Sumo wrestlers, who are also known as ìRikishiî, compete with each other in wrestling in a circular area. This martial art originated in Japan centuries ago and has a great religious importance in the country. It has some traditional rituals involved such as using salt to purify, which is part of the Shinto religion. Sumo wrestling of Japan even has influence on martial arts of its neighboring countries like Korean Ssireum, Chinese Shuai jiao, and Mongolian wrestling.
Sumo was known as Sumai in the 8th century. Back then the rules involved were
less in number and men used to fight till death. That is the reason why the wrestler who looses in a match is referred to as Shini-tai or dead body. Even today some of the shrines conduct ritual dance where a man wrestles with a Kami or a Shinto God. This contest was known as Sumai no Sechie or Sumai party. This ritual was also held in the imperial court and it was a must for the representatives of every province to attend this ceremony. Sumo was also a part of the training for the warriors and thatís the reason that originally sumo wrestlers were samurai.
In the initial years, to win, one Rikishi had to throw the other. Later on, the concept of pushing the opponent outside the ring was introduced. The size of the ring or Dohyo was defined in the sixteenth century. When both the wrestlers touch the ground at the same time, the one in the superior position is declared as the winner. Other way of determining the winner is that whoever uses Kinjite or illegal methods and whoeverís belts get undone are declared looser immediately. The Dohyo is usually filled with clay and sand. After each tournament, the sand is cleared and given as souvenirs to fans. It is the responsibility of the Yobidashi to prepare the ring for each match and even for training stables.
The clothing worn by Rikishi of old times also was also different from those worn by todayís Rikishi. Wrestlers used to wear loose loincloths unlike present day wrestlers who wear firm clothing called Mawashi. The rules and regulations of the games were developed completely in the Edo period and is pretty much the same till now. Sumo matches lasts for just few minutes because it will be very easy for the stronger wrestler to either throw down or push his opponent out of the ring. Apart from having wrestling skill, a huge body mass is a great advantage.
Oyakata or retired sumo wrestlers have formed the Japan Sumo Association. This association is responsible for holding tournaments and training wrestlers. Wrestlers are given ranks and their promotion or demotion entirely depends on their performances in the previous grand sumo tournaments. The six divisions in descending order are Makuuchi, Juryo, Makushita, Sandanme, Jonidan and Jonokuchi.
Every year six Grand Sumo tournaments or Honbasho are held. Three of these are conducted at The Sumo Hall or Ryogoku Kokugikan, one in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka each. Foreigners are also a part of these tournaments. The first foreigner to participate was Takamiyama from Hawaii.
Sumo wrestlers maintain long hairs which are tied in a topknot, like the samurais of the Edo Period. Depending on the rank of the Rikishi, dresses differ. They also wear geta or wooden sandals. Beginners are expected to help with the chores in the Sekitori and are made to get up early than senior wrestlers. Rikishis skips their breakfast and have a large lunch called Chakonabe. It consists of different kinds of meat, fish, rice and vegetables. They take excessive amount of food along with beer to increase their weights. But this practice has ill-effects on the health, which was discovered recently. A sumo lives ten years shorter than ordinary Japanese. They often complain of high blood pressure, heart diseases and diabetes. Considering this the weight standards have been decreased tremendously in recent times.