Sumo

Sumo 101: Presentation of new recruits

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Sumo is a world filled with ritual and costume.

From daily training to tournament bouts to going out in public, there are rules governing what you should wear and how you should act.

While formalized actions and detailed rules are part of Japanese life in general, sumo takes it to another level.

There is even a ceremony for the presentation of new recruits into the sport.

Normally held on the eighth day of a tournament, it involves shin-deshi (new apprentices) lining up several rows deep on the ring in a squatting position before standing and bowing when their name is announced.

All of the recruits wear keshō-mawashi (highly decorated apron-style belts) but because those are only given to men in the top two divisions, the shin-deshi use one belonging to a senior wrestler at their stable or their stablemaster.

The Spring Tournament held in Osaka always sees the largest number of rookies as March is the end of the school year in Japan, meaning junior high school and college graduates are free to join sumo.

The Nagoya tournament, which is held in July, generally has the fewest new recruits. Sometimes the announcement features just a single young man up on the ring.

Three shin-deshi were presented during the current tournament on Sept. 15.

The ceremony itself is something that many rikishi say was a significant moment in their career and the first time they felt like a proper professional sumo wrestler.

Preliminary maezumo bouts earlier in the tournament normally take place before any paying customers have even entered the arena, but the presentation ceremony happens during the sandanme division bouts, when the crowd is noticeably larger.

All of the young men in the ring are part of the same class and will train and study daily together in the sumo school over the following few months.