What Do Sumo Wrestlers Wear?

If you have seen a sumo match either on TV or  have been lucky enough to watch an event live in Japan one of the first things you notice is the lack of clothes. When sumo wrestlers fight they wear a specific outfit that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. In this article we are going to look at what sumo wrestlers wear and why!

Read these articles to find out more about sumo wrestlers!

What Do Sumo Wrestlers Wear?

Sumo wrestlers wear a loin cloth with a belt and handles known as a Mawashi. The Mawashi is based on the traditional Japanese underwear and bathing suit known as a Fundoshi. The Fundoshi has been adapted to allow the wrestlers to use it to grip and throw their opponent.

Sumo wrestlers wear a Mawashi during practice and when they are competing. The Mawashi is a loin cloth with a large belt attached. The Mawashi is based on the Fundoshi which was a loin cloth used as underwear in Japan for hundreds of years.

There are two main types of Mawashi, training and competition style:

Training Mawashi

  • Practice Mawashi are made from cotton
  • Sekitoris (wrestlers who compete in the top 2 divisions) wear white
  • Lower ranked professional sumo wrestlers wear black
  • Only Sekitoris are allowed to fold their Mawashi as seen on the right
  • Lower ranked sumo must tuck Mawashi under their belt as seen on left

Competition Mawashi

  • Lower ranked sumo wrestlers wear their practice Mawashi in competition
  • Strings are added to the Mawashi
  • Sekitoris wear a Mawashi made from silk
  • Sekitoris must tuck their Mawashi into their belt when they compete

Why Do Sumo Wrestlers Wear A Mawashi?

Sumo wrestlers wear a Mawashi because it is based on traditional Japanese underwear. Historically, sumo wrestlers would compete in just their underwear to ensure that neither athlete was armed or cheating in anyway. To honor the history of sumo, athletes still wear a Mawashi.

Sumo wrestling has been around for hundreds of years and when the sport first started men in Japan would wear a loin cloth known as a Fundoshi as their underwear. So naturally when it came time to wrestle to prevent ruining their clothes and to increase their freedom of movement sumo wrestlers would strip down to their loin cloth and fight.

As sumo developed into a professional sport the classic loin cloth was adapted to make the sport more exciting. The alterations included adding a belt which allowed the sumo wrestlers to grip each other and complete amazing throws. The Mawashi also has strings attached which are used as decoration and to honor the wrestler’s training school.

As sumo wrestling prides itself on keeping the traditions of the sport alive, wrestlers still wear the Mawashi in modern competition and will for the foreseeable future.

While it may seem strange to modern viewers to see sumo compete in just loin cloths this was actually very common throughout the world just a few centuries ago. If you go back in history most nations and ethic groups had their own forms of wrestling and typically they would compete shirt less and in just their underwear.

The ancient Romans are a classic example and of course the ancient Greeks took it a step further by competing completely naked.

Why Do Sumo Wrestlers Wear Thongs?

Sumo wrestlers wear a loin cloth (Mawashi) which is similar to a thong because this is the traditional outfit that athletes would compete in when the sport first started in the 1600s in Japan. The outfit is still used today because the sport of sumo aims to remain true to its history.

The early sumo wrestlers wore thongs because that is what they wore as part of their underwear. Sumo wrestlers would compete in their underwear because it was comfortable (total freedom of movement), would prevent their clothes from being grabbed and would ensure that both competitors were unarmed.

Modern sumo wrestlers have kept up the tradition of competing in a thong and still wear the traditional Japanese loin cloth.

Do Sumo Wrestlers Wear Anything Under Their Mawashi?

Sumo wrestlers do not wear anything under their Mawashi and are prohibited from doing so. The Mawashi is based on traditional Japanese underwear and therefore wearing anything underneath would be redundant.

Sumo wrestlers are not allowed to wear anything under their Mawashi. The Japan Sumo Association has explicitly stated that the Mawashi is the only attire that may be worn when competing in sumo.

The Mawashi is specially designed to keep the sumo wrestlers genitals covered and as it is based on traditional Japanese underwear there is no need for the athletes to wear another layer.

Throughout history sumo wrestlers have competed in just the Mawashi so to ensure the purity of the sport sumo wrestlers continue to compete in the Mawashi with nothing else underneath.

What Do Sumo Wrestlers Wear In Public?

In public, sumo wrestlers wear a traditional Japanese kimono, a samurai like top knot hair style and sandals. Sumo wrestlers must dress in traditional Japanese clothing and failure to do so will result in fines and suspensions from the Japan Sumo Association.

Sumo traditions don’t just stop at the arena! Whenever a sumo wrestler appears in public they must dress in traditional Japanese clothing. This means they must wear the Chonmage hairstlye (top knot and popular haircut from the Edo period when sumo became a professional sport), sandals and a light kimono.

Why Can’t Sumo Wrestlers Wear Clothes?

Sumo wrestlers can’t wear clothes because their conduct including their choice of fashion is strictly governed by the Japan Sumo Association. To keep the purity of the sport and the old traditions the Japan Sumo Association insists that Sumo wrestlers compete in a traditional Japanese loin cloth.
Unlike in most sports sumo is incredibly regulated and the governing body, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) has immense power over wrestlers. One power the JSA has is deciding what sumo wrestlers can and can’t wear.
The JSA has decided that sumo wrestlers must continue to honor the traditions of the sport that became professionalized in the Edo period (1600s) and wear the same outfit that those early wrestlers wore (the loin cloth now known as the Mawashi).

Do Sumo Wrestlers Wear Kimonos?

When sumo wrestlers are out in public and not competing they must wear a kimono. The kimono they typically wear is known as a Yakuta and is lightweight and made from cotton. Sumo wrestlers must wear a Yakuta even in winter.

Sumo wrestlers live a very regimented life and that includes being told what they are allowed to wear. When sumo wrestlers leave their homes or the sumo stable they must wear a kimono.

However, when they are relaxing at home or in the wrestling stable they can wear casual clothes. Many sumo wrestlers will wear tracksuit pants, jeans and t-shirts. These items of clothing are more fashionable and much more comfortable to relax in.

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