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Social Opinion Why Sumo Wrestling is a bit more interesting than usual this week...

Tschumi

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AFTER THE FACT:



HAKUHO WINS!!!

Savage AF, Hakuho ruined Terunofuji. Probably injured him too.

A really unconventional fight, Hakuho completely ignored the battle charge at the start and feinted a face-grab before bringing his right elbow up in a crushing blow to Terunofuji's face that looks to have done something that's causing some bruising in the immediate aftermath to the fight. He then fought with rabid intensity, taking full-bloody swipe/punches at Terunofuji, the enraged Ozeki gave as good as he got but Hakuho then got inside his opponent's distracted guard for a very firm belt hold. Terunofuji juked fantastically to break free, but lost his balance, and with a swift triip Hakuho had Terunofuji off-balance. He then more or less yanked Terunofuji's elbow out of it's SOCKET and twisted him to the floor before unleashing a full throated bellow - rarely, rarely seen in sumo - and row-yer-boat style fist pump.

A unique fight, what a fucking bout, you won't see another like that any time soon. Equal parts viciousness, taunt, misdirection, clear thinking on the part of Hakuho, execution and savage joy. I'm pumped, I'm pumped!

Terunofuji meanwhile may have traded in his yusho heroics for a dislocated elbow, or something along those lines, as the fight ended when Hakuho got his bandaged arm in a lock and threw him to the ground via that hold alone.

I'll link a video and get a capture of Hakuho's victory bellow ASAP.

Hey all. Fun fact. I like Sumo. I live in Japan, and while I'm not a weeb by any means, sumo might be the closest I am to that designation as I've liked it since before I came here. Eeek!


<This is a wall of text, but I promise it's interesting if you go in with an open mind>

Why do I like Sumo? Let me wrap my head around this...
  • I like their names, they're complicated but at the same time easy to remember and assign to faces.
  • I like the technique. It's clearly a highly complicated and subtle form of wrestling - there's a huge degree of focus on slight weight shifts, momentum, counters and problem solving, footwork... For men who look like giant swollen babies they're incredibly deft and humorously agile.
  • I like the pageantry. I mean, why not? It's a medieval sport, dudes sweep evil spirits off the dohyo (platform) after every day's play with a giant stringless longbow. The yokozuna starts every day's competition by shuffling across the dohyo and lifting/stomping his feet while the whole crowd shouts "BANZAI!" Whenever there's an upset the whole audience frisbee their pillows at the dohyo in a blizzard of flying purple. The ranking system is epic and, again, easy to get your head around.
  • It happens very often, you basically get a 'world series' every 2 months, all the wrestlers duke it out for a hugely revered trophy (the "emperor's cup") and it's a huge deal, despite its frequency.
  • Wrestlers can have vastly different styles. Some of the man mountains rely on pure weight and strength, but there's a dude named Enho, for example, who's about 170cm and weighs 95kg or so, and he made it to the top division on the back of sheer skill, agility and quick thinking.


Why is sumo a big deal this week?
>>The real question is "Who is Hakuho"?



here's my favorite Sumo youtuber, Jason, with a camera capture of an NHK
special on Hakuho, commentated in English by some of NHK's pro commentators.
The best way to get a handle of his versatility is to just watch a bunch of his bouts
on channels like Jason's (linked later in this post)

You might have heard his name - wouldn't be surprised if you hadn't, of course - but this guy is the single greatest Rikishi (wrestler) in the history of Sumo. He comes from Mongolia, but he's got diffuclt-to-attain Japanese citizenship. He has 44 top division wins, which is Gretzky/Jordan/similar level domination, if not more. The next highest basho win count is 32, 4th place on the list is 25. He also holds the record for most championships with an undefeated record (15-0), at 15 - next highest is 8. He's tied with onetime rival Asashoryu for the longest streak of Basho wins, with 7 - he's tied for second with a seperate 6 win streak, and i wouldn't be surprised if he had 5, 4 and 3 win streaks by the bushel.​
He's awesome. He's formidable and ruthless. He's over 190cm, he's heavy but as fast and agile as anyone. His style is a mix of brute force and subtlety that is utterly beguiling. He analyses every opponent and executes his plans without error. Unlike most rikishi who have one distinct approach, you'll see him do everything from frantic slapping and thrusting, through belt-holding pushing, to scurrying counter-movement based styles in any one tournament. He typical opens every fight by slapping his opponent hard and ramming his shoulder into their face. Unless you're this guy (this happened a couple of days ago so it's still fresh and funny)​
The big deal about Hakuho is encapsulated in this sentence: This is possibly his LAST BASHO ever, and he hasn't competed in a full Basho for a year, pulling out to recover injuries or just not wanting to risk his ageing (35 yr old) body. He was known to be intending to retire after the Olympics, so he's had to extend his career a year longer than he planned to.​

>>The next question is "Who is Terunofuji?"

