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History of Sumo Wrestling

Sumo Wrestling is actually a very serious business. It’s not just two fat guys jumping on each other!

Our Sumo Suit hire is awesome for a party but Japan’s national sport is quite fascinating.

Here are some things Ash Jumping Castles has put together that you might not know about Sumo…

Sumo is actually a religious ritual

Sumo originated around 1500 years ago in Japan. It originated in the Shinto religion and was performed at shrines to ensure a bountiful harvest and the hour the spirits. Sumo is still closely associated with its religious roots and Shinto principles govern the everyday life of today’s wrestlers.

 Every newly promoted yokozuna (Sumo Master) performs his first ring-entrance ceremony at the Meiji shrine in Tokyo and wrestlers throw salt before a match to purify the ring in which they play

  1. The rules of the match

 A sumo match doesn’t start until both wrestlers have placed both hands on the ground at the same time. Before this, wrestlers tries to psyche the other out, pretending to put his hand down and then getting back up again.

 Once they finally do begin, it is very rare for sumo bouts to last longer than a few seconds – although occasionally they can up to four minutes.

 This means that the action is very fast-paced and exciting. A match ends when one of the wrestlers is either thrown out of the ring, or if any part of his body apart from the soles of his feet touches the ground.

 The match can also end if one of the wrestlers loses his mawashi, or loincloth – in which case the wrestler is disqualified!

 Sumo life is really hard.

 Sumo wrestlers’ lives are possibly the most rigidly regimented and disciplined of any athletes in the world, and life in a sumo stable is incredibly hard.

 Lower ranked wrestlers are expected to get up earliest and cook, clean and serve food for the higher ranked wrestlers.

 Sumo wrestlers haven’t always been fat

 It was only very recently in the history of sumo that the wrestlers developed the chubbiness they are now famous for. Since there are no weight divisions in professional sumo, every wrestler just wants to get as big as possible so that he can use his bulk in the ring.

 The sumo’s favourite food is chanko nabe. This is a special kind of hotpot packed with meat, veggies and noodles that is specifically associated with sumo wrestlers in Japan. Wrestlers also have a special routine of exercising on an empty stomach and sleeping after eating to help turn the calories they consume (up to 10,000 per day) into bulk.

 Sumo wrestlers aren’t allowed to drive cars

 Strange but true! After a serious car accident involving a sumo wrestler, the Sumo Association banned wrestlers from driving their own cars.

 Sumo referees need to watch their backs

 Like the wrestlers, Sumo referees or “gyoji” enter the world of sumo at a young age (about sixteen) and remain in their profession until they retire. The traditional clothing they wear in the ring is strictly graded according to rank, and as they progress up the ranks they earn honorific names by which they become known.

 The gyoji also carries a sword, or tanto, to show that the referee understands the serious nature of the decisions he has to make – and is prepared to commit seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) if he makes a bad decision!

 Thankfully these days the gyoji usually just submits his resignation papers instead as a gesture of contrition. 

 Sumo wrestlers have to wear traditional clothes

 As soon as they join a stable Sumo wrestlers are expected to grow their hair in order to form a topknot, or chonmage, similar. They are expected to wear this hairstyle and traditional dress at all times when out in public.

 They also have strict rules for behaviour

 Rules delineate that when out and about, wrestlers must be self-effacing and softly spoken, and during tournaments they should refrain from showing joy at winning or disappointment at losing.  

 Only one foreigner at a time!

 Sumo stables are only allowed to have one foreign wrestler at any one time.

 These foreign wrestlers are expected to speak Japanese, and must be well-versed in Japanese culture – meaning that foreign sumo face all the same challenges that Japanese sumo do, but with the added anxiety of having to learn to live and breathe like a Japanese.

 Akebono Taro, born Chad Haaheo Rowan, became the first ever foreign-born sumo grand champion in 1993. He is a native of Hawaii.

 Women can’t be sumo wrestlers

 Sumo is a sport in which women are not aloud to compete or enter the sumo ring, as it is considered a violation of the purity of the ring.

 This caused a bit of an issue when there was a female Governor of Osaka since the Governor traditionally presents the Governor’s Prize in the ring at the end of the tournament.

 It wasn’t always the case that sumo was so hostile to women, however, and as early as the 18th century there was a form of female sumo commonly performed in some areas of Japan. Most of the time this was just a form of entertainment, but in some areas of Japan female sumo did have a serious role in Shinto rituals.

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