Sumo wrestling is a Japanese sport that, in its current form, dates back to the 16th century. Steeped in history and tradition, the sport is highly ritualistic and parts are often associated with Shintoism. However, just because it’s old doesn’t mean it lacks a sense of humor. In fact, there is an entire ritual called Shokkiri (初切 or 初っ切り) dedicated to making crowds laugh.
Shokkiri is typically performed by two lower-ranking sumo wrestlers who can spend weeks planning and choreographing their routine. The main objective is to illustrate to audiences, often through slapstick humor, the many illegal moves and unacceptable behaviors of the sport. It’s the one time that all rules are broken in order to explain them.
Shokkiri isn’t performed during tournaments but during other sumo-related events like retirement ceremonies or charity tournaments. The most recent one was performed last week on February 4, 2018, during the retirement ceremony of former-wrestler Asasekiryu. For the shokkiri segment, wrestlers Takamisato and Shobushi illuminated audiences on the many illegal sumo moves.