Sumo is often thought of as a frighteningly strict sport in which every aspect of a wrestler’s life, from the clothing they wear in public to etiquette in the ring, must adhere to a traditional set of rules. In other words, it seems like the least fun sport to be a part of in the world.

That’s why you might be surprised to learn that there’s a sumo comedy routine out there in Japan that’s been going on for over a century. It’s known as shokkiri and is essentially a sumo match where anything goes, sort of like a Harlem Globetrotters game. And despite being based on such uniquely Japanese traditions its humor is pretty universal and sure to crack smiles anywhere in the world.

Shokkiri began during the Edo period as a way of demonstrating both proper sumo techniques as well as illegal moves before matches. However, as we can see from its evolution, the illegal moves seemed to be crowd favorites and so shokkiri has evolved into more of a pure comedy routine like this.

If you’ve gone to a regular sumo match you probably weren’t treated to a shokkiri show. They tend to be relegated to touring exhibition matches or other events with no ranking consequence like old-timers matches. Events like these including comedy and music are called hanazumo (flower sumo) matches.

Still, as we can see in the videos. These shows draw large crowds with some people having to leave home early in the morning to make it to a tour stop and watch the spectacle of shokkiri live.

Although the performers are real trained sumo wrestlers, those who take part in a shokkiri show are often stigmatized and remain in the lower ranks of the sport. Champions are said to have come from shokkiri in the past but those days seem long gone. Still, if a sumo finds himself resigned to the lower tiers of the sport, shokkiri can be a good way to get a piece of the spotlight and still make a name for himself.

Source: Japaaan Magazine (Japanese)
Video & Images: YouTube – MyJetSetLife, jusk00