Prior to starting their bout in the ring – the “dohyo” made of sand and clay – both sumo wrestlers, or “rikishi”, go through ancient ceremonial preparations. They clap their hands to “awaken the gods”, they toss salt into the ring for its purification, and they stamp their feet to “crush all that's evil”. Dressed only in tightly wound silken loincloths, they then crouch and prepare for the opening charge – both hands are out in front of them, knuckles down on the ground. A bout may last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Whatever the duration, the athletes combine power and technique to force their opponents out of the ring or force them to the ground – with any part of the body other than the soles.
Sumo features in The World Games 2013; check the event calendar for details about when it is scheduled.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...?
Whatever the outcome ...
Whatever the outcome of the bout, the winner is honored as much as the loser is respected. During The World Games in 2005 and 2009, a few athletes were warned and asked by the referee to repeat their bows to each other at the conclusion of their fights. The first ones could not be considered "genuinely respectful".
Around the world ...
Sumo is a Japanese wrestling sport. It enjoyed immense popularity there throughout many centuries and only spread to the rest of the world in more recent years. Close to 100 countries are currently affiliated to the world governing body, the International Sumo Federation (ISF). While sumo is considered to be all Japanese, similar forms of wrestling are still contested in some of the countries of the former Soviet Union as well as in North and South Korea.
Sumo traces its origins back to ancient times. It is said to have made its first appearance in Japanese mythology as a simple trial of strength. Eventually it came to be practiced throughout the country as part of Shinto ritual and thus achieved its full expression: one tied in strongly with the national spirit of Japan. Nevertheless, references to virtually identical wrestling can also be found in the historical chronicles of countries such as China and India, and even in some murals of ancient Greece.
Sumo today ...
Amateurs and professionals participate in modern sumo, both preserving their own spheres but working together in perfect harmony and contributing to the overall development of the sport. Professional sumo underwent various organizational changes until the Japan Sumo Association was constituted, in 1925, as a body with juridical status. It has striven to raise the level of technique and the ethical standards of all those engaged in sumo.
Amateur sumo, which is placed under the auspices of the ISF, features different weight classes for all rikishi, regardless of their size, to compete on an equal footing. And only amateur sumo has a women's division too.