Rikishi (sumo wrestler) practice and wrestle in a mawashi, a thick belt about 30 feet in length that is wrapped around the body several times and knotted securely in the back. It can weigh around 10 pounds. During practice, wrestlers wear mawashi made of canvas; during tournaments, professionally-ranked wrestlers wear mawashi made of silk. Depending on their wrestling styles, some sumo wrestlers wear their mawashi very tight, so an opponent cannot get a good grip, or somewhat loose, because the slack helps them to avoid being jerked quickly.
Centered inside a sumo arena is the 15 foot diameter sumo ring called a Dohyo, surrounded by an 18-sq.ft. clay platform area where the sumo bouts take place. The inner ring is covered in sand and marked by straw bales. Opponents face each other, squat down and place their fists on the ground, staring at each other in a sort of mental battle, called niramiai. The sumo match begins at the moment of tachiai, the initial charge.
A bout is lost if a wrestler steps or is forced out of the ring, or touches the ground with anything but the soles of his feet. Punching, eye-poking, and kicking above the knees are among the illegal sumo moves. After a match, both wrestlers again face each other on opposite sides of the ring and bow.
The International Sumo Federation, founded in 1992, has made sumo more accessible to athletes and fans all over the world. There are now over 80 member nations of the International Sumo Federation, and the sport continues to grow worldwide, since anyone can participate. While the emphasis on respect and discipline is maintained, participants do not need to commit to the Sumo lifestyle full-time, as in the case of professional Sumo.
One goal of amateur Sumo is to get accepted as an official Olympic sport. To qualify for Olympic consideration, weight and gender classes have been established and the traditional Japanese Sumo rituals have been abbreviated for international Sumo events. However, the standard rules of competition remain the same.
Sumo, as a sport and martial art, is good exercise, developing strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance. Many participants enjoy Sumo simply as exercise or recreation, while others take amateur competition seriously. Sumo is a relatively safe contact sport, with the focus on technique and self-cultivation.
American Sumo wrestlers today are pioneering the development of Japan's ancient tradition in the United States. Just as other martial arts have grown and thrived in this country, the development of Sumo in the U.S. has great potential, as we continuously work to improve the caliber and number of American Sumo athletes.
AMATEUR SUMO WEIGHT CLASSES:
Men's Weight Class
Lightweight: up to 85 kg (~ 187 lbs)
Middleweight: up to 115 kg (~ 253 lbs)
Heavyweight: over 115 kg (253 lbs ~)
Women's Weight Class
Lightweight: up to 65 kg (~ 143 lbs)
Middlweight: up to 80 kg (~ 176 lbs)
Heavyweight: over 80 kg (176 lbs ~)
Shiko = Stomping in large, sweeping motions, alternating legs. Shiko is a form of both exercise and ritual; it is done both to train the lower half of the body and to sweep away evil spirits underfoot.
Suriashi = Leg strengthening exercise done in a crouched position. A wrestler bends his elbows with his hands in front and steps forward with alternating legs, keeping low to the ground.
Matawari = Thigh splits. A wrestler must sit in a split position and lean forward until his stomach touches the ground. If he cannot do it alone, another wrestler will hold his legs or push him down.