Brief History and Background of Sumo Wrestling
The history of Sumo Wrestling goes back over 2000 years and was used to entertain the gods or spirits. The earliest forms of Sumo were known as Sumai and had much different rules to modern Sumo. Sumo is now a Japanese national wrestling sport, where the idea is to get the other wrestler out of the ring (Dohyo) or get any part of your opponent to touch the ground other than their feet.
There are many religious Shinto derived ritual dances and consecrations and these play a major part in Sumo Wrestling. Originally the idea of this wrestling combat was to just throw your opponent, but over time the addition of being allowed to win a bout by getting your opponent outside the ring was added. Much development of the sport took place during the Edo period, including the introduction of professional wrestlers, who were mostly lone Samurai (Ronin).
Matches normally start with a ceremonial ritual, with leg-stomping (Shiko) and salt throwing. The rings used are 14.9ft in diameter with 2 white lines from where the wrestlers start. There are no weight classes in professional Sumo Wrestling, however there is a ranking system based on performances in tournaments in the 6 divisions of Sumo Wrestling. The majority of the professional wrestlers are made up of Japanese born citizens, while there are only a small number of foreign wrestlers due to restrictions being put in place on recruiting foreigners.
The life of a Sumo wrestler (Rikishi) is organised and regimented by the Japan Sumo Association.
In 2011 there was much controversy over match fixing and several wrestlers were forced to retire over the situation.
There are also amateur Sumo Wrestling matches with weight classes and an International Sumo Federation, which promotes the sport worldwide.
Sumo Wrestling Training
Sumo wrestlers generally live in training camps/stables (Heya), where almost every aspect of their lives are dedicated towards the sport and it’s traditions. The only trainers allowed to teach, are all ex-wrestlers called an Oyakata.
Rules are very strict and there are different chores and training structures depending on the wrestlers rank and even what and when they eat is regimented. Young wrestlers are often put through a hard time in order to toughen them up, although much has been done lately to eradicate much of the wrong doing carried out by over zealous trainers.
Training normally starts very early in the morning with exercises carried out like, stomping (Shiko), Pushing (Teppo), Sumo lunge-shuffle walk (Suriashi), leg stretching exercise (Matawari) and bouts against an opponent, which will include stamina training (Moshiai/Sanban-geiko) and run pushes/falling (Butsukari-geiko). The more experienced wrestlers will help the younger ones, but there is no talking during the session.
The wrestlers get a chance to eat after this session and then rest/nap to help get their weight up.
Sumo Wrestling Equipment/Gear Used
A traditional haircut or topknot as well as traditional Japanese dress is worn in public, but the clothing varies depending on the wrestlers rank.
Mats for practise
Famous/Celebrity Sumo Wrestling Practitioners
Movies (Comedies) featuring Sumo Wrestling
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