There are three major sumo tournaments each year, the September one marking the end of the season. The rhythm of a match is captivating. An announcer ululates the two competitors’ names, then each takes a side of the ring. Sumo is not organized by weight class, so some matches see opponents of very different sizes and unexpected outcomes, as in this match here. The sport is not simply a wrestling match, but a test of strategy and balance in a locked battle that can take seconds to a minute to upset. The only goal is to get the other athlete to step or touch outside the circle first.
The ceremony of each match can take longer than the wrestle itself, but I thoroughly enjoyed its place in the activity. The repeated procedure of showing off one’s bulk and flexibility, first to the spectators and then to each other, frames each match well and gives us viewers the chance to compare strengths and make hypotheses. The humble acceptance of a win gives the whole affair great dignity, as if winning was not the only point of the match, but an end only. Sumo seems to really respect and mimic great warriors, in a way, as if the stomp of each competitor carries the weight of an army or a tectonic plate. There is honor and truth in this fight, and those rules hold throughout each match.
Contact may include slapping and often a win depends on one player’s grip on the other’s belt, or mawashi, but any punch or illegal technique earns an automatic loss. I could hear the sparse crowd annotate each move, as even some legal dodges and trips seemed to be deemed sketchy.
The life of a sumo wrestler is nearly ten years shorter than other japanese, due to health complications from their weight and their regimented lifestyle, which includes a strict inclusion of beer each day, no breakfast, a large lunch, and a required siesta afterward.
Don’t write sumo off as strange or funny before you see a match! Tickets at the stadium are relatively affordable and available last minute when the box office opened at eight a m!