The athleticism, strategery, and pageantry of Sumo!
Today’s Sports Explained comes from my experience years ago at the Osaka Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium in…you guessed it…Osaka, Japan. Sumo comes to Osaka once per year (in March), and this was day seven of the fifteen-day tournament.
The object of the game is simple: to throw your opponent outside the ring (the dohyo) or to force him to touch the ground with any part of his body. Although . . . this is not sumo:
The matches can last anywhere from 2 seconds to 30-40 seconds. But the pre-match ritual gestures, rituals, and foot-stomping last much much longer. (This part is actually pretty cool.)
The rikishi (sumo wrestlers) each fight once per day, and the rikishi with the best win/loss record at the end of the tournament is awarded the Emperor’s Cup.
Choosing the cup, however, can be quite difficult.
I’m sorry, I’m being told that is the wrong cup. Here we go, “The Emperor’s Cup”
There, that’s more like it.
In between the morning and afternoon matches there are several processions of all the rikishi, and some really cool rituals performed by a yokozuna (a rikishi at the top of the rankings food chain).
These guys really are athletes, with unbelievable core strength and amazing balance. Another interesting aspect of sumo is there are no weight classes. So you can get little guys against big guys.
Two bigger Sumo wrestlers will use force and quickness to oust their opponent. Surprisingly, when a smaller wrestler and bigger wrestler tangle, the outcome is not what you’d expect. Sometimes the little guys use guile and their (relative) quickness to beat the bigger guys. But bigger guys are starting to fight back.
The sumo wrestlers are like rock stars, but they also walk among the people, entering the gym through the front doors and stopping to talk to people, take pictures, and sign autographs. We saw a bunch of sumo wrestlers in their traditional robes and wooden shoes, just walking down the street outside the gym.
Personally, I think the little guy can take him.
Photo Credit: Author