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Couldn't find a general sport thread, but anyone else follow sumo? It airs on the US version of NHK down here and been following it for a while now. It's pretty fun to watch, and the commentary for the English-language broadcast makes it easy to pick up the intricacies. There's a tournament that started today. My favorite to watch is Enho, whose often the smallest guy in the tournament, sometimes coming up against people literally twice his weight... and winning.

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Wow, Hakuho got really hurt last tournament, he's not in this one.

 

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12 minutes ago, Tigerstyle said:

I wasn’t even interested when I went to Japan, I just don’t get it

The ritual tradition aspect is pretty fascinating to me on it's own, but I enjoy the surprising depth of skill and technique that goes into it. It probably helps to have English language commentary to break down what happens. And there's quite a bit of drama in the tournaments too. You get a season's worth of ups and downs of individual competitors compressed into a two week span.

Using Enho as an example, he's a smaller dude so he tends to be light on his feet and avoid going head-on in the initial charge, preferring to go from an angle or going low to try to get leverage. In the last tournament though, there was a match where he faced off against a much bigger competitor straight-on, completely catching them off-guard, and forcing them out.

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there was a guy on another forum i go to who was really good at teaching people how to get into sumo. Here's the whole entry post if anyone wants to try:


Live (in the middle of the god damn night) from the kokugikan in Tokyo, welcome to the May basho! (5/10-5/24) (note: The May tournament has been cancelled. The next tournament (maybe) is scheduled for late July) Are you desperate to watch enormously fat men slam into each other at full speed while wearing nothing more than a simple loincloth? Well, then you have come to the right place!

The need-to-know:

Sumo 101

Watch this video first for a quick summary of a lot of the following info, and an appetizer of some exciting matches.

Kimarite

http://www.chijanofuji.com/Kimarite.html - list of kimarite (winning technique), which used to link to an excellent graphic on the official sumo.or.jp site.  However, with the newer sumo site the links seem to have gone dead.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimarite - almost no images either, but a full list with both English and Japanese spellings
http://www16.plala.or.jp/mr001/32sotoga.html - Flash-animated kimarite, but only in Japanese

The Biggest Websites in the World

http://www.sumo.or.jp/en/index

Your one-stop-shop for all current information on current rankings and tournament records.

https://tachiai.org/

This is THE central website for sumo amongst western nerds.

http://heyaaz.nagioff.com/2019/2019.html

Here is another good link, including profiles for oyakata, hairdressers, and whatnot.

http://sumodb.sumogames.de/

For the nerds, a site that will have a familiar feel to those who have used sites like baseball-reference.  If you can't find records here, I wouldn't know where else to look.  It helps to know what "rikishi" (wrestler), "banzuke" (tournament), and "yusho" (tournament victory) mean when navigating this site.

http://www.sumoforum.net

The other socially acceptable place for sumo discussions free of yaocho theories and general shitposting, and often a treasure trove of insider information.  The English-speaking sumo community is a small one, so members that would be considered celebrities are active in nearly every thread, including Kintamayama (provider of the main YouTube stream) and John Gunning (frequent commentator and excellent sumo article contributor).  Everyone that wants to follow sumo from basho to basho should lurk on this forum.

https://grandsumobreakdown.wordpress.com/

The Grand Sumo Breakdown is a decent podcast that bills itself as the "unofficial sumo podcast for real sumo fans."

Two Men Enter - None, One, or Both of them Exit

The objective of the sport is simple - make your opponent leave the 15ft-diameter ring or make him touch the ground with any part of his (or her, if you're into that kinda thing) body, other than with the bottoms of his feet, before you.  Sometimes the match is over in 2 seconds when one wrestler does a quick sidestep and trip, sometimes it lasts over a minute and ends with both wrestlers crashing over the side of the dohyo while locked on to each others' mawashi (the giant adult Depends).  Yes, grabbing onto the mawashi is not only legal, but it is also one of the most effective ways of winning.  When both wrestlers hit the deck, the first one to hit the ground loses.

How does the match start?  When the ref, or gyoji, gives the signal after prep time, the wrestlers spend a few moments burning a hole through each other with their eyes, then it begins drag-racing style.  Once both wrestlers have all 4 combined fists touching their starting lines, the match is off with a thunderous collision.

Yokozuna Hakuho

Hakuho is, simply put, the greatest sumo wrestler of all time. Seriously, this man is such an overwhelming goliath in the sport, to the point where he probably needs his own little section in this OP.

We know very little about the sport of sumo in the 1800's and prior, other than it was still a real sport back then which was regularly contested, using mostly the same rules that we are familiar with today. So, we have win-loss records going back hundreds of years.

