Sumo wrestling is a competitive sport where each wrestler, known as rikishi tries to force the other out of a circular ring or onto the ground. They can do this using any other body part apart from the soles of their feet. Sumo wrestling has it’s roots in Japanese tradition. Sources from archaeology reveal that it was perfomed as a ritual to determine the success of crop farmers.
From then on it gradually evolved to a sport and is now a form of entertainment. The preparations behind the actual wrestling competition involve a strict training timetable where the wrestlers wake up at around 4 or 5 am and take part in flexibility exercises which are then followed by actual matches.
The actual matches take place in a ring known as a dhoyo. A dhoyo is around 4.55m in diameter and 16.26 square meters in area. True to their loyalty for Japanese tradition, the bout callers known in Japanese as yobidashi make the dhoyo out of rice-straw bales which is placed on top of a platform made of clay. One is made for each tournament. Two white lines are drawn at the center of the dhoyo behind which the rikishi place themselves before the start of each match. A shinto priest blesses the dhoyo before tournaments. Other pre-bout rituals include shiko and niramiai. Shiko involves leg stomping and throwing salt to chase away evil spirits while niramiai is where the parties involved place their knuckles on the ground and stare at each other like in a pre-battle like manner.
Tachiai signals the beginning of the bout. It is where the two wrestlers rush at each other and lock horns with energetic synchrony. After the winner has been determined, both the wrestlers face each other and bow.
Ranking in sumo wrestling is dependent upon the principles of pyramidal hierarchy. The pyramid is again split into divisions the highest of which is the makuuchi division followed by the juryo. Only one in about ten wrestlers can achieve this status The highest ranking wrestler within the makuuchi division is the yokozuna. It is indeed a very coveted title and only a few wrestlers have been able to achieve it. Below the juryo are wrestlers who still haven’t achieved professional status yet.
Perks that come with achieving professional status include a monthly salary, better treatment, permission to marry and having your own personal attendant. The makuuchi obviously receive the best treatment.