Sunday, January 15, 2006

Big Time Sumo

Who knew that watching hours of nasty, obese, sweaty, half-naked, thong-wearing Japanese men could be so much fun? I officially love sumo.

My family ventured out to day eight of the new year's sumo tournament in Tokyo and it was amazing. There are only a handful of tournaments a year, so these fights are quite popular and the stadium was sold out. The matches are short, but intense and violent (much more violent than I expected), and sumo has a great deal of tradition and ceremony that is fascinating to watch, if not a little difficult to understand at times. Often there will be several minutes of salt throwing, squatting, leg lifting, chest slapping and intimidating staring before a fight starts, and sometimes they are over in as little as 5 seconds.

There are many different ways to win a fight - each one with a special Japanese name - but it seems like pretty much anything goes to win...slamming, slapping, grabbing, shoving, pushing, lifting and, my favourite, flipping. You just have to get your oponent to either step out of the ring or to have him touch the ground inside the ring with any portion of his body other than his feet.

In the subway station we saw a young wrestler from the tournament getting off the train to walk to his fight. I was surprised to see that he arrived by subway, but I guess you have to get to the arena somehow. I was told that some of the more established wrestlers catch a cab to the game and only a few of the more senior ones have drivers. Can you imagine Sidney Crosby arriving to an NHL game by bus?

Later, I walked down to the first bowl to get a few photos and the more junior wrestlers who had just competed were hanging around in their sumo hair and robes, watching the bouts and eating popcorn (is that part of their training diet?). I talked to one who said that he had won his fight. I considered showing him "the backpack", my signature wrestling move for his next fight (the backpack involves jumping onto your oponent's back, strapping your arms around their shoulders and wrapping your legs around their waste in backpack-like fashion) but thought that perhaps he might not understand it. I mean, first there is the language barrier and second, it is a pretty complex and avant-guarde move. I'm not sure sumo is ready for the backpack.

After watching a few of the lesser known junior wrestlers enter the building we took our seats and watched hours and hours of sumo (thankfully there was English commentary on radios you could rent). The senior fights opened with a novice wrestler, who had just moved up to the senior ranking, taking on a vetran that was twice his size and considerably more experienced. It was so exciting to see this little guy trounce the vetran, flipping him over his shoulder off the mat and into the crowd, both of them landing on top of a tiny Japanese woman in the front row. You should have seen the first aid team scurrying to help her.

We also got to see the popular high ranking Bulgarian sumo wrestler destroy the Mongolian we were cheering for (my brother, mom and aunt and uncle met him at the sumo practice a few weeks ago - no one knew that he was so highly ranked!). And we ate...and ate...and ate...and ate some more. It was just like a hockey game, although without the rock music, organ, advertising or half-time shows (although the Japanese are much more reserved, but they do get quite drunk just like at the Leafs game). They even had the souvenir stands with photos of sumo stars, chocolate sumo wrestlers and mini bobblehead-like dolls of the top guys.

So be warned. I picked up a few new wrestling moves of my own here in Tokyo at the match. I am now more than just "the backpack". You had better be prepared for my return home. I'm ready to kick some ass, Sumo styles.


Blogger tranny said...

You go Sumo Rollins. Show off some of your hockey moves.

Rollins, your posting is no doubt creative and funny. Have a safe journey.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Krystyne said...

Hahahah!!! I am fully expecting to see these "moves" in your returning season as a Viking. Next time Kathy gets her a$$ in trouble with one of the "gals" on the opposing team I'd like to see some of the talent. I hope you plan on bringing it Rollins.... Oh yahhhhhhh babeeee!!! Tee hee.

7:56 PM  

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