In correlation with our sister FB site: the Sumo Ring, these will be a series of articles that will give you everything you need to know about sumo and then some. As always if you have any questions post them on the FB site The Sumo Ring and we will do our best to help ya out! Enjoy!
Sumo can be traced back as far as 15th Century Japan and may have found its roots originally in a form of a Shinto dance rather than an actual physical sport. This can be seen in the various “dances” that the higher ranking rikishi do throughout the tournament including the daily “dohyo-iri” that the Yokozuna (the highest ranking rikishi) does at the beginning of the day’s main matches. Many have described this dance as comparative to a “war dance”. The actual professional sumo sport came into existence around the Edo Period of Japanese history (circa 16th century) and constituted of samurai’s or ronin (masterless samurais) wrestling with each other for money and as a form of entertainment for the Emperor and his retinue. The first “modern” sumo tournaments have been recorded as far back as 1684 and have been held all over Japan since, even during times of war.
This is a video of current Yokozuna Hakuho’s dohyo iri. There are two different types of dohyo iri; the Unryu and Shiranui. In the Unryu, the Yokozuna will have his right arm out and his left arm across his chest during the seriagari portion of the dohyo iri (the portion where the Yokozuna is kinda bent over in almost a football stance). This symbolizes BOTH defense and offense. The Shiranui will have the Yokozuna stretch BOTH arms out during the seriagari, this symbolizes pure offense, and is considered the more violent of the two stances. Hakuho has chosen to use the Shiranui style which in some circles is the LESS popular style and has a stigma to it as past Yokozunas who have used this style had very short careers as Yokozunas (though Hakuho is proving this to be false). The two men accompanying Hakuho are the dewsweeper and the sword bearer (one represents the purity of the sport, the other the pure violence). Usually the two positions are handled by lesser ranked rikishi in the same heya as the Yokozuna, if they are not available (due to injury or promotion) other rikishi from other heyas can be borrowed.