Determination and practice reveal the inner strength of the martial artist. There are times when the cares and worries of life may put us in difficult situations, but if we keep our goals at the forefront of our minds, blessings will follow. A great example of the priceless quality of steadfastness can be seen in the career of the infamous Chiyonofuji Mitsugu.
Born as Mitsugu Akimoto in Hokkaido, Japan is a former champion sumo wrestler and the 58th yokozuna (highest rank in sumo) of the sport. Chiyonofuji received world recognition during the mid-1970’s.
Chiyonofuji began his career in 1970, and quickly rose through the ranks, due to his skill and agility. He reached the second highest Juryo division in 1974. Sumo is divided into six ranked divisions. Wrestlers are promoted and demoted within and between these divisions based on the merit of their win/loss records in official tournaments. Juryo is the second highest division and is fixed at 28 wrestlers. It is preceded only by the rank of Makuuchi, which is the top rank and is fixed at 42 wrestlers who are ranked according to their ability, as defined by their performance in previous tournaments.
Chiyonofuji was noted for his ability to take on opponents much larger than his own size, head on. He was promoted to the top Makuuchi division in September 1975. However, due to this promotion lasted for only one tournament before being demoted again to the unsalaried ranks.
Chiyonofuji experienced setbacks due to his small frame, which placed strain on his shoulders. In 1979 Chiyonofuji fell back into the second division after winning his promotion in 1978. This caused some embarrassment for supporters of Chiyonofuji and the wrestler himself. However, he remained determined to reach the top.
Chiyonofuji took the advice of another lightweight sumo wrestler, who he was often compared with, Takanohana Kenshi. Takanohana had first come across Chiyonofuji whilst on a regional tour and encouraged him to give sumo a try. Later, he also advised Chiyonofuji to give up smoking, which helped him put on some extra weight.
After Chiyonofuji was demoted to the second division in 1979, he reassessed the pros and cons of his fighting style. He began to rely not only on throwing techniques, which increased the risk of injuring his shoulders, but also on gaining ground quickly and forcing out his opponents.
Chiyonofuji was able to achieve and cement his legendary status as one of the world’s greatest sumo wrestlers that ever lived by re-evaluating his work, taking the advice of others, while seeking new ways to improve his martial skill. After a victory in July 1981, where he defeated Kitanoumi and won his second title, he was promoted to Yokozuna.
Today, Chiyonofuji’s example of skill and persistence remains a shining herald, not only to those seeking to enter the field of sumo wrestling, but to all martial artists worldwide.