Photo Credit: Visit Okinawa

Sumo Wrestling (Shima) in Okinawa is different from Japanese Sumo.

Most people when thinking of Sumo, imagine huge men, with large, exposed, abdomens, trying to muscle their opponent out of a wrestling ring.

Photo Credit: Visit Okinawa Sumo Wrestling You Tube Video

Okinawan Shima (Sumo) you would more likely see at a festival, than on a television.

The wrestlers wear shorts and shirts. Some may even be wearing a Judo gi. They are introduced by a referee. They grasp each others Mawashi (cloth belt around the waist) before the match begins.

The match is more of a speed, dexterity and agility test than what you would see in Japanese Sumo.

In many respects, Okinawa Sumo looks similar a Judo Competition.

To win, one wrestler must get his opponent, completely out of the ring or, pin his back to the ground.

The matches can be fast-paced and exciting.

There are no big commercial sponsors to be won. It is just a friendly community event.

It’s one wrestler, with a red belt, against another wearing a white belt.

Sometimes, the sand and sawdust fly.

They may grunt, groan and strain, trying to overcome their opponent.

Some of the techniques practiced in Okinawan Sumo evolved into what is now known as Karate. However, in this sport, no one gets physically injured. Not even an opponent raised in the air, as in the photo above. He was lowered gently to the ground.

More on Okinawan Sumo in the You Tube Video above or, the article Karate and Okinawan Sumo.


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Mike is a freelance photographer and writer who has been living in Okinawa, Japan for over 30 years.