Saturday, August 24, 2013

Introduction to Sumo Part IV-The Gyoji (referee) and the judges & The Shikiri

Gyojis wear a kimono patterned after the style worn by the samurai of the Kamakura Period (800 years ago).  Their black court hats resemble the traditional Shinto priest hats.  Referees are graded and only the ranking referee can officiate a bout involving yokozuna.

The gyoji also carries a knife so that he can disembowel himself if he gets a call wrong. Obviously they don't actually do this, but that's the mentality they have.

The rank of a gyoji can be determined by the color of the tassel of his fan:  purple or purple and white for the tate-gyoji, red for those correpsonding to san yaku, red and white for maku-uchi, blue and white for juryo, and blue or black for the ranks below. 


The higher ranked referees wear tabi (Japanese split-toe socks) and zori (straw sandals).  In contrast, the lower ranks are barefooted. 

The gyoji enters the dohyo with the wrestlers and calls out the names of each in a specially trained voice.  When it is time for the combatants to begin, the gyoji gives the signal with his fan, and in the course of the match keeps a watchful eye on the wrestler's movements and shouts words of encouragement. 

Around the four sides of the dohyo sit judges wearing black formal wear.  Should there be any doubt about the referee's decision, the judges climb into the ring and settle the matter amongst themselves.  The can over-rule the referee's decision, and they can order a rematch.  There are five judges for all matches. 

The Shikiri

After entering the dohyo, each rikishi goes through a series of symbolic movements (the raising of the arms to the side as well as the stamping of feet).  To cleanse his mind and body, he symbolically rinses his mouth with water, the source of purity, and wipes his body with a paper towel. 

Each rikishi also scatters a handful of salt to purify the ring.  This is supposed to keep him safe from injuries.  Only the maku-ichi, juryo, and maku-shita rikishi can throw salt. 

The rikishi then squat and face each other in the center of the ring, crouch forward in a "get set" position supporting themselves with their fists on the ground.  This portion of the ritual is called the shikiri.

They do not begin the match at once.  They engage in a kind of psychological "cold warfare".  They go back to their corners for more salt, scatter it, and return to glare at each other.  Or they may return to their corners to wipe their faces and take more drinks of water.  They repeat the process again and again usually for the full four minutes allowed by the rules.

This ritual gives the rikishi time to work themselves and the spectators up for an exciting match. 

When both wrestlers place their hands on the ground, the match begins!


Sumo Terms:

Ozumo - The sport of sumo

Rikishi - A sumo wrestler

Dohyo - The sumo ring

Mawashi - The belt that rikishi wear.

Honbasho or Basho - The six tournaments held throughout the year. Honbasho is technically correct, but everyone uses basho 

Kachi-koshi - A winning tournament. When a rikishi has a tournament with more wins than losses (at least 8-7) he has a kachi-koshi

Make-koshi - A losing tournament. When a rikishi has more losses than wins (at least 7-8 ).

Yusho - The championship for a basho. Whoever in the top division has more wins than everyone else gets the yusho. (In the event of a tie on the final day the two tied rikishi have a match against each other referred to as a "playoff" which doesn't count towards their records).

Zensho yusho - A flawless tournament. When a rikishi has all wins and no losses and wins the yusho it's called a zensho yusho.

Heya - A sumo stable. Where many of the rikishi train, eat, sleep, and live. When referring to a specific heya, you would say Miyagino beya with a "b"

 Gyoji - Referee for a sumo match


This video shows the good and bad of sumo, illustrating how difficult it is for the younger wrestlers, and how rigid their training and lives are.

Sumo ticket prices, tickets can be purchased at ticket machines in most convenience stores (that's where I bought mine) 

Introduction to Sumo Part III-Sumo Ceremonies


Sumo has managed to survive with its formalized ritual and traditional etiquette intact making it unique among sports.

On each day of the tournament immediately before the maku-uchi matches are scheduled, the colorful dohyo-iri or "entering the ring" ceremony takes place.  Down one aisle in reverse order of their rank comes one team of maku-uchi rikishi wearing kesho-mawashi (ceremonial aprons).  These aprons made of silk and hemmed with gold fringe cost anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 Yen (4,000-5,000 USD).

The rikishi climb into the dohyo and go through a short ritual ancient in sumo tradition after which they depart to be followed by the other team entering from the opposite aisle to repeat the ritual.  Earlier in the day the juryo perform a similar ceremony before their matches.

