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Paolo Patrizi March 28, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan.

Junior Sumo wrestlers circle the ring. Tokyo, 2009.

Paolo Patrizi (b.1965, Italy) began his career in London working as a photo assistant. While doing freelance assignments for British magazines and design groups he started to develop individual projects of his own. His photographs have been published in The Observer Magazine, Stern, Panorama, Corriere della Sera, GQ, Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Geo among others. Paolo has won several awards with the Association of Photographers of London, The John Kobal Portrait Award, World Press Photo, The Sony World Photography Awards, The Anthropographia Award for Human Rights and POYi. His photographs are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

About the Photograph:

“Watching these big men tossing each other around the dohyo it is difficult to see that the mental and spiritual side of the sport are more important than the body. It takes enormous mental strength to maintain a winning edge. If they can’t get in the right frame of mind, they can’t win. Training is a vital part of the lives of wrestlers. This starts early in the morning, around six with the lowest rank supervised by slightly senior wrestlers. The regular form – ‘Moshiai-Geiko’- is that of a succession of bouts, with the winner staying in the ring and choosing his next opponent. It follows that a good wrestler gets more training.”

“When the time allotted is almost up, seniors get into the ring one at a time and give individual Bustukari-Geiko, which consists of the juniors charging from outside the ring and trying to push the senior right across the other side. The sport-ritual of Sumo is dear to the Japanese because it reflects in microcosm many of the values that Japan holds dear. Japanese society places enormous importance  on rank and hierarchy and the world of Sumo does the same. Japan is a nation that cherishes rules and respects authority, and in sumo too this tradition is unyielding. Sumo is one of the most ancient expressions of Japanese culture inspired by the Samurai code of honor with champions regarded as national heroes. The Rishiki, with their 17th century Samurai-style hairdos, are expected to show stoicism. Winners in Sumo never feel or express self-satisfaction and losers never complain. At the end of a bout the Rishiki bow respectfully to each other and step silently down from the ring.”