Also Mongolian, Terunofuji is currently the heir apparent to Hakuho. He's a pretty 'great' story, as he has come back from the wilderness of a serious knee injury to become a dominant force who seems on track to be the next Yokozuna.


I can't tell you how sorry I am for the ASMR narration

It's looking like Hakuho, in possibly his final basho, is the only rikishi capable of stopping Terunofuji from getting the top rank.

And btw I hate Terunofuji. More on that in a moment.

A brief word on ranks, and their relevance to Terunofuji: The top two ranks are Yokozuna (Grand Champ) and Ozeki. Ozeki is arguably harder to get - you need to get 33 wins across three basho to qualify, yokozuna seems to only require that you win two basho in a row while at the rank of Ozeki. Getting Ozeki requires consistency, and since higher ranked riskishi are matched up against similarly ranked opponents, it also means beating your direct peers consistently. Getting to Ozeki is a big deal, staying there and moving up to Yokozuna is another big deal in itself - again, it requires longevity. Many Ozeki remain stuck at that rank despite being highly effective rikishi, purely because niggling injuries and intense competition keep them from winning those two basho.

Terunofuji got to Ozeki rank before his big injury. He got to Ozeki, he got injured, he fell down many ranks, now he's back to Ozeki and looking strong. He might even win this basho and gain Yokozuna rank, because he won the previous one.

Why do I hate Terunofuji? Because he did this...


Half Baked Reaction GIF

That my friends is about as grubby and dishonorable as you can get.
(fun fact: he ultimately lost this basho against an INJURED Kisenosato in a playoff... Kisenosato tried to beat him with a Henka -- something he never does; he's too good for that shit -- but in the end he just beat him through sheer brilliance)

Spoiling this since it's not so relevant.

When you are an Ozeki, you need to get 8 wins in every tournament. Fail to do so and you become 'katoban', which means that you'll LOSE THE RANK if you fail to make 10 WINS in the next tournament. If you are katoban because you picked up a serious injury? Too bad. If you fail to get 10 wins you'll lose this rank, which is really hard to attain, as I've already made clear.

Anyway Kotoshoguki was a veteran. He'd been an Ozeki for a long time - never cracking it for a Yozokuna (an extremely difficult rank to attain, it's interesting to note that 3 of the last 4 yokozuna were all Mongolian - a country that has its own closely related form of wrestling that they're crazy about - the exception being this guy, who all Japan fell in love with when he secured the Yokozuna rank at long last in 2019, but who retired from injuries within a year of attaining the rank)

Kotoshogiku got a lot of wins - he had a highly effective and distinctive fighting style, its predictability probably the reason he could never really dominate all comers and win those two basho in a row (he existed during a period where there were 3 yokozuna, and plenty of difficult Ozeki, so I'm not even sure he ever got a basho win) - but he was often Katoban and securing his Ozeki rank by getting 10 wins in subsequent basho.

This was another one of these times. He was Katoban, and on the second last day of this basho in 2017 he had his chance for 10 wins - against Terunofuji. Terunofuji had a good reason to win - he was on the way to losing the championship to Kisenosato in a playoff final after finishing with the tied best record in the tournament - but he didn't have a good reason to use a henka.

Henka is a perfectly legitimate wrestling technique, in which the rikishi will feign to charge his opponent then simply step aside at the last moment and let the opposing riskihi's momentum send them flying over the edge of the dohyo. But it's generally considered less-than-optimal, from an honour perspective, as well as being below the rank of Ozeki, and to employ it to get an easy win from a guy who's on his last legs fighting for his rank is just... well, listen to what Jason (the commentator in the linked video, who never swears, a great youtuber) says about it: "Oh! What was that? Come on! Boo! That... That is such bullshit. God! Ozeki should NOT do that."

I'll never forgive him for that, though of course my opinion means nothing to him, and so it should be.

So why am I saying this today?

Because we're up to day 12 of 15, which means that there are only 3 bouts left for each of these Rikishi - the final bout of the WHOLE TOURNAMENT being between the two of them. If they can both remain undefeated until this final bout, then they will be facing off for an undefeated basho on day 15.

