If you read NorthAmericanSumo.com last week or follow me on Twitter, then you know that I absolutely loved attending the recent Big Easy Sumo Camp (Winter 2018), which was hosted by Welcome Mat Sumo NOLA Edition. The camp was ran by André Coleman and Cody Stout, both of which have ample martial arts and sumo experience, and it was held across three days on the outskirts of New Orleans (12/28 – 12/30; LaPlace, LA). Where better to have a sumo camp than the Big Easy!
I must say, even from the emails before the camp started, I was very impressed with the organization and professionalism of André and Cody. They sent a camp itinerary well in advance, which included the schedule and essential sumo terms, and they answered my multiple questions about the camp in a timely manner. During the camp itself, they stuck to the schedule very well, and only deviated when attendees wanted extra time on specific sumo skills. They also seemed to have eyes in the back of their head, as they were always around to give a helping hand when someone needed some pointers on a maneuver. . .which I needed a lot of!
Another very apparent feature of the camp was the kindness – not only of André and Cody, but of everyone who attended. This was my first time practicing sumo; I’d never even wore a mawashi before. Nevertheless, everyone was friendly and showed a genuine interest in everyone else. When André and Cody began the drills, the more experienced senshu gave pointers to the less experienced in a very polite manner. It was very cool to see the genuine interest that everyone showed in everyone else.
Also, the camp was a quite literal who’s who of North American sumo. About a month ago, I wrote two articles: a who’s who of women in North American sumo and a who’s who of men in North American sumo. Morgan Chateau and Christina Archetti were in attendance for the women, whereas Justin Kizzart, Al Zander, Edward Suczewski, Robert Fuimaono, and Cornelius Booker were in attendance for the men. It may have been the largest collection of top-level North American senshu aside from the U.S. Sumo Open and the U.S. Sumo Nationals! It was very entertaining just to watch them compete – and it was even more fun to compete with them.
In the rest of this post, I briefly discuss some material that the camp covered. I don’t provide all the details, as they aren’t mine to disclose. I also share some pictures of the camp, some of which were provided by André, Cody, and Justin Kizzart (thanks again!).
Whenever there is a dohyō, though, you know that sumo wrestlers can’t resist the urge to have a few matches. So, I finish the post with a few gifs of matches. These gifs include many of the more experienced senshu, but they also include matches between those stepping into the dohyō for the first or second time. André, Cody, and Justin provided several of these videos, too (thanks again again!).
If you are interested in similar sumo camps, check out our upcoming events page. If you see that a camp is missing – or you are hosting a new camp yourself – please contact me at NorthAmericanSumo@Gmail.com to have it added to the list. Nothing is too large or too small to be added!
The camp started on Friday night, and it began with the basics – sumo warm ups and base exercises. André and Cody started with shiko (stomping exercise) and koshiwari (deep squat stretch), but they also had attendees try out other exercises.
This was followed by an introduction to tachiai (charge at start of match). Of course, the tachiai is the most important sumo skill, and Welcome Mat Sumo NOLA had a wonderful setup to practice.
Day 1 concluded with open matches and dinner provided by André and Cody.
Day 2 started early with warm ups, exercises, and cardio. It made me realize how out of shape that I have become, as I was already tired at this point! It was very impressive seeing the heavyweights squatting the other heavyweights, like Robert Fuimaono squatting André in the picture below.
Afterwards, André and Cody taught essential offensive moves, which included pushing, thrusting, and lifting techniques. Two of these skills were oshidashi and yorikiri, but others were also included. This was followed by essential defensive moves, which included slapping, pulling, and throwing techniques. Two such skills were hatakikomi and hikiotoshi, but other skills were again included. Although it was only a few hours, I learned a very large amount of information. André and Cody are excellent teachers, and they are able to easily explain these moves.
Lunch was also provided by the gym, followed by practicing more of these offensive and defensive maneuvers. Practicing these skills switched between the open area and the dohyō so attendees could develop their ring awareness. As you’ll see in the matches below, some people were able to develop their ring awareness extremely quickly.
Day 2 concluded with more open matches. Attendees could then go to a group dinner at a true, southern, New Orleans restaurant and a ghost tour of NOLA. I really loved how André and Cody were able to add certain things to the camp to make it a distinctively New Orleans training camp.
Day 3 started with a recap of the techniques of the prior two days for the novices, but experienced attendees could start with their matches. After the beginners felt comfortable, they could also join in the matches.
Lastly, as you can see in the pictures below, the camp was very big! I have no doubt that some of the first-timers in this camp will go onto be the movers and shakers in the future of North American Sumo.
Most of the matches were between whoever wanted to step onto the dohyō together, which led to some really interesting and fun match-ups. There were match-ups against varying weight-classess, experience-levels, and anything else you can imagine.
