The island chain which makes up southern Japan, Okinawa, is the birthplace of karate. But there are lesser known forms of martial arts there. In fact, it is speculated that the form of sumo practiced in Okinawa existed together with karate strikes as part of an earlier fighting art.
Okinawan sumo’s major difference from the more famous sumo practiced on the Japanese mainland is the size of its practitioners. They are normal sized. They also wear a uniform resembling that worn in karate or judo practice. The competition ring is outdoors, and made of sand. It’s more of an outdoor, community event, where anyone can participate. They compete by wrapping one’s hand around the belt of the opponent, These last two aspects resemble a traditional Korean form of wrestling called Ssireum.
For those who wondered why karate is rarely taught with throws or grappling techniques, Okinawan sumo is your answer. As karate grew popular and spread, it was made less lethal, and simplified. Techniques were removed. Karate’s striking techniques spread worldwide, while its grappling stayed in Okinawa.