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Japan Tours and Life Style

Sumo Wrestling- A sport ageing 200 years in history

Sumo wrestling comes to mind when we think of Japan. In fact, it is Japan’s national sport. The sport of sumo is played in Japan by sportsmen called rikishi.

It involves sumo wrestlers attempting to force their opponents to step outside of a circular ring or to touch the ground with any part of their body other than the soles of their feet (generally by throwing, pushing or shoving). Women are excluded from competitions and ceremonies in professional sumo.

Sumo originated in Japan, the only country where it is professionally practised, and where it is considered a national sport. Prehistoric wall paintings indicate that sumo originated from an agricultural ritual dance performed in prayer for a good harvest.

The first mention of sumo can be found in a Kojiki manuscript dating back to 712, which describes how possession of the Japanese islands was decided in a wrestling match between the kami ( Holy power ) known as Takemikazuchi ( god of thunder) and Takeminakata. Sumo was supposed to entertainment to the gods.

It is believed that Sumo dates back over 2,000 years. Around the time of the Heian period (794-1192), the imperial family enjoyed watching sumo as an amusement. The assumption of sumo wrestling as a professional sport came about in the Edo period (1603-1868).

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 brought an end to the feudal system, along with the sponsorship of wealthy daimyo. Due to a new fixation on Western culture, sumo became seen as an embarrassing and backward relic, and internal disputes split the central association. In sumo, a match can be decided by either a fighter touching the ground outside the circular dohyo (ring) with any part of their body, or another fighter touching the ground inside the ring with any part of their bodies.

The wrestlers try to achieve this by pushing, tossing, striking and often by outwitting the opponent. The Japan Sumo Association currently distinguishes 82 kimarite (winning techniques), some of which come from judo.

The basic rule is simple:

Your match is over if you touch the ground or step out of the straw ring with any part of your body other than your feet. During the match, you are forbidden to do the following:

  • Pulling of the hair
  • Gouging the eyes
  • hitting with closed fists is permitted ( slapping is allowed)
  • While you’re allowed to thrust your open palms at your opponent’s throat, choking is prohibited.
  • Holding on to the mawashi (sumo belt) of your opponent

In this sport, there are no weight classes. As a rikishi, agility is as important as size, and a smaller person has the advantage of slipping behind their larger opponent and using him to his advantage.

Although historically a Japanese sport, foreigners have established themselves as a common sight on the sumo circuit in Japan in recent years.

Traditional religious practices associated with sumo wrestling:

Traditional religious practices associated with sumo wrestling
Prior to each match, wrestlers drink sacred water and sprinkle salt into the ring; the referee dresses like a Shinto priest, a Shinto shrine stands above the ring. The wrestlers summon the gods by clapping their hands when they enter the ring. Sumo retains a variety of its traditional practices despite changes in technology, including mawashi (belly bands) and oicho (ginkgo-leaf knots) worn by wrestlers that have echoes of ancient times.

Sumo wrestlers are divided by division; they are then allocated an east or west side according to their rank. As a result, they will enter which dressing room, and which side of the ring, each day they compete. On the scale of one to three, yokozuna (grand champion), ozeki (champion), and sekiwake (junior champion) are the highest ranks. In sumo, the Yokozuna is the sole permanent rank. These men cannot be demoted for mediocre performance, but they will be required to retire if they do not meet the demanding standards of their position. Over the centuries, only about 70 men have ever been promoted to yokozuna.

How heavy are sumo wrestlers?

Many wrestlers weigh as much as 150 kilograms (330 pounds). In order to become this big, the average sumo wrestler eats up to 20,000 calories per day – about 10 times what an average adult needs! While that may not sound like the healthiest lifestyle, you shouldn’t judge a book, or a body, by its cover. Take a closer look, and you’ll discover that it really is what’s on the inside that counts, even they get bulky, they don’t show any symptoms of obesity. Their secret lies in regular exercise that prevents the build-up of visceral fat, which causes metabolic and cardiovascular disease. CT scans reveal that sumo wrestlers don’t have much visceral fat at all and unexpectedly shows a low level of cholesterol. The layers of fat get stored right underneath their skin instead of entering the bloodstream and polluting it.

sumo wrestlers get a lot of exercises. At sumo, stable, or heya, in Japan, training starts as early as 5 a.m. and can last for up to five hours straight, and it’s nothing like what you’d expect to find at your typical group fitness class. For example, during an exercise called butsukari-geiko, wrestlers take turns repeatedly hitting and pushing each other until they collapse to the floor from exhaustion.

