Sumo

Sumo 101: World championships

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Broadly speaking, sumo is divided into two separate (but overlapping) sports.

Professional sumo (known as ozumo or grand sumo) exists only in Japan and is by far the better-known version.

It is run by the Japan Sumo Association.

It is also much more than just a sport. Requiring total commitment, it’s better described as a lifestyle.

Ozumo has six yearly tournaments, half of which are in Tokyo and half in other major cities in Japan.

All tournaments have equal value and the winner of the top division gets virtually all of the prizes on offer.

Amateur sumo is purely a sport and lacks most of the trappings and ritual associated with ozumo.

Tournaments take place worldwide and come in all levels of importance and size.

The toughest competitions are those held in Japan, especially among the top colleges.

Internationally, the Sumo World Championships is the highest level of the sport.

Held yearly with hosting rotated around the world the SWC normally takes place over a weekend, with junior boys and girls competing on the Saturday and senior men and women battling it out on the Sunday.

This year’s tournament takes place in Osaka on Oct. 12 and 13 with 32 countries expected to send teams.

Many medalists in the men’s heavyweight and openweight divisions go on to a career in professional sumo.

In fact, half of the current top division in ozumo comes from an amateur background, including title winners Goeido, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama and Mitakeumi.

It’s rare but not unknown for athletes to move in the other direction but the worlds often includes former makushita division wrestlers.

There is no rule against it but the general feeling is that once you have been a sekitori (rikishi in the top two professional divisions), competing in serious amateur tournaments is not really acceptable.

Former maegashira have taken part in less formal or more open events though so who knows, perhaps one day the SWC will include an ex-ozeki or yokozuna.

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