April 25, 2017 PM 19:38
(Photos taken during the Makishi Ugan Dedicatory Sumo Tournament – Photos@Okinawa Media Planning)
Even if karate is practiced by millions world wide, sumo might be the sport that represents the most the traditional martial arts of Japan in the eyes of the general public. But while the mainland Japan version of sumo is undeniably interesting and even practiced in Okinawa, Okinawa has its own sumo that differs quiet much from its mainland supposedly cousin. In fact, even if in English it is called Okinawa sumo, it is usually refer to as shima or uchinaa-jima (1) by locals.
In his book “Shijitsu to Kuden ni yoru Okinawa no Karate, Sumo Meijin-den” (2) published in 1986, Nagamine Shoshin sensei of Matsubayashi-ryu mentioned that “Okinawan sumo ascended from tegumi” and that many karate masters were also experts in Okinawa sumo.
In today’s Okinawa sumo, participants wear a judo-gi like uniform with a fabric belt around the waist and compete on a sandy ground ring. A bout lasts 5 minutes and the first fighter to score two points wins. During the entire match, opponents must maintain a two-handed grip on their opponent’s belt, and no strikes are allowed. The goal of the bout is to get the opponent’s back on the ground, which will give one point. After resetting to the original position of gripping each other’s belts, the bout starts again until one wins. Technically, Okinawa sumo resembles the Korean wrestling Ssireum or the Brittany folk wrestling Gouren (3).
While today, the relation between karate and uchinaa-jima might not be evident at first sight, it is definitely an art that is worth being studied by those interested with Okinawa karate and Okinawan martial arts. Every year, the Okinawa Prefecture Sumo Association holds various tournaments that are usually organized along local festivals. Below is a list of the major tournaments. If you are interested in getting the exact dates, which change ever year, please contact us directly.
- Nanmin (Naminoue) Festival Dedicatory Okinawa Sumo (Naha City)
(The most prestigious of all Okinawa sumo tournament in Okinawa. The Nanmin Sumo board at Naminoue Shrine lists champions since 1956)
- Makishi Ugan Dedicatory Sumo Tournament (Naha City)
- Nago City Kushi District Sumo Tournament
- Nago City Henoko District Sumo Tournament
- Ginoza Village Kanna District Sumo Tournament
- Minatogawa dedicatory All Island Sumo Tournament
- Sanitsu Beach Carnival (Miyako Island)
- Yonabaru Festival All Island Sumo Tournament
- Motobu Town Bise District Sumo Tournament
- Ginoza Village Matsuda Festival
- Shioya Unjami Festival Ogimi Village
- Kume Island Nishime All Island Sumo Tournament
- Kunigami District Tournament
- Kume Island Nakachi All Island Sumo Tournament
- Motobu Town Okinawa Sumo Tournament
- Naha Great Tug-of-war Festival All Island Sumo Tournament
- Kin Town Festival All Island Sumo Tournament
- Noguni Sokan Festival All Island Sumo Tournament (Kadena Town)
(1) Shima also means island in Okinawan language. Many aspects of Okinawan culture are affectionately nicknamed shima. Uchina means Okinawa in the local language (as in Uchina-di)
(2) The English version of this book is titled “Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters” and was translated by Patrick McCarthy. It contains 20 pages about Tegumi and Okinawa sumo.
(Covers of the original edition and the translation.)
(3) Bretagne, the Celt region north-west of France
(4) Many festivals also held regular sumo tournament like the Naha Dragon boat race Festival. Make sure to check ahead if you really want to see uchinaa-jima. If you are not sure if it is Mainland Japanese or Okinawan sumo, feel free to contact us.
(5) “Karate and Okinawan Sumo”: Hawaii Karate Seinenkai Charles Goodin wrote a very interesting article on Okinawa sumo, article which is available on the web site http://seinenkai.com/art-sumo.html
June 1 (Sunday) Minatogawa Dragon Boat Race Tournament (Yaese Town) Start at PM2:00
June 12 (Thursday) Maja Inahosai Festival Tournament (Kume Island)
July 20 (Sunday) Motobu Kayo Festival (Motobu Town)
July 21 (Monday) Gima Shiradogura Tournament (Kume Island)
July 22 (Tuesday) Janado Tournament (Kume Island)
July 26 (Saturday) Kin town Festival Tournament (Kin Town) Start at PM1:00
July 27 (Sunday) Sanitsuhama Carnival Tournament (Miyako Island)
July 27 (Sunday) Yonabaru Festival Tournament (Yonabaru Town)