Sumo

Sumo 101: A wrestler's typical tournament day

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The six annual honbasho (tournaments) are the fulcrum around which the sumo world turns.

Ninety days a year sumo wrestlers participate in events whose outcome determines not only how high or low they will be ranked but also what clothes they can wear, whether or not they receive a salary, and their level of personal freedom.

Needless to say, rikishi put everything they have into winning every bout as a result.

While training continues in stables during tournaments the schedule is somewhat altered.

For wrestlers in the lowest divisions, there is no time for training on days they have matches scheduled as bouts in the arena begin at 8:30 a.m.

Those men usually walk to the stadium or take public transport. Once inside they change and warm up while waiting their turn in the ring.

When the bout is over, they have to switch back into their yukata and exit the dressing rooms quickly to make space for wrestlers coming in.

Usually, it’s straight back to the stable but if they are an attendant of a high-ranked wrestler or a stablemaster, rikishi may stay in the arena to run errands for that person.

Sekitori (wrestlers in the top two divisions) fight on all 15 days as opposed to the seven days of lower-rankers and so their schedule doesn’t really change throughout a tournament.

Those men tend to get up later than usually and do only light training or stretching at the stable. They have time for lunch and a short nap before heading to the arena, often in a taxi or private car.

Once in the shitakubeya, they also have more time to prepare for their bouts but also have to change into highly decorative kesho mawashi and perform a ring entering ceremony.

Heading home after the fight is finished, all tension is released and wrestlers often to stop and talk with fans.