View Full Version : Question about diet

Tom D
22nd July 2003, 02:40
Alway been fasinated with the Sumo. Me being an O.R. Nurse their diet and lifestyle has always intrigued me do to the obvious health risks. So I ask anyone.
Is the Sumo diet a special diet or is it just a whole bunch of carbos and protein? Do the diffferent families have "secret" diets which they keep to themselves? I would think because of their size that a diet is very important for certain energy curves at certain parts of the day. Similar to Cyclists. Or am I just overthinking the whole thing and they just eat whatever comes by them.
ALso do they live a normal life span? Or does the obeisity get the best of them when they get older. Or do they attempt to lose all that weight when they retire.
I know here in America we get a lot of Asian folks who move to this country and live here for some years and end up on our OR table getting heart surgery do to their systems not being used to our high fat diet. Over there they eat very healthy until our country's fast food gets the best of some of them. It's to bad.
Thanks and nice idea for a forum John! Tom Duffy

22nd July 2003, 10:43
Until recently, the diet of the sumotori was pretty good. The diet generally consisted of lots and lots of rice, some meat, but mostly fish, vegetables, some pasta and lots of beer to wash it all down. In recent years, though, with other countries sending over their largest citizens and the drop off of a "healthy (this is relative. Too much of anything isn't good)" diet within the stables of Japanese rikishi, the bigger ones have not been in decent shape. Before this phenomena, and even when they got to their heaviest weight, they still looked relatively tight and muscular, and it took a long time to get there. Many were able to drop some weight after retirement.

Today, some are just, plain fat slobs, and the crowds have been shrinking because of it. People have vocably complained of the shape of the yokozuna. The addition of ex-sumotori's tales of fixed fights didn't help (one rather well-known ex-sumotori put the percentage of fixes in the 80 per cent range).

While big is important, how they look when they get there or approach the yokozuna category matters to many. Still, it is probably one of the biggest sports in Japan, and now the world. The US has a national organization of Sumo, including at least one woman, with the nod to technique rather than size being most important, and there are also world championships in amateur sumo as well.

It is an interesting sport and generally the technique must be above reproach. Matches can be over in a couple of seconds or take as long as ten minutes or more. Big doesn't always cut it as can be seen in American Sumotori and Judoka Manny Yarbrough. His record isn't stellar, even for a guy nearly 7 feet tall, weighing over six hundred pounds. He has the same problem in judo shiai, not living up to his bulk.

As to health when the career is over, carrying all that weight just can't be good for the heart and kidneys. I imagine health problems are the same as anyone who carries that kind of weight. I'm a clinical pharmacist and latey it seems diabetes mellitus is becoming pandemic in the US, with the accompanying problems of kidney failure, very high BP, medicated or not, life with the kind of damage the weight can do, even if lost, can't be good, in Japan or anywhere.

The "secret" is like anything else, practice, practice and more practice, with a modest increase in weight over the years, they do get good at what they do and are, or used to be, anyway, held in high esteem amongst the public in Japan. Things are changing, though, and recent matches I've seen, they do not look good at all. The knees are bad to begin with due to a (short) lifetime of simply walking around with that kind of weight, never mind their job. But even twenty years ago, they always seemed to be in good shape, relatively speaking, compared with those today.

Thats two cents largely made up of cheap opinion. I love sumo when it is done right. I also like boxing but neither is good for the performers. Pro-wrestling is even worse. There have been 49 deaths of wrestlers under the age of forty-five since 1996, twenty-three in 2002 alone. Their lives are a mess, usually, as the bigger and more muscle bound you are, the bigger the paycheck, and since there is no health insurance, no real help of any kind, they will do and take anything to get there. The death of a wrestler by the name of Davey-boy Smith (real name Hart) at thirty-nine is representative of that kind of career in a nutshell. He died of a massive heart attack after a "career" of abusing anabolic steroids and other drugs. His brother also died from a fall during a high falling wrestling stunt a couple of years before that.

Sumo isn't anywhere near that, but it could be if they aren't careful.


PS: Sorry for the rant

Joseph Svinth
23rd July 2003, 03:36
Some recommended reading:


Sharnoff, Lora. Grand Sumo: The Living Sport and Tradition (New York: Weatherhill, revised edition, 1993)

Kakuma, Tsutomu. Sumo Watching, translated from the Japanese by Deborah Iwabuchi (Tokyo: Yohan Publications, 1993)

Not diet related, but some articles of more specialized interest include:

http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_svinth1_0600.htm (Sumo in Japan during WWI)

http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_svinth_0202.htm (Sumo in the Pacific NW before WWII)

Mike Williams
23rd July 2003, 10:20
Originally posted by MarkF
Before this phenomena, and even when they got to their heaviest weight, they still looked relatively tight and muscular, and it took a long time to get there. Many were able to drop some weight after retirement.

It's a very recent phenomenon - as in the last 15 years or so. I have noticed the change in body shapes, and I'm just a casual fan (I first saw sumo in the late eighties). When you think back to sumotori like Chiyanofuji (sp?) - he was extremely fit and wouldn't have looked out of place in the super-heavy division at a judo tournament.

If you watch earlier sumo footage (from the 50s, 60s, 70s) - the fighters were waifs by today's standards.

(Something that always impressed my was how the older retired fighters had managed to lose the excess weight - I guess that might be changing. The modern guys have much more bulk to lose)



Earl Hartman
7th August 2003, 21:26
I've seen some old footage of WWII or pre-war sumo, and while the rikishi were not grotesquely obese, they sure didn't look like waifs to me. More like Indian, Turkish, or Iranian wrestlers.

Chiyonofuji (The Wolf) was is his prime when I lived in Japan; a great wrestler and one of my favorites. He apparently did a huge amount of weight training by sumo standards; when he was just an up-and-comer in the lower divisions, he was downright skinny and kept on dislocating his shoulder when he did tsuki-oshi type sumo (thrusting and pushing). So he beefed up and put on an incredible amount of muscle, epsecially in his neck and shoulders. He also developed the best tachiai in sumo and the fastest mae-mitsu (frontal sash) grab of anyone. But you're right: fat he wasn't.

I have heard that one of the reasons that sumo wrestlers get as large as they do is that they get up very early and train for a number of hours, after which they eat a huge meal and then go to sleep; a regimen that seems pretty much designed to pack on the pounds. A staple of the sumo diet is chankonabe, a rich stew of meat, fish, and vegetables, accompanied, of course, by copious amounts of rice and beer. In any case, the sumo diet is a lot heavier on protein and fat than the normal Japanese diet.

Sumo wrestlers follow a regulated weight-loss regimen after they retire, since losing too much weight too quickly can be dangerous. Also, diabetes seems to be another occupational hazard. And there can be no doubt that sumo is bad for you; I don't have any statistics, but I have heard that the average life-span of sumo wrestlers is considerably below the national average. (Of course, it doesn't help that most of the rikishi drink like fish and quite a few of them smoke, just like regular Japanese).