What Equipment Do You Need for Sumo Wrestling?

Sumo wrestler, close up

Sumo wrestling is an ancient Japanese full-contact sport believed to date back as far as 250 B.C. Professional sumo wrestling in Japan began in 1684 and has grown in popularity ever since. Sumo wrestlers are often viewed as fat by foreigners, but they are actually well-trained athletes who are revered in Japan. The object of a sumo match is to push your opponent outside of the ring, or dohyo. Due to its simplistic nature, there is little equipment used in sumo wrestling.

Dohyo -- The Wrestling Place

The competition ring is called a dohyo. Traditionally made from rice-straw bales, the dohyo has a diameter of 4.55 meters, or about 15 feet. The circle is mounted on a square platform made of clay that is 6.7 meters across and anywhere from 34 to 60 centimeters -- about 13 to 24 inches -- high. In Japan, it is customary to construct a new dohyo before each tournament.

Mawashi -- Sumo Wrestler Garment

A sumo wrestler's attire -- mawashi -- comes in a variety of colors and designs. Some mawashis are just straight lengths of fabric, approximately 9.1 meters -- about 30 feet -- long when unwrapped. Others have long, decorative tassels that dangle from the front. Mawashis are more than just an arbitrary garment, because in sumo you are allowed to grab your opponent by his mawashi to pull or swing him off balance. For this reason, some sumo wrestlers wear their mawashi in a particular way.

Clean Sand and Brush

In a traditional sumo match, sand is spread over the dohyo around the outside of the ring. The sand serves a unique purpose because it allows the judges to determine if a wrestler stepped outside the ring. Since the sand is used for this purpose, it must be cleaned and finely brushed before each match so it is always clear to see if a wrestler stepped out of bounds.

Wrestling Mats

Wresting mats are an optional piece of equipment you may need for sumo wrestling. They are not used in a professional sumo tournament, but you can lay them down over your dohyo to prevent injury. They are also handy for practicing sumo wrestling.

Novelty Equipment

There are no stores that sell authentic dohyos, so to get your own sumo wrestling equipment you'll have to build your dohyo from raw materials. However, if you don't want to build your own dohyo, there are stores that sell and rent novelty sumo wrestling equipment, including nonregulation dohyos, sumo suits and even sumo wigs.