Weighing In On The Sumo Spirit – Part 2


This is Part 2 of our two parts coverage of sumo wrestling. You can read Part 1 by clicking here.  In this part, we look at why physical size is paramount to a sumo wrestler and the amazing diet of a sumo wrestler.

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The rotund shapes of sumo wrestlers have raised more than a few eyebrows (especially since they are incongruent with modern perceptions of an athletic build), but the reason is simple: there are no weight restrictions, so a trim and lean body, when matched off with one that is many times its size, stand to lose out in a tournament. The world of sumo supremes, thus, subverts modern society’s general preoccupation with weight loss, for weight gain is a mandatory part of the training.

tym-jap-culture-sumo-wrestlers-dietConscious effort is made to slow down the sumo wrestler’s metabolism so the body will store most of the calories as fats and bulk up. This includes a daily diet of 20,000 calories, skipping breakfast, heavy consumption of beer for its empty calories, post-lunch siesta and sleeping right after dinner. Before you liken the sumo diet to the super-sized junk food diet that some of us (I, for sure, am) are guilty of, do note that contrary to popular belief, the typical sumo meal is quite healthy. A sumo staple is chankonabe, which is a stew of tofu, vegetables, fish and a choice of chicken, beef or pork. Image Source: nihongodaisuki.com

Still, it is an easy life, you may say. In reality, the sumo wrestler leads a highly regimented life, with intensive wrestling practices (usually before meal times so metabolism remains low), and when they are not honing their skills, they are expected to clean, cook, and run errands for their trainers or senior wrestlers–acts of discipline and humility synonymous with the sumo spirit. Above all, sumo wrestlers are embodiments of the Japanese virtues of honor, dignity and strength. Perhaps that is why sumo wrestlers are revered by many in Japan, while the rest of us remain fascinated with the sport. The sumo spirit, as they say, is what I will be observing on my next trip to Japan, both in terms of the Japanese virtues and, of course, a happy belly.

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Author: Catrine Carpenter

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