Not only that, but the stakes are sky high: Terunofuji might become a Yokozuna, Hakuho could end his career with a record-extending, cherry-on-top, legacy-sealing 45th top division championship.

It's hot shit. :lollipop_fire: :lollipop_fire: :lollipop_fire: :lollipop_fire: :lollipop_fire: :lollipop_fire: :lollipop_fire:

How can you watch?

Watching it live might be hard, there used to be a twitch streamer named MbovoSumo but I think he may have been taken down. You can find highlight reels for this stuff on youtube pretty easily. I'd recommend Jason's All Sumo Channel, but he's actually out of action for the rest of this basho with family problems, so a decent alternative would be this channel, NattoSumo, which runs the highlights without vocal commentary.

<this video got taken down, i can't explain, blame nattosumo :p >

A final note: If you want to know more/watch more/learn more, I recommend going through Jason's backlog of videos (he's been doing this for years and years) his commentary is always very informative.

Happy watching! Thank you for your time.

*humblebow*​
 
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Tschumi

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That Enho guy has some crazy strength.
ikr, incredible how a giant dude can be literally squatting over him like they're taking a dump and he'll still find a way to land them on their shoulder

FUN FACT: Enho is actually a stable mate of Hakuho's - Hakuho is apparently a big part of why Enho got his shot in the first place - because of this they never fight in tournaments (the only time they can fight in tournaments is if they're both in a playoff to win the thing) the one time they did fight, in an seperate pseudo-tournament, it was pretty funny...
 
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SireSmogMurk

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All is fair in competition. I like that Terunofuji would be bold enough to pull an upset like that.

That said i think sumo wrestling is a bit boring.
 
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Tschumi

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All is fair in competition. I like that Terunofuji would be bold enough to pull an upset like that.

That said i think sumo wrestling is a bit boring.
"upset" probably isn't an accurate way to put it... they were at the same rank, terunofuji probably could have won the fight straight up, but he used a cheap move that is considered below a wrestler of his rank just to take advantage of a guy and cheat him out of a fair shot at saving his hard-earned rank... i think, the reaction of all the commentators and Jason in that video kinda, backs up my opinion a little bit... like i'm not being out of order thinking it's a pretty sinky action

i mean, i understand what you're saying, but the values are pretty intense in sumo, there was one rikishi who had a habit of throwing a ton of salt onto the platform before stepping onto it before fights and he was told by the yokozuna's to cut it out :p
 
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sumo always seem like such an interesting sport in terms of how they train and the tradition behind it. the couple of times I visited Japan, I never get to see a sumo match in person. it's one of a few things I still want to do when I visit Japan again in the future.

this thread also reminds me of this oldie from so so long ago.

 

strange headache

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Why do I hate Terunofuji? Because he did this...



I watched the video and all I see there is a big d*ck move.

Dude did sumo on the ozeki level with a torn meniscus and went back to his sport a month after knee surgery. He then was brutally demoted to lowest third division ranks because his torn knees were unable to heal. He then lost his salary and kept cleaning stables only to make his comeback to ozeki once again. He became ozeki twice, a feat that is so hard to accomplish, sumo went for years without any new wrestlers attaining that rank.

Sumo is frikkin' ruthless and nobody showed him any leniency when he got demoted to the lowest ranks due to injury. Sumo wrestlers are not sportsmen, they are treated like soldiers and the dohyo is their battlefield. Terunofuji's move was within the rules and a totally deserved win.

Cool thread by the way, I enjoyed reading about sumo (y)
 
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Tschumi

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I watched the video and all I see there is a big d*ck move.

Dude did sumo on the ozeki level with a torn meniscus and went back to his sport a month after knee surgery. He then was brutally demoted to lowest third division ranks because his torn knees were unable to heal. He then lost his salary and kept cleaning stables only to make his comeback to ozeki once again. He became ozeki twice, a feat that is so hard to accomplish, sumo went for years without any new wrestlers attaining that rank.

Sumo is frikkin' ruthless and nobody showed him any leniency when he got demoted to the lowest ranks due to injury. Sumo wrestlers are not sportsmen, they are soldiers and the dohyo is their battlefield. Terunofuji's move was within the rules and a totally deserved win.

Cool thread by the way, I enjoyed reading about sumo (y)
Glad you like it man <3

I totally get all your points.