 The leading roles in the dohyo-iri are reserved for the yokozuna who have not taken part in the ceremony up to now.  A yokozuna comes down the aisle attended by a senior gyoji (referee) and two maku-uchi rikishi in kesho-mawashi with one bearing a sword.

Over his kesho-mawashi the yokozuna wears a massive braided hemp rope weighing from 25-30 pounds tied in a bow at the back and ornamented in the front with strips of paper hanging in zigzag patterns.

   Yokozuna Hitachiyama during a tour of the West in the early 1900's dressed in his kesho-mawashi

This is a familiar religious symbol in Japan.  It can be found hanging in Shinto shrines and in the home over the  "shelf of the gods where offerings are made at New Year.

While the gyogi and the two attendants crouch in the dohyo, the yokozuna performs the dohyo-iri (a ceremony with the greatest dignity).  After first clapping his hands together to attract the attention of the gods, he extends his arms to the sides and turns the palms upward to show he concealing no weapons.

Then at the climax, he lifts first one leg to the side high in the air, then the other, bringing each down with a resounding stamp on the ground symbolically driving evil from the dohyo. The crowd really gets into ceremony, and it is quite an exciting spectacle. 


                              Yokozuna Asasyoryu 

Next Part IV-The Gyoji (referee) and the judges & the Shikiri

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Introduction to Sumo Part II-Banzuke (Sumo Rankings)

There are at present about 800 rikishi in professional sumo from the lowly trainee to the yokozuna at the top.

After each Grand Tournament the bankuze are revised with rikishi being promoted or demoted depending on their performance during the fifteen days.  A new official ranking list called the banzuke is issued by the Nihon Sumo Kuyokai printed in an ancient, stylized calligraphy. 

The upper division of the rikishi is called the maku-uchi.  The maku-uchi group includes the five top ranks:  Yokozuna, Ozeki, Sekiwake, Komusubi, and Maegashira. The number of the maku-uchi are within 42. 

Rikishi below makushita do not get to wrestle on each day of a tournament.  The matches start in the morning with those of the lowest ranking rikishi followed by those of progressively higher and higher rank, building up to a climax towards the end of the day with bouts featuring the yokozuna.

Important (Highest Ranked) Sumo Wrestlers Today:
  • Hakuho- Mongolian, for a long time the only Yokozuna competing after his rival Asashoryu recently retired. Head and shoulders above everyone else competing today.
  • Harumafuji- Mongolian, recently promoted to Yokozuna. Formerly competed under the name Ama (rikishi get ring-names called "shikona" and they will sometimes change their name when they get promoted, and as confusing as "Harumafuji" may seem, it's much easier than his actual name; Davaanyamyn Byambadorj). Harumafuji is one of the lighter rikishi competing, but he has put on some weight recentlyHe has some amazing throws.
  • Kotoosho- Bulgarian Ozeki. Originally a Greco-Roman wrestler with hopes of competing in the 2000 Olympics, he transitioned into sumo when he put on too much weight. Became the first European to win a sumo championship.
  • Kisenosato- Japanese Ozeki. Seen as having a lot of potential that he has started to live up to.
  • Kotoshogiku- Japanese Ozeki. Uses powerful gabburi-yori, belly-pumping attack.
  • Kakuryu- Mongolian Ozeki. Very good technical skill but struggled to beat the top guys.

The Yokozuna

The position of the yokozuna is unique.  In the past three hundred years since the title was created only sixty-nine rikishi have been honored with the title.  Only the yokozuna can never be demoted (even if he makes a poor showing at a tournament).  If he should continue with a bad record, he is expected to retire.


Before a rikishi can be considered for promotion to yokozuna, he must have won two consecutive tournaments while holding the rank of ozeki.  He must have proven himself capable of turning in consistent performances and in the eyes of the Sumo Kyokai be a man of character worthy to hold such an exalted position.

The rank of the rikishi determines the style in which his long hair is dressed.  The style worn by juryo and maku-uchi is more elaborate and is called the o-icho-mage after the ginkgo leaf which the top-knot is supposed to resemble.  The lower ranks wear the chon-mage, a plainer style tied with paper strings.  The hair styles are adopted from those fashionable during Edo Period and have preserved not merely because of tradition but also because they serve as head protection in the event of falls!

Next Part III:  Sumo Ceremonies

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Judo 유도 in elementary and middle school in Korea


 Usually when my friend Tom posts anything Judo related, I post it on my blog, because it's always quality stuff and well, Judo is freakin' awesome.  Here's a video he just made about Judo programs here in Korea for elementary and middle school students. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Introduction to Sumo Part I-History and Rules

According to Japanese legend, the origin of the Japanese race depended on the outcome of a sumo match.  The supremacy of the Japanese people on the islands of Japan was established when the god, Takemikazuchi, won a sumo match with the leader of a rival tribe.

