Grand Sumo

Grand Sumo refers to the Japanese national sport where rikishi, professional sumo wrestlers, compete in 6 tournaments a year for the prestigious Emperor’s Cup. Sumo is steeped in thousands of years of rich history and tradition. As such, the national sport pays homage by way of ceremonial ritual and a wrestler’s lifestyle resembling the prestige and hardships of the classic samurai (whom the rikishi’s topknot can be credited to). Sumo was originally born out of shinto ritual. Later it became a form of entertainment for the nobility. Now it is a beloved form of entertainment for millions across Japan and the world over. And what’s not to enjoy? From the colorful mawashi of the sekitori, to the ring-purifying salt throw, all the way down to the cracks in the dohyō. There’s certainly no shortage of sumo iconography for the casual and committed fans alike. It would all be for naught, however, without the sumo itself!

The power of two rikishi colliding on the dohyo is akin to a thunderclap. Professional sumo wrestlers spend just about every day training for several years, before that first charge on the salaried stage. The culmination of this dedication is athleticism on the highest level. The speed, power, and agility of the rikishi is all poured into one burst for his one match of the day. The image of a blubbery, lumbering sumo wrestler (picture the classic inflatable sumo wrestler costume) belies the strength and flexibility of the real life counterpart. Just as often as they’re slamming into their opponent with full force, rikishi are twirling at the edge of the ring for that last second save. Focus and adaptability are just as essential as strength when it comes to winning bouts. Attack and defense. Mind and body. Ferocity and serenity. Sumo is about balance.

While the rules of sumo are relatively simple––you lose if you touch the ground with anything but the bottom of your feet or step outside the ring––the culture and history is anything but. There’s so much to learn about sumo. It might seem intimidating at first, but every step is another step forward. To start, check out the Grand Sumo Highlights on NHK’s website. NHK’s YouTube channel is also an excellent resource. The internet’s a deep well––why not lower your bucket and see what happens?