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Monday, March 27, 2017

Shokkiri - Sumo Comedy

Matthew sent me a video link the other day, depicting what I thought were two sumo wrestlers suddenly deciding to act all goofy during a regular sumo tournament.

Turns out, it’s actually a planned break during the sporting event by a sumo comedy troupe.

It’s a legitimate showing of sumo skills, but actually more like what a wrestler isn’t supposed to do during a match.

It reminds me of this scene from the famous Paul Newman hockey movie called Slapshot:

Uh... if you think you can watch this with your kids, or if you are under the age of 16 (let's say), don't. Lots of language... I had to fast forward over a couple of the more racy spots last week when I was watching it with my son.   

 The shokkiri comedy sumo match is not a new phenomenon… I doubt that other than finally allowing gaijin (foreigners) to become o-zumo-san/rikishi (sumo wrestlers), nothing has changed in the sport since it began.

Well, maybe having a serious attempt at ridding the sport of organized gambling is new.

Anyhow, shokkiri has been a part of the exhibition or touring sumo tournaments for over a century.

Matthew and I saw one in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken back in 1993 - but not to the extent of the video we have for you below.

No… it showed a giant of a sumo taking on a whole bunch of little kid sumo wrestlers… funny - but no where near as funny as the shokkiri play.

Trust me… you can watch the video without understanding a lick of Japanese and know exactly what is going on and exactly why it is funny.

Initially, it was like the Slapshot routine… a way to show how to play the sumo game, by demonstrating good techniques as well as bad via comedy.

However,  the modern version is all about showing the bad.

Here’s the bad about being involved in a shokkiri comedy play as a wrestler:
  1. These are real sumo wrestlers, albeit low-level wrestlers;
  2. By not taking the sport seriously, they are ostracized, and are rarely ever promoted up into the higher ranks of the sumo heirarchy after participating in a shokkiri;
  3. It’s not impossible—a long time ago some sumo champs have been shokkiri sumo wrestlers, but nowadays, it’s all about paying respect to the past;
  4. Like organized gambling and fixing of the matches, or the fact that in the old days you could still do shokkiri and one day work hard enough to become a sumo champion… okay, I’m just ranting here.
Look, I don’t know what a shokkiri sumo wrestler can earn doing this, but it is interesting to note the physical exertion they put themselves through in this long comedy routine.


The video above is from the 37th convention of the Japanese Grand Sumo Tournament held on February 10, 2013.

The shokkiri features twin brothers (surname first) Masanobu Kotobu (aka East) and Masanobu Kotoho (aka West). They put on a decent show!

Andrew Joseph

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