The Rule-bound World Of Japanese Sumo

The rule-bound world of Japanese sumo

Tokyo, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 29th Apr, 2022 ) :Sumo wrestlers can struggle to find a new profession after retiring from a world bound by strict rules and hierarchy, and set apart from the rest of Japanese society.

Here are some key facts about the ancient sport: - Becoming a 'sumotori' - Professional sumo wrestlers, known in Japanese as "sumotori" or "rikishi", are recruited between the ages of 15 and 23, and must have completed junior high school, which is compulsory in Japan.

Those with prior experience as an amateur sumo wrestler can be a maximum of 25 when entering the professional sumo world.

Only male wrestlers need apply, and they must come in at a minimum of 1.67 metres (five foot five) and 67 kilogrammes (10.5 stone) to be accepted into a "heya" or sumo stable.

The height and weight limits were lowered in 2012 in an attempt to tackle growing disinterest among younger Japanese in joining the sumo world.

- Communal living and grueling training - Wrestlers live communally in a heya, almost like a family, with the stable master or "oyakata", and his wife.

The wrestlers sleep in one large room together until they reach the top two divisions of the sport, when they are entitled to a room of their own.

Their life is dictated by long, grueling daily training sessions that begin at dawn on empty stomachs.

Sumotori then eat hefty portions at lunch and take afternoon naps that facilitate weight gain, before spending the rest of the day on chores and other business.

- Slim salaries - The professional sumo world, which in March 2022 had 620 wrestlers, is made up of six divisions.

But only those in the top two -- 70 rikishi -- earn a salary that varies depending on their success.

Tournaments are held every two months, and a wrestler's tally of wins and losses determines whether they rise or fall in the rankings.

Rikishi in the four lower divisions get free room, board and laundry services, but no payment except tournament expenses.

- The all-important rankings - Reaching the top two divisions is the holy grail for rikishi, and transforms their lives.

Benefits include a salary, a private room, the right to wear more elegant traditional Japanese clothes out of the ring, and a coloured rather than black "mawashi" combat belt while fighting.

Those at the summit of the sport, known as "sekitori", are also waited on by lower-ranking wrestlers, who do everything from helping dress them and serving their food, to doing their shopping and even helping them wash.

- Retirement haircut - In a sport bound by tradition and ritual, retirement is no exception. Wrestlers leaving the sport cut off their "chon-mage" topknots in a special ceremony marking the end of their careers.

The retirement age varies, depending on the success and injury history of individual wrestlers, but is generally between 30 and 35.

Some others battle on into their 40s, and last January saw the rare example of rikishi Hanakaze, who bowed out at the age of 51, after over 35 years in the sport.

- Only a few stay in sumo - The sport's most successful sumotori sometimes decide to stay on in the sumo world and head up their own stables, but only a handful of wrestlers each year have that option.

Wrestlers must either have reached a certain rank or have completed in at least 30 tournaments in the top two divisions to qualify.

Then they can buy the stable master title from a retiring oyakata -- but with only 105 available, prices can run up to several hundred million Yen (millions of Dollars).

Once installed though, stable masters are guaranteed a salary until the mandatory retirement age of 65.