It has recently come to light that a professional sumo wrestling has ben officially warned by the large-bodied Japan Sumo Association (JSA) for allegedly beating on three of his charges with a golf club.
Sumo coach Kasugano visited the JSA on Wednesday after it was revealed he hit three of his wrestlers for ignoring his instructions to wear kimono when going out.
Talking to the Kyodo News agency, Kasugano said: "I hit (wrestlers) with an iron. I honestly think I went too far and I regret it." An iron golf club with a broken grip was found at Kasugano’s training facility.
The wrestlers were reportedly beaten in the abdomen and the back on Friday, October 14, 2011.
The 49-year-old Kasugano is a former wrestler who reached the third-highest sumo rank of Sekiwake, competing under the name Tochinowaka (Ed. Note: I've seen him wrestle!)
Local police are also investigating the matter to see if criminal charges are warranted.
Kasuganao's actions, while embarrassing to Japan's national sport in light of the recent spate of illegal betting, match-fixing, and the unfortunate death of a young wrestler who died after being bashed by fellow sumo-san, should not really come as a surprise to keen observers of sumo and of Japan's sports industry as a whole.
As an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme living in Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) between 1990-1993, I saw many instances of coaches and teachers giving players and students a whack. While no golf clubs were observed by myself in the commission of these acts, other instruments were - from a hand, to a fly swatter, to thrown pencil cases.
And... it didn't surprise or offend me. I guess it was because I was so well-informed about Japan's love of honor, that any misstep would be corrected by a higher-up. You know... when in Rome, etcetera.
There is no word on whether or not the three sumo wrestlers beaten with a club were hurt or required any medical assistance - I hope not.
Sumo is a brutal sport. I once heard that wrestlers used to push-slap their palms against a wooden post to toughen up the hand so that when they slapped an opponent in the face (a perfectly legal tactic), it would be like being hit by a cement brick.
I'm not defending the sumo coach's actions - it does seem excessive - but (in Canada) I've been choked out by a judo-sensei for mouthing off to another judo-ka and I've seen physical education teachers whack students on the bottom of their feet (with a stick) for not doing push-ups properly. Heck, I used to get whacked hard on the back of my fingers (knuckles) with a wooden ruler by the nuns who used to run my school (I can barely hold a pencil nowadays - mostly because I prefer a pen or type on a keyboard).
Does that make it right? No. But... and this is a big but (no pun intended), at least these three sumo wrestlers took a stand against their coach for his abusive behavior... so maybe Japan is changing.
And... if you want to know more about the beating death of a young sumo wrestler, well... on June 26, 2007, 17-year-old Saitoh Takashi (surname first) was a junior sumo wrestler beaten to death with a beer bottle and baseball bat by three other wrestlers at the urging of his trainer. At the Tokitsukaze stable, trainer Yamamoto Junichi ordered other wrestlers to beat Saitoh for his so-called "vague attitude" toward his training and the sport. Trainer and wrestlers were all charged with manslaughter, with Yamamoto getting six years in prison.
Files by Andrew Joseph