Sumo’s incredible hulks might not be obvious role models for a fitness regime, but behind the flab are athletes of awesome strength, stamina and reflexes. Follow their exercises, skip their diets, and you might see some big benefits. The sport’s governing body, the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, has created an exercise programme that draws on the sport’s signature thrusts, stomps and stretches. Regular practice, they say, will relax your muscles, improve circulation, strengthen the spine, stimulate the nervous system and slow the ageing process, among other benefits. The exercises are to be performed barefoot, and the Sumo Kyokai asks that you start and finish the routine with a bow.
SEME-NO-KATA (ATTACKING EXERCISE)
This exercise strengthens the ankles, knees, legs and lower back. It also improves lower-body balance.
1. Make a fist with both hands, draw your arms into your chest, then shout as you push your arms forward.
2. Bring your arms into your sides again.
3. Shift your weight onto your right foot as you stretch your right arm forward. Focus your eyes on your outstretched hand and keep your other hand tight to your side.
4. Shift your weight to your left foot and repeat the exercise with your left arm.
YOTSUMI-NO-KATA (BELT-GRABBING EXERCISE)
This works your ankles, knees and wrists.
1. Start as in the Seme-no-kata (above).
2. Shift your weight onto your right leg, raise your right arm, turn your elbow out and thrust your palm toward your forehead.
3. Turn your other outstretched hand inward and thrust it toward your crotch.
4. Repeat for the left side.
KINSEI-NO-KATA (BALANCE EXERCISE)
The culmination of the sumo routine, these exercises help energy flow around your body.
1. Focus your mind on your abdomen.
2. Turn your heels inward and shuffle forward, scuffing the ground.
3. Return your feet to the start position.
4. Draw a circle with both hands in front of you three times.
5. Press your hands together and slowly raise your upper body while shuffling forward.
6. Keeping your hands pressed together, turn your elbows out.
7. Without raising your hips, raise both hands into the air.
8. Return to the original position.
This article originally appeared in the Time Out Tokyo Guide, edition six. To see the full exercise routine or for information about upcoming tournaments, visit the Nihon Sumo website