There are many impressive aspects in sumo wrestling, which I saw during my trip last month to Japan. First I should explain that the sport originated centuries ago…I read in the 16th century, but one video says it’s been 1000 years.
Two men inside a circle defined on the ground attempt to make their opponent either step outside of that ring or touch the ground inside the ring with any body part other than the soles of his foot. The contest is often over in a few seconds. And it is totally captivating.
After attending my first tournament, I was addicted to watching it on TV. I was fortunate to be there during one of the six major contests a year, each one lasting 15 days. There are many ceremonial traditions involving grunts, foot stomps, salt throwing and praying to the gods for victory.
It is also a very demanding sport, as each wrestler chooses to train with a particular stable that insists on unbelievably strenuous conditions. In some recent cases, the school was so punishing to a wrestler that he died from being beaten. Even the highest level champions have to adhere to the rules of their stable.
Shocking also is how heavy the wrestlers are. The ideal weight for a pro sumo wrestler is anything from 400 to 600 pounds! But you would be amazed how deft and graceful the wrestlers are in spite of their bulk.
Not surprisingly, eating is an essential part of their training. A typical sumo wrestler eats a daily diet of 20,000 calories, which is pretty astounding when you consider that the recommended daily intake for a healthy, active male is 2,500. They eat 10 times what a normal male eats and all of it’s done in two massive 10,000-calorie meals.
There are also amateur contests in which the lightest class cannot exceed 143 pounds.
The video below shows all the preliminary and post-bout ceremonial activities. Jump right to 5:40 if you want to see just the bout.
Each wrestler competes against another of comparable skill. However sometimes there is a clear favorite who loses to the underdog, and when this happens, the fans throw their seat cushions towards the ring. I witnessed this response, and all I could see is other fans being hit in their heads with the cushions. Also interesting is that favorites have fans acting as cheerleaders who scream in unison and wear identical clothing.
The video below is an excellent compilation of just many bouts. Notice the beautiful costumes of the different referees.
It is all very exciting.