Sumo Wrestling is the national sport of Japan. To a westerner it can look quite comical – two extremely large men trying to push each other out of a circle.
But make no mistake, these contestants are real athletes and there is a lot that goes into their training, diet, and technique before a big match. Many sumo wrestlers dedicate their entire lives to it and there is a lot of tradition that goes along with it.
One thing you’re probably wondering about is what sumo wrestlers wear. Are they really big diapers? How has this become the uniform for these incredible sporting events?
In this article, we’re going to be explaining everything you’ll want to know about sumo wrestlers and their dress code. We’ve also included some additional information about how this interacts with their lifestyle and practices.
History Of Sumo
The first thing that’s important to know is that the dress code of Sumo goes back a long way. In fact, Sumo was first mentioned in a manuscript that dates all the way back to 712AD, that references two gods engaging in a wrestling match to decide the possession of two pieces of territory.
In short, the sport of sumo wrestling involves two competitors who try to push each other out of a circular ring. A match can also end if a wrestler’s body hits the ground – and there are a few different ways to win.
It was of great importance throughout many periods of Japanese history, and many of the traditions associated with it have survived until this very day.
This is especially true when it comes to clothing – you won’t find any modern versions of the dress code and much of it is exactly as Sumo wrestlers would have worn at the time.
General Dress Code For Sumo
The central part of a Sumo Wrestler’s outfit is known as a mawashi. You can think of it as a loincloth, one that is made of either silk, cotton, or linen. It covers the front of a Sumo wrestler’s groin and is usually fastened with a thigh knot around their lower back.
A mawashi typically weighs between 8 and 11 pounds, but it can weigh more depending on whether or not the wrestler in question wants additional fronds hanging from its side.
Note: a frond is a hanging silk strip that is usually worn for aesthetic purposes.
A mawashi is typically worn at all times during training and competition. Sumo Wrestlers live a purposeful life and usually live together in a Sumo stable that houses up to 15 competitors.
The mawashi is an essential part of the sport and the type of garment chosen is often for a reason – as it can aid or complement their wrestling style during competition.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the color and composition of a mawashi often denote rank. For example, the color of a mawashi for a beginner Sumo is going to be different than a master’s. This is quite similar to belting systems in other kinds of martial arts.
Kimonos are another piece of traditional Japanese clothing that has been used for centuries for formal occasions. Sumo Wrestling is no different, and Kimonos are the other part of the dress code that is very important for competitors.
A beginner Sumo Wrestler is allowed to wear a kind of cotton Kimono called a yukata when they are not at practice (what’s the difference between a Yukata and a Kimono? Find out here).
Once a Sumo Wrestler becomes a professional, they are allowed to wear silk kimonos outside of a training session, and also during ceremonies before a competition. You can think of the colors and complexity of a kimono as increasing the more a Sumo Wrestler rises in the ranking.
If you’ve ever seen Sumo Wrestlers before you’ve probably noticed that they all have long hair. This is because wrestlers have to grow long hair once they commit to the Sumo lifestyle.
All Sumo Wrestlers have long hair that is then worn as a bun and often tied into a type of topknot that is called a chonmage.
During the competition, you’ll notice that Sumo Wrestlers are bare-footed, but most of the time they will be wearing a simple kind of wooden shoe known as geta.
These wooden sandals might look very uncomfortable but are used to strengthen the feet and are also worn for traditional reasons. There are also straw sandals worn by wrestlers if they leave their sumo stable.
As with the other types of clothing, Sumo footwear changes as they rise in the ranks. Some wrestlers opt to wear iron shoes that help to strengthen their feet and legs, but this is usually optional and changes depending on the Sumo stable and the teachers in general.
Why Do They Have Such Strict Rules?
One thing to note here is that Sumo Wrestlers dedicate their entire lives to not only the sport but also to the Shinto religion. Shinto has a rich history and a lot of the codes (including dress) that they adhere to come from it.
There are no Sumo Wrestlers who get out of following this strict ruleset, and clothing is just one of the many moving parts of their lifestyle.
The Shinto religion is one of the main things that allows Japan to express its history and many of the most important sites enjoyed by tourists worldwide have Shinto origins.
We hope that this article has explained to you the general clothing that Sumo Wrestlers wear and that you’re a lot more comfortable with the general concepts. Sumo Wrestling should be thought of as a lifestyle as much as it is a sport.
The roots of many of its practices go far back into the history of Japan, and it’s one of the reasons why it’s the national sport of the country.