Tiny sumo

Mainoumi Shūhei is a legend in the world of sumo for defeating opponents more than twice his weight.

FourTildes / CC BY-SA

Sumo wrestling is all about technique. Eighty-two techniques, specifically. The kimarite are the methods of winning a sumo bout – for example, putting your opponent in a headlock and throwing them down (kubinage) or twisting their arm and causing them to fall (kotehineri) – and the Japan Sumo Association recognises exactly eight-two of them.

If you like sumo statistics – and who doesn’t? – you can look up any professional sumo wrestler and see which techniques they favour. Realistically, only about a dozen kimarite are in common use, and for most sumo that’s all they need.

Mainoumi Shūhei, a sumo wrestler in the early 1990s, was different. For one thing, he was shorter and lighter than almost anyone else in professional sumo. In a sport where size is key, he weighed in at a scarce 98kg. But he made up for it by wrestling smarter, not harder: he used thirty-three different winning moves over the course of his career, earning enormous popularity and the nickname “The Department Store of Techniques.”

Here’s one notable example: his defeat of the Hawaiian wrestler Akebono Tarō in 1990. Mainoumi was less than half his weight, but won by a rare move called mitokorozeme, which involved tripping one leg, lifting the other, and using his head to push his opponent over. Here’s a short video of that bout. Incredible.

[Thanks to Gareth E. for suggesting this topic.]

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