by William Ryan
This must-see Japanese sport can be found no place else.
The traditional Japanese martial art known as sumo wrestling has existed since ancient times. Originally practiced at the Shinto rituals and agricultural rituals, the sport enjoyed strong support from Japan's imperial court. Provincial representatives, who were the local politicians of their time, were even required to compete in these contests.
Modern sumo still retains many of the elements from ancient times. The manner in which competitors squat facing each other and clap and spread their hands to show they are unarmed is ritualistic and goes back to the earliest days of sumo. Sumo's popularity as a spectator sport rose in the 1600s, and it was finally established as Japan's national sport in 1909. As a matter of fact, the only country where there are professional sumo wrestlers is Japan.
Sumo wrestlers are large, powerful men whose tremendous size, strength, and leverage are their only weapons. The objective of the two combatants is to push the other out of the ring, which is called a dohyo. Perhaps the most spectacular aspect is the crouch and charge. Both wrestlers must jump up from the crouch position at the same time. Failure to do so will cause the referee to restart the match. Sumo matches are short as most last less than one minute.
Very strict rules govern not only the competitive sport of sumo but also the lives of its competitors. Known as rikishi, sumo wrestlers are traditionally required to live communally in training stables called heya. Sumo training is extremely demanding with many beginner trainees finding it too difficult and ending up quitting. Sumo wrestling has six divisions or levels, with makuuchi being the highest. At any point in time, there are about 16 or so competitors at this level, and they are called maegashira. A grand champion is known as a yokozuna and, interestingly, more than one wrestler may hold this title at the same time.
现代的相扑运动仍保留着许多远古时代的要素。相扑的比赛方式是两位选手面对面蹲踞、拍掌，并摊开双手以显示自己没有携带任何武器，这项惯例可以追溯至最早的相扑运动。相扑在十七世纪兴起成为一项相当受欢迎且可供人们观赏的运动，而它最终于 1909 年被确立为日本的国技。事实上，日本是唯一拥有职业相扑选手的国家。