When we say that Hakuho is the GOAT, we don't just mean "greatest right now" or best in "modern times". This is an ancient sport, and he is widely regarded as the best sumo wrestler, ever. As in, EVER, since the sport was invented. He has the perfect body for sumo, not too fat, not too small, very athletic (when he is healthy, age is now catching up to him), and his sumo brain is very fast, when his opponent makes the smallest mistake or is the least bit off-center, he reacts immediately to push him out or dump him on the clay.

Was E. Honda Really a Sumo Wrestler?

Yes and no.  Believe it or not, the hundred-hands-slap move of his is probably the closest to reality.  Big and tall rikishi will often palm-slap smaller guys right from the start and quickly overwhelm them out of the ring.  So then, what kind of attacks are legal?  Well, just about anything other than hair-pulling, closed-fist punches, biting, gouging, and kicks to anywhere but the legs.  Pretty much all of those moves would be ineffective if legal anyway, since Sumo wrestlers are trained to be nearly unfazed by a palm to the face from another 350lb rikishi with a bad attitude.  

For a sport that consists of two enormous men pushing and shoving at each other, there are a surprising lot of official techniques, or kimarite, for winning (see above).  

Yorikiri (pushing them out while maintaining a grip on the mawashi) and oshidashi (pushing them out without holding onto the mawashi) are very common for large wrestlers, while successful smaller wrestlers will regularly dazzle viewers with more difficult techniques.

The Tri-Hundred Pound Tournament

Sumo is a year-round sport, with 6 tournaments a year spaced every 2 months - January, March, May, July, September, and November.  Three are in Tokyo, one in Osaka, one in Nagoya, and one in Fukuoka.  Each tournament consists of 15 days, with each wrestler having one match each day for a record anywhere from 0-15 to 15-0.  

So why do a bunch of 2 to 60 second-long matches take all fucking day to complete?  That is because sumo isn't just a sport, it has extremely ceremonious roots.  The foot stamping was/is to ward away evil spirits (while also serving as a form of intimidation), while throwing salt into the ring is symbolic of purifying the ring. Modern-day translation - they take their sweet ass time getting ready for each faceoff until your Western balls turn purple from delayed violence.  The rikishi get at least one round of foot-stamping and staring at each other at the line before the gyoji gives the signal for "THIS time shit's gonna get real, f'sho" by holding out his fan and getting into an open stance between the wrestlers.  This signals that the next time they approach the line that they are to go into drag-racer mode.  Lower divisions usually just get the one round of prep/psyching, while makuuchi rikishi often get at least 3 rounds, plus a sip of water and/or a washcloth for the highest-ranked competitors.  The latter rounds can take several minutes for a few seconds of action.

The Food Chain

Each division is split into "East" vs "West", which only refers to which side of the ring they enter in (most) matchups.  Aside from that, with exceptions in the top makuuchi division, rankings are simply "East/West (Division Name) (1 through n/2)".  There are no more than 40 makuuchi wrestlers at any given tournament, the lowest of which are ranked maegashira 1 through ~15, then 1-3 komusubi, 1-3 sekiwake[, anywhere from 0-5 ozeki, and as many as 4 yokozuna.

The matchups and rankings are done via the Starcraft ladder system.  Each tournament, wrestlers generally draw the 15 other wrestlers closest in rank to them.  This means some of the lower maegashira rikishi don't have to wrestle the yokozuna or ozeki, while the yokozuna and ozeki generally have to wrestle every single one of the top-ranking wrestlers.  Due to this, a record of 8-7 (kachi-koshi) over a tournament is the de facto standard for keeping your rank through to the next tournament.  A losing record (make-koshi) in the lowest makuuchi ranks generally means a trip down to the juryo division for the next tournament.  A great winning record can result in jumping from maegashira 15 up several ranks, even to komusubi.  However, to progress from komusubi, to sekiwake, and finally to ozeki, a record greater than  8-7 is needed - usually 10-5 through 12-3.  Ozeki often takes more than one tournament of good performance to attain - the sumo elders are the ones who decide on that particular promotion.  The same goes for yokozuna, although the de facto standard these days is to win two consecutive tournaments.  So yes, you can miss out on becoming yokozuna if you go 14-1 in two consecutive tournaments as an ozeki, but someone else wins in each case by going 15-0.  Once you attain yokozuna, you are yokozuna for life.  You cannot be demoted, although you are pretty much expected to retire if you can't maintain a winning record at any time after becoming yokozuna.  You can, however, be demoted from ozeki for a couple of consecutive bad showings (two consecutive make-koshi), and from komusubi/sekiwake for even one bad tournament.

