Sumo Wrestling Techniques and Training Routines


In the Japanese sport of sumo, two opponents struggle for physical supremacy, each attempting to wrestle, shove or carry their foe from a circular ring called a dohyo. Massive, fat men tend to do best, using their imposing girth to gain necessary leverage. Yet despite looking morbidly obese, sumo wrestlers undertake extensive training to prepare their minds and bodies.


Even though they may not seem muscular, sumo wrestlers still need to loosen up the body and maintain proper flexibility. A traditional stretching technique known as matawari accomplishes just that, requiring the sumo wrestler to sit on his bottom with his legs splayed apart as far as possible. While keeping his knees locked, the wrestler must then lean forward until his chest touches the ground. Holding this pose stretches the entire lower body, priming it for battle.


Sumo wrestlers perform the ceremonial stomping technique of shiko to build lower body strength. The exercise begins with the wrestler standing with his feet wide apart and his hands on his knees or thighs. While keeping one foot anchored, he will then lift his other leg high in the air, driving it down into the mat with tremendous force. The wrestler will then execute the same exaggerated stomp with the other foot. The forceful movements strengthen the leg muscles and prepare the body for the violent, bone-rattling collisions so common in sumo.

Teppo Training

Sumo wrestlers often use teppo training to engage an opponent. This is a pushing exercise that involves repeatedly striking an object -- a training partner, the corner of a cement wall or a large wooden pole called a teppo -- with an open hand. The wrestler starts is a shallow squat and simultaneously extends his right arm and slides his right foot forward and then strikes the object with the palm of his hand. He then retracts his arm, slides his foot back and repeats the exercise with his left arm and foot. Sumo wrestlers spend hours teppo training, alternating sides over and over, until it becomes natural.


During competition, sumo wrestlers strain to push each other out of the ring, using a technique known as butsukari-geiko. To learn the necessary leverage and hand placement, sumo wrestlers drill butsukari-geiko by pushing each other from one end of the dohyo to the other. Dirt is spread evenly in the center of the dohyo and the wrestler being pushed plants his feet in the dirt, forcing his opponent to push him straight back like an enormous broom. Upon reaching the edge of the dohyo, the wrestlers switch roles, with the broom becoming the pusher. They continue the same exhaustive exercise until all the dirt gets pushed from the dohyo.