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NATIONAL SPORT OF JAPAN
Among many of the sports in Japan, the Sumo competition is regarded as a National Sport of Japan. Sumo is a competition contact sport where two wrestlers or rikishi face off in a circular area. The sport is of Japanese origin and is surrounded by ceremony and ritual. The Japanese consider Sumo a gendai budo, a modern Japanese martial art, even 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 for purification, from the days Sumo was used in the Shinto religion.

As with many forms of wrestling around the world, the roots of Sumo are lost in prehistory. Sumo is mentioned in some of the earliest texts in Japan, under its earlier name Sumai, from the 8th century A.D. However, these early forms would not be Sumo as it is known today, as in many cases the wrestling had relatively few rules and unarmed fights to the death were still referred to as 'Sumo'. In addition to its use as a trial of strength in combat, it has also been associated with Shinto ritual, and even today certain shrines carry out forms of ritual dance where a human ceremonially wrestles with a kami. It was an important ritual at the imperial court. Representatives of each province were ordered to attend the contest at the court and fought. They needed to pay for their travels themselves. The contest was known as Sumai no sechie, or "Sumai Party."

Over the rest of Japanese recorded history, Sumo's popularity has changed according to the whims of its rulers and the need for its use as a training tool in periods of civil strife. The form of wrestling combat probably changed gradually into one where the main aim in victory was to throw your opponent. The concept of pushing him out of a limited defined area came some time later.

It is believed that a ring, defined by more than the area given to the wrestlers by spectators, came into being in the 16th century as a result of a tournament organized by the then-principal warlord in Japan, Oda Nobunaga. At this point wrestlers would wear loose loincloths, rather than the much stiffer mawashi of today. During the Edo period, wrestlers would wear a fringed kesho-mawashi during the bout, whereas today these are worn only during pre-tournament rituals. Most of the rest of the current forms within the sport developed in the early Edo period.


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