In sumo, discipline and athleticism are much more important than sheer size! Elite sumo wrestlers are some of the most fit athletes you will find, anywhere. Most top sumo wrestlers train for hours, almost every day, year-round. Here’s an overview of sumo training.
The best sumo wrestlers are limber, enabling them to adapt to opponents’ movements. Suppleness also protects from injuries.
The essence of sumo competition is maintaining balance, and shifting weight, while under pressure.
A key focus is to build up tremendous pushing/thrusting strength, which comes from developing complete musculature, throughout the body.
The faster you are off the line, the greater your chances of winning. Reaction speed is critical!
Although a single match is short, massive energy is exerted in just a few seconds, so hours of daily training build up endurance, to prepare for competition.
Sumo emphasizes a low center of gravity, so all wrestlers work at powerful movements, while knees are bent, and upper body tucked in.
These are some fundamental sumo exercises. Training in all of these will greatly improve your sumo.
Sumo Self-Training Regimen, by YAMA* (good during COVID-19)
YAMA wants to emphasize lower body training, to get ready for sumo competition. Keeping in good sumo shape with these basic movements will ensure that you are ready for sparring again, when the time comes!
Be sure to do these drills in one continuous session, to develop your stamina. This workout should take only about 15 minutes. After you are comfortable with these exercises, you can double or triple the numbers below, for a longer session.
Try this workout at least 3 times a week. If you’re comfortable, you can even do it every day.
*YAMA, the Heaviest Japanese Sumo Wrestler ever, and 2-time World Sumo Champion, has been doing sumo for 30+ years.
SHIKO (sumo leg lifts):
20 times x 10 seconds each
For each shiko, slowly raise one leg up, hold it for a second at the highest point, and then slowly let the leg down.
KOSHI-WARI (sumo squat):
20 times x 8 seconds each
With a wide stance, slowly bend the knees and squat down, and then slowly push back up, to stand up.
MATA-WARI (leg split):
Hold the full leg split position with head on the ground.
SURI-ASHI (sliding movement):
20 times (5 yards each time)
Keep the feet on the ground, bend the knees, and keep your elbows tucked in.
CHIRI-CHOZU (opening ritual):
5 times x 8 seconds each
Do this to improve your balance in the squatting position.
Basic Self Training
SHIKO: These leg lifts epitomize development of all Key Goals above, which is why sumo wrestlers do slow repetitions of hundreds of shiko in a row.
MATA-WARI: Full leg splits, with face and chest on the floor, cultivate great flexibility and suppleness.
SURI-ASHI: Sliding the feet, in sync with the arms, establishes the basic posture and movement style for sumo. It’s critical to stay low and keep connected with the ground.
TACHI-AI: The opening charge in sumo is explosive. Matches are often won by beating the opponent off the line.
KOSHI-WARI: Compress the upper body, and lower your back, bending the knees. This develops flexibility and strength, training the wrestler to maintain a low stance.
MAKI-KAESHI: Practice sliding your outside arm through your opponent’s guard, for an inside grip.
SASU: Practice initiating that inside position, to weaken the opponent’s attack.
NAGE-AI: Practice throwing your opponent, shifting to the side, developing perfect timing.
BUTTSUKARI-AI: One partner receives a hit, while the other practices smashing forward, and sliding the opponent backwards.
OTTSUKE: Practice a joint lock on the opponent’s arm, to neutralize his attack.
KAINA-KAESHI: Slide your elbow below your opponent’s under-arm, and bend your forearm horizontally across his upper back, effectively neutralizing your opponent’s use of one arm.