Female sumo wrestlers ‘break the stereotype’ in Brazil

Home Main Female sumo wrestlers ‘break the stereotype’ in Brazil
Female sumo wrestlers ‘break the stereotype’ in Brazil


If the term “sumo wrestler” brings to mind an Asian with a strong waistline, Valeria and Diana Dall’Olio, a mother-daughter sumo wrestling team from Brazil, have a message: think again.

The Dall’Olios are used to people saying they are too young, too delicate or too feminine to try a sport traditionally associated with Japanese men.

But they say it’s only fuel for their fighting spirit when they get to the “dojo,” or ring.

“There is a lot of prejudice. When you say you practice sumo, some people think you must be fat,” Valeria, 39, told AFP, as she prepared for a competition at a public gym. in Sao Paulo.

“Women are always under the microscope in martial arts, because their sport is often limited to male fighters.”

He went to martial arts as a child, school judo and jiu-jitsu.

In 2016, he fell in love with sumo, which was brought to Brazil by Japanese immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century.

He soon won fights – even the Brazilian national championship, which he won three times (2018, 2019 and 2021) in the middleweight category (65 to 73 kg, 143 to the 161 pounds).

He added the South American championship to his trophy in 2021.

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

Women are banned from professional sumo in Japan.

In its place of birth, the most common sport has been associated for more than 1,500 years with the Shinto religion, whose believers often see women as bad or bad for sumo.

In the past, women were forbidden from participating in fights or even touching sumo wrestlers.

But an international amateur women’s sumo championship has been held since 2001. The organizers hope that one day it will become an Olympic sport.

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

“We have a better fighting spirit than the men, who are often not used to fighting in as many ways as we are.”

Diana, 18, says she never really liked wrestling – until she was drawn to sumo with its speed.

This is the fight wrestler competitors knock or push each other off a circular, dirt-floor ring, rarely lasting more than 30 seconds.

Strength, strategy and technique are everything.

Diana wore a “mawashi,” or sumo, for the first time in 2019.

He now competes as a lightweight (under 65 kg).

“You can feel the bias,” he said of people’s reactions to his choice of sports.

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

“That’s one of the things we’re learning to fight against, my generation is coming up.”

Sumo is growing rapidly in Brazil, especially thanks to women, said Oscar Morio Tsuchiya, president of the Brazilian Sumo Confederation.

Women make up half of the country’s 600 sumo wrestlers, he said.

“Because of Shinto traditions, where women cannot go to the ring, many of the traditionalists were afraid when they started to compete. But those barriers have been broken,” he said. this.

At their gym in Sao Paulo, the Dall’Olios cleaned up the dirt from the dojo after a tough day, in which Diana won one of her three fights and lost only one to Valeria, and 18-time Brazilian middleweight champion Luciana Watanabe.

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

He shares his passion for the game by teaching children in Suzano, a small Japanese-Brazilian town 50 kilometers (31 miles) outside. of Sao Paulo.

“Men are usually the ones who learn sumo,” he said.

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

He also said that his goal is to “eliminate discrimination.” “I want people to respect this sport more,” he said.

“Many people still think that sumo is only a sport for men, sumo is for everyone”.


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