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HBD Watch: Mongolians Take Over Japanese Sumo Wrestling
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Japanese sumo wrestling has perhaps the oldest dataset of professional sports statistics in the world, going back to 1761. (English thoroughbred racing pedigree tables are of similar antiquity — I traced one Kentucky Derby entrant back to a progenitor who carried a cavalry officer in the Battle of Boyne in 1690.)

Japan was perhaps the only culture that was modernizing somewhat independently of Europe. Most of the major old civilizations of the world were in stagnation as Europe was taking off, which is one reason Europe dealt with them so easily. Isolationist Tokugawa Japan (1603-1867), though, while falling further behind Europe, was at least making progress. Developing sports statistics is obviously not a major breakthrough, but it does reflect a culture that is innovating.

A long article by Benjamin Morris in FiveThirtyEight looks at what can be found out from a German sports nerd’s website of all sumo stats since 1761.

The problem with sumo as Japan’s natural sport is human biodiversity: the sport rewards height and weight, and the Japanese just aren’t very tall and fat. The last time I checked in on sumo, 1998, giant English-speaking Polynesians like Konishiki and Akebono were starring in Japanese sumo. They’ve faded out, but nowadays, the champions in Japan are almost all Mongolians, with an occasional Eastern European:

Today, international wrestlers have taken over the sport. In January 2016, then-31-year-old Japanese ozeki Kotoshogiku won his first tournament. This might have been an unremarkable event, except that it was the first tournament won by any Japanese wrestler since January of 2006. Of the 58 tournaments in between, 56 were won by Mongolians; the other two were won by a Bulgarian (Kotooshu) and an Estonian (Baruto).

It’s a nature and nurture thing: Mongolians tend to be tall and strong, but they also come from that wrestling belt that extends along the Eurasian steppe into Eastern Europe, where many of the cultures love wrestling.

 
• Tags: Human Biodiversity 
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  1. Priss Factor [AKA "Polly Perkins"] says:

    Old news.

    I think some Japper finally won one not long ago.

    Btw… this is pretty funny:

    “The problem with sumo as Japan’s natural sport is human biodiversity: the sport rewards height and weight, and the Japanese just aren’t very tall and fat.”

    It’s not just that. Mongols aren’t that big and fat either. They are bigger and fatter than Japanese on average, but Mongol champs in Sumo are not much bigger than the Japanese. They don’t tower over the Jappers like the Hawaiians did.

    But they are tougher, and I think they got harder muscles or some kind of advantage.

    It’s not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese.
    They evolved as sheep herders like in WOLF TOTEM, so the tougher ones who could ride horses survived. And there wasn’t much in the way of food surplus, so weaker ones died out.

    Read More
    • Replies: @rod1963
    Bingo.

    Primitive and nomadic societies are hard on the weak and feeble. You either pull your weight or you die.

    That weeds out all but the strongest and toughest over the centuries.

    It's no wonder that Mongolia provides a large talent pool from which Sumo stables can draw from.
    , @Erik Sieven
    "It’s not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese."
    I think thats the point. Although I am not convinced of such Ad-hoc evolutionary explanations. Go back a few hundred years and life was tough for everybody everywhere
    , @Mr. Jones
    This is very plausible for a few reasons.

    -The Mongolians are the only east-Asian ethnic group that consume a lot of dairy. The Mongolian diet is essentially meat and milk -- very high in protein and minerals.

    -Mongolian children often work on the family ranch, and are expected to pitch in when labor is needed. They stay active -- get a lot of sun and exercise. (I've seen four-year olds competently riding horses and watching the family farm in rural Mongolia, which surprised me!) This as opposed to Japanese kids who spend all day in school, and all evening at after-school lessons.

    -Mongolian culture values physical strength and toughness. In Ulaan Baatar, there are plenty of weightlifting gyms -- much more, per capita, than Japan.
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  2. 1998…? Good Lord, there’s been a number of foreigners at the top of the sumo heap since then. Little late to the game here, Sailor.

    Read More
    • Replies: @gruff
    You can't expect him to be constantly keeping track of everything.
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  3. Priss Factor [AKA "Polly Perkins"] says:

    Add a few Nigerians and Samoans to Sumo and they’ll dominate forever.

    Read More
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  4. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    There’s also women’s sumo, if you’re into big girls:

    Read More
    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    She don't look that big.

    Btw, Jason is the go-to-man for sumo.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/JasonsinJapan
    , @Dave Pinsen
    Interesting video. Thanks for posting.

