What is Sumo?
Sumo is the traditional national sport of Japan. Just as baseball and soccer have become popular within Japan, the ancient traditions of Sumo are gaining popularity outside of Japan. There are six Grand Sumo tournaments (basho) held during the year, in each odd numbered month. Three are held in the capital of Tokyo, and one each are held in the cities of Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. There are only seventy salaried professional wrestlers in the two top divisions of Sumo, with hundreds of men striving to break into these ranks.
How is Sumo Enjoyed?
To enjoy the combat sport of Sumo, there are only a few things to know. Two men meet in a ring that is 4.55 meters across. They wear thick silk belts around their waists. The object is to force your opponent out of this ring (dohyo) or to make any part of his body (excepting the soles of the feet) touch the playing surface. There is a referee and several judges watching the action to call the winner. These bouts are very brief, averaging only a few seconds, although some exciting matchups can go on for two or three minutes. The combatants cannot pull hair, gouge eyes, or strike with a closed fist. Pushing, tripping, slapping and various body throws are commonly seen in Sumo. Judo was derived from ancient Sumo throwing techniques.
Why Learn About Sumo?
If you are interested in Japan, Sumo is a fascinating way to learn about the culture of the country. Men and women alike are fans of the sport, and it is deeply and traditionally Japanese. The wrestlers belong to teams, and live communally in a lifestyle that is completely dedicated to the sport. Sumo is a way of life as well as a sport, and all involved wear distinctive clothing and are considered role models all year round. A strict meritocracy, you gain rank and pay in Sumo only by winning; lose and you drop in rank. An additional attraction of Sumo are the men from foreign countries who struggle to achieve fame and fortune in Japan. Recently, men from Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mongolia, China and the United States have found success.