Sumo is filled with a lot of interesting and unusual traditions. One of those traditions is the wrestlers throwing salt around the ring prior to the match. In this article we are going to break down the salt throwing tradition of sumo wrestling. Let’s get started!
To learn about what sumo wrestlers wear and how they train check out our articles!
Why Do Sumo Wrestlers Throw Salt?
Sumo wrestlers throw salt as it is used to purify bad spirits according to the Shinto religion. Throwing salt is also an ancient form of praying in the Shinto religion. Salt has added benefits such as giving the wrestlers extra grip and sanitizing the ring.
While throwing salt certainly looks cool, in sumo wrestling it has a deeper spiritual meaning. Since the ancient times of Japan salt has always been viewed as a purifier and held a special place in the Shinto religion.
Sumo wrestlers throw salt as a Shinto religious ceremony because it is thought to ward off bad spirits and purify the ring. By removing the bad spirits and the pollution from the ring wrestlers believe they are preventing bad things from happening such as a poor performance or an injury. Many sumo wrestlers will also say a silent pray when they are throwing the salt.
This act of throwing salt to remove sins and bad spirits is known in the Shinto religion as Harae. The salt throwing not only purifies the rings but it also removes bad spirits and evil from the sumo wrestlers themselves.
While the primary reason sumo wrestlers throw salt is to purify the ring as apart of Shinto ceremony there are also some other reasons!
By grabbing a big pile of salt before a match sumo wrestlers remove sweat from their hands and instantly improve their grip. Having a strong and secure grip is extremely important during a sumo match as it allows the wrestlers to grab their opponent and push or throw them to the ground.
Unfortunately, if a sumo wrestler decides to grab and throw too much salt they can actually make the ring extra slippery. Asahisho in one of his matches ended up throwing so much salt that when he tried to drive his opponent forward his slipped and fell resulting in him losing the contest.
Another reason salt throwing became a tradition in sumo was that back in the Edo period, people believed that the salt would act as an antiseptic and prevent the sumo wrestlers from getting infections.
Check out some wild salt throwing by sumo wrestlers in the video below!
When Do Sumo Wrestlers Throw Salt?
Sumo wrestlers always throw salt before the match begins and they will do it while they are performing their ritualistic stomping and belt slapping. All of these practices are done to purify the ring of bad spirits prior to the wrestling contest.
If you want to see sumo wrestlers throw salt you need to watch their entire pre-match ritual as the salt throwing always takes place before the wrestling match.
However, if you miss the sumo wrestlers throwing salt don’t worry because they will often throw it multiple times before competing.
Sumo wrestlers throw salt before every match and a sumo match never occurs until both athletes have thrown salt at least one time. For big matches sometimes the pre-match ritual will last for a long time and the sumo wrestlers will throw salt multiple times.
How Do Sumo Wrestlers Throw Salt?
Sumo wrestlers have their own individual style of throwing salt. However, all wrestlers scoop a handful of salt in their right hand and then throw it around the ring. How much salt and how high they throw it depends on the wrestler’s own style.
If you have watched sumo wrestling you will have noticed that even though all sumo wrestlers throw salt they all have a unique style.
Some sumo wrestlers like taking a massive handful of salt and throwing it high above the ring while others only take a small amount and lightly sprinkle it around the ring. You will also see some Rikishi throw the underarm, some will toss the salt sideways while others will launch it vertically in the air!
Mitoizumi was a sumo wrestling who was famous for throwing an enormous amount of salt before his matches. While most sumo wrestlers would only throw 200 grams of salt, Mitoizumi would throw 500 grams. He said that this was a way to display his power and intimidate his opponent!
Sumo wrestlers use this salt throwing ceremony as a way to express themselves and get ready psychologically for big match.
Why Do Sumo Wrestlers Throw Rice?
Sumo wrestlers do not throw rice, instead they throw salt. The only rice sumo wrestlers throw is right into their mouths when they are consuming 10 or more bowls per day.
Many new sumo fans often think that the wrestlers are throwing rice before their matches begin. However, if you look closely you will notice that the sumo wrestlers are actually throwing salt. The salt throwing ritual is a Shinto practice which involves purifying the ring and wrestlers of bad spirits, pollution and sin.
Even though sumo wrestlers may not throw rice it still plays a very important role in sumo. Rice is one of the main foods sumo wrestlers eat and is consumed with every meal along with their famous hot pot stew. Sumo wrestlers will often eat 10 or more bowls of rice every single day and their coaches will count how many bowls they eat to ensure they are eating enough calories.
To read more about what sumo wrestlers eat go here!