    It's not a completely stupid idea, when you think about it. They're basically turning Sumo into a modern American sport, with a women's division and weight classes. I wonder what the Japanese think of it.
    , @TWS
    There is no women's sumo. There are women pretending to do sumo. Women are not even allowed to touch the ring. They are entirely excluded.
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  5. Sumo wrestlers can’t have tattoos so the guys from Hawaii are unqualified nowadays.

    Read More
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  6. Spmoore8 says:

    They should import some Finns. Suomi Sumo writes itself.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Olorin
    Yeah, it would happen in a sauna at 220 F while sitting bare-assed on nests of ants. And drinking Karjala beer the whole time.
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  7. Priss Factor [AKA "Polly Perkins"] says:
    @Anonymous
    There's also women's sumo, if you're into big girls:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0elJ4V35KAw

    She don’t look that big.

    Btw, Jason is the go-to-man for sumo.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/JasonsinJapan

    Read More
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  8. sb says:

    Prefer the term ” Borat Belt ” to “wrestling belt “

    Read More
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  9. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Anonymous
    There's also women's sumo, if you're into big girls:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0elJ4V35KAw

    Interesting video. Thanks for posting.

    It’s not a completely stupid idea, when you think about it. They’re basically turning Sumo into a modern American sport, with a women’s division and weight classes. I wonder what the Japanese think of it.

    Read More
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  10. rod1963 says:

    Wrestling is a national past time among Mongolians that goes back thousands of years. Very traditional and popular. That ensures they have a very large pool of possible candidates from which the very best can apply to the Japanese sumo stables or whatever Sumo schools they have in Mongolia.

    However professional Wrestling still remains popular in Japan(it’s legit full contact fighting, not like WWE).

    I know squat about Japanese society, but I just wonder if there is a fall off in popularity for Sumo among the younger generation. I know that recently Sumo has been badly tainted by claims of contest rigging and other unsavory practices that has tarnished it’s reputation. That may have something to do with it.

    IOW it maybe a society thing.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Japan has a number of combat sports that younger people may find more interesting. The FT had a piece on sumo last month and it sounded like the fan base skews a bit older:
    https://twitter.com/FTLifeArts/status/726337321457573888
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  11. dsgntd_plyr says: • Website

    More HBD Sports:
    “How and why the Australian pipeline to American football works”

    http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/5/11/11549982/australian-punters-kickers-nfl-ncaa-football?_ga=1.202467794.2143810475.1463182836

    The article says it’s nurture. Australians grow up playing Aussie Rules/Rugby Union/Rugby League. All sports where almost all players must kick an oblong ball.

    There are American football camps in Australia, and Jim Harbaugh is sending a bunch of Michigan assistants there in June: http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/5/10/11654180/michigan-australia-football-camp

    I always wondered why college coaches didn’t go to rugby playing countries for talent.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I wrote a long, excited posting about the U. of Utah's Aussie Rules punter Tom Hackett a few years ago:

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/aussie-rules-over-ucla/

    , @Alec Leamas
    There have been attempts but usually the rugby players forgo the potential money to remain in rugby. I recall when young Jonah Lomu (6'5" 260) burst onto the scene in 1994 playing sevens rugby and later playing wing (a "skills position" in football speak) for the All Blacks he was coveted by many NFL teams for obvious reasons but remained in rugby. He was usually the fastest player on the pitch, and so big that tackling him was near impossible. (1994 was about the time when the amateur era ended in Rugby Union and the Professional era began).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsXTa7UCGlk

    Unfortunately Jonah died this November past from complications of his Kidney disease which plagued him throughout his career.

    Sort of related to your question is that the prevalence of Football in the United States inhibits the development of an internationally competitive American rugby union side. The games are just so similar in the body types and athletic qualities that they require that the top level of those athletes chose football (and the prospects of athletic scholarships and professional paydays).
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  12. rod1963 says:
    @Priss Factor
    Old news.

    I think some Japper finally won one not long ago.

    Btw... this is pretty funny:

    https://soundcloud.com/radixjournal/white-washing

    "The problem with sumo as Japan’s natural sport is human biodiversity: the sport rewards height and weight, and the Japanese just aren’t very tall and fat."

    It's not just that. Mongols aren't that big and fat either. They are bigger and fatter than Japanese on average, but Mongol champs in Sumo are not much bigger than the Japanese. They don't tower over the Jappers like the Hawaiians did.

    But they are tougher, and I think they got harder muscles or some kind of advantage.

    It's not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese.
    They evolved as sheep herders like in WOLF TOTEM, so the tougher ones who could ride horses survived. And there wasn't much in the way of food surplus, so weaker ones died out.