Sumo self-training regimes involve sumo leg lifts, Koshi-wari (sumo squats), Mata-wari (leg split), Suri-Ashi(sliding movement), Chiri-chozu (squatting position). This routine helps them to maintain flexibility and stamina.

But as soon as the exercise stops, so does its benefits. When sumo wrestlers retire, they have to seriously cut calories or they become at risk for cardiovascular disease, they have to return to normal body weight.

What the diet of a sumo wrestler is like?

diet of sumo wrestler
The Diet of sumo wrestler are obviously protein-rich , they don’t sit around eating all day, as their schedule doesn’t involve breakfasts, they generally have two meals a day.

The main dish that sumo wrestlers eat is a stew called chankonabe. It sounds a little like ‘chunk nabe,’ which is somehow oddly appropriate. This is a stew filled with fish, vegetables, meat and tofu. Nabe is a traditional Japanese stew, but chankonabe is the supersized version, stuffed full of extra everything for the sole purpose of providing calories.

The stew is full of fresh veggies, tofu, fish and either pork, chicken or beef.

In case they aren’t full after the goodies are eaten and there’s just soup left, the sumo often dump a pile of noodles into the bowl.

You can eat chanko nabe at restaurants throughout Japan. It comes in a number of different flavours including salt, soy sauce, miso, kimchee and more. Just bring a good appetite.

After lunch, there’s one more essential bit of training—the nap. How could you not pass out after a meal like that? Sumo wrestlers take a siesta for as long as 4 hours after lunch, in order to slow down their metabolism and add everything they just ate to their girth.

Competition Days Are Chicken Days

Their normal diet consists of chankonabe made from any protein. Meat, fish, pork, tofu, chicken and so on can be used. They eat only chankonabe made from chicken on competition day. It is a traditional custom. Chickens only walk with two feet on the ground, just like sumo wrestlers winning by keeping two feet planted squarely on the ground. By adding hands and feet, we would have four legs, and that is a loss.

Beer And More Beer

The Celtic culture is centred around beer, even though their diets are highly nutritious. Many sumo wrestlers consume beer after eating every day. Some sumo also believes that drinking beer is a secret to their success.

Why do sumo wrestlers have to be so fat ??

Remember Newton’s second law of motion, acceleration= mass/weight. The heavier you are, the more force an opponent has to exert to get you moving and push you out of the ring or to lift and throw you.

Are sumo wrestlers paid well?

Assuming Sumo competes in a tournament and wins, he can make anywhere from $8000 to $24500 per month when training, and anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per day when winning. With that they also get many prices from different participating organisations.

Things you don’t know about Sumo wrestlers

  • Sumo wrestlers aren’t allowed to drive cars

It sounds absurd, but this is actually true. In the year 2000, a sumo wrestler hit and killed a pedestrian while driving his car. The sumo association had to pay the family of a said pedestrian a huge settlement. The association, which is very conservative, and has lots of rules controlling the conduct of its sumo wrestlers enacted the rule that none of them can drive a car.

  • Sumo wrestlers have to wear traditional clothes

In sumo wrestling, there are strict rules that forbid the wrestler to choose his/her own clothes. When a new hire enters a stable, it is expected that their hair grows to form a topknot called chonmage which is reminiscent of that worn by samurais in the Edo Period. These hairstyles and traditional attire are expected to be worn at all times by Sumo wrestlers when they are out in public, making them easily identifiable, not to mention ten times the size of anyone else!

  • They’re not allowed to behave how they like

Aside from the strict routine governing their training schedule, sumo wrestlers are expected to maintain a neutral demeanour and personality while in public. In tournaments, wrestlers should refrain from showing their joy at winning or disappointment at losing, as it is spelt out in rules that are followed when wrestlers are out and about.

  • Sumo wrestlers weren’t always  that fat

In history, sumo wrestlers weren’t that fact, in fact, they were muscular and not necessarily big. Sumo wrestling like unlike any other martial art doesn’t have any weight category, and with the notion of bigger the better, the size of sumo wrestlers starts increasing with time.

  • Many superstitious sumo combatants choose not to shave their beards during competition, believing that doing so will bring bad luck.
    More from japanchunks here.

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