Photos: Sumo!

Sumo wrestling is often associated with two fat men in loin clothes trying to shove each other outside of the ring.  But it is more than that.  Sumo is heavy in ritual – and the athletes, while obese, are still athletes with strength and endurance.

Saturday night, G took me to a Living Social event called Sushi & Sumo.  Food, drinks, and sumo in an intimate setting at a neat venue.  It was quite good – and the goal of the wrestlers, I think, was to make sumo accessible by explaining the sport.  There were three Sumo wrestlers – Kelly Gneiting, the oldest of the three from the US who is also holds the record for the largest man to finish a marathon (3 times),  Yamamotoyama, a retired Sumo wrestler known as the biggest Sumo wrestler weighing in at over 600lbs, and four time world Sumo champion Byambajav Ulambayar from Mongolia.

In short, it was awesome.  These three wrestlers have amazing personalities that lit up the night – bringing energy to the crowd who was, at times, uncertain of what to do or say.  In fact, at one point, the announcer – a lightweight sumo wrestler himself – encouraged everyone to shout whatever they wanted to.  So “sweep the leg” became a popular one.  The seven volunteers who wrestled the pros capped the night off with a hilarity that made me almost cry as I laughed at one woman’s attempt to mount Kelly in an attempt to take him down.

My only regret? I only had my cell phone.

The wrestlers take the mat
The wrestlers take the mat
The wrestlers go through a traditional warmup pre-match.
The wrestlers go through a traditional warmup pre-match.
Kelly and Byamba demonstrate a few of the moves prior to the match.
Kelly and Byamba demonstrate a few of the moves prior to the match.
Byamba and Yama in one of the wrestling matches. They did two round robins.
Byamba and Yama in one of the wrestling matches. They did two round robins.
Byamba showing you can be half the size of your opponent and still lift Yama.
Byamba showing you can be half the size of your opponent and still lift Yama.
Kelly and Byamba doing the traditional 8 step ritual prior to the start of the match.  This ritual is to show the opponent that no weapons are being hidden.
Kelly and Byamba doing the traditional 8 step ritual prior to the start of the match. This ritual is to show the opponent that no weapons are being hidden.
Four hands must be on the match before the match can begin.  Some wrestlers like Kelly go down with both hands on the mat immediately while others, like Byamba put on on the mat then use the second hand on the mat as a mind game.
Four hands must be on the match before the match can begin. Some wrestlers like Kelly go down with both hands on the mat immediately while others, like Byamba put on on the mat then use the second hand on the mat as a mind game.
This was one of the longer matches of the night.  Matches have no time limit.  They can take seconds or they can take many minutes.  If they stall out, the ref will yell encouraging words to keep them going.
This was one of the longer matches of the night. Matches have no time limit. They can take seconds or they can take many minutes. If they stall out, the ref will yell encouraging words to keep them going.
Byamba lifts Kelly in an attempt to do a sumo slam.  Sadly, I caught it, but the ref was standing in the way.
Byamba lifts Kelly in an attempt to do a sumo slam. Sadly, I caught it, but the ref was standing in the way.

What do you think?