and speed to push an opponent out quickly, or use balance and technique to flip, trip, or maneuver the opponent to the ground. Technical expertise is very important in Sumō as it enables experienced Sumō wrestlers to defeat opponents who are larger, stronger, or faster.
The professional branch of the sport holds six annual tournaments with each lasting for 15 days. Three tournaments are held at the Ryōgoku Sumō Hall in Tokyo in January, May, and September. Osaka (March), Nagoya (July), and Fukuoka (November) hold one tournament each. The event is aired on television and radio by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.
Professional Sumō wrestlers are split into six divisions based on their performance. Their exact ranking is given on an official list. A wrestler’s public treatment and income depends greatly on their rank in the hierarchy.
As well as training hard, it is important for wrestlers to maintain their weight with two large daily meals. Their food is known as Chanko of which the most famous one is a stew called Chankonabe, containing large amounts of vegetables with meat and fish. In general, meals are prepared by lower-ranking wrestlers.
A lot of former Sumō wrestlers run restaurants, so if you want to try a bowl of Chankonabe and get a taste of the Sumō world, this is the place to go!