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Start of a matchSumo is a Japanese traditional sport.
It is one of fighting sports, so two wrestlers have a match.

The origin is very old, and a record of match around the 5th century are found in ancient writing.
Since old time, sumo linked with Shinto, so many Shinto shrine hold sumo to tell whether people can get a good harvest or not.
Such background gives sumo some ritual performances.

Sumo is Japanese national sport, but only part of Japanese people does it.
Until a few decades ago, sumo was one of boy's plays. But recent boys don't play it.
So now sumo is a sport to enjoy watching for common Japanese people.

Simple and unique rules of sumo

A wrestler is trying to push another out of the ring. The rules of sumo is very simple. And sumo has a few unique rules.

  • Only two wrestlers have a match on a circular sumo ring 4.55 meters across.
  • The wrestler fights naked except for a loincloth called "mawashi" with bare hands.
  • Both wrestlers must bow to each other, before and after the match.
  • Both wrestlers must start at the same moment. Therefore, both need to find a timing to start each other with landing on own both fists and glancing into opponent's eyes.
    A referee never call the start. But if one starts earlier even a little than the other, the referee orders them to restart.
  • When one puts the other out of the ring or makes the other land on a part of body except bottom of foot, he wins. So a match mostly takes only within 10 seconds. If it takes over a minute, it's a very long match.
  • To win, wrestlers charge, push, lunge and slap. And they also throw, trip or lift the other.
    But they are forbidden to kick, strike, grip the other's hair or pull the other by the ear.
  • There is no weight class in match. So we can see sometimes interesting matches that a small wresler challenges a big wrestler.

Oozumo (Grand sumo tournament)

Basic Oozumo Rank Table
East Stage and Rank names West
Makuuchi (fixed at 42 wrestlers)
1 Yokozuna 2
3 Oozeki 4
5 Sekiwake 6
7 Komusubi 8
9 Maegashira #1 10
11 Maegashira #2 12
13 Maegashira #3 14
: : :
41 Maegashira #17 42
Juryo (fixed at 28 wrestlers)
43 Juryo #1 44
45 Juryo #2 46
: : :
69 Juryo #14 70
Below Makushita
71- Makushita #1 - #60 72-
191- Sandanme #1 - #100 192-
391- Jonidan #1 - #120
631- Jonokuchi #1 - #30

Oozumo is the sumo matches by professional sumo wrestlers, and it is managed by the Japan Sumo Association.
It has a long history since the 17th century.

It is named "Grand Sumo Tournament" in English, and it is held 6 times a year at the Kokugikan in Tokyo in January, May and September, in Osaka in March, in Nagoya in July, and in Fukuoka in November.
Every tournament is held during 15 days. It starts on Sunday and ends on the Sunday after next.

All professional sumo wrestlers belong the Japan Sumo Association, there are more than 700 wrestlers, and all of them participate in every tournament.

Recently the number of foreign wrestlers has been increasing.
Especially the wrestlers from Mongolia are strong.

Nihon Sumo Kyokai : Website of the Japan Sumo Association

Ranking in Oozumo

In oozumo, all wrestlers are ranked.

There are 6 stages called "dan", basically the wrestlers ranked in same dan fight together and they compete for the championship of each dan.
The highest dan is "Makuuchi", and "Juryo", "Makushita", "Sandanme", "Jonidan" and "Jonokuchi" are follows in the order of descending rank.

There are many wrestlers in each dan. So each dan has rank number, and the wrestlers are ranked with the number.
Additionally wrestlers enter the sumo ring from east or west, so 2 wrestlers have same rank number and the higher rank wrestler is given "east" and the other wrestler is given "west".

The highest dan "Makuuchi" is the dan of strongest wrestlers, and has some special ranks.
General numbered rank is called "Maegashira".
Above "Maegashira" there are 3 ranks. They are "Komusubi", "Sekiwake" and "Oozeki" in ascending order. These are special names, so they are totally called "San'yaku" (means three important posts).

And the highest rank above "Oozeki" is "Yokozuna", and it is a name of most strong wrestlers in Oozumo.
It is named "Grand Champion" in English.
Present one Yokozunas is a Mongolian.

The way of match

Each wrestler below Makushita has 7 matches during 15 days.
Each wrestler of Makuuchi and Juryo has 15 matches.
They fight only one match in a day, so they need high concentration.

They fight against different oppositions in the period.
Therefore Oozumo is similar to league competition.
Especially the matches of Yokozuna and Oozeki each other are planned at the end of the period.

In a day, some matches by wreslers out of rank start at around 8:00, the matches of "Jonokuchi" start at 8:30, many matches are done in the order of ascending rank, and the last match of the day Yokozuna appears before 18:00.

Determining the winner

On a sumo ring, there is a referee who wears a traditional costume and he is called "Gyoji".
He conducts a match, and determines the winner of match.

But out of sumo ring there are 5 judges, and if one of them disagree, a referee and the judges discuss on the ring, then make a final decision.
They also use visual confirmation, so this way has precision.

Decision of the Champion

The champion is the wrestler who has had most wins in the dan.
Usually the champion of Makuuchi have 13-15 wins in 15 matches. And yokozuna commonly get the champion.
If some wreslers are same wins, a playoff are held on the last day.

Promotion and demotion

After the 15 or 7 matches, the wresler who has gotten many wins is promoted to higher rank.
By contraries the wresler who has gotten a little wins is demoted to lower rank.
If a wrestler on the high level of a dan has gotten many wins, he is often promoted to higher dan.
All wrestler fight on the new rank in the next tournament.

But a wrestler is very difficult to be promoted to "Oozeki" and "Yokozuna".
A wrestler of Sekiwake must continue to get marked wins for a few tournaments (about over 33 wins for 3 tournaments), then if the Association recommends him for promotion to the rank of Oozeki, he can get it.

Additionally to get the rank of Yokozuna, Oozeki wrestler must get distinguished wins for a few tournamens. And the Association recommends him for promotion.

In the long history, only 69 wreslers have gotton the Yokozuna rank.

Traditional performances in Oozumo

Dohyo-iri ceremony of Yokozuna
  • All wrestler wear "ooichou" which is like "chonmage" of Japanese men's haircut in the Middle Days.
  • Before a match, each wrestler throws salt to purify the sumo ring.
  • Before the matches of Makuuchi, each Yokuzuna performs a ceremony called "Dohyo-iri".
  • After the last match of the day, a wresler performs a ceremony whirling a bow.
    It honors the winner of the last match, then a day of tournament is closed.

Watching Oozumo

In Tokyo, Oozumo is held at the Kokugikan in Ryogoku (east side of the central Tokyo).
The Kokugikan is an arena for sumo, and it was constructed by the Japan Sumo Association. Sometimes it is used as an arena for other fighting sports.
See the website of the Japan Sumo Association, about the halls in other cities.

In the center of square arena, there is a sumo ring.
Basically wide area surrounding the ring is the reserved seats without chair, so the spectors must sit Japanese style.
This seat is separeted individually, and 4 spectors can sit in there. The ticket is sold in unit of the seat, so it is expensive.

Behind these area, there are common chair seats.
This seat is cheap, but the spector must see the ring from a distance.

First match in a day starts at around 8 in the morning. And the last match finished around 6 in the evening.
You can watch as long as you like with one ticket. But most spectors come when the match of Makuuchi starts.

SUMOTALK.com : The website for sumo funs created by some foreign sumo lovers.

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