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Paolo Patrizi: Sumo

Work / Photography

Paolo Patrizi gets behind the scenes of the rules and rituals of sumo

While it’s the only sport where being obese is encouraged, sumo wrestling is a supremely significant Japanese tradition. But modern society has slowly been digging its grubby mitts into those oversized nappies of theirs (not literally), with gambling, match fixing and organised crime becoming a more permanent aspect of the sport.

As an escape from the scandal sumo has been attracting, photographer Paolo Patrizi has documented the daily routine of a wrestler and the strict codes of behaviour associated with it, highlighting how controlled their life is. What the wrestlers eat, how they wear their hair, what they’re allowed to wear in public is all regulated. It’s a surreal world where grown men are forced to do chores like holding a higher ranking wrestler’s towel and made to take naps to help put on weight after large lunches. There’s so much discipline it maybe isn’t surprising this control has been extended to exploiting the wrestlers and the sport for money.

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Paolo Patrizi: Sumo

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Paolo Patrizi: Sumo

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Paolo Patrizi: Sumo

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Paolo Patrizi: Sumo

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Paolo Patrizi: Sumo