One of the aims of the trip to the Japan Rugby World Cup is to immerse myself in Japanese culture, including theatre, music and traditional sports like Sumo.
We all have a impression that Sumo is really a sport that is steep in tradition, never changing in hundreds of years, however you’d be surprised to find out its more modern than you think.
- Sumo wrestlers have always been big – not true!
As the sport has become more professional, the size of the players has increased, just like in rugby.
- Sumo wrestlers aren’t always Japanese.
Some of the top contenders in Sumo are not from Japan, but from other asian, pacific island countries and even Western Europe. Sumo stables are now restricted to registering only 1 non-Japanese Sumo wrestler per stable.
- To be a Sumo wrestler, you need to live the lifestyle
If you are to be a professional Sumo wrestler, you need to be attached to a Sumo Stable, wear traditional dress and live a highly organised and traditional Sumo life.
- Shinto and Sumo go hand in hand
Sumo originated in Shinto religious rituals. A human would wrestle with a kami (a Shinto divine spirit). There are still sumo rings on the grounds of many shrines in Japan.
- The rules…basically.
The rules are simple: the wrestler who first exits the ring or touches the ground with any part of his body besides the soles of his feet loses.
- Who is the best?
All sumo wrestlers are classified in a ranking hierarchy (banzuke), which gets updated after each tournament based on the wrestlers’ performance. Wrestlers with positive records (more wins than losses) move up the hierarchy, while those with negative records get demoted.