Monday, July 21, 2008

The Grand Sumo Tournament

From Japan - Grand...

Two weeks ago I attended the July Grand Sumo Tournament in Nagoya, Japan. There are six tournaments a year: three in Tokyo, one in Osaka, one in Kyushu, and one in Nagoya. A tournament lasts fifteen days with each wrestler facing one opponent per day. The wrestler with the most wins at the end of the tournament is declared the champion. The official website has an excellent guide. Here's my favorite part.

The rikishi then squat and face each other in the center of the ring, crouch forward in a "get set" position supporting themselves with their fists on the ground and proceed to glare fiercely at each other. This portion of the ritual is called the shikiri. They do not begin the match at once, however, but engage in a kind of "cold warfare". They go back to their corners for more salt, scatter it and return to glare. They repeat the process again and again, usually for the full four minutes allowed by the rules... In early sumo the start of a match could be delayed indefinitely. A ten minute limit was first introduced in 1928, later reduced to seven, then to five down to the present four minutes. The bout, itself, is usually over in a matter of minutes, in less time than it took for warming up, but for the sumo aficionado those brief moments are packed with thrills.

Usually the matches were over in thirty second or less, but the longer matches were very intense. Momentum literally shifted back and forth between the two wrestlers. In the final match of the day, Asashoryu, one of only two Yokozuna and a 22-time champion, lost in an upset. The crowd went wild and threw their purple seat cushions toward the ring. Packed with thrills indeed.

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