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Saturday, March 1, 2003

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Tips on teaching yourself sumo at home


The sumo world is being turned upside down, so to speak, with the recently retired yokozunas (grand champions) and the proliferation of foreigners reaching high ranks in the sport. The first foreign-born yokozuna was Akebono (born in Hawaii), followed by Musashimaru (born in Hawaii) and Asashoryu, from Mongolia. Konishiki, also Hawaiian-born, achieved ozeki (champion) status. Even foreign women are wanting to join sumo now. Including me.

So I have made a course, "Teach Yourself Sumo at Home," which gives simple answers to questions about sumo and includes tips for aspiring yokozuna:

What are the rules of sumo? Sumo is so brief and straight to the point, it almost doesn't seem Japanese. The first to either push the other outside of the "dohyo" (ring), or to cause the opponent to touch any part of his body to the ground other than the bottom of the foot, wins. This all happens within seconds, a minute or two at most. Tip: Sumo can be practiced at home to settle disputes such as who has to take out the "sodai gomi."

Why are the sumo wrestlers so fat? First of all, they are not fat, they are "weighty." Don't be so insensitive. The weightier the "rikishi" (wrestler) is, the harder he is to topple. Lately, wrestlers have become so weighty, some at over 180 kg, that the rikishi are fraught with injuries and the sport is claimed to be more about weight and less about skill. Yes, it's all about food. Tip: At home, move the sofa into the kitchen.

So just how do they achieve such weightiness? By eating a special food called "chanko nabe," which I suspect is really "chunk o' nabe pot." If you think about it, there has got to be something more to chanko nabe than just those nutritious Japanese ingredients such as cabbage, eggs, bean sprouts, tofu, radish, soybean paste, "chikuwa" and "mochi" -- typical ingredients in chanko nabe. Eating chunks of the pot, on the other hand, would add an element of cement and weight that would surely be advantageous in the ring, not to mention keeping their teeth strong. Tip: At home, add large bags of sour cream 'n' onion potato chips to your chanko nabe.

What is that loincloth made of? That's not a loincloth -- it's a "mawashi"! It's made of silk from the largest silkworms in the world. If you want to make one for yourself at home, cut it to measure 9 meters long and 60 cm wide, then fold it in six and wrap it up to seven times around your waist. Those thingies dangling from the mawashi are there for decoration. Nothing like a little fashion among great muscled heaving. Tip: For women, I suggest nixing the frilly dangling thingies and instead changing the mawashi color to pastel.

Why do the sumo wrestlers stomp before the match? They're taking part in the "dohyo-iri" ceremony performed by the yokozuna. First, he claps his hands together to call to the gods, then he extends his hands outward, palms open, showing he has no weapons (except his body), and then stomps to drive evil from the dohyo. Tip: Safe to try at home as long as no one is looking.

Why do the wrestlers stare at each other before the bout? They're taking part in "shikiri," or ritual staring. They're trying to size the other guy up and fill the crowd with anticipation. Tip: If you have no one to fight at home, stare at a stationary object such as a TV. Affix the mawashi to it.

What techniques do they use to fight? Rikishi can use one of approximately 70 different such as pushing, shoving and slapping. Tip: Before starting, make sure your mawashi is tightly secured.

There is one rule I forgot to mention: if the wrestler loses his mawashi, he loses the bout. Imagine the embarrassment of losing to your TV!

Check out Amy Chavez's new column, "Parents Do the Strangest Things," at www.amychavez.com.


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