So I Entered a Sumo Tournament...
...and I lost horribly.
But before I talk about that let me talk about how I ended up in the Sumo tournament.
I was walking along Powell St. in Vancouver today, when I came across these two skinny dudes in mawashis. The moment our eyes met, one of them asked me, "Hey, would you like to join our Sumo tournament?"
Sensing my apprehension, the other guy piped up, "Look, we don't have enough competitors in the tournament yet, and you'd really be helping us out."
"But I've never done Sumo before!" I replied.
"It's okay, you'll do fine -- you're bigger than we are."
Surveying the situation, I reasoned that my 5'8", 200lb frame would do well enough, and this might be a chance to put my Taijiquan into action. I was about to get a wake-up call.
As it turns out, those two guys who talked me into joining tournament -- and their friends -- were not typical of the participants. As more people filtered into the training area, I saw other shapes and sizes -- most of those shapes and sizes being bigger than my shape and size. This is when I was informed that there were no weight classes.
Moving towards the actual event, I was looking for any advantage. My strategy: watch what everyone else was doing, and copy the winners.
As it turns out, my number got called in the first match. Damn it, my strategy wasn't going to work, my only hope was that I get paired with one of the skinny guys.
But that didn't happen. My opponent was a well-nourished bearded dude who was not only six inches taller than me -- he was also that much fitter than me.
"Be gentle on me," I said to him when I placed my fists on the ground. I said absolutely nothing, and he kept staring at me in those emotionless dead blue eyes. My strategy quickly turned from pulling a rabbit out of my hat to not getting myself hurt.
When the referee yelled "go!" my opponent pushed me out of the circle within three seconds.
"Phew!" I said to myself, "This whole thing is done. Now I can watch."
The referee had other plans. "Because this is your first time," he said to me, "You get to try again."
So I decided, to hell with this, I'm actually going to try to win this damn thing.
We bowed, set our knees down, and the referee said, "Go!" My opponent ran full steam ahead, I moved to the side and pushed his shoulders forward. Just when I thought I won, my opponent did a full stop before leaving the circle, turned around, and came full steam ahead again. This time he grabbed me by my shoulder, and pushed me out of bounds.
I got my ass kicked, but it was a learning experience.
As it turns out, the Sumo tournament is the most well known of its kind in Vancouver, and is the centerpiece of the annual Power Street Festival -- a celebration of Japanese culture in what used to be Japantown.
People train a whole year to be a part of this tournament, and I helped keep it going this year. So, even though my ill-thought participation didn't get me past the first round, I'm glad I came.
What's more, I got a bag of rice and a can of coke out of it -- and a great story :-)