Monday, 23 April 2012

S is for… Sumo

I’m spending a few days in Tokyo next month, and as my trip coincides with one of the three sumo tournaments held in the capital each year, I thought it’d be a good chance to check out one of the world’s oldest sports.

The rules of sumo

Sumo bouts take place in a (dohyō) ring, which measures 4.55 metres in diameter. The two wrestlers position themselves behind white lines on either side of the ring, and the bout begins when both wrestlers jump up from a crouching position after simultaneously touching the surface of the ring with both of their fists. The winner of a sumo bout is either:

  • The first wrestler to force his opponent to step out of the ring.
  • The first wrestler to force his opponent to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the bottom of his feet.
Two wrestlers get ready to compete

The matches are usually over in a matter of seconds, however on occasion they can last for several minutes.

Professional sumo

The Japan Sumo Association runs professional sumo, and there are six divisions in sumo containing approximately 700 wrestlers at any one time. The top ranked makuuchi division gathers the most attention, with wrestlers in the makuuchi division ranked according to past performances. At the very top of the ranking system is the yokozuna, who are expected to compete for and regularly win tournaments. There have been 69 yokozuna in history, with the promotion criteria to that level being very strict.

There are six Grand Sumo tournaments held each year, with three held in Toyko, and one held in each of Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. Each tournament lasts for 15 days, with the wrestlers in the top two divisions having one match per day. The wrestler who wins the most bouts over the fifteen days wins the tournament championship for his division, with a play-off deciding the winner if two or more wrestlers are tied.

I'm genuinely excited about getting the chance to see my first sumo competition next month, and hope that it lives up to my expectations. I'll be providing some further thoughts on the sport after I've had the opportunity to experience it first-hand.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.