Don't agree with you on the henka, but whatever :p I think one thing that should be clear is that what happened to Terunofuji with his injuries happens to everyone. There isn't a concept of injury breaks in Sumo, they need to show up for every basho or they lose ranks precipitously. It's happened to a fair few rikishi recently. There was a fantastic young rikishi in the last couple of years named takakeisho who attained Ozeki rank in super impressive form, but then caught some injuries and what looked like a charge to Yokozuna for a Japanese rikishi turned into another Ozeki slog... He fell on his neck, uh, earlier this tournament or perhaps in the last tournament (i don't wanna watch it) and I don't even know if he'll ever get back to his best... one thing's for sure though, as he lies on that hospital bed his rank is cratering. Tough world.

That's actually why Hakuho can barely keep his arms straight anymore, because there's not enough downtime to heal up. Between basho they're just basically doing day long sumo bouts every day in training, as well as exhibition tournaments...

In my post I say that the henka is a legitimate move, but... I'll just let those other commentators in the video speak for me, they've got a lot more weight behind their words I reckon. If Terunofuji gets to Yokozuna that'd be pretty cool, but for me cooler will be the next guy - a returning Takakeisho, my favourite Mitakeumi, one of the new crop of Ozekis, maybe last year's fan favorite Tochinoshin with a healed knee, hell maybe Enho when he comes back up from Juryo - being better than him.
 
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Tschumi

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Man Of Steel Ok GIF


Blitzmangoman Blitzmangoman he was fantastic for a short time, but most of his career he's been plagued by knee problems.. the one time he healed up his knee he was dominant as heck, got to Ozeki, but then his knee went again and he's back to where he used to be. Bit fickle how so many of his huge fans seem to have switched off him after his injury, you certainly don't hear him mentioned as much. I rather think maybe they're all on Terunofuji's train now... Fair enough!
 
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SireSmogMurk

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I don't know how much the rest of you know about Japanese culture (I'm an expert), but honor and shame are huge parts of it.
Shouldn't terunofuji be honored for his clever play? Shouldn't his opponent be shamed for his failure? To be at such a level and then be beaten by such a simple trick...

Anyway, I should think the japanese don't have as much honor as they suspect they do, they can't even acknowledge the rape of nan king... strange, to me, that the japanese make so much of honor given their dishonorable past.

"upset" probably isn't an accurate way to put it... they were at the same rank, terunofuji probably could have won the fight straight up, but he used a cheap move that is considered below a wrestler of his rank just to take advantage of a guy and cheat him out of a fair shot at saving his hard-earned rank... i think, the reaction of all the commentators and Jason in that video kinda, backs up my opinion a little bit... like i'm not being out of order thinking it's a pretty sinky action

i mean, i understand what you're saying, but the values are pretty intense in sumo, there was one rikishi who had a habit of throwing a ton of salt onto the platform before stepping onto it before fights and he was told by the yokozuna's to cut it out :p
Cheap moves you say... no such thing in the fight. He didn't cheat that person... that person had a fair shot they just screwed up so badly that they lost to a simple trick. By the way he threw himself out of that ring, maybe he never deserved that rank to begin with?

It could be that their sumo values are as misplaced as those of the samurai. The samurai were all about that honor (not sure how much honor there is in testing your new sword on random travelers, but to the samurai it was the thing to do)... the samurai were cut down by peasents with guns... bet you that those samurai thought those peasants were beneath them. To the samurai, those peasents were dishonorable curs who weren't fit to so much as touch their katana, and would have instantly beheaded one who did. Yet those peasants armed with guns removed the samurai in a single generation, killed them stone dead. Given their use of foreign arms one should think their break from traditions should have brought them dishonor... yet... Victory wipes away dishonor.

And so it should be here. I hope Terunofuji makes yokozuna.
 

Tschumi

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Shouldn't terunofuji be honored for his clever play? Shouldn't his opponent be shamed for his failure? To be at such a level and then be beaten by such a simple trick...

Anyway, I should think the japanese don't have as much honor as they suspect they do, they can't even acknowledge the rape of nan king... strange, to me, that the japanese make so much of honor given their dishonorable past.


Cheap moves you say... no such thing in the fight. He didn't cheat that person... that person had a fair shot they just screwed up so badly that they lost to a simple trick. By the way he threw himself out of that ring, maybe he never deserved that rank to begin with?

It could be that their sumo values are as misplaced as those of the samurai. The samurai were all about that honor (not sure how much honor there is in testing your new sword on random travelers, but to the samurai it was the thing to do)... the samurai were cut down by peasents with guns... bet you that those samurai thought those peasants were beneath them. To the samurai, those peasents were dishonorable curs who weren't fit to so much as touch their katana, and would have instantly beheaded one who did. Yet those peasants armed with guns removed the samurai in a single generation, killed them stone dead. Given their use of foreign arms one should think their break from traditions should have brought them dishonor... yet... Victory wipes away dishonor.

