Audiences watched as sumo wrestlers battled it out last month at Sumo + Sushi at the WaMu Theater. Sumo is the national sport of Japan and dates back to 800 A.D.
Standing toe to toe with a three-time U.S. Sumo Open champion and third-place heavyweight in the world, Ashleigh Lansing sounded confident.
The emcee asked how she had prepared for the match.
Lansing said she’d been doing yoga.
Not completely true — she also walks and jogs daily.
But Lansing only weighs 110 pounds. Roy Sims weighs 380.
She’s 5 feet 2 inches tall. He’s 6-foot-6.
He played defensive tackle at Fresno State and then a stint in the Arena Football League.
Lansing is a forensic accountant.
Sims had already completed a six-match round-robin exhibition with two other champion sumo wrestlers — 500-pound Ramy Elgazar from Egypt and 370-pound Byamba Ulambayar from Mongolia. This was at Sumo + Sushi at the WaMu Theater.
Lansing’s ticket was among those allowing a few fans to get into the ring for the finale, if they wished. Five others took the challenge.
Most sumo matches last less than 20 seconds.
Lansing quickly tried to push Sims out of the ring.
She strained. Nothing moved.
He lifted her up and looked like he would fling her across the ring like a Frisbee.
“I felt completely weightless,” Lansing would say afterward.
Back on the ground she grabbed his left leg, straining, pushing harder.
Sims backed up and one of his feet left the ring.
Victory for the smaller opponent.
Sumo wrestling is the national sport in Japan, dating back to 800 A.D.
“It’s way more than two fat guys pushing each other,” said John Toigo, a sumo from California who came to watch the matches.
Wrestlers are up at 5 a.m. to begin strict training regimens. Winning is often about agility and balance.
Even the heavyweights have remarkable flexibility. These sumos can do splits, legs straight out at a 90-degree angle to their body.
Byamba can put his forehead on the ground. He’s a four-time world champ and the most dominant sumo of the decade.
To fit his quarter-ton frame into a vehicle, Ramy drives a Cadillac Escalade. But, he also likes to ride motorcycles.
The sport has been slow to change. In Japan, women are not even allowed in the ring.
But, elsewhere there are now female sumo wrestlers. But none are as light as Lansing. Nayanarashi Karawita from Sri Lanka is the heaviest at 336 pounds.
In this month’s U.S. Sumo Open in Long Beach, California, 21 women from a half-dozen countries will compete, including representatives from Mongolia, Sweden and India.
They wear their mawashi belts atop leotards or singlets.
In sumo, it’s OK to slap your opponent, pull their mawashi or swipe them off their feet with a leg move. It’s not OK to punch, kick or pull an opponent’s hair.
And one thing that’s common in other sports is not allowed anywhere in sumo: trash talking.