In last night’s Road FC 47 main event in South Korea, former Sumo Wrestling World Champion Aorigele returned to the cage where he beat the brakes off Kim Jae-Hun in an open-weight matchup moving his win streak to 5 in a row attracting the eyes of the UFC and Bellator. Check it out.
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Sumo (相撲 sumō) or sumo wrestling is a competitive full-contact wrestling sport where a rikishi (wrestler) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyō) or into touching the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet. The characters 相撲 literally mean “striking one another”. The sport originated in Japan, the only country where it is practiced professionally. It is generally considered a gendai budō (a modern Japanese martial art), but this definition is misleading, as the sport has a history spanning many centuries.
Many ancient traditions have been preserved in sumo, and even today the sport includes many ritual elements, such as the use of salt purification, from Shinto. Life as a wrestler is highly regimented, with rules regulated by the Japan Sumo Association. Most sumo wrestlers are required to live in communal sumo training stables, known in Japanese as heya, where all aspects of their daily lives—from meals to their manner of dress—are dictated by strict tradition.
From 2008 to 2017, a number of high-profile controversies and scandals have rocked the sumo world, with an associated effect on its reputation and ticket sales. These have also affected the sport’s ability to attract recruits. Despite this setback, sumo’s popularity and general attendance has rebounded due to having multiple yokozuna (or grand champions) for the first time in a number of years and other high-profile wrestlers such as Endō and Ichinojō grabbing the public’s attention.
In addition to its use as a trial of strength in combat, sumo has also been associated with Shinto ritual, and even certain shrines carry out forms of ritual dance where a human is said to wrestle with a kami (a Shinto divine spirit). It was an important ritual at the imperial court, where representatives of each province were ordered to attend the contest at the court and fight. The contestants were required to pay for their travels themselves. The contest was known as sumai no sechie, or “sumai party”.
Over the rest of Japanese recorded history, sumo’s popularity has changed according to the whims of its rulers and the need for its use as a training tool in periods of civil strife. The form of wrestling combat changed gradually into one where the main aim in victory was to throw one’s opponent. The concept of pushing one’s opponent out of a defined area came some time later. A ring, defined as something other than simply the area given to the wrestlers by spectators, is also believed to have come into being in the 16th century as a result of a tournament organized by the then principal warlord in Japan, Oda Nobunaga.
At this point, wrestlers would wear loose loincloths rather than the much stiffer mawashi wrestling belts of today. During the Edo period, wrestlers would wear a fringed decorative apron called a kesho-mawashi during the match, whereas today these are worn only during pretournament rituals. Most of the rest of the current forms within the sport developed in the early Edo period.