Archive for category wrestling

Sumo Wrestling Is Stupifying

a tad large

a tad large

There are many impressive aspects in sumo wrestling, which I saw during my trip last month to Japan. First I should explain that the sport originated centuries ago…I read in the 16th century, but one video says it’s been 1000 years.

Two men inside a circle defined on the ground attempt to make their opponent either step outside of that ring or touch the ground inside the ring with any body part other than the soles of his foot. The contest is often over in a few seconds. And it is totally captivating.

After attending my first tournament, I was addicted to watching it on TV. I was fortunate to be there during one of the six major contests a year, each one lasting 15 days. There are many ceremonial traditions involving grunts, foot stomps, salt throwing and praying to the gods for victory.

It is also a very demanding sport, as each wrestler chooses to train with a particular stable that insists on unbelievably strenuous conditions. In some recent cases, the school was so punishing to a wrestler that he died from being beaten. Even the highest level champions have to adhere to the rules of their stable.

Shocking also is how heavy the wrestlers are. The ideal weight for a pro sumo wrestler is anything from 400 to 600 pounds! But you would be amazed how deft and graceful the wrestlers are in spite of their bulk.

Not surprisingly, eating is an essential part of their training. A typical sumo wrestler eats a daily diet of 20,000 calories, which is pretty astounding when you consider that the recommended daily intake for a healthy, active male is 2,500. They eat 10 times what a normal male eats and all of it’s done in two massive 10,000-calorie meals.

There are also amateur contests in which the lightest class cannot exceed 143 pounds.

The video below shows all the preliminary and post-bout ceremonial activities. Jump right to 5:40 if you want to see just the bout.

Each wrestler competes against another of comparable skill. However sometimes there is a clear favorite who loses to the underdog, and when this happens, the fans throw their seat cushions towards the ring. I witnessed this response, and all I could see is other fans being hit in their heads with the cushions. Also interesting is that favorites have fans acting as cheerleaders who scream in unison and wear identical clothing.

The video below is an excellent compilation of just many bouts. Notice the beautiful costumes of the different referees.

It is all very exciting.

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Major Mongolian Sports

The Naadam festival is the biggest festival of the year for Mongolians. Usually occurring in July, it runs for three days in all parts of the country and highlights the greatest athletes in horse racing, archery, and wrestling: Mongolia’s most popular sports. Women participate in all but the wrestling category. The word Naadam means game or competition in Mongolian. Competitions take place on the first two days, and merry-making is reserved for the third.

This festival has been held for centuries as a form of memorial celebration, as an annual sacrificial ritual honoring various mountain gods or to celebrate a community endeavor.

soldiers participate in the opening ceremony in Ulaan Bataar

soldiers participate in the opening ceremony in Ulaan Bataar

The festivities kick off with a colorful parade of athletes, monks, soldiers marching in perfect uniformity, musicians performing powerful military tunes, and Mongolians dressed in Chinggis-style warrior uniforms.


Mongolians have a high regard for horses, which they have relied on for centuries for transport, sustenance, and companionship. During the races, up to 1,000 horses can be chosen to compete. The horse races are broken down into six categories based on the age of the horses. For example, two-year-old horses race for 10 miles and seven-year-olds for 17 miles. The race is conducted on the open grasslands with no set track or course. Children from the ages of 5 to 13 are chosen as jockeys, because this guarantees that the race tests the horses’ skill and not the riders.

18 mile race, no saddles, jockeys all under 13 years old

18 mile race, no saddles, jockeys all under 13 years old

The small size of the jockeys also increases the horses’ endurance. Even still, jockeys train for months before Naadam, and the horses are given a special diet. The winning jockey is praised with the title tumny ekh or “leader of ten thousand” and the five winning horses are talked about and revered in poetry and music. The losing two-year-old horse is also alloted special attention by being serenaded with a song. Music is very important before the race too, as the audience sings traditional songs and the the jockeys sing a pre-race song called a gingo.

Eating and drinking is the other “sport” during the Naadam festival. The horse races are held in the steppes, behind people who stop to drink tea and airag, fermented mares’ milk, cold meat pancakes, and other popular festival foods.


The wrestling competitions begin around noon on the first day of the festival and end on the second day. They are quite unlike American wrestling matches in form, and they have two other important differences. First, there are no weight divisions. A small wrestler can be pitted against someone two times his weight. This can lead to some very interesting matches. Second, there are no time limits.

The loser of a match is the wrestler who falls first. A fall is when any part of a wrestler’s body, except his hands or feet, touches the ground.

colorful and traditional wrestling at Naadam

colorful and traditional wrestling at Naadam

Titles are given to winners of a number of rounds: Falcon to those winning five rounds, Elephant for seven rounds, and Lion to the one winning the whole tournament.

One elite wrestler was once given the title “Eye-Pleasing Nationally Famous Mighty and Invincible Giant.” Wrestlers honor the judges and their attendants with a dance called devekh, or eagle dance. The winner also performs the eagle dance after the loser of the bout takes off his jacket and walks under the winner’s arm. Wrestlers wear small, over-the-shoulder vests called zodog, and snug shorts called shuudag. The heavy, traditional Mongolian boots are called gutuls.


The sport of archery originated around the 11th century. Contestants dress in traditional costumes and use a bent bow constructed of horn, bark, and wood. The arrows, made from willow branches and vulture feathers are shot at round, leather targets with grey, yellow or red rings. Men must stand 75 meters and women 60 meters from the target. Judges, standing near the targets, assess each shot with a cry, called a uukhai, and a raised hand. The winning archer, or mergen, is the one who hits the targets the most times. As close as the judges stand to the targets, none of them appears to ever be hit by an arrow.


Incidentally one of the advantages the Mongols had during their conquests is that their double-curved bows were made of many components and different materials and could launch an arrow farther (500 yards), faster and more powerfully (can penetrate steel armor) than the famous single-curved, English longbow (350 yards) used by other cultures. This meant they could decimate their enemies without risking a response. The Mongol bow is harder to draw, so men had to develop upper-body strength from boyhood. They also learned how to shoot from a horse in any direction, even facing backwards.

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Nico Calabria Inspires With Just One Leg

Meet Nico Calabria, a senior at Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts who was born with one leg. But despite only having a left leg, Calabria is co-captain of the school’s junior varsity soccer team along with the varsity wrestling team. In a game against Newton South, Calabria scored one of Concord’s nine goals with an amazing volley that would have been difficult for every player on the field.

Concord-Carlisle was given a corner kick and Calabria stationed himself on crutches by the far post just outside the box. The ball sailed past the goal where Calabria planted his crutches, turned his body and connected with a scissor-kick to put the ball in the back of the net.

But if you think that highlight is amazing, you should probably check out the documentary called “Nico’s Challenge,” a story about how Calabria climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at age 13. Kilimanjaro. 13 years old. One leg.

In 2007, he went on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show and explained that he climbed the mountain to raise money for kids in Africa who need wheelchairs.

If the goal just didn’t do it for you (not sure how that’s possible), check out Calabria’s domination in wrestling below:

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