Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sumo Tournament in Osaka

Asashoryu throws his opponant, Kaio, to the ground, winning the bout.
The spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka Japan, has concluded with Asashoryu winning the coveted Emperor’s Cup, becoming Yokozuna or Grand Champion. On Saturday the Mongolian born Asashoryu conquered his opponent, Champion Kaio, in a teeth-clenching bout that was clinched when Asashoryu tossed his adversary from the ring using a classic arm throw. The match at the Osaka Municipal Gymnasium was attended by a crowd of thousands, which included visiting French President Jacques Chirac (a big fan of sumo). Sumo is an age old form of wrestling that originated as a ritual performance to Shinto gods. While it has become the national sport of Japan, it still carries with it many of the ceremonies associated with its past.

The rules of sumo are amazingly simple. During a basho, (a sumo tournament), wrestlers or rikishi (literally “strong men”), attempt to push, fling, or slap an opponent outside of the dohyo (the small ring within which the bout takes place). The rikishi who first leaves the ring or in any way touches the floor of the dohyo with anything but the soles of his feet… loses. The fights usually last only a few seconds but the pageant and tradition of it all is gripping. Once a wrestler reaches the rank of yokozuna, he cannot lose the title, however, as soon as his performance starts to weaken he is expected to retire. The most lasting image of sumo in the west is the physical appearance of rikishi, enormous men who train extensively and eat tremendous amounts of special foods in order to increase their body weight to unbelievable proportions. Sumo is gaining increasing international popularity, with sumo federations engaging in tournaments all around the world. Here in Los Angeles we have the California Sumo Association (CSA), which just completed its 5th Annual US Sumo Open at the Los Angeles Convention Center. CSA not only offers training and education to sumo athletes, but also promotes the sport through demonstrations and events while also supporting international efforts to make sumo an Olympic sport (posted by M.)