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A Day in the Life of a Sumo Wrestler

Oyakata (Stablemasters) and Sumo Stables

All sumo wrestlers belong to a stable, which is where they live and train while they are young. A stable is managed by a stablemaster, a retired sumo wrestler who was a good wrestler in his prime. There are currently 44 stables as of March 2021. Referees, ushers, and hairdressers called tokoyama also live in the stables. The stablemaster is referred to as oyakata, and his wife, who is called okamisan, plays an important supporting role behind the scenes.

Getting a topknot (Japan Sumo Association)

A World of Worth

There are a number of different divisions for sumo wrestlers, ranging from the Makuuchi and Juryo divisions at the top (sekitori), to Makushita, Sandanme, Jonidan, and Jonokuchi below them. Wrestlers begin receiving a salary when they become a sekitori at the rank of Juryo or higher, and they also get to wear a keshomawashi, a lavishly embroidered apron-like cloth that comes down to their ankles, when they are introduced before the beginning of a tournament. More than anything, though, they get to have people around them take care of their everyday needs. Sekitori also wear their topknot in the shape of the leaf of a ginkgo tree. The mawashi that a sekitori wears in the tournaments is made of silk and can be one of several colors, while the wrestlers in the Makushita division or lower can wear only a black cotton mawashi. Sumo is a world in which results are everything, and there is a great difference between how wrestlers of different ranks are treated and how much money they receive.

Sumo wrestlers wearing keshomawashi (Japan Sumo Association)

Practice Starts with Shiko

Sumo wrestlers train hard from early in the morning in the hope of raising their banzuke. Mornings in a sumo stable begin at around 5:00 am. The lower-ranked wrestlers start their training first. Each stable has a ring for practice. To begin with, wrestlers stand with their legs apart and their hands on their thighs or knees, with one foot bent and planted firmly on the ground as they raise the other high in the air. As they extend the knee of their leg that is planted on the ground, they firmly bring their other foot down into the ring. This ritual stamping called shiko improves their lower body strength.

Teppo and Matawari

Wrestlers push their hands forward along with their hip and leg of the same side, alternating between left and right, which is called teppo. Teppo teaches them the basics of moving their feet and hands as they try to topple an opponent. Another important exercise involves planting their backside on the ground while they have their knees extended, opening their legs 180 degrees, and leaning forward until their chest touches the ground. This exercise is called matawari.

The matawari exercise (Japan Sumo Association)

Moshiai and Butsukari-Geiko

Next, wrestlers engage in what is known as moshiai, in which the winner of a practice match continues to take new challengers, and they also practice butsukari-geiko, in which wrestlers take turns throwing their bodies into each other after dividing themselves upon between throwers and receivers. The sekitori wrestlers are allowed to sleep a bit later, and they join in the training after they get up. They do much the same training as the younger wrestlers, and they help them as well. Naturally, private talk is strictly forbidden during training. There are only the sounds of these large wrestlers throwing their bodies into each other and breathing heavily. Practices get more intense as a tournament approaches. The stablemaster watches from in front of the practice ring, occasionally entering the ring to give instructions to his charges.

At 8:00 am, the young wrestlers go to the kitchen to prepare the chanko. Chanko refers to the food eaten by sumo wrestlers, and it includes stews, Chinese food, sashimi, and deep-fried food. Stews are the most common dishes, but foods enjoyed by younger people have been included in recent years, such as rice with curry and hamburger steaks. Sumo wrestlers eat two meals a day; they have lunch at around 11:00 am and dinner at about 6:00 pm. Practice ends at around 10:30 am when the younger wrestlers have finished preparing the chanko, and the wrestlers then take a bath, with the higher-ranked ones going first. They have lunch after fixing their hair in a topknot. When they eat, of course the higher-ranked wrestlers go first again. Once the meal is over, wrestlers have free time. Many of them take naps to help them get bigger.