    Bingo.

    Primitive and nomadic societies are hard on the weak and feeble. You either pull your weight or you die.

    That weeds out all but the strongest and toughest over the centuries.

    It’s no wonder that Mongolia provides a large talent pool from which Sumo stables can draw from.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Bill Jones
    It's also why Swedish women are so good looking: a couple of centuries of the vikings roaming around Europe taking all the best looking women home with them gives you a pretty good looking gene pool.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  13. @dsgntd_plyr
    More HBD Sports:
    "How and why the Australian pipeline to American football works"
    http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/5/11/11549982/australian-punters-kickers-nfl-ncaa-football?_ga=1.202467794.2143810475.1463182836

    The article says it's nurture. Australians grow up playing Aussie Rules/Rugby Union/Rugby League. All sports where almost all players must kick an oblong ball.

    There are American football camps in Australia, and Jim Harbaugh is sending a bunch of Michigan assistants there in June: http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/5/10/11654180/michigan-australia-football-camp

    I always wondered why college coaches didn't go to rugby playing countries for talent.

    I wrote a long, excited posting about the U. of Utah’s Aussie Rules punter Tom Hackett a few years ago:

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/aussie-rules-over-ucla/

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    When the U.S. hosted the World Cup, the NY Jets briefly signed Team USA's goalie as a place kicker: http://www.ganggreennation.com/2014/6/14/5810674/remembering-the-time-the-jets-signed-team-usas-world-cup-goalie
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  14. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @rod1963
    Wrestling is a national past time among Mongolians that goes back thousands of years. Very traditional and popular. That ensures they have a very large pool of possible candidates from which the very best can apply to the Japanese sumo stables or whatever Sumo schools they have in Mongolia.

    However professional Wrestling still remains popular in Japan(it's legit full contact fighting, not like WWE).

    I know squat about Japanese society, but I just wonder if there is a fall off in popularity for Sumo among the younger generation. I know that recently Sumo has been badly tainted by claims of contest rigging and other unsavory practices that has tarnished it's reputation. That may have something to do with it.

    IOW it maybe a society thing.

    Japan has a number of combat sports that younger people may find more interesting. The FT had a piece on sumo last month and it sounded like the fan base skews a bit older:

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  15. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    I wrote a long, excited posting about the U. of Utah's Aussie Rules punter Tom Hackett a few years ago:

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/aussie-rules-over-ucla/

    When the U.S. hosted the World Cup, the NY Jets briefly signed Team USA’s goalie as a place kicker: http://www.ganggreennation.com/2014/6/14/5810674/remembering-the-time-the-jets-signed-team-usas-world-cup-goalie

    Read More
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  16. @Priss Factor
    Old news.

    I think some Japper finally won one not long ago.

    Btw... this is pretty funny:

    https://soundcloud.com/radixjournal/white-washing

    "The problem with sumo as Japan’s natural sport is human biodiversity: the sport rewards height and weight, and the Japanese just aren’t very tall and fat."

    It's not just that. Mongols aren't that big and fat either. They are bigger and fatter than Japanese on average, but Mongol champs in Sumo are not much bigger than the Japanese. They don't tower over the Jappers like the Hawaiians did.

    But they are tougher, and I think they got harder muscles or some kind of advantage.

    It's not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese.
    They evolved as sheep herders like in WOLF TOTEM, so the tougher ones who could ride horses survived. And there wasn't much in the way of food surplus, so weaker ones died out.

    “It’s not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese.”
    I think thats the point. Although I am not convinced of such Ad-hoc evolutionary explanations. Go back a few hundred years and life was tough for everybody everywhere

    Read More
    • Replies: @helena
    What about the salty bit at the beginning - psyching-out the other contestant is very important to sumo success, isn't it?
    , @Priss Factor
    "Go back a few hundred years and life was tough for everybody everywhere."

    True, but Japan was agricultural and produced surplus food that allowed more to survive and pass down genes.

    In Mongolia, the population couldn't grow beyond a certain point due to scarcities and men & women had to prove their worth by tough activities like in Wolf Totem.

    Farming rice is hard labor but safe labor. Even weaklings could do it. Look at Seven Samurai. But weaklings cannot ride around like Genghis Khan and punch yaks and wolves.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  17. Mongolia is the black ghetto of East Asia. There is nothing to do there, a culture of machismo, and strong desire to do something to get by. So there is a more hunger, and I suspect there is a lot of recruiting effort too.

    The real problem sumo has is not HBD, it’s the fact that the Japanese won’t restrict competitors to Japanese, the sport’s natural ethnicity.

