Thursday, September 24, 2009

The World Games in Kaohsiung: Sumo

The sumo competition was probably my favorite event, of those that I saw anyway. It was surprising in as much as the spectacle at hand differed markedly from what I can not but help imagine sumo to be. Not all the competitors were male and not all of them were Japanese or Asian. Some of them didn't even look heavy. I remember the indignation (we imagine) suffered by one of the smaller competitors when, after the match was started by the referee, his opponent simply picked him up without a great deal of effort and placed him down outside the ring, winning the match; that got quite a reaction from the crowd.

The spectators: (from left) Tim & Lei, me, Andrea, Andrea's sister Erin, Lee, and Dan.

Before the bouts could begin there was an opening performance of sorts involving Chinese dragons and a whole lot of drumming and cymbal-smashing. Note the sumo ring or dohyo, built to specifications laid down during centuries of sumo wrestling in Japan.
(for a link to a decent site with loads of information (more than you want) about the dohyo and other aspects of sumo, try this one):

Traditionally, women weren't allowed into the dohyo for any reason at any time. Apparently, women's sumo isn't considered authentic by most Japanese and women are prohibited from competing beyond amateur events. However, the World Games includes a full men's and a full women's competition and so would be seen as an amateur competition by those closer to the traditions and legacy of sumo wrestling in Japan. For more information you can check the Wikipedia page and follow the relevant links within.

Note in this photo the referees and the other contestants. The role of the sumo referee (or gyoji) is critical and bound up with the history of the sport. From the sample of female sumo wrestlers in this photo you can get an idea of how the contestants in this competition might differ from those that the word sumo tends to conjure up. You can see representatives from Taiwan (TPE), Hungary (HUN), Australia (AUS), and Italy (ITA).

The usual roles are reversed here as a diminutive Russia takes on a Ukrainian behemoth. This just seems a bit unfair.

Australian sumo wrestlers? What would Australian sumo wrestlers look like if they existed? Well, they do exist. Two male and two female sumo wrestlers appeared at the tournament. Sadly, they were all knocked out in the first round of eliminations. This guy actually looks like what I imagine an Australian sumo wrestler would look like if I could imagine it. It's kind of weird. Sitting behind him on the right is a wrestler from New Zealand (NZL). I noticed that the Australians and New Zealanders were pretty comfortable with each other. The guy about to wrestle in this shot ended up out of the ring and must have hurt his foot because he had trouble getting back up the small set of stairs into the ring again to finish the bout with the obligatory bow. I got emotional when the New Zealander helped him up. All those jokes about New Zealanders having sex with sheep were just jokes.

A classic bout between one of the Egyptians (I think) and the guy from Taiwan (I think). This bout lasts longer than most. I love the way that one helps the other at the end. I'm getting emotional again, but we're talking about men fighting each other so it's okay for me to get emotional, being a man and all.

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