The Big Kahunas

Currently there are two yokozuna and two ozeki.  One of those 4 can be expected to win pretty much every tournament, so the most exciting matches of the day will involve any of them.  They are:

Hakuho - Mongolia - Yokozuna - the GOAT, quite simply.  

 


Kakuryu - Mongolia - Yokozuna - somewhat underachieving and defensive Yokozuna who often pulls off incredible shifts in mawashi grips


Takakeisho - Japan - Ozeki - Still a very young Ozeki, Takakeisho carries the very heavy hope of Japan on his big shoulders as the next possible Japanese Yokozuna, along with possibly Asanoyama at Sekiwake. Takakeisho is a "pusher/thruster" rikishi who usually wins by oshi-dashi or hataki-komi.
Goeido - Japan - Ozeki - somewhat disappointing Ozeki, but nobody really expected him to ever make a Yokozuna run.  Frequently in kadoban status (make-koshi in the last basho, meaning a kachi-koshi is required to stay at Ozeki).
Takayasu - Japan - Sekiwake - He is from Kisenosato's heya (stable), half-Filipino, but native Japanese. After back to back losing records, Takayasu has been demoted to Sekiwake. In January, Takayasu will get a one time only chance to regain his Ozeki rank with 10+ wins.

Others

Enho - Enho is one of the smallest men in sumo, so obviously he has several tricks up his sleeveless sleeves to survive with the big men. His style is, in a word, "frantic". He is pure speed and action, always trying to spin around and outflank his opponent to gain any possible advantage that his little body can get.

Terutsuyoshi - An otherwise unremarkable low-ranked wrestler, I only mentioned him because in some corners of the internet he is known as "salt bae". There really aren't any rules on how much salt you can grab and throw during the whole "glare at each other and purify the ring with salt" phase of the match, some rikishi just grab a tiny pinch, most grab and throw a handful, and salt bae does..... well,  he gives no fucks and does his own thing, and we're just supposed to accept it as normal.

Here is a very good match between these two rikishi, featuring Terutsuyoshi in all his salty glory, and Enho pulling off a very nifty throw, since he has to rely always on technique and speed to win.

Paying By The Pound

Much like any popular national sports, sumo wrestlers are divided into the haves and the have-nots.  First and foremost, if you're not in the juryo or the makuuchi divisions, you earn jack shit outside of a daily all-you-can-eat buffet.  And even if I were completely broke, I wouldn't take a daily gorgefest if it meant I'd be treated as wrestlers in those divisions are treated - as maids and as target practice.  Once you make it to juryo, you've hit the big leagues.  Minimum salaries for juryo wrestlers work out to be around $120k in the US, working up to about a $400k base salary for the Yokozuna.  In a lot of big national sports, this isn't a lot of money.  However, there are a few bonuses that wrestlers can earn for both one-time and permanent increases to their salary.

Kensho - Bonus sponsor money for individual matches, where the winner gets to take the stack of cash home.  When you see a brief parade of banners before a particular bout, those are the advertisers who have each paid 60k yen (over $600) for a banner.  The winner is given half the cash from each banner fee in a stack at the end of the match, which he accepts by first waving his right hand over the stack.  A small amount of the rest is deducted to pay for the banner, and the rest is deposited into the rikishi's account.  To put this in perspective, if there were 8 banners for a match, the winner would receive a bonus of approximately $5,000.  Since ozeki and yokozuna almost always have a full house of kensho before their matches, that's an additional ~$75,000 they can earn per tournament.  Therefore a dominating yokozuna or ozeki can virtually double his base salary over a year from kensho alone.

Mochikyukin

The tl;dr version of mochikyukin - if you win a tournament, beat the yokozuna as a ranked makuuchi rikishi, or win a special prize from a tournament, you get a sizeable and permanent bonus to your salary.

Other - Aside from salaries and bonuses, rikishi are able to supplement their income with advertising revenue and koenkai, which is kind of like a fan club where the wrestler actually makes a lot of appearances.  As expected, these are heavily regulated by the sumo association.

Scandalous Fat Fucks

Unfortunately, as a lucrative and ancient Japanese sport, there has undeniably been corruption.  Known members of the yakuza have been known to be seen watching from expensive front-row seats, while 2011 was rocked by a match fixing scandal. 

http://www.cnngo.com/tokyo/play/just-pigs-colliding-sumo-faces-its-darkest-hour-004432

This resulted in an entire tournament in 2011 being canceled, with another one held only as an exhibition with no actual prizes.  Fortunately for the real money draws, none of the top wrestlers were implicated by the scandal.  