    If it ever gets Olympified, like judo, I’ll puke.

    Read More
    • Replies: @RolfDan
    I don't think Mongolia can be compared to a black ghetto. They once controlled Central Asia, China, Russian, even parts of Europe and the Middle East. Their IQ is 101, not bad for an undeveloped country. I can see an analogy with Scandinavia with the warrior culture and age of migration etc.
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  18. Back around 2005 or so, I remember a bunch of my Japanese students were complaining about all the foreigners competing (and winning) in sumo. “It’s a Japanese sport, foreigners shouldn’t be allowed to compete.”

    The same students who often bragged about all the Japanese baseball players on American teams.

    Ethnocentrism and Its Discontents

    Read More
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  19. Mr. Jones says:
    @Priss Factor
    Old news.

    I think some Japper finally won one not long ago.

    Btw... this is pretty funny:

    https://soundcloud.com/radixjournal/white-washing

    "The problem with sumo as Japan’s natural sport is human biodiversity: the sport rewards height and weight, and the Japanese just aren’t very tall and fat."

    It's not just that. Mongols aren't that big and fat either. They are bigger and fatter than Japanese on average, but Mongol champs in Sumo are not much bigger than the Japanese. They don't tower over the Jappers like the Hawaiians did.

    But they are tougher, and I think they got harder muscles or some kind of advantage.

    It's not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese.
    They evolved as sheep herders like in WOLF TOTEM, so the tougher ones who could ride horses survived. And there wasn't much in the way of food surplus, so weaker ones died out.

    This is very plausible for a few reasons.

    -The Mongolians are the only east-Asian ethnic group that consume a lot of dairy. The Mongolian diet is essentially meat and milk — very high in protein and minerals.

    -Mongolian children often work on the family ranch, and are expected to pitch in when labor is needed. They stay active — get a lot of sun and exercise. (I’ve seen four-year olds competently riding horses and watching the family farm in rural Mongolia, which surprised me!) This as opposed to Japanese kids who spend all day in school, and all evening at after-school lessons.

    -Mongolian culture values physical strength and toughness. In Ulaan Baatar, there are plenty of weightlifting gyms — much more, per capita, than Japan.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Connecticut Famer
    Hands down, the greatest horsemen in the world. Children start riding horses when they're 3 years old. No wonder Temujin a/k/a Genghis Khan and the boys nearly conquered the entire Eurasian landmass.
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  20. helena says:
    @Erik Sieven
    "It’s not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese."
    I think thats the point. Although I am not convinced of such Ad-hoc evolutionary explanations. Go back a few hundred years and life was tough for everybody everywhere

    What about the salty bit at the beginning – psyching-out the other contestant is very important to sumo success, isn’t it?

    Read More
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  21. Priss Factor [AKA "Polly Perkins"] says:
    @Erik Sieven
    "It’s not just size. I think Mongols have more muscle density and bone density than the Japanese."
    I think thats the point. Although I am not convinced of such Ad-hoc evolutionary explanations. Go back a few hundred years and life was tough for everybody everywhere

    “Go back a few hundred years and life was tough for everybody everywhere.”

    True, but Japan was agricultural and produced surplus food that allowed more to survive and pass down genes.

    In Mongolia, the population couldn’t grow beyond a certain point due to scarcities and men & women had to prove their worth by tough activities like in Wolf Totem.

    Farming rice is hard labor but safe labor. Even weaklings could do it. Look at Seven Samurai. But weaklings cannot ride around like Genghis Khan and punch yaks and wolves.

    Read More
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  22. DavidB says:

    According to the stats here http://www.averageheight.co/average-male-height-by-country/ the average male height in Mongolia (presumably the independent part) is actually lower than in Japan. But I guess their physique – sturdy but flexible – is otherwise suitable for Sumo. They are also very successful in Judo. Great height is not in itself very useful in Sumo, since it tends to raise the centre of gravity. I remember there was a very tall Japanese Yokozuna (grand champion) called Futohaguro, but he did not do very well and was forced to retire.

    Read More
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  23. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    I’ve been following japanese grand sumo for decades and in my observation the present mongolian grip on the top of the ranking is purely the result of group strategy. The way it happens is that whenever a talented mongolian puts himself in the position for a leap (keeping a sanyaku rank, becoming an Ozeki, the second highest rank, or wining a tournament, for example,) there always appear a breach in the “wall,” in the form of one mongolian yokozuna suddenly developing an injury and another mongolian yokozuna losing a fight he wouldn’t. But whenever a japanese wrestler is in the threshold of a big leap, the yokozuna wall goes with full force againt him. In fact, even the japanese rikishi become incensed against their own “nail that is putting its head above,” adding further complication.

