Akebono vs. Takatoriki
What is Sumo?

Sumo (also Osumo/Ozumo or "Grand Sumo") is the national wrestling sport of Japan, and the six major sumo tournaments, called Basho, or Hon-basho, held each year attract great national attention, while international interest is also growing due to the influence of sattellite and cable TV.
  • According to legend, the origin of sumo can be traced back as far as 23 BC, but the sport is generally thought to have achieved prominence during the early 1600s through the influence of the samurai. A sumo ring (Dohyo) is 4.55 m. in diameter and made of sand and clay. The object is either to throw the opponent to the ground with any part of his body other than the soles of his feet, or to force the opponent out of the rope-bordered Dohyo.
  • Sumo has no weight classes, and many top division wrestlers, most of which are less than 185 cm tall, weigh 150 kg or more. The large stomachs of the combatants assure them of a low Center of gravity, a necessity in the sport because without it the quick and concussive opening charge can send one of the wrestlers hurtling out of the ring in a matter of seconds.
  • Each sumo match is preceded by a quasi-religious ceremony in which the competitors clap their hands to awaken the gods, throw salt in the ring to signify the purification of the ground, and stamp their feet to crush all that is evil. At the command of the Gyoji (referee) the Sumotori, dressed only in Mawashi (tightly wound silken loincloths of considerable length), crouch and prepare for the opening charge, called Tachi-ai; both hands are out in front of them, knuckle-down on the ground.
  • A sumo match may last everything from a few seconds to several minutes, but usually they are over before you know it. In these few seconds, however, many good Rikishi manage to unleash a stunning combination of awesome power and sophisticated technique. Especially the latter should not be underestimated, as people who do not follow Sumo on a regular basis have a tendency of doing. In Sumo there are no less than 85 winning techniques, or Kimarite.
  • In professional sumo, there are about 650 Rikishi, belonging to approximately 50 Heya, (also Beya) or stables. They are devided in several leagues, ranging from the lowly Jonokuchi via Jonidan, Sandanme , Makushita and Juryo to the Makuuchi division. This top division itself consists of 42 rikishi which currently, in ascending order, are: 33 Maegashira, 2 Komusubi, 3 Sekiwake, 2 Ozeki and 2 Yokozuna.
  • Promotion or demotion to a particular rank on the Banzuke (ranking), which comes out before each Basho, depends on the performance of a Rikishi during the tournament. When he has won more matches than he has lost (this is called achieving Kachikoshi) he is usually promoted to a higher rank for the next Basho, whereas a negative record (Makekoshi) will mean demotion to a lower rank. In the Makuuchi division, where Basho last for 15 days, Kachikoshi means a record of 8-7 or better and Makekoshi 7-8 or worse. As a general rule of thumb you can say that a Komusubi needs a record of 9-6 in a Basho to become Sekiwake (although 8-7 may also suffice if the rikishi who were ranked at Sekiwake had a losing record), and a Sekiwake a three basho record of 33-12 to become Ozeki. In the high ranks of Sumo a Makekoshi result almost automatically means demotion to a lower rank. The only two exceptions being Yokozuna and Ozeki. A Yokozuna can never be demoted but will be asked to retire if he starts performing badly, and an Ozeki will only lose his rank when he has two makekoshi results in a row.
  • The highest rank in all of sumo is Yokozuna, or grand champion, a revered title that is conferred on only a few competitors, and which, as stated above, is the only rank from which you can never be demoted. This rank is so difficult to obtain that in recorded Sumo history (last 3-4 centuries) only 73 Rikishi have been promoted to Yokozuna. Currently two rikishi holds this title: Hakuho and Terunofuji, both from Mongolia. For a Rikishi to become Yokozuna, he must first become Ozeki and then win two consecutive tournaments while holding that rank or have a record deemed to be of equal value as two consecutive tournament wins (like 2 basho with a 14-1 record, one as a tournament winner and one as the runner-up). But even then there is no certainty that the title of Yokozuna will be awarded. A special Yokozuna committee, which also looks at such things as technique and attitude, has the final say.