All the long years of training that go into the making of a Japanese Sumo wrestler reach an explosive moment of truth when he steps into the ring during a tournament.
All the long years of training that go into the making of a Japanese Sumo wrestler reach an explosive moment of truth when he steps into the ring during a tournament. It can be literally only a moment - a few brief seconds -- before he is pushed, lifted, manhandled or thrown bodily out of the ring and into defeat.
This second instalment of our two part feature on sumo wrestling concentrates on the tournaments, once again following the fortunes of the hero of the hour, Kitanoumi, Japan's youngest grand champion in the 1500-year history of the sport.
There are six sumo tournaments a year, each 15 days long. Every session is packed with fans paying up to GBP7 sterling for a seat. Television transmits at least two hours of each day's wrestling for the fans at home.
Television has had its effect on the form of the tournament. Once again ritual plays an important part, with each bout beginning with the wrestler: glaring at each other and putting on an aggressive display in an effort to intimidate each other. There used to be up to 40 minutes of this, but because of television, it has been cut to four.
The ritual continues. Wrestlers scatter salt to purify the ring and get the gods on their side. Then finally the referee calls them to go to work on each other.
When the bout starts, it has the explosive suddenness of a fight between two wild animals. There's little sign of the art of wearing down an opponent. Rather it's a dynamic display of maximum brute effort over the shortest possible period of time.
Nevertheless, there are said to be 48 different ways of winning a sumo bout. Most of them involve getting hand holds on the sash of the opponent and twisting him down, or lifting him out of the ring.
Kitanoumi, the hero of our story, learned the tricks quickly and set records as he became the youngest wrestler to advance from one rank in the sumo division to the next until he reached the highest league.
In this year's first ornament, Kitanoumi was already assured of outright victory when he went into the final day, having notched the best record of 12 wins and only three defeats.
His prize money came to GBP1,800 sterling plus the emperor's Cup -- a suitably gigantic trophy for the huge Kitanoumi.
Today, after adding together prize money, sponsor's gifts and other handouts, Kitanoumi can make about GBP40,000 sterling a year. But there's a price to pay. All the weight a sumo wrestler carries makes him prone to heart problems, and he'll have an anticipated life span 10 to 15 years shorter than most Japanese men.