All Right, I Want to Watch Fatties Bang

Unfortunately, options are not plentiful outside of Japan. NHK World recently started a free online channel that can be used to watch highlights from the previous day with glorious HD and with English commentary.  Only around half of the makuuchi matches are shown, but nearly all of the relevant matches for the day are usually covered.  The highlights are shown live multiple times a day, and then are avaialable on-demand after a certain amount of time.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/sumo

If you are willing to spend around 4 bucks a month, the official Sumo app  is a convenient way to watch videos from the previous day.  The videos are great quality, however one huge negative is that you can't pull up the videos without seeing the result in advance.  So, it is useless if you're trying to watch spoiler-free.  The app is nice, but likely not worth the money for most casual fans.  Another feature of the app is that they have a rotating series of hard-to-find videos to stream.  One month they had every one of Chiyonofuji's famous streak of wins, another had videos of many famous rikishi on their hatsu-dohyo (debut) - back when some of them were well under 200 lbs and had very short hair, and another month had videos of yokozuna as far back as the 1800s.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.dwango.sumo&hl=en

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/grand-sumo-the-nihon-sumo-kyokai-official-app/id775745258?mt=8

Other than that, it's up to a few somewhat reliable YouTube members who keep us outside of Japan up to date.  A few channels:

I have to mention Kintamayama, otherwise someone will think I forgot to mention him. As of senshuraku on November 2019, Kintamayama has retired from his lucrative career of posting sumo match summaries for western nerds who couldn't stay up late enough to watch the matches live.

Just in case Kinta lied to us and he's not really retired, his channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Kintamayama

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe5bUVd4IZ6z80to7yvB6ww

This is D i's channel on youtube, he streams abema's coverage live and immediately deletes the stream after the matches are over. There is a community of sorts on his channel, but the community is a bit toxic. The live play by play for the matches is in Japanese.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/JasonsinJapan

This channel is updated by some dude named Jason who has been an English/History teacher in Japan for many years. His channel has more of a "casual guy relaxing on the couch" vibe to it, and he only shows the 6 or 7 important matches of the day which might matter for the final standings in the tournament. He's pretty good at explaining basic sumo things to newbies who may have stumbled into his channel.

mbovosumo on twitch - This is the main source for English-language live sumo on the internet, and you can watch the replays the following day. Beware, the moderation in this channel is painfully strict. This channel is full of nerds who will want you muted within their precious little channel if you are even perceived as just being disrespectful to a rikishi.

karla_marxist on twitch - I haven't visited her channel, but a few people whose opinion I respect say that her channel is also good. She supposedly streams the japanese-language stream from abema. (does she switch to NHK?)

I'm pretty sure there are at least 1 or 2 more live streams on twitch.
 

Edit: fixed the formatting

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10 minutes ago, Mr. Meacon Moneybags said:

I’ve enjoyed amateur wrestling my whole life but I’ve never seen a sumo match. I’d be willing to give it a shot I suppose. I have no idea if it airs on Hulu Live TV or not but I’m sure I could find coverage on YouTube or suttin.

The video I posted in the second post is the full first day of action for this season's tournament. I'm not 100% sure but they might show the rest of the tournament too. Definitely the final day. If you get NHK World at all, their highlights are a good watch.

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I used to love sumo back in the days of Akebono and Takanohana, but dipped off significantly in the last...two decades or whatever. 

I tried to follow a tournament last year but struggled to keep up with it. Should probably give it another go.

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38 minutes ago, Liam said:

I used to love sumo back in the days of Akebono and Takanohana, but dipped off significantly in the last...two decades or whatever. 

I tried to follow a tournament last year but struggled to keep up with it. Should probably give it another go.

Well this tournament has no Yokozuna competing because both are injured, so you won't get to see how the current ones stack up. Hakuho's pretty badass though.

Looks like this'll be a tough tourney for Enho. He's even smaller than usual and seems to have lost a step.

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23 hours ago, metalman said:

I don’t like looking at their buttocks wobbling.

Mostly that's some of the really big boys like Kaisei and Aoiyama (the latter being notable more for his wobbly moobs) and in slo-mo.

Anyway, pretty good day of bouts. A couple super-quick downs and some close struggles near the end of the ring too.

Enho lost again though :( He did better this time, at least. Losing weight hurt his muscle mass and the NHK commentator suggested he may have back issues.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This tournament has been wild. Newcomer Tobizaru is on track to become the first rikishi to win the top-division tournament in his first ever go, a feat that hasn't been done in over 106 years! And he's so amazingly nonchalant about it. The other frontrunner is an arguable favorite, high-ranked Shodai. Either (or neither!) could end up in front with two days left to go.

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