Thursday, December 10, 2020

No Holds Barred: Ed Suczewski on Sumo in the U.S.  

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Ed Suczewski, a U.S. sumo champion and president of the U.S. Sumo Federation

We spoke with him by phone Wednesday.

Sumo is a sport to which Ed Suczewski, who competed in American folkstyle wrestling while in school, said he was "instantly drawn". He eventually began competing in sumo, and from there his involvement in and commitment to the sport rapidly grew. But it was not his original intention to become a leader in it.

"In terms of getting involved in the leadership, it's not something I ever really set out to do, but it was just a need that I saw needed to be filled," he said. "I felt the federation had been around for a long time, and a lot of the people who came before me did a lot of great things to move the sport forward. But I felt like I had some ideas and maybe a new direction I could bring to the table. So for that reason, I wanted to get involved and just kind of see what I could offer."

Encouraging and supporting the local and regional sumo clubs to host their own events, like the recent Consulate's Cup in Austin, Texas, has helped expand the sport, he explained.

"In terms of a new direction, I've been really inspired by what these different clubs are doing. And I think for the federation to do what it's doing now, which is taking on more of a bottom-up leadership style rather than a top-down leadership style, and giving the clubs the freedom to really push the boundaries of the sport and move things forward, I think is what we're trying to do," he said.

"And so, opening the door more and more for these clubs and these individual athletes and promoters to move the sport forward, is where we're at."

An icon and star of the past of American sumo is the late Manny Yarbrough. He is still the only American ever to have won a gold medal at the world championships organized by the International Sumo Federation, when in 1995 he was the champion in the open weight division. He also won silver medals in 1992, 1994, and 1996, and a bronze medal in 1993. We discussed finding a way for the U.S. Sumo Federation to honor Manny Yarbrough and his legacy. "It can be done," said Ed Suczewski.

We also discussed the notable enthusiasm for the sport from those involved with the U.S. Sumo Federation today, how sumo is very easy for fans to understand while still involving much technique, how unlike some other combat sports "sumo is actually fun" and builds respect, how it is a family-friendly sport, its still untapped potential outside Japan, the need for a sumo club in New York, how it is the sport best suited for the TikTok short-form video-sharing service, and much, much more.

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