As Trump is to attend a sumo wrestling match - here are the rules of the historic sport

As Donald Trump gears up to attend the final match of the annual summer Sumo tournament in Tokyo, here’s a recap on the rules.

The US president is currently carrying out a four-day presidential visit to Japan that will culminate in his attendance at a large Sumo tournament, where he will present the winner with a custom 'Trump cup' trophy.

Trump will be the first American president to present a trophy in the sport, although other foreign ambassadors and dignitaries have done so in the past.

If you're planning on tuning in it's probably worth wrapping your head around the rules and traditions first.

What is Sumo wrestling?

Japan’s national sport emerged as a ceremony surrounding the nations rice culture where it was believe to secure a successful harvest. Today it is recognised as a sport across the world.

The game involves two wrestlers wearing ‘mawashi’, the belt loincloth you probably recognise. The wrestling matches are steeped in Japanese tradition.

What are the big events?

Perhaps the most famous of Sumo wrestling tournaments is the Basho’s in Japan which last 15 days. The tournament is open only to professional wrestlers also known as ‘rikishi’.

How big is a Sumo ring and what’s in the bags that surround it?

The outer circle of a Sumo ring is made using 20 straw bags filled with rice to create a space that measures 4.55 meters in diameter.

A bag is placed slightly back from the ring at the norhth, south, east and west positions. The placement of these bags is a throwback to the days of outdoor matches where it was often necessary to drain rain water from the ring. Often these extended areas are used strategically to drive opponents towards the edge of the ring.

What is the ‘greeting ceremony’ all about?

Three pillars are held in high regard in Sumo wrestling: politeness, mutual respect and discipline. The ceremony that precedes the fight is known as the 'Chirichozu'.

The process works as follows:

  • Both wrestlers welcome each other to the ring in a sitting or crouched position
  • They make eye contact
  • Rub their hands
  • Clap their hands once - this is to get the attention of the gods in order ‘not to go to battle alone’
  • Their arms are then moved horizontally sideways until their palms are facing up
  • Their palms are slowly turned to face the floor and then placed on their knees

The ceremony shows that both wrestlers are unarmed and is symbolic of the mutual respect between fighters.

What other rituals are carried out in Sumo Wrestling?

After the greeting ceremony, the beginning of the fight follows with the Tachiai:

Both wrestlers place their fists on the ground where they wait for the referee to signify the beginning of the match by ytelling ‘Hakkeyoi’.

The moment that the wrestlers first bump into each other is known as the ‘Tachiai’, 70% of fights tend to be decided at precisely this point with matches lasting anything from seconds to minutes.

After a fight has ended the loser bows towards the winner and leaves the ring, whilst the winner, once again crouches to await the referee to announce the results. The ref will usually do this by saying: ‘winner east’ or ‘winner west’ rather than the Sumo wrestlers names.

Finally, upon being announced the victor, the winning wrestler makes a closing arm movement to show respect to their opponent.

The winner and loser are expected not to show emotions but are expected to show respect for one another.

How do you win a Sumo match?

You can win a Sumo wrestling event by forcing your opponent to touch the surface of the ring with their body, or by pushing, throwing or lifting them outside of the ring.

What are the ranks?

There are six divisions:

  • Makuuchi (highest rank)
  • Juryo
  • Makushita (junior grade)
  • Sandanme
  • Jonidan
  • Jonokuchi (lowest rank)

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