Sumo is an ancient sport that dates back 1500 years ago.  In the Nara Period (the 8th century), the Imperial Court gathered wrestlers from all over the country to hold a grand sumo tournament called the sechie-zumo.  It was a ceremonial banquet to celebrate peace on Earth and bountiful harvests.

Its origins were religious.  The first sumo matches were a form of ritual dedicated to the gods with prayers for a good harvest. 

Early sumo resembled Vale Tudo or MMA combining elements of boxing and wrestling.  It was no holds barred with few rules.  Under the Imperial Court, rules were formulated and techniques developed so that it came nearly to resemble the sumo of today. 

Sumo was regarded chiefly for its military usefulness and as a means of increasing efficiency of fighting men.  Later, samurai developed jiu jitsu as an offshoot of sumo.

After 1603, when warring factions were united under the Tokugawa Shogunate a period of prosperity followed marked by a rise to power of a new mercantile class.  Professional sumo groups were organized to entertain the rapidly increasing plebian class.  Sumo started as the national sport of Japan during this period (the Edo Period).

The sumo ring is called the dohyo. The ring is 18 feet and 2 feet high and is made of special clay.  The bout is confined to an inner circle a little over 15 feet in diameter.


A bout is won by forcing the opponent out of the inner circle.  Any rikishi (wrestler) who touches the ground with any part of his body, his knee or even the tip of his finger or his top knot, loses the match, or he need only put one toe or his heel over the straw bales marking the circle.

            Asasekiryu v.s. Takanoyama Day 12 Sumo Natsu Basho May 2013

Striking with fists , hair pulling, eye gouging, choking, and kicking in the stomach or chest is prohibited.  It is also against the rules to seize the part of the band covering the vital organs. Open palmed strikes, slapping, and head butting are legal as well as shoulder blasts.



There are no weight limits.  It is possible for a rikishi to find himself up against an opponent twice his own weight!

                               Fan favorite Takanoyama


There are six grand tournaments a year.  Three are held in Tokyo, one in Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyushu.  A tournament lasts for fifteen days.  Each rikishi fights once every day with a different opponent.  The rikishi with the best record of wins over losses is awarded the Emperor's Cup on the final day after the last match.

There are three additional prizes, the shukunsho (person with the most upsets over yokozuna-grand champions), the ozeki (champions), the kanto-sho (fighting spirit), and the gino-sho (technique).   To be eligible, a rikishi must also have won at least eight of his fifteen matches.

Next Time:  Part II Banzuke (Sumo Rankings) and Sumo Ceremonies

                                           My Sumo french fries....yum!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

마인드 C (Mind C)

                                                      The artist

I put a permanent link to my teammate's English comic website.  Just click on the purple box with the Lynx on the right.   All of the comic strips are translated from Korean. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fat Buddha Tattoo-Busan, South Korea


I finally finished my sleeve, and I'm very happy.  It came out beautiful thanks to Horitatsu (or Mr. Kyung-jin).  If anyone is interested in getting work done here in Busan I highly recommend Fat Buddha.   Horitatsu has almost thirty years experience, and his work speaks for itself.  Not only that, Kyung-jin is an awesome guy and a wonderful human being.  The only bad part it that it hurt like hell! 

If anyone is interested, you can contact Kyung-jin on Facebook or if you have any questions feel free to leave me a message on here, and I will get back to you.  

I knew this was going to hurt when he told me, "Sorry John I will have to tattoo your nipple but it will be quick".


                     My wife's tattoo (not finished yet)
So beautiful, a real master:

Jean Cousteau Saison Deux Episode Un-Dominus Domino Marco Barbosa


“Hello, dear viewers and welcome to the amazing and exotic world of leg locks. I am your host, Jean Cousteau. I will be your guide and companion, and together we will explore places beyond your wildest imagination”. 

                                                   Jean Cousteau

Past episodes-Saison Un

On today's episode, we have Marco Barbosa.  Zis' master of ze' sea has captured and categorized several unique and truly terrifying specimens in ze' wild.  Barbosa is an expert in ze' field of leg locks, and I am honored to have heem on za' show.

                               Marco Barbosa and I

           Ankle Lock Variation

           Straight Ankle Lock

           Half Guard to Ankle Lock

“Make sure to tune in next time for more adventure.  Thank you dear viewers, and until next time, I bid thee a wonderful evening”.