If your knowledge of the ancient sport of sumo wrestling is limited to the character of E. Honda from Street Fighter II, then you really owe it to yourself to head to the L.A. Memorial Arena this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) to see an honest-to-goodness Grand Sumo Tournament with rikishi, or sumo wrestlers, from Japan.
Prior to attending the matches, you’d be well advised to visit the tournament’s official web page to familiarize yourself with: the rules of sumo (no grabbing the area of the mawashi, or wrestler’s band, that covers the “vital organs”); the history of sumo (it’s a 1,500-year-old sport with religious origins); sumo ceremonies (the victorious wrestler at the end of the tournament does a twirling “bow dance” called yumitori-shiki); the intricate hand-written caligraphy of the banzuke, or ranking list, of the 800 rikishi in professional sumo; how the wrestler’s hairstyles reflect their current ranking ; the construction of the two-foot-high circular dohyo, or sumo ring, which is made of compact soil; wrestling techniques to watch for; and much more.
It’s been 27 years since Japanese professional sumo wrestling has stopped in Los Angeles, so this really is a rare opportunity to see rikishi in the flesh, including yokozuna (grand champions) Asahoryo and Hakuho.
Also, if you buy nice enough seats, you can pit your child against a wrestler. No joke.
Tickets range from the reasonable $10 to the Lakers-reasonable $420.
Photo: A rikishi scatters salt on the dohyo, to purify it before a match. Courtesy of the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles Grand Sumo Tournament 2008.