    This is a very subtle process, it is impossible to spot it through statistics alone, but if you have legitimate interest, just watch the full tournament won by mongolian Terunofuji (now an Ozeki) and watch how the yokozuna wall adjusts for Terunofuji to pass through it. Observe when it was that Hakuho put his supposed injury on subtle display (and so an excuse,) observe when Harumafuji loses and when he wins, observe how the other contenders, the non mongolian ones, find the wall completely intact nonetheless. For such group strategy to succeed, once the pretender got himself in a situation when he dependes solely on the fellow mongolians, only very few smart wins and losses are necessary. And to show that they mean business, watch mongolian giant Ichinojo receive killer slaps from Hakuho which to the innocent eye seem rather “antimongolian” but are in fact the result of Hakuho’s exasperation at Ichinojo constantly failing to put himself in the golden spot from which the effect of group strategy is plausibly deniable.

    The fact is, Asashoryu, the first mongolian yokozuna, was extremely lucky in his run to the top, because the other yokozunas were mostly injured (and that is why he stayed the sole competing yokozuna for so long, with Takanohana intai – retired – and Hawaiian Musashimaru injured, making his few last appearances.) Asashoryu was only partially a team player, in the sense that he would not facilitate things for Hakuho himself to move up, but with his immense wrestling talent (and much steroids, probably the cause of the indomitable rage that eventually got him expelled) would demolish any non mongolian threatening to win a tournament. Once Asashoryu and Hakuho got to the top, the yokozuna wall became virtually impenetrable, until the other mongolians Ama (Harumafuji) and later Kakuryu (and probably Terunofuji in the near future, bar injury) needed a breach.

    One thing that must be considered is that the meaning of hierarchy to the japanese is capital. No japanese rikishi develop to full potential before reaching the yokozuna rank. Whereas to a foreigner, wining an eventual fight against a high ranking opponent in strange lands is enough for developing great self confidence. That’s why it appears that the japanese Ozeki are inferior to the mongolians. They are not. At least not inferior than Harumafuji and Kakuryu. They are just not confident enough to win a tournament. Unfortunately, the wining group strategy of the mongolians, and the self-defeating chase against their own, puts a double wall on the japanese. But make no mistake, Ozeki Kisenosato is indeed better than were both estonian Baruto and Bulgarian Kotooshu, though he hasn’t a single tournment under his belt (mawashi,) to show for it. He just have to face the full mongolian wall, the full japanese wall and the full media expectation wall, whenever he approaches a tournament win.

    Also, japanese Ozeki Kotoshogiku tournament win was fixed. You can notice by the level of confidence he showed in the final bouts and the sudden ineptitude that befell the mongolians. Kotoshogiku is good, but unidimensional. No way he woud win a tournament like that. It was a ten years relief Sumo Kyokai operation.

    To sum things up, two extraordinary wrestlers, Asashoryu first (with lots of luck, nonetheless,) and Hakuho, got themselves in a position of power to deny tournament wins, which they applied merciless to the japanese contenders, but not so much to the fellow mongolians, precisely at the time they needed it. The polite japanese pretend that isn’t happening for fear of being called racist and because they think japanese Ozeki should gambarize and overcome any hurdle, after all each bout is won or lost by a wrestler alone, not by a group.

    By the way, whenever a commentator on sumo strongly denies the existence of a mongolian group strategy, do check his origins. You will find how intentionally (and innocently looking) blind some are, that have themselves more group strategy on their side than they would admit, and have every interest in saying that group strategy in sumo is, as everywhere else a local majority is being fooled by an informed minority, a conspiracy theory. That too is worth a study.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Bill Jones
    And that's why we like Unz.com: no matter how obscure the topic there's always someone who proves to be expert.
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  24. anon says: • Disclaimer

    ironic that immigration should provide so much evidence for hbd

    chiyonofuji will always be my fave though

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  25. slumber_j says:

    Japanese sumo wrestling has perhaps the oldest dataset of professional sports statistics in the world, going back to 1761. (English thoroughbred racing pedigree tables are of similar antiquity[...]

