Sumo (相撲 sumō) is a competitive contact sport where a wrestler (rikishi) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyō) or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet. The sport originated in Japan, the only country where it is practiced professionally. The Japanese consider sumo a gendai budō (a modern Japanese martial art), though the sport has a history spanning many centuries. The sumo tradition is very ancient, and even today the sport includes many ritual elements, such as the use of salt purification, from the days when sumo was used in the Shinto religion. Life as a rikishi is highly regimented, with rules laid down by the Sumo Association. Professional sumo wrestlers are required to live in communal “sumo training stables” known in Japanese as heya where all aspects of their daily lives—from meals to their manner of dress—are dictated by strict tradition.
I didn’t know much about sumo before today, but now I had breakfast with one of the strongest fighters of the world, Baruto Kaito. How did that happen? Well basically one of my colleagues who just got here in Osaka has been following Sumo for various time now, so before arriving in Japan he worked out a few things in order to meet up with these guys… and obviously I just happened to be at in right place at the right time. How lucky!
The Osaka Sumo tournament has started yesterday, so when we went there last Friday there was excitement in the air and also some press people hanging around the stable with video cameras and stuff.
So we set off pretty early in the morning in order to reach a remote dojo in Sumimodo, Daito City… a couple of trains and a taxi get us there..
The ‘sumo traning stable’ looked pretty modest, it’s essentially a garage next to some kind of iron factory. Quite surprising, considering that Baruto Kaito is number 6 in Japan. Later I discovered that these guys are supported by that factory… their ‘home’ stable is in Tokyo but the way sumo work is that each time there’s a tournament (6 times a year or so) they move to the tournament location for a month and practice there. That means that sumo fighters travel quite a bit around japan; in the picture the building with the stairs is where their dorms are in osaka..
Around 7:30 am the young wrestlers come out of the building for preparing the practice room.. the young ones are normally in change of all sorts of ‘logistic’ stuff…. my friend Bill takes the chance to immortalize the moment..
After a while other wrestlers come down and the morning practice gets started…
…. it’s 20 past eight when the big star Baruto joins the team. He gets into the dohyo and starts doing some stretching.
Baruto Kaito (把瑠都 凱斗, born November 5, 1984 as Kaido Höövelson) is a professional sumo wrestler from Rakvere, Estonia. Making his debut in May 2004, he is one of only two Estonians ever to join the sport in Japan, and the first to reach the top division, in May 2006. After suffering a number of injury problems in 2007, he reached the third highest rank of sekiwake in November 2008, and he has earned four special prizes for Fighting Spirit and one for Outstanding Performance. On 7th day of the first Sumo tournament 2010, Baruto defeats Yokozuna (Grand Champion) Hakuho. Mongolian Yokozuna Hakuho recorded the most victories in last year.
He’s a giant, almost two metres tall and 180 kilos heavy. He didn’t do much during the training, understandably because of the coming tournament, but instead he was punching a sack and giving advices to his younger mates. After a little while also the stable master (the trainer) gets into the room, followed by a bunch of journalists..
… the training goes on with various more or less unusual warm up exercises ….
… then some fighting practice mainly for the younger ones…
Eventually we got out, where the press and friends greet the most famous fighters…
.. while the younger ones head off to the showers…
… so we take advantage of the moment too!!!
.. despite their dimensions and (maybe) fame for being good at kicking your ass .. I have to say that these guys are really really nice and friendly…. since Bill and Baruto had already met in another occasion, the estonian giant invites us for lunch.. (it’s 10am, maybe I should say breakfast)..
Past the pain and language barriers – Estonian not thrown by new language, life and sport. Article and interview to Baruto from the Japan Times.
Hakuho off to flying start in Osaka. Recent article on the first days of Osaka’s March 2010 tournament.