Aug 8, 2014

Sumo Wrestling for the 21st Century: Bodybuilders and Gay Contexts

Sumo wrestling gets a bad rap in the West.  It's stereotyped as a ridiculous sport involving exceptionally fat men.

Originally the wrestlers were fat.  They had to be, in the era before scientific strength training, to physically push their opponents out of the circle representing the human world.

It was not only a sport, it was a Shinto ritual that symbolized humanity's triumph over an invasion of evil spirits.

Some purists still insist on heft, but nowadays muscles will do just as well.

Check out Jovann Rushing, who won a gold medal at the USA Sumo Open in 2010, and is also a competitive bodybuilder.

 There are over 600 professional sumo wrestlers in Japan, divided into six divisions, with the top, the yokozuna, becoming superstars.

There are 6 Grand Sumo Tournaments every year, plus dozens of smaller tournaments, exhibitions, and competitions.

You don't have to be Japanese.  The Sumo Academy has admitted members from all over the world, though China, Mongolia, and Korea dominate.  Osunaarashi (left) is from Egypt.

The sport has also become popular elsewhere.  In the United States, sumo wrestling is offered as a sport in dozens of high schools and colleges.  There are exhibitions in Japanese festivals, sports festivals, and even film festivals, as well as the U.S Sumo Open, held every year since 2001.

In 2014, it will be held on September 20th in the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach.

Other than the fun of seeing muscular men pulling their opponent's miwashi (ceremonial belt) so tight that the buttocks and bulge are visible, is there a gay connection to sumo?

Maybe -- lower-level sumotori live in dormitories during their training regiment, and spend a lot of time hugging each other. Sounds like it's tailor-made for homoerotic hijinks.