    As I recall, cricket records go back to the 18th c. too, although I can’t tell how far from a cursory Googling. Wikipedia’s “History of Cricket” entry says, “Scorecards began to be kept on a regular basis from 1772[...].” So pretty similar from what I can tell.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Chrisnonymous
    See also, Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan, which has a chapter on sumo. Sumo is an ancient practice, but its modern form as an organized sport is not. I read the book quite a long time ago and don't recall now whether the chapter on sumo would contradict Steve's claim or not, but I'm not sure it's correct.
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  26. @dsgntd_plyr
    More HBD Sports:
    "How and why the Australian pipeline to American football works"
    http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/5/11/11549982/australian-punters-kickers-nfl-ncaa-football?_ga=1.202467794.2143810475.1463182836

    The article says it's nurture. Australians grow up playing Aussie Rules/Rugby Union/Rugby League. All sports where almost all players must kick an oblong ball.

    There are American football camps in Australia, and Jim Harbaugh is sending a bunch of Michigan assistants there in June: http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/5/10/11654180/michigan-australia-football-camp

    I always wondered why college coaches didn't go to rugby playing countries for talent.

    There have been attempts but usually the rugby players forgo the potential money to remain in rugby. I recall when young Jonah Lomu (6’5″ 260) burst onto the scene in 1994 playing sevens rugby and later playing wing (a “skills position” in football speak) for the All Blacks he was coveted by many NFL teams for obvious reasons but remained in rugby. He was usually the fastest player on the pitch, and so big that tackling him was near impossible. (1994 was about the time when the amateur era ended in Rugby Union and the Professional era began).

    Unfortunately Jonah died this November past from complications of his Kidney disease which plagued him throughout his career.

    Sort of related to your question is that the prevalence of Football in the United States inhibits the development of an internationally competitive American rugby union side. The games are just so similar in the body types and athletic qualities that they require that the top level of those athletes chose football (and the prospects of athletic scholarships and professional paydays).

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  27. @slumber_j

    Japanese sumo wrestling has perhaps the oldest dataset of professional sports statistics in the world, going back to 1761. (English thoroughbred racing pedigree tables are of similar antiquity[...]
     
    As I recall, cricket records go back to the 18th c. too, although I can't tell how far from a cursory Googling. Wikipedia's "History of Cricket" entry says, "Scorecards began to be kept on a regular basis from 1772[...]." So pretty similar from what I can tell.

    See also, Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan, which has a chapter on sumo. Sumo is an ancient practice, but its modern form as an organized sport is not. I read the book quite a long time ago and don’t recall now whether the chapter on sumo would contradict Steve’s claim or not, but I’m not sure it’s correct.

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  28. Brutusale says:

    An island with 65,000 people has 30 of its residents playing a game at the top of the professional pyramid.

    What HBD?

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  29. I had a Mongolian exchange student. The redneck kids loved him- he was strong as an ox, edgy, and over the top. His favorite English expression was to holler out “That’s fucked up!”

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  30. gruff says:
    @Sean the Neon Caucasian
    1998...? Good Lord, there's been a number of foreigners at the top of the sumo heap since then. Little late to the game here, Sailor.

    You can’t expect him to be constantly keeping track of everything.

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  31. Mongolians. Always causing trouble.

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  32. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    South Park: Stupid Mongolians

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  33. TWS says:
    @Anonymous
    There's also women's sumo, if you're into big girls:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0elJ4V35KAw

    There is no women’s sumo. There are women pretending to do sumo. Women are not even allowed to touch the ring. They are entirely excluded.

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  34. @rod1963
    Bingo.

    Primitive and nomadic societies are hard on the weak and feeble. You either pull your weight or you die.

    That weeds out all but the strongest and toughest over the centuries.

    It's no wonder that Mongolia provides a large talent pool from which Sumo stables can draw from.

    It’s also why Swedish women are so good looking: a couple of centuries of the vikings roaming around Europe taking all the best looking women home with them gives you a pretty good looking gene pool.

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  35. @Anonymous
    I've been following japanese grand sumo for decades and in my observation the present mongolian grip on the top of the ranking is purely the result of group strategy. The way it happens is that whenever a talented mongolian puts himself in the position for a leap (keeping a sanyaku rank, becoming an Ozeki, the second highest rank, or wining a tournament, for example,) there always appear a breach in the "wall," in the form of one mongolian yokozuna suddenly developing an injury and another mongolian yokozuna losing a fight he wouldn't. But whenever a japanese wrestler is in the threshold of a big leap, the yokozuna wall goes with full force againt him. In fact, even the japanese rikishi become incensed against their own "nail that is putting its head above," adding further complication.

