What is Sumo?
Sumo in the 21st century is first and foremost a sport.
Although its origins are based on mythological encounters between Japanese
gods of lore and a once close relationship with the Japanese Shinto
cult-cum-religion, whilst much of the pre-bout gestures that have been
handed down over the centuries do still remind some of the traditions
steeped in antiquity, these gestures today are largely just that - gestures.
In reality, the actual sport of man against man or woman against woman in
amateur sumo or man against man (only) in the professional sport, is one of
the most simple forms of wrestling still in existence today.
Wearing but a stiffened loincloth, two individuals compete to either push or
throw their opponent out of the designated fighting ring (dohyo in Japanese)
or to make a part of their opponent's body - other than the soles of their
feet, touch the floor inside the same dohyo. To do so is to win. Sumo is
that simple at first glance.
However, like all sports, there are numerous rules and techniques employed
by those taking part but the incredible simplicity of sumo - one on one, you
fall, you lose, truly allows anyone of any age and any physical condition
The professional sport today is dominated by Mongolians and Eastern
Europeans whilst their Japanese counterparts wipe their furrowed brows as
they ponder how to beat these invading wrestlers from shores afar.
On the amateur side of things, it is again Europeans that feature strongly
but with the professional avenues closing down to them as a result of sumo
politics in Japan, the Japanese so retain a much firmer grip on any medals
handed out during international amateur events due to strong university
teams scattered around the country.
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