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  • Amateur wrestling can be traced back to 3400 BC in Egypt, captured in wall paintings. Professional wrestling was popular in both America and Europe until after the first world war, when it became more of an entertainment.

  • In Japan, Sumo wrestling is the national sport and huge crowds gather to watch the physically huge wrestlers. Sumo dates back over 1,000 years.


  • Amateur wrestling takes place on a raised platform with sloping sides and no ropes to form the ring. The wrestling mat is marked with a circle 9 metres across, which has a red strip 1 metre wide inside it to show the wrestlers where they are.

  • In professional wrestling the size of the ring varies in size between 4.25 metres and 6.4 metres square. The floor is covered with canvas and the ring is surrounded by three ropes supported by posts at each corner.

  • Sumo takes place in a circular ring, known as the Dohyo, 17.9 feet square and 1.7 feet high and made of special clay packed tight. A circle 14.9 feet in diameter is made by half-burying 20 rice straw bales in the clay.


  • Amateur wrestlers wear leotards leaving the shoulders and upper chest bare. Light boots and socks are worn.

  • Professional wrestlers wear shorts, and their dress equates much more with the boxing ring: they arrive in silk dressing gowns.

  • Sumo wrestlers have their hair tied ritually in a top knot and wear loin clothes.


  • There are two sorts of amateur wrestling and both appear in the Olympics: freestyle and Graeco-Roman. The difference between the two is that in Graeco-Roman a wrestler is not allowed to seize an opponent below the hips, or to grip with the legs. The most direct way to win a bout is to pin the opponent’s shoulders to the floor for one second, which ends the bout. Bouts last three rounds and points are awarded for various techniques, or against for fouls.

  • Professional wrestling bouts last differing times according to the status of the opponents. The main bout can be 10 rounds of five minutes each. The winning wrestler is the first to achieve two falls, two submissions or a knock-out. A fall is when both the opponents shoulders are forced to the ground and held for the three seconds. A submission is when one fighter holds the opponent in an unbreakable hold or one causing extreme pain. A knock-out is awarded if one fighter does not recover within 10 seconds.

  • In Sumo wrestling, the object of the sport is to force the opponent out of the ring. Any hold is allowed. Ceremony takes its part in a bout, which is preceded by purifying salt being thrown into the ring. A Sumo bout can last from 10 seconds to four minutes. There are no rounds.


  • Arsen Fadzeyev, a Russian born in 1962, won Olympic gold in 1988 and 1992 for freestyle lightweight, plus six world titles.

  • In Sumo, the Hawaian Ozeki Konishiki retired in 1991 after a record 1045 wins. He weighed 253.5 kilos.


  • At the first Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 1896, versatility was required. The wrestling competition was won by Carl Schulmann of Germany, who was also a winner in gymnastics. In the final he beat Britain’s Launceston Eliot, who happened to have won the weightlifting! None of the competitors were, however, to win gold medals — these were first awarded at the London Olympics of 1908.

  • At the World Freestyle Wrestling competition in India in the early 1990s, the European ‘Man Mountain’ Jack faced the Indian world champion Dara Singh in the final. The competition was won in a bizarre manner. After a throw, Man Mountain put off his opponent by pointing, then kicked the Indian in a very sensitive area. He went down on the canvas. After the referee complained, Man Mountain assaulted the referee, resulting in his being sent to his corner. Dara Singh, slightly recovered, then seized a towel and brought down Man Mountain by wrapping it round his neck!

  • In September 1978, a Japanese athletics team visited China despite warnings of an impending typhoon in the competition area. The hazards for the athletes was soon apparent as they had great difficulty in standing still against the increasingly violent wind. The competition was eventually called off after two fully clothed Sumo wrestlers, not the lightest of individuals, were lifted by the wind and blown several yards towards the stadium entrance!

  • Legend has it that the first grand champion at Sumo wrestling in sixteenth-century Japan, Akashi, was over 8 feet tall and weighed more than 28 stone!

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