Grueling training key to sumo transcendence

by John Gunning for

The sport of sumo manages to achieve with one circle what Dante Alighieri needed nine to describe.

Indeed, the only people who don’t think sumo training is hell are those that have never set foot inside a ring.

Keiko, as sumo practice is known, is an intense, rarely varied, early morning pushing of wrestlers to their physical and mental limits.

Unlike other sports where practice is a means to an end, in sumo doing keiko daily is arguably the single most important element of the entire enterprise.

The lifestyle component of sumo requires rigorous repetition of its fundamental movements, no different than soldiers drilling on a parade ground, or monks sitting zazen.

As someone who has done all of the above, I’ve seen that similarity firsthand.

While there can be a certain element of getting into a state of heightened focus akin to being “in the zone” in keiko, the overriding feeling is one of pain.

That’s primarily due to the fact that during sumo training you are completely at the mercy of your coach or stablemaster, and their task is to force you to go beyond what your body is telling you is possible.

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