Sumo 101: Charismatic rikishi

Sumo Jul 8, 2019

Sumo 101: Charismatic rikishi

by John Gunning

One of sumo's most defining features is the stoicism of its wrestlers. Win or lose, rikishi are expected to remain composed. Sometimes after a particularly hard fought or meaningful bout, emotion slips through, but that's the exception rather than the rule. Overt celebrations after wins quickly receive ...

Sumo Jul 7, 2019

Sumo 101: Tied bouts

by John Gunning

Every sumo bout ends with a winner declared. Even if the gyōji (referee) thinks both men crashed to the ground at the same instant, he is obliged to point his gunbai (war fan) toward either the west or east to signal that the wrestler from ...

Sumo 101: Sumo and singing

Sumo May 26, 2019

Sumo 101: Sumo and singing

by John Gunning

Though sumo and song may not seem obvious bedfellows, Japan's national sport has musical connections both varied and historical. Jinku, a form of folk singing, is a common sight on provincial tours and at retirement ceremonies. Six wrestlers wearing kesho mawashi (highly decorated apron-like belts) take ...

Sumo May 25, 2019

Sumo 101: Controversial decisions

by John Gunning

Friday's controversial overturning of an apparent Tochinoshin win has people up in arms. Irate fans flooded social media with photos, videos and gifs that they felt proved the burly Georgian was hard done by. There is even a change.org petition to have the ruling reversed. That ...

Sumo 101: Mongolians

Sumo May 24, 2019

Sumo 101: Mongolians

by John Gunning

Sumo might be Japan's national sport, but for most of the last two decades it has been dominated by Mongolians. From November 2002, when Ulaanbaatar native Asashoryu won his first Emperor's Cup, to January 2016, when Kotoshogiku broke a 10-year title drought for Japan-born rikishi, ...

Sumo 101: Yobidashi (ring announcers)

Sumo May 23, 2019

Sumo 101: Yobidashi (ring announcers)

by John Gunning

The busiest men in sumo are the yobidashi (ring announcers). Named after their most conspicuous duty, yobidashi do far more than just call rikishi up to fight. In fact, pretty much every behind-the- scenes task in Japan's national sport is taken care of by sumo's unsung ...

Sumo 101: Large rikishi

Sumo May 22, 2019

Sumo 101: Large rikishi

by John Gunning

The first thing that comes to mind when people think of sumo is the size of the participants. While the height of most wrestlers doesn't generally exceed that of athletes in many other sports, the weight, especially at the top level, is far greater. Offensive linemen ...

Sumo 101: Small rikishi

Sumo May 21, 2019

Sumo 101: Small rikishi

by John Gunning

Sumo has no weight classes. The David vs. Goliath clashes that arise as a result of that lack of regulation are a big part of the sport's appeal for many fans. When a diminutive rikishi like Enho takes down towering opponents that outweigh him by 70 ...

Sumo 101: Cancellations

Sumo May 21, 2019

Sumo 101: Cancellations

by John Gunning

Sumo tournaments are rarely canceled. The last time one didn't go ahead was 2011, when the Japan Sumo Association called off the March Basho in the wake of a match-fixing scandal. Had they proceeded with that tournament, it was unlikely to have been televised. NHK and ...

Sumo 101: Tachiai

Sumo May 19, 2019

Sumo 101: Tachiai

by John Gunning

One of the first words every new sumo fan learns is tachiai. Combining the characters for "stand" and "meet," it is the term for the initial charge that gets all sumo bouts underway. To call the tachiai the key moment is to vastly understate its importance. Sumo, ...

Sumo 101: Endorsements

Sumo May 18, 2019

Sumo 101: Endorsements

by John Gunning

One of the unique aspects of sumo's attire is a lack of associated wearable merchandise. While manufacturers are able to sell an endless array of baseball or football jerseys, caps, and jackets, there isn't much of a market for branded mawashi or "Air-Hakuho" seta (traditional ...

Sumo 101: Online sumo games

Sumo May 17, 2019

Sumo 101: Online sumo games

by John Gunning

Fantasy football is a multi-billion dollar business with millions of participants. The sumo version? Not so much, though the world champion does get a trophy. The present holder of that title is a British native whose shikona (ring name) is Pandaazuma. Currently about 200 players from around ...