Sumo Wrestling Facts

Looking to learn some Sumo wrestling facts? Sumo wrestling is the national sport of Japan. The sport dates back to ancient times when it was practiced to entertain the gods. Starting in the 17th century during the Edo period in Japan, Sumo wrestling became the sport of choice for the newly developed merchant class.

Sumo wrestling tournaments take place on a ring called the dohyo. The dohyo is on top of an elevated platform and is about 15 feet wide. At the start of each sumo match, the names of the wrestlers, known as shikona, are called. The wrestlers then enter the dohyo and stamp their feet, sprinkling salt on the ground to purify the ring.

Sumo wrestlers still wear the traditional costume, a loincloth, called a mawashi, when fighting. Their hair is worn in a topknot, a large bun on top of the head that was the style during the Edo period. Referees of a Sumo wrestling match wear traditional Samurai garb.

There are six tournaments held in Japan each year, each lasting 15 days, and around 700 professional Sumo wrestlers. A number of wrestlers are foreign-born. Sumo wrestlers are divided into classes, or banzuke, based on their performance. The top rank is yokozuna, or grand champion. In addition to classes, there are also divisions, ranging from makuuchi and juryo which are the top, professional divisions, to jonokuchi, the lowest, non-professional division. 

The wrestlers stay in a compound known as a stable. There are about 50 stables in Japan. The life of a Sumo wrestler is closely overseen by a coach, or oyakata. During the typical day, the wrestlers train, prepare chanko, or food, and nap.

The point of a Sumo wrestling match is to knock the opponent down or to have him step outside of the ring. The player who pushes his opponent to the floor of the ring or outside the bounds of the ring wins. It is in the best interests of the player to be as heavy as possible so that he is more likely to knock his opponent over first.

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