And so it should be here. I hope Terunofuji makes yokozuna.
I am grateful that you bumped a thread i put a lot of effort into but i think your post is so thoroughly saturated with your opinion, over actual knowledge of what you're talking about, that i can't even.

Edit: There's guaranteed to be a portion of people who watch that video - probably foreign, possibly highly invested in other martial arts with less established etiquette - who will think Terunofuji was just stone cold there.. but people who watch this sport year round, professional commentaries, people who think the sport can exist outside their opinion, people in short embodied in the 2 professional commentators and Jason in that video, know what's up.
 
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SireSmogMurk

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I am grateful that you bumped a thread i put a lot of effort into but i think your post is so thoroughly saturated with your opinion, over actual knowledge of what you're talking about, that i can't even.
Reminds me of the time I got to try fencing. I kept stabbing my opponents and they kept saying I was using illegal moves. I kept telling them that the dead can't tell me how to sword fight.
 
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Tschumi

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Reminds me of the time I got to try fencing. I kept stabbing my opponents and they kept saying I was using illegal moves. I kept telling them that the dead can't tell me how to sword fight.
I understand where you're coming from. The problem is sumo is far more complicated than fencing. There are over 100 finishing moves in sumo (if you look closely every bout has a little subtitle at the end indicating the finishing move on nhk) and some of them are more highly regarded than others.

I know you'll resist this, but I'll say it anyway: yokozuna, and to a slightly lower extent Ozeki, are expected to embody sumo values, and operate without resorting to moves like the henka. As much is said in that video. They are expected to embody those values even if it injures them or undermines their personal chances.

What you're saying here is that, in your value system, Terunofuji did good. That's valid,i don't own your value system, but in sumo - which neither of us owns - the values are different. You just aught to accept that.
 
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SireSmogMurk

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I understand where you're coming from. The problem is sumo is far more complicated than fencing. There are over 100 finishing moves in sumo (if you look closely every bout has a little subtitle at the end indicating the finishing move on nhk) and some of them are more highly regarded than others.

I know you'll resist this, but I'll say it anyway: yokozuna, and to a slightly lower extent Ozeki, are expected to embody sumo values, and operate without resorting to moves like the henka. As much is said in that video. They are expected to embody those values even if it injures them or undermines their personal chances.

What you're saying here is that, in your value system, Terunofuji did good. That's valid,i don't own your value system, but in sumo - which neither of us owns - the values are different. You just aught to accept that.
Those values are wrong. The sumo values really ARE as misplaced as those of the one-time samurai.

Throwing down arbitrary rules of "certain ranks must only perform (X) maneuvers or (Y) strategys" is childish playground crap. This is the real world.
 

Tschumi

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Those values are wrong. The sumo values really ARE as misplaced as those of the one-time samurai.

Throwing down arbitrary rules of "certain ranks must only perform (X) maneuvers or (Y) strategys" is childish playground crap. This is the real world.
There's your problem. It's not the real world, it's the world of sumo, and they can do what they want. Anyway, you clearly have a whole galaxy of interconnected opinions about Japanese culture and I'm not interested in picking them apart.

You've made your point, it's valid and i accept it. I've made my point, it disagrees with yours and perhaps sits more comfortably alongside reality than yours does. That's enough. Thanks for bumping my thread :)
 
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Rat Rage

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Subscribed! What an amazing post. Sumo is pretty cool. I'm horribly out of date, though. Has been ages since I watched it.
 
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MastAndo

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Great post, OP. I'm completely indifferent to Sumo wrestling, but you got me going down a YouTube rabbit hole right now watching video after video. It's interesting stuff, looks like it might be fun to attend a match.
 
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SireSmogMurk

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There's your problem. It's not the real world, it's the world of sumo, and they can do what they want. Anyway, you clearly have a whole galaxy of interconnected opinions about Japanese culture and I'm not interested in picking them apart.

You've made your point, it's valid and i accept it. I've made my point, it disagrees with yours and perhaps sits more comfortably alongside reality than yours does. That's enough. Thanks for bumping my thread :)
I'll not risk a political rant so instead i'll just sum up my japan thing here with the following... Japan to this day has gotten off practically scott-free from WWII. Thats all I'll say.