    This is a very subtle process, it is impossible to spot it through statistics alone, but if you have legitimate interest, just watch the full tournament won by mongolian Terunofuji (now an Ozeki) and watch how the yokozuna wall adjusts for Terunofuji to pass through it. Observe when it was that Hakuho put his supposed injury on subtle display (and so an excuse,) observe when Harumafuji loses and when he wins, observe how the other contenders, the non mongolian ones, find the wall completely intact nonetheless. For such group strategy to succeed, once the pretender got himself in a situation when he dependes solely on the fellow mongolians, only very few smart wins and losses are necessary. And to show that they mean business, watch mongolian giant Ichinojo receive killer slaps from Hakuho which to the innocent eye seem rather "antimongolian" but are in fact the result of Hakuho's exasperation at Ichinojo constantly failing to put himself in the golden spot from which the effect of group strategy is plausibly deniable.

    The fact is, Asashoryu, the first mongolian yokozuna, was extremely lucky in his run to the top, because the other yokozunas were mostly injured (and that is why he stayed the sole competing yokozuna for so long, with Takanohana intai - retired - and Hawaiian Musashimaru injured, making his few last appearances.) Asashoryu was only partially a team player, in the sense that he would not facilitate things for Hakuho himself to move up, but with his immense wrestling talent (and much steroids, probably the cause of the indomitable rage that eventually got him expelled) would demolish any non mongolian threatening to win a tournament. Once Asashoryu and Hakuho got to the top, the yokozuna wall became virtually impenetrable, until the other mongolians Ama (Harumafuji) and later Kakuryu (and probably Terunofuji in the near future, bar injury) needed a breach.

    One thing that must be considered is that the meaning of hierarchy to the japanese is capital. No japanese rikishi develop to full potential before reaching the yokozuna rank. Whereas to a foreigner, wining an eventual fight against a high ranking opponent in strange lands is enough for developing great self confidence. That's why it appears that the japanese Ozeki are inferior to the mongolians. They are not. At least not inferior than Harumafuji and Kakuryu. They are just not confident enough to win a tournament. Unfortunately, the wining group strategy of the mongolians, and the self-defeating chase against their own, puts a double wall on the japanese. But make no mistake, Ozeki Kisenosato is indeed better than were both estonian Baruto and Bulgarian Kotooshu, though he hasn't a single tournment under his belt (mawashi,) to show for it. He just have to face the full mongolian wall, the full japanese wall and the full media expectation wall, whenever he approaches a tournament win.

    Also, japanese Ozeki Kotoshogiku tournament win was fixed. You can notice by the level of confidence he showed in the final bouts and the sudden ineptitude that befell the mongolians. Kotoshogiku is good, but unidimensional. No way he woud win a tournament like that. It was a ten years relief Sumo Kyokai operation.

    To sum things up, two extraordinary wrestlers, Asashoryu first (with lots of luck, nonetheless,) and Hakuho, got themselves in a position of power to deny tournament wins, which they applied merciless to the japanese contenders, but not so much to the fellow mongolians, precisely at the time they needed it. The polite japanese pretend that isn't happening for fear of being called racist and because they think japanese Ozeki should gambarize and overcome any hurdle, after all each bout is won or lost by a wrestler alone, not by a group.

    By the way, whenever a commentator on sumo strongly denies the existence of a mongolian group strategy, do check his origins. You will find how intentionally (and innocently looking) blind some are, that have themselves more group strategy on their side than they would admit, and have every interest in saying that group strategy in sumo is, as everywhere else a local majority is being fooled by an informed minority, a conspiracy theory. That too is worth a study.

    And that’s why we like Unz.com: no matter how obscure the topic there’s always someone who proves to be expert.

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  36. @Mr. Jones
    This is very plausible for a few reasons.

    -The Mongolians are the only east-Asian ethnic group that consume a lot of dairy. The Mongolian diet is essentially meat and milk -- very high in protein and minerals.

    -Mongolian children often work on the family ranch, and are expected to pitch in when labor is needed. They stay active -- get a lot of sun and exercise. (I've seen four-year olds competently riding horses and watching the family farm in rural Mongolia, which surprised me!) This as opposed to Japanese kids who spend all day in school, and all evening at after-school lessons.

    -Mongolian culture values physical strength and toughness. In Ulaan Baatar, there are plenty of weightlifting gyms -- much more, per capita, than Japan.

    Hands down, the greatest horsemen in the world. Children start riding horses when they’re 3 years old. No wonder Temujin a/k/a Genghis Khan and the boys nearly conquered the entire Eurasian landmass.

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  37. I hope to God they don’t take over American Jello Wrestling.

    https://local.yahoo.com/info-169654990-jello-wrestling-federation-st-charles

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  38. Japanese who go into sumo do so because they are big, fat kids who aren’t really suited to any other sport played in Japan. Mongolians think being a wrestler is a way to show that you’re an athletic badass, and possibly get rich at the same time.

