Monday, 11 November 2013

The Elegance of Sumo

During the first day of The November Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka, I became captivated by the dance of the Sumo. The ritualistic preparation of the ring, the singing announcer of each sumo name, the arrival of the gyouji in elegant silks. The rules that denote the ranking of each wrestler dissolved from my mind as I concentrated my focus on their focus, their costume, hair, stature, expressionless faces. I consistently predicted the winners of each match, (beginners luck), from my plastic chair seated directly behind each of the squatting bottoms of 'East Division'. 'Higashi' or 'Nishi' I chirped, foreseeing an East or West victory.

Balancing like flamingo's one footed while they touch tap the other to their heal; like gracious ballerinas ill-fitting their flesh. The Shiko stamp of souls on the clay/sand ring to ward off spirits. Arms outstretched to demonstrate neither carry weapons. Chikara-mizu (power water) sipped from a miniature bamboo ladle, assisted by a winning wrestler in waiting. Chikara-gami (power paper) to dry his lips. Salt flung high into the air to purify the ground. The claps of palms to stomach and arms in a display of wrestler bravado.

In the dohyou, squatting low, eyes locked, then rising, smacking their chests, more water, toss salt, then repeat. Four minutes of anticipation build up for the over-in-seconds bout.

Until fists touch the ground and then springing up for the tachi-ai, as if walruses colliding high in mid air, the smack of flesh on flesh to the delight of the crowds. Grabbing at the mawashi, locked in the clash, forcing an opponent off balance or teetering on the edge of the plaited rope ring. When one hits the clay, applause erupts.

I never tired of the spectacle. I favoured those wrestlers with the most ornate keshou-mawashi (silk embroidered aprons) or those from Europe or Africa, like the Egyptian Osunaarashi 'Great Sandstorm', looking out of place amongst the countless Mongolians and Japanese. Which ever sumo was the lower ranking of the two in any bout, I put my hypothetical money on. I have a memory of my grandfather being a fan of wrestling and as I sat there awaiting the sight of the two highest ranking Yokozuna, I thought of him and how proud he'd be of my winning streak.