The world of sumo is really quite silly and I still find it strange that the japanese can think of themselves as honorable.
At least sumo isn't gaudy, awful, scripted and fake like American wrestling. I can at least understand watching sumo, the pre-match movements, the sprinkling of that stuff in the ring and posturing, so much more real and true then... WWF or WWE or whatever that cringey shit is these days.
American wrestling, thats some straight cringe.
 
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Tschumi

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I'll not risk a political rant so instead i'll just sum up my japan thing here with the following... Japan to this day has gotten off practically scott-free from WWII. Thats all I'll say.

The world of sumo is really quite silly and I still find it strange that the japanese can think of themselves as honorable.
At least sumo isn't gaudy, awful, scripted and fake like American wrestling. I can at least understand watching sumo, the pre-match movements, the sprinkling of that stuff in the ring and posturing, so much more real and true then... WWF or WWE or whatever that cringey shit is these days.
American wrestling, thats some straight cringe.
Thanks for not getting political.

I think you're in the minority re: sumo, i reckon you should watch a few tournaments on the YouTube channel i link in my op before you make up your mind about it. Like every major sport, there is legitimate appeal in there...

Agreed re: American wrestling, I'm surprised it isn't played after Sesame Street
 
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Tschumi

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Great post, OP. I'm completely indifferent to Sumo wrestling, but you got me going down a YouTube rabbit hole right now watching video after video. It's interesting stuff, looks like it might be fun to attend a match.
So happy to hear it! I recommend you go back a few years in Jason's All Sumo Channel (in my op) and just watch through his coverage for a whole basho, his commentary is really instructive and interesting
 
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strange headache

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Whatever happened to pancrase by the way?



It was huge in Japan in the 90s, but for some reason completely disappeared. I think sumo is cool, but pancrase was like a more serious version of wrestling. At the very least, you could watch muscled men slapping the sh*t out of each other.
 
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Tschumi

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Even if he doesn't win against Hakuho, he'll made Yokozuna I was told.
I dunno about that, i think he needs to get 2 in a row.. but kisenosato might have got around that rule because he had like a string of, like, 13 win basho as well as a win
 

Tschumi

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Even if he doesn't win against Hakuho, he'll made Yokozuna I was told.
I mean for the record, if he earns it he earns it, but he's like darth Vader to me, dark side badass. I want takakeisho or mitakeumi or someone to get it together and be luke... A big, fat luke lol
fat friends GIF
 

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I love sumo wrestling... It's hard to watch overseas, but whenever I plan a trip to Japan I get to book it around sumo time so we can see a day or two of sumo. We get there early for the junior matches and it's just so chill without many people there, then as the day progresses and more people arrive it gets really heated! So much fun! Must see for any tourist I recon.
 

Wizz-Art

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Aug 20, 2012
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I don't know nothing about sumo but I'm curious to know how popular it is and do the wrestlers earn good money, or how does it work?
 
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Tschumi

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I love sumo wrestling... It's hard to watch overseas, but whenever I plan a trip to Japan I get to book it around sumo time so we can see a day or two of sumo. We get there early for the junior matches and it's just so chill without many people there, then as the day progresses and more people arrive it gets really heated! So much fun! Must see for any tourist I recon.
I haven't got around to it yet but I'll definitely try after covid, i live in Nagoya and I've ridden my bike past the venue a few times and bowed to a few of the rikishi...

I might see if we can find tickets this weekend...
 
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Tschumi

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I don't know nothing about sumo but I'm curious to know how popular it is and do the wrestlers earn good money, or how does it work?
That's a huuuuuge question. And i don't have much time... Sumo is Japan's national sport, it's always had good support from older generations but it's been getting more and more popular over the past decade.

The wrestlers live pretty spartan lives, but i think the top ones make pretty good money. Doesn't change much about their daily lives.. which are made up of a solid eat>train>eat>train etc.

After almost every top division fight you'll see the winners accepting a stack of envelopes, they'll full of cash... The best wrestlers in the most important fights look like they win a solid million yen cash or so, per win.. a million yen is around 10k usd

EDIT: i calculated this by guessing that the envelopes are full of 10,000 yen notes, and knowing that 100 of those is a million, some of those stacks look a heck of a lot thicker than a 100 sheet block of paper. I could be entirely wrong.
 
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Tschumi

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So important, they have special hairdressers:
After one rikishi wins a basho, cameras follow them to the hairdresser who quickly reassembles their topknot before they go out to get the trophy.. they use solid paddle things and long needles.. s'very interesting you can see it in most videos of the final bouts at tournaments