SUMO ABC (66) / Using violence to discipline young wrestlers is inexcusable

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Harumafuji announces his retirement at a press conference in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on the same day.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterYokozuna Harumafuji retired as a sumo wrestler to take responsibility for assaulting a junior wrestler during a sumo tour. Because Harumafuji does not have Japanese citizenship, he cannot remain in the Japan Sumo Association, according to its regulations. This must be a disappointing and sad outcome for both Harumafuji and his fans.

In 2007, a 17-year-old wrestler in the lowest jonokuchi division died after being assaulted at a stable he belonged to. The stablemaster struck him with a beer bottle, and senior wrestlers beat and kicked him before he died.

Since that incident, the sumo world has been working to root out violence. Harumafuji’s senseless assault has undermined these 10 years of effort by sumo wrestlers and stablemasters. It was a matter of course for Harumafuji to retire to take responsibility.

Harumafuji admitted he was at fault and apologized during the press conference at which he announced his retirement. “I scolded [him] to change the behavior of a junior wrestler who lacked courtesy and civility. However, it became excessive, and ended up hurting him. I take responsibility as a yokozuna,” he said.

His remark indicates what he might really think about the incident — that it was wrong to hurt the junior wrestler but that his method wasn’t wrong, and that disciplining young wrestlers with violence is acceptable.

This is the essence of the problem in the latest incident.

Harumafuji’s stablemaster Isegahama, the former yokozuna Asahifuji, also apologized for Harumafuji having hurt the wrestler, but he expressed no regret for lacking leadership ability with regard to the violence Harumafuji committed.

Physical punishment in sports, including during physical education at school, is still far from being eradicated.

There continue to be coaches who raise their hands to others because they believe it’s quicker to teach through their fists than their words.

In addition, many people feel sympathy for Harumafuji, saying the junior wrestler might also have been at fault.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A pedestrian receives a newspaper extra reporting Harumafuji’s retirement in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Nov. 29.

Sumo wrestlers have been regarded as “tender-hearted and mighty,” and children adore and admire them. Harumafuji committed a very serious wrong.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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