Women are currently banned from participating in the sport

Female sumo wrestlers in Japan are combatting the sexist ban against women competing in the sport.

According to the Guardian, female sumo wrestlers in Japan are taking on sexism in the sport that prevents them from participating.

Asahi University’s sumo club consists of 17 men and nine women. The group trains for two hours every weekday afternoon – stretching, warming up and performing drills together. It is one of six women’s sumo clubs at Japanese universities.

As the group consists of only amateurs, the athletes are not restricted by professional sumo rules and traditions which dictate that only men can compete. The group hopes that the restrictions against women will one day be overturned.

Earlier this year, two women who rushed into a sumo ring to administer first aid to a man who collapsed were ordered to leave the ring because of their gender. ‘Purifying’ salt was sprinkled onto the ring’s surface after they left.

Female sumo wrestler Minayo Nishimoto says professional restrictions against women need to change. “I understand that the dohyo is regarded as sacred, but whichever way you look at it, the ban on women is sexist, but that just makes me all the more determined to carry on and be the best female wrestler in Japan.”

Tomoko Nakagawa, the mayor of Takarazuka in western Japan attempted to lift the ban imposed by the Japan sumo association, but was unsuccessful. “I can’t understand why it is only the sumo world that refuses to change or is even going backwards,” she said.

Considered one of Japan’s best female sumo wrestlers, Chisaki Okumura has been wrestling since she was in middle school. “Sumo shouldn’t be thought of as a sport for men and women, it’s for everyone,” says Okumura.

“I definitely benefit from being able to train with the men, and I don’t get the impression that they’re looking down on me and the other women. If I were allowed to compete against them in a proper bout I think I could hold my own.”

Shigeto Takahashi, Manager of Asahi University’s sumo club said, “There are some people who still struggle to accept the idea of women’s sumo, but I’ve never thought it was at all unusual.”

“The only real difference is that the women have to be a little more careful about injuring their shoulders, but they’re not allowed to wear any padding.”