Lesson 11

Leisure[伝統スポーツ] 相撲、柔道、剣道、弓道



Sumo is a 2,000-year-old form of wrestling that is considered by many to be the national sport of Japan. Sumo became a professional sport in the early Edo period (1600-1868), and although it is practiced today by clubs in high schools, colleges, and amateur associations, it has its greatest appeal as a professional spectator sport.

The object of this compelling sport is for a wrestler to force his opponent(相手) out of the center circle of the elevated(高い) cement-hard clay ring [土俵] or cause him to touch the surface of the ring with any part of his body other than the soles(足の裏) of his feet. The wrestlers may spend as much as the first four minutes in the ring in a ritual of stamping(足を踏みならす), squatting(しゃがむ), puffing(吹く), glowering(にらみ合い), and tossing salt in the air, but the actual conflict is only a matter of seconds. To decide who has stepped out or touched down first is often extremely difficult and requires the closest attention of a referee [行司], dressed in the court costume of a 14th-century nobleman(貴族), on the ring and judges [審判] sitting around the ring at floor level. 

The Japan Sumo Association [日本相撲協会], the governing body of professional sumo, officially lists 70 winning techniques consisting of assorted(分類する) throws, trips(肩すかし), lifts, thrusts(突っ張り), shoves(押す), and pulls. Of these, 48 are considered the classic techniques but the number in actual daily use is probably half that. Of primary concern in sumo are ring decorum(礼儀正しさ) and sportsmanship.

Unique to sumo is the use of a belly band [まわし], which is folded and wrapped tightly around the waist, and knotted in the rear(背後). Most sumo matches center wrestlers’ attempts to get a firm, two-handed grip on their opponent’s belt while blocking him from getting a similar grip on theirs. With the right grip they then have the leverage to execute a throw, trip, or lift. During tournaments, a string apron [さがり] is also worn tucked into the front folds of the belt, whence(そこから) it falls frequently in the heat of the match.

Traditionally sumo has drawn the majority of its recruits from rural communities. Most wrestlers start in their mid-teens and retire from this rigorous(激しい) sport in their early thirties. Top-ranking wrestlers have an average height of 185 centimeters and an average weight of 148 kilograms.

The wrestlers in professional sumo are organized into a pyramid. Progress from the ranks of beginners at the bottom to the grand champion’s pinnacle(頂点) at the top depends entirely on ability. The speed with which a wrestler rises or falls depends entirely on his win-loss record at the end of each tournament. Based on this, his ranking is calculated for the next tournament and then written with his name and those of other wrestlers in Chinese characters on a graded list [番付]. The only permanent rank is called yokozuna [横綱]. If he cannot maintain a certain level of performance, he is expected to retire.

Only wrestlers in the top two division juryo [十両] and makuuchi [幕内], receive regular salaries. They also enjoy the title sekitori [関取], top-ranking wrestler, and the right to have their long, oiled hair combed(結い上) into(げる) the elegant ginkgo-leaf knot [大銀杏髷] during tournaments.  

Traditionally only two tournaments were held each year, but by 1958 this number had grown to six, where it stood in the early 1990s. The big six are held every other month in four different cities.

In 1949 the length of a tournament increased from the traditional 10 days to 15 days. A tournament day starts with the apprentices(初心者) of pre-sumo fighting [前相撲], then the long march of the four lower divisions across the ring begins. The boy-men-in these divisions, jonokuch [序ノ口], jonidan [序二段], Samdamme [三段目], and makushlta [幕下], wrestle on 7 of the 15 days of the tournament. For them a winning record [勝ち越し] begins with 4 wins against 3 losses, which ensures promotion. Anything less is a losing record [負け越し] and demotion(降格). All wins with no losses of course boosts a wrestler way up the ladder, usually into a higher division.

Sekitori in the juryo and makuuchi divisions wrestle once a day for 15 days. Sekitori must win 8 of their 15 bouts(勝負) for a winning record. The entire tournament is won by the makuuchi wrestler with the most wins.



