Sumo (相撲 sumō) is a competitive full-contact wrestling sport where a rikishi (wrestler) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyō) or into touching the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet. The characters 相撲 literally mean “striking one another”.
The sport originated in Japan and is generally considered a gendai budō (a modern Japanese martial art), though the sport has a history spanning many centuries. Many ancient traditions have been preserved in sumo, and even today the sport includes many ritual elements, such as the use of salt purification, from the days when sumo was used in the Shinto religion. Life as a wrestler is highly regimented, with rules laid down by the Japan Sumo Association. Most sumo wrestlers are required to live in communal “sumo training stables”, known in Japanese as heya, where all aspects of their daily lives from meals to their manner of dress are dictated by strict tradition.
Height: (6 ft 3 in – Weight: 450 lbs
Sumo Record: 812-845-22
Takamiyama Daigorō 高見山大五郎 born 16 June 1944 as Jesse James Wailani Kuhaulua is a former sumo wrestler, the first foreign born rikishi to win the top division championship in 1972. His highest rank was sekiwake. His active career spanned twenty years from 1964 to 1984, and he set a number of longevity records, including most tournaments ranked in the top makuuchi division, and most consecutive top division appearances. He is also the first foreign born wrestler ever to take charge of a training stable, founding Azumazeki stable in 1986. His most successful wrestling student was fellow Hawaiian Akebono who reached the highest rank of yokozuna in 1993. Takamiyama retired as a coach in 2009.
Jesse Kuhaulua was born in Happy Valley, Maui to parents who were mostly of Hawaiian descent. Due to his impressive height of 6 foot 2 inches and 280 pounds, he was recruited as a tackle for the Baldwin High School football team. His football coach noticed that he had weak legs and hips, and recommended that he train his lower body through sumo, a sport popular among the local Japanese-American community. He joined a local amateur sumo club and it was there that he was spotted by visiting professional sumo wrestlers from Japan. After graduating from Baldwin High School in Wailuku in 1963 he left for Tokyo on February 22, 1964 to join Takasago stable as a new recruit.
Height: (6 ft 1⁄2 in – Weight: 633 lbs
Sumo Record: 733–498–95
Konishiki Yasokichi 小錦八十吉 Konishiki Yasokichi, born Saleva’a Fuauli Atisano’e on December 31, 1963, is a Hawaiian-born Japanese–Samoan former sumo wrestler. He was the first non-Japanese-born wrestler to reach ōzeki, the second highest rank in the sport. During his career he won the top division championship on three occasions and came close to becoming the first foreign-born grand champion, or yokozuna, prompting a debate as to whether a foreigner could have the necessary cultural understanding to be acceptable in sumo’s ultimate rank. At a peak weight of 633 lbs he was also the heaviest rikishi ever in sumo, earning him the nickname “The Dump Truck”.
Saleva’a Atisano’e entered sumo in July 1982 at the age of 18, recruited by Hawaiian born wrestler, Takamiyama (Kuhaulua) of the Takasago stable. From Nanakuli, he was a promising student at the University High School in Honolulu. Saleva’a played football for Pac-Five Wolfpack of the ILH. He initially wanted to be a lawyer and was also offered a music scholarship to Syracuse University, but chose a sumo career instead. Atisano’e regarded Takamiyama as a local hero and found the opportunity to join sumo too hard to resist.
Height: 6 ft 8 in – Weight: 460 lbs
Sumo Record: 654-232-181
Akebono Tarō 曙 太郎 Akebono Tarō, born 8 May 1969 as Chadwick Haheo Rowan is a Hawai’i-born professional sumo wrestler from Waimānalo, Hawai’i. Joining the professional sport in Japan in 1988, he was trained by pioneering Hawaiian sumo wrestler Takamiyama and rose swiftly up the rankings, reaching the top division in 1990. After two consecutive yusho or tournament championships in November 1992 and January 1993 he made history by becoming the first non-Japanese-born wrestler ever to reach yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo.
Chad Rowan was born on 8 May 1969 to Randolph and Janice Rowan, and is of Hawaiian descent. He grew up with two younger brothers, one of whom, Ola, also became a sumo wrestler for a brief period after Chad. He attended Kaiser High School, where he played basketball for the Cougars and became an All-Star center. He went to Hawaii Pacific University on a basketball scholarship. At 6 ft 8 in, he was one of the tallest wrestlers in sumo.
Height: 6 ft 3 1⁄2 in – Weight: 518 lbs
Sumo Record: 779-294-115
Musashimaru Koyo 武蔵丸 光洋 Musashimaru Kōyō, born May 2, 1971 as Fiamalu Penitani, is a former Polynesian sumo wrestler. He was the second foreign-born wrestler in history to reach the rank of yokozuna. He won over 700 top division bouts and took twelve top division tournament championships during his career. Musashimaru’s sheer 518 lbs bulk combined with his 6 ft 3 1⁄2 in height made him a formidable opponent, and he was remarkably consistent and injury-free for the majority of his career. His fan base admires his pleasant personality and his facial resemblance to Japan’s last true samurai warrior hero Saigō Takamori.
Fiamalu Penitani was born in American Samoa, the fourth son of a Tongan-German father and a Samoan-Portuguese mother. The family moved to Waianae, Oahu, Hawaiʻi when he was ten years old. While attending Waianae High School he played football for the Searididers and was offered a scholarship to Pasadena City College, but he also had success in Greco-Roman wrestling, and his wrestling coach encouraged him to give sumo a try. He moved to Japan and joined former yokozuna Musashigawa stable in June 1989.