Women in Sumo

Okay Women, you’ve beaten boxing, crushed kickboxing, and mauled muay thai… now it’s time for females to squash sumo! Similarly to the other combat sports just named, and possibly any sport you could name, women are not terribly welcome in the sumo ring. The good news is that the tide is turning and as the ancient sport grows a modern audience, it’s almost inevitable that women will be allowed to compete as equals. Maybe… someday…

As you surely know, sumo is a very old form of wrestling from Japan. It’s quite a simple sport involving two competitors who face off inside a ring and, using minimal technique and a modicum of skill, attempt to shove the other outside of the ring (or cause them to touch the floor with any part of their body besides the soles of their feet). Many matches last mere moments while others can go on for somewhat longer. Size and strength come into play in a sumo match, but the difference often comes down to balance and agility. 

Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images

Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images

Sumo is steeped in tradition. Among the long held traditions is the rule that only men may compete. In fact, it is considered a serious violation to the sanctity of the sport for a woman to even be present inside the sumo ring, although that gender restriction has loosened up some with the entrance of several female referees. Even in our modern world women are not welcome in the pro ranks of sumo in Japan for fear of bringing dishonor to the ancestors of the sport. However, women have taken to this fascinating sport at the amateur level and it’s catching on fast.

In Japan, female sumo is growing rapidly and, with young girls taking part in sumo events in school, it is only gaining strength. In the United States and elsewhere, sumo is getting a fair share of interested female participants as well. And the time is ripe for change due to pervasive corruption and the rampant bad behavior of professional male sumo. By bringing in a new breed of sumo the sanctity of the sport could be restored by a renewed level of respect.

Actually, it’s nothing particularly new for women to take part in sumo, however it is relatively new for females to compete in sumo beyond an exhibition display. The banning of females as rule is archaic and discriminatory, but Japan is a country that wallows in superstition and clings desperately to its traditions, no matter how old fashioned or controversial. Someday women competing in sumo at all levels will be commonplace. No doubt it will start in foreign countries, but eventually Japan will be toppled and ultimately shoved outside the ring of its own unjust tradition!

Posted on November 6, 2014 .