Judo is one of the martial arts; a form of unarmed(素手の) combat that stresses agile(機敏な) motions, astute(明敏な) mental judgment, and rigorous(厳格な) form rather than, sheer physical strength. The Chinese character for ju derives from a passage in the ancient Chinese military treatise(専門書), which says, softness controls hardness well. Judo techniques [] include throwing [投げ技], grappling [固め技], and attacking vital points [当て身技]. The first two techniques are used in competition, but attacking vital points is used only in practice. Developed as a sport by Kano Jigoro [嘉納治五郎] (1860-1938) from jujutsu [柔術], judo has been valued as a method of exercise, moral training, and self-defense.

Jujutsu began with court banquet wrestling [節会相撲] in the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1185) periods. During the sustained peace of the Edo period (1600-1868) jujutsu developed as a self-defense martial art and was used in making arrests(逮捕). Jujutsu schools proliferated(増える) during this period but declined with the collapse of the samurai class after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. In 1882 Kano Jigoro organized the Kodokan [講道館] judo school in Tokyo. Kano Jigoro set up a system of ranks [] and classes [] as an encouragement for his disciples(門人). These designations(名称) have been recognized internationally.



Japanese fencing based on the techniques of the two-handed sword of the samurai. Before the Showa period (1926-1989) it was customarily(慣例的に) referred to as kenjutsu [剣術] or gekken [撃剣]. Kendo is a relatively recent term that implies spiritual discipline as well as fencing technique.

Fencing with the single-edged, straight-blade sword was probably introduced from Sui [] (589-618) or early Tang [] (618-907) China. The cultivation(修練) of sword skills flourished during the Kamakura shogunate (1192-1333). With the establishment of nationwide peace by the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century, kenjutsu went into a decline. The moral and spiritual element became prominent(際立っている), drawing on Confucianism(儒教), Shinto, and Buddhism, especially Zen. Kenjutsu became an element for training the mind and body. In the late 18th century protective equipment and bamboo training swords [竹刀] were introduced.



Japanese archery, the technique of the bow, was the term more commonly used until well into the 19th century. Under the influence of Chinese culture from the 6th century, Japanese archery was divided into military and civil archery. Military archery was primarily mounted(騎乗の) archery, while civil archery was shooting in the standing position, with emphasis on form and etiquette. Over the centuries the rules of archery became systematized, and schools began to proliferate.

The bow is usually 2 meters 21 centimeters in length. It is an eccentric(風変わりな) bow. In modern competition, two target distances are used. Usually the archer stands 28 meters from a circular target 36 centimeters in diameter. In contrast to Western archery, in kyudo the emphasis is on form rather than accuracy. Certain schools are strongly influenced by Zen.






Art of self-defense that uses no weapons and relies instead on three main techniques: arm strikes, thrusts, and kicks. A distinction is made between offensive and defensive techniques, which are modified(調整する) according to the position of one's opponent. For defense, there are various parrying(受け流す) methods corresponding(対応する) to each of the methods of offense. There are two sections in karate competitions: form [] competition and sparring [組み手] matches.

Karate was historically most widely practiced in China and Okinawa and thus is not considered one of the traditional Japanese martial arts. Current forms of karate developed from a style of Chinese boxing known as kung fu in the West, which is thought to have been transmitted(伝える) by the Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharnia [達磨] along with Zen Buddhist teachings to Chinese disciples at Shaolin temple [少林寺]. The method of self-defense traced to these beginnings is called Shorinji kempo [少林寺拳法] in Japan; it had spread widely through China by the time of the medieval Ming [] dynasty (1368-1644), but it was suppressed(抑圧する) in the Qing period [] (1644-1912) because it was used by a secret society aspiring(目指す) to reestablish Ming.

The subsequent(その後の) development of karate took place primarily in Okinawa. Chinese fighting techniques merged with indigenous(土着の) techniques to produce the karate style. A karate club was established at a middle school in 1905 after the islands had become a prefecture of Japan. It became known throughout mainland Japan in 1922, when Funakosh Gichin [船越義珍], an Okinawan master, performed a demonstration in Tokyo.

After World War II, karate and the other martial arts experienced a decline that lasted until around 1955. After that the sport increased in popularity, and it is more widespread now than ever.


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