Sumo

Japan Sumo Association takes steps to address violence against younger wrestlers

Kyodo

The Japan Sumo Association on Wednesday conducted a special workshop for wrestlers on how to treat their lower-ranked peers, while also announcing several measures it plans to introduce in response to the sport’s ongoing problems with violence.

According to attendees, JSA chairman Hakkaku appealed to wrestlers in the top two divisions to take care of their subordinates, called tsukibito, who assist in various tasks at their stables in addition to their wrestling duties.

The meeting had been moved up from next February after rank-and-file grappler Takanoiwa made headlines for assaulting an underling who had forgotten an item during a regional tour in early December.

Takanoiwa himself had been a victim of violence at the hands of an older wrestler, former yokozuna Harumafuji, in October last year. Like Harumafuji, the 28-year-old Takanoiwa retired on Dec. 7 to take responsibility for his actions.

After the workshop, Mongolian yokozuna Kakuryu, who is president of the wrestler’s association, said, “Absolutely do not commit violence. It’s important to do what you are told in order to protect yourself.”

Kakuryu also said wrestlers should think of their lower-ranked peers as “borrowed” from their stablemaster and remember that they “forget things or make mistakes since they are also human beings.”

The JSA also revealed it will hand down a punishment to Takanoiwa’s new stablemaster Chiganoura, who took on the Mongolian when his former stable Takanohana was dissolved in October.

Among the provisions laid out Wednesday, the JSA will recommend retirement at minimum for any yokozuna who commits excessive violence against a lower-ranked wrestler.

For wrestlers ranked ozeki or below in the top two divisions, the association plans to suspend the offender for at least one tournament.

However, the provisions allow for the handing down of lesser punishments under certain circumstances, such as when a wrestler comes forward with a voluntary declaration.

The JSA also approved several measures to help prevent hazing, including prohibiting violence using an implement or punching with a closed first during training.

But the association sought to draw a distinction between excessive force and ordinary disciplining, as well as clashes among wrestlers during practice.

“Humans are creatures of emotion. Sometimes skirmishes are going to break out. It doesn’t mean someone should automatically be reported for hitting,” JSA director Shibatayama said.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that juryo division wrestler Takayoshitoshi, who also transferred stables along with Takanoiwa, assaulted a lower-ranked wrestler during the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

“It’s regrettable that these problems arise in situations when people get worked up,” Kakuryu said. “It’s important for the top wrestlers to act consciously.”

Sumo has struggled to rebuild its image over the last decade following a string of scandals that have severely damaged its reputation.