January 27, 2012

Ready, Get Set …Sumo!

We get 6 weeks off for winter break – but it goes by in a flash when you spend most of it in a country 6,735 miles away.

As I sit here on the couch of my friend’s off campus apartment while cheering on the New York Giants and eating honey bbq wings, random thoughts pop into my head like:

Where should I have my birthday dinner next week?
I really have to take down my Christmas decorations in my apartment
Tomorrow is our LAST first day of classes ever
I need to write a thank you letter to my externship host
I can’t believe that Blake Constanzo (#51) who I met at Lafayette is playing in this game right now
I need to pay my electric bill
This sport of football is 100% American.
 

My train of thought may not be so straightforward, but thinking about the American national sport only reminded me of my winter break when I went to see the Japanese national sport with my sister in Tokyo – Sumo wrestling.

Because I have family there, I often visit to keep my grandparents happy. This time around, I finally got tickets to the Grand Sumo Wrestling Tournament, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Each one of these huge, but incredibly strong wrestlers had a dignified swagger. They are notorious for their excessive size and weight, but I learned that there was a reason and purpose to it. These wrestlers are professionally trained athletes who devote their entire lives to the sport.

 

At first, watching these nearly naked oversized men wrestle was a bit astonishing and uneasy. However, once you start to understand what is happening, it becomes absolutely fascinating and surprisingly intense. I always pictured sumo wrestlers moving in slow motion at a snail’s pace, but seeing them in action completely changed that misconception.

The actual length of a sumo match can be over in a matter of seconds. The basic goal is to force your opponent to either step out of the ring, or touch the ground with anything but the soles of his feet. It is not just pushing your opponent as hard as you can, and hoping he steps out of the circle. To an untrained eye, it looks like a random flurry of pushing and grappling, but their moves are carefully calculated. This type of wrestling without weight classes only make trained skills and technique that much more pivotal.

 

The sumo competition is full of ancient rituals and history. It is a combination of a form of highly stylized performance art and a competitive sport. As soon as I took one step in the Kokugikan stadium I felt a sense of great tradition and pride. All of the officials were dressed as if they were in a Kabuki play.

Sumo wrestling, like American football in the US, is widely televised in Japan. As most people know, watching a professional sport live is a totally different experience. Anytime I can be a part of exciting competition, I truly enjoy it and soak it up.

Now that I am back on campus, I look forward to Lafayette’s basketball season where as a cheerleader, I get the best seats in the house – the sidelines.

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