Women sumo wrestlers ‘breaking prejudice’ in Brazil

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If the phrase “sumo wrestler” calls to thoughts a hefty Asian man in a loincloth, Valeria and Diana Dall’Olio, a mother-daughter sumo wrestling crew from Brazil, have a message: assume once more.

The Dall’Olios are used to individuals saying they’re too small, too fragile or too feminine to follow a sport sometimes related to hulking Japanese males.

But they are saying that’s simply gasoline for his or her combating spirit once they get within the “dojo,” or ring.

“There’s a lot of prejudice. When you say you practice sumo, some people think you have to be fat,” Valeria, 39, tells AFP, as she prepares for a contest at a public gymnasium in Sao Paulo.

“Women are always under a microscope in the martial arts, because they’re sports that have generally been restricted to male fighters.”

She received into martial arts as a lady, learning judo and jiu-jitsu.

In 2016, she fell in love with sumo, which was delivered to Brazil by Japanese immigrants within the early 20th century.

Soon, she was successful bouts – all the way in which as much as the Brazilian nationwide title, which she received thrice (2018, 2019 and 2021) within the middleweight class (65 to 73 kilograms, 143 to 161 kilos).

She added the South American championship to her trophy case in 2021.

“I try to balance my different lives: homemaker, mother of two. I don’t have much free time,” Valeria says.

Women are banned from skilled sumo in Japan.

In its birthplace, the extremely ritualized sport has been linked for greater than 1,500 years to the Shinto faith, whose believers have historically seen ladies as impure or dangerous luck for sumo.

In the previous, ladies have been banned from attending bouts and even touching sumo wrestlers.

But a world beginner ladies’s sumo championship has been held since 2001. Organizers hope to in the future flip it into an Olympic sport.

Being allowed to compete “is a real victory for us,” says Valeria.

“We’ve got more fighting spirit than men, who usually aren’t used to battling on as many fronts as we are.”

Diana, 18, says she by no means had a lot curiosity in wrestling – till she was drawn to sumo by its velocity.

The bouts, wherein wrestlers compete to fell or push each other from a round, dirt-floor ring, not often final greater than 30 seconds.

Strength, technique and approach are all the things.

Diana placed on a “mawashi,” or sumo loincloth, for the primary time in 2019.

She now competes as a light-weight (underneath 65 kilograms).

“You can feel the prejudice,” she says of individuals’s reactions to her alternative of sport.

“A lot of people say, ‘Women are fragile, they get injured and quit,'” she says.

“That’s one of the things we’re learning to fight against. My generation is rising up.”

Sumo is rising quick in Brazil, primarily due to ladies, says Oscar Morio Tsuchiya, president of the Brazilian Sumo Confederation.

Women make up round half the nation’s 600 sumo wrestlers, he says.

“Because of the Shinto rituals, in which women couldn’t even go to the ring, a lot of traditionalists were horrified when they started to compete. But those barriers are being broken,” he says.

At their Sao Paulo gymnasium, the Dall’Olios brush off the dojo’s filth after a tricky day, wherein Diana received certainly one of her three bouts and Valeria misplaced her just one, in opposition to 18-time Brazilian middleweight champion Luciana Watanabe.

Watanabe, 37, is the general public face of sumo in Brazil.

She shares her ardour for the game by educating it to kids in Suzano, a small metropolis with a big Japanese-Brazilian inhabitants 50 kilometers (31 miles) outdoors Sao Paulo.

“Men are usually the ones who teach sumo,” she says.

“But I think I inspire the kids when I show them my titles.”

She, too, says her objective is to “break prejudice”. “I need individuals to respect this sport extra,” she says.

“So many people still think it’s just a sport for fat men. Sumo is for everyone.”