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What Is a Sumo Wrestler?

Considered a Japanese martial art, or “gendai budo,” sumo wrestling is a competitive, full-contact sport during which a sumo wrestler attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet. Following are some characteristics that define the life and profession of a sumo wrestler:

The Life of a Sumo Wrestler

The Sumo Association sets rules and regulations for sumo wrestlers, who live a highly regimented lifestyle. Most sumos are required to live in heya, which is Japanese for a communal “sumo-training stable,” where strict tradition dictates their meals and even the way they dress. Once one enters the sumo lifestyle, he must grow a topknot of hair, or “chonage,” which is similar to the samurai hairstyles of the Edo Period. These professionals must also wear the traditional Japanese dress when in public.

Shinto, the Sumo Wrestler Religion

One of the most public displays of the Shinto religion is in sumo wrestling. Sumo wrestlers perform Shinto-inspired ceremonies, such as sprinkling salt, to purify the wrestling arena and use Shinto to provide them with a sense of belonging and cultural uniqueness.

Professional Sumo Wrestler Matches

The Japanese Sumo Association Sumo organizes and keeps track of wrestling matches and the 54 training stables, which contain about 700 wrestlers. Once a sumo wrestler performs his Shinto rituals before a match, both wrestlers jump up from a crouched stance simultaneously after touching the surface of the ring with both fists. The first wrestler to force his opponent out of the ring wins the match, which can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

While many people think of overweight Japanese men who push each other in a ring when they hear the phrase “sumo wrestling,” this combat sport is actually much more complex and requires extreme dedication from the professionals who participate in it. This martial art is not only filled with a rich and deep history, but also combines elements of religion, honor, and skill. The lifestyle required for one to be a professional sumo wrestler is truly fascinating, as it makes these professionals some of the most honored and respected athletes in the world.

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