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  39. M says:

    I think actually Mongolians tend to be somewhat shorter than Chinese and Japanese.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25907729 – “The body height of Han boys might be higher than that of Mongolia boys”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26081544

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11434-014-0664-0

    http://xuebao.bjmu.edu.cn/fileup/PDF/201547414.pdf (170.88 cm is not a tall average male height compared to other East Asians)

    However, wrestling is much more popular in Mongolia than Japan.

    Plus IRC, healthy BMI is higher –

    http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v28/n1/full/0802486a.html“Since the relationship between abdominal fat mass and BMI is ethnic-specific, a universal BMI cutoff point is inappropriate for Asian populations such as the Japanese and Mongolians. The present investigation suggests that, while the WPRO criteria” (the specifically written East Asian BMI cutoffs, based on lower lean mass to fat in East Asians) “are suitable for Japanese, the WHO criteria” (designed with Western populations in mind) “are more appropriate for Mongolians.”.

    So could be some HBD, could be some non HBD going on here.

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    I think actually Mongolians tend to be somewhat shorter than Chinese and Japanese.
     
    Yes, Mongolians are actually short (and sometimes stocky) people. But as someone else pointed out, they are much more pastoralist and dairy-consuming than other East Asians.

    Some Westerners who lived in Korea visited Mongolia and described Mongolian women as "shorter Korean women with breasts."
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  40. Olorin says:
    @Spmoore8
    They should import some Finns. Suomi Sumo writes itself.

    Yeah, it would happen in a sauna at 220 F while sitting bare-assed on nests of ants. And drinking Karjala beer the whole time.

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  41. Twinkie says:

    For those of you who want to know more about Sumo (complete with gif clips):

    http://fightland.vice.com/blog/sumo-the-art-of-six-second-fighting

    https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/kotoshogiku-the-japanese-ozeki-who-could

    And Mongolian folk wrestling (for Japanese audiences):

    Finally, Korean folk wrestling:

    As you can see, although some of the specific rules differ and result in different dynamics of play, they do share many similarities.

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  42. Twinkie says:
    @M
    I think actually Mongolians tend to be somewhat shorter than Chinese and Japanese.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25907729 - "The body height of Han boys might be higher than that of Mongolia boys"

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26081544

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11434-014-0664-0

    http://xuebao.bjmu.edu.cn/fileup/PDF/201547414.pdf (170.88 cm is not a tall average male height compared to other East Asians)

    However, wrestling is much more popular in Mongolia than Japan.

    Plus IRC, healthy BMI is higher -

    http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v28/n1/full/0802486a.html - "Since the relationship between abdominal fat mass and BMI is ethnic-specific, a universal BMI cutoff point is inappropriate for Asian populations such as the Japanese and Mongolians. The present investigation suggests that, while the WPRO criteria" (the specifically written East Asian BMI cutoffs, based on lower lean mass to fat in East Asians) "are suitable for Japanese, the WHO criteria" (designed with Western populations in mind) "are more appropriate for Mongolians.".

    So could be some HBD, could be some non HBD going on here.

    I think actually Mongolians tend to be somewhat shorter than Chinese and Japanese.

    Yes, Mongolians are actually short (and sometimes stocky) people. But as someone else pointed out, they are much more pastoralist and dairy-consuming than other East Asians.

    Some Westerners who lived in Korea visited Mongolia and described Mongolian women as “shorter Korean women with breasts.”

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  43. RolfDan says:
    @Chrisnonymous
    Mongolia is the black ghetto of East Asia. There is nothing to do there, a culture of machismo, and strong desire to do something to get by. So there is a more hunger, and I suspect there is a lot of recruiting effort too.

    The real problem sumo has is not HBD, it's the fact that the Japanese won't restrict competitors to Japanese, the sport's natural ethnicity.

    If it ever gets Olympified, like judo, I'll puke.

    I don’t think Mongolia can be compared to a black ghetto. They once controlled Central Asia, China, Russian, even parts of Europe and the Middle East. Their IQ is 101, not bad for an undeveloped country. I can see an analogy with Scandinavia with the warrior culture and age of migration etc.

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  44. […] Benjamin Morris looks at the internationalization of Sumo Wrestling. Uncle Steve comments. […]

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  45. […] mental variation between humans. It uses the language of genetics to underscore, for example, the prevalence of Mongolians in sumo wrestling, the IQ scores of black people or the inbreeding patterns of Ashkenazi Jews. The refrain of HBD […]

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