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22 May 2008


Gema Gray

Might the increased popularity of Sumo in America have something to do with the increased levels of obesity in this country? I have always been troubled that Sumo glorifies a certain body type that can't possibly be healthy for its practitioners or onlookers. Can we really designate an activity as a sport when the "athletes" are morbidly obese?

I am not denigrating Sumo as a Martial Art. I have no doubt that much discipline and skill and tradition is involved. But I wonder whether Americans will merely idolize the size and not necessarily the skill of the Sumo wrestlers.

As for the homoerotic clips you've shared Katz, I am left quite speechless. I don;t see these ads playing in prime time in middle America. Hope I'm wrong! :-)

Maggie Jochild

Well, gotta respond.

Fat does not automatically equal unhealthy, contrary to current prevailing myth. And the term "morbidly obese" is offensive, because it assumes a cause and effect between body mass and mortality that is not necessarily there. I mean, black people have shorter life spans than white people in the U.S., but the term "morbidly melanated" would likewise be inaccurate and oppressive.

From what I could read about the sumo daily regimen at Wikipedia, it does seem that WHAT they are eating (not quantities, but content) is not conducive to health (way too much beer, for one thing). Wiki said "Sumo wrestlers have a life expectancy of between 60 and 65, more than 10 years shorter than the average Japanese male. They often develop diabetes and high blood pressure, and are prone to heart attacks. The excessive intake of alcohol can lead to liver problems and the stress on their joints can cause arthritis."

Hypertension is associated with heart attacks (which does not mean cause and effect, not yet proven) but the extreme emotional stress and hazing of life among the sumo has just as strong a correlation to hypertension as weight, when factored equally.

But, to make a comparison, the life expectancy for pro football players in this country is 51-55 years. Again, it's simplistic and statistically misleading to link this to body mass -- depends also on diet, heredity, and other measures of fitness. Playing football is not necessarily good cardiovascular exercise. And although pro footballers are among the heaviest athletes in history, nobody's commenting about their "morbid obesity" during a game.

Which is to say, it depends on the cultural lens you're looking through. And your understanding of statistics. BMI is a statistical tool which has NO valid translation to the health of a single individual.

On another note: The Subaru ad is incredible. Thanks for finding it and sharing it, Sue.

Eleanor roffman

in your article on sumo wrestling i am struck by the discrimination against women attending or being part of the sport scene. the ancient greeks has the same rules, women were not allowed to see the sports , unless they were the servants providing some service.
i did not find the second video amusing, but rather gross, but the first one lends new meaning to the car wash. the song of the same name kept bopping in my head as i watched it.


Just got back from Japan today where I was following the current tournament so great to find your article Sue. As a fellow Martial Artist I too admire the skill and training involved in Sumo. The discrimination against women is not unusual in Japanese society so no suprises re touching the ring, etc. but I believe women are allowed in the first 3 rows now which wasnt the case before.It seems the Mongolians are currently getting the titles at the moment, a development i'd not been aware of before this current trip. The first video was great...but what an odd second one!I;m sure the red cushions would be thrown at this one ( used to show disapproval by audience in Sumo matches).

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