Chalking up success in unusual sport in Slovakia

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Japan may seem a world away from Slovakia, but you'd be surprised how much of Japan you could find here in the Middle of Europe. We have Japanese food, we know origami, we have Slovak music about Japanese women, and we even have a Slovak Sumo team.

And what is sumo?

"I only know that it is a Japanese sport, and that the men who do this sport are really fat."

"It is basically two really, really big men fighting. And I think one of them looses and the other one wins, when he manages to push his opponent outside a certain circle. And it is a national sport, I believe."

"I don't know the exact rules, but I think it is art, because it has its own philosophy to it."

And what do you think about the big men?

"I think they are very strong, not only physically, but also mentally."

If you're thinking of the sport where humongous men with a bit of cloth around their waist fight, you're right. In Japan it's a very popular sport. For 2 years now, large Slovak men have had their own club - the Suma Bears - even founded the Slovak Sumo Federation in 2000. Marek Benes, head of the federation explains how Sumo wrestling came to Slovakia:

"We were just a group of enthusiasts that saw the sport on TV. All of us came from a background of different fighting techniques. I used to do Judo. We are just trying to show people a little bit of an extraordinary sport. Everybody expects the fighters to be huge, but the European format is a little different. There are different weight categories of sumo fighters - 60, 80, or 110kg."

As unusual as Sumo wrestling in Slovakia may sound, the Suma Bears already have some success behind them. They have represented Slovakia at the European and World Championships. Slovakia's most successful sumo wrestler, Michal Sandori, came 5th at the World Championships, even beating some Japanese competitors, which he is very proud of. Imagine a hall full of big sumo men. I wonder what aerobics teachers would say to their lifestyle. Michal Sandori - Slovak sumo representative has this to say about his lifestyle:

"All of us heavy men feel bad or unhealthy from time to time. Because I exercise regularly, I am very lucky that I don't have as many problems as most obese people. Sumo in Slovakia is very laid back in comparison to Japan. We train once a week and don't even have to eat anything special to keep our weight up."

Well, ARIGATO (thank you) for a sport in which you can eat all you like and feel like a champion at the same time! We wish all the best in eating and fighting to the Slovak Sumo Bears!