This first match is Erin Anderson (LA) against Morgan Chateau (CA). Erin is a newcomer to sumo, and I do not believe that she has previously competed in any sumo events. On the other hand, Morgan represented Team USA at the World Sumo Championships, and she has placed at both the US Sumo Nationals and the US Sumo Open. As a side note, I found out that Morgan has a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology, so I feel that I should call her Dr. Chateau in the rest of this post.
In this match, Erin had a wonderful center of gravity, and she was able to manage a very solid push to the edge of the dohyō. Dr. Chateau’s experience won in the end, though, as she was able to lift Erin for the victory.
Next, Dr. Chateau had a very fierce match against Candice Herman (TN). Candice is also a newcomer to sumo, but she has experience in various martial arts. And it shows!
Dr. Chateau had the better tachiai in this match, but Candice was able to get a very strong upper grip. She resisted the toss at the end and leaned into Dr. Chateau for the victory. I hope that we see more of Candice in future sumo events, and Dr. Chateau was very encouraging to all the sumo newcomers.
Moving onto the guys, this next bout was actually a rematch from the Georgia Sumo Open. It is Al Zander (FL) against Eric Griffin (GA). I believe that Al and Eric have similar amounts of experience in sumo – a little over a year. Al has a background in Greco-Roman wrestling, and it is also very apparent. Al goes for moves that you rarely see in sumo, as seen in the gif below.
Both Eric and Al had a very firm base, wrestling for the better positioning. Al, however, gets a very clever cross-body grip on the mawashi, one hand on the back of the neck, and pulls for the victory. I really love lightweight sumo just to see moves like that!
This match was between Jacob De Castro (TX) and David Lanner (GA). Jacob had a little prior gym experience in sumo. David was completely new to practicing sumo, and this camp was his first time on the dohyō. It was very impressive to see the abilities that David (and other newcomers) developed over just the course of the camp.
David showed excellent mat awareness in this match. While Jacob had the better tachiai, David perfectly knew when to stand his ground, rotate his hips, and execute the throw. Really great victory for someones first weekend in sumo!
The following gif is a match between myself (Matt Howard, AL) and Justin Kizzart (TX). Like David, this too was my first time on the dohyō. In fact, this was my very first day! On the other hand, Justin represented Team USA at the World Sumo Championships, and he finished second at the US Sumo Nationals. If anyone is curious how a regular dude would fare against one of the top competitors in North America, this is your match.
As you can see, Justin was taking it a little easy on me. His tachiai was clearly stronger. I avoided the pushout, but he got a firm grip and slung me to the edge. My last-ditch pullout was ineffective, as he scouted it well in advance. Although it wasn’t close, I had a lot of fun competing against such a high-level athlete.
Next, Justin Kizzart went up against John Horst (TX). John competed in the Texas Sumo Classic this year, so he has a little bit of experience under his mawashi. In this match, Justin went for the slap-down, but it wasn’t aggressive enough for John. He was able to use his heavyweight agility to sidestep Justin’s charge for the victory. I’m sure that John has his eyes on gold in Texas for 2019!
John Horst also went up against Robert Fuimaono (MO). Robert only has a little more than a year of experience in sumo competitions (although he was training in sumo with André for a year or two before that), and he already won the Georgia Sumo Open, placed second in the heavyweight division at the US Sumo Nationals, and finished first in the openweight division at the US Sumo Nationals. Quite the resume for someone relatively new to competing in the sport!
John and Robert competed against each other multiple times, and John gave Robert more trouble in the other bouts. However, I had to include this one because of the sheer power of Robert. His tachiai was so strong, and I know that he will be eyeing gold at Nationals and the Open this year.
Robert also had a bout with Darius Campbell (OH), which was a rematch from the Georgia Sumo Open. Darius also has about a year of experience in sumo, but he already reached the quarterfinals at the US Sumo Open. . .which was his first ever sumo event!
In this match, Robert had the stronger tachiai, but Darius was able to take it extremely well. Darius was also able to get very solid positioning, and he almost got Robert with the throw. Unfortunately, the match was too long to include in its entirety, but Darius eventually tired out. Robert walked him out for the win.
The final gif is the matchup that everyone wanted to see. It was the first of three matches between Robert and Ed Suczewski. Ed has been in sumo for quite awhile. He has medaled at the US Sumo Open multiple times; he has won the middleweight division at the US Sumo Nationals; and he has represented Team USA at the World Sumo Championships. So, this match-up was a competition between the two heavy-hitters of the camp.
As you can see, Robert was a little more cautious with this tachiai. He went for the better mawashi positioning, but Ed was ready for it. He defended the grips, got arm control, which led to side control, and made a clever move to get back control. At that point, it was only a matter of time before he could score the victory.
Robert won the other two matches after this, but the first one was the most exciting.
That’s all for the Big Easy Sumo Camp hosted by Welcome Mat Sumo NOLA Edition. Like I said, it was such a fun time for everyone, and I highly recommend everyone to attend Welcome Mat Sumo’s events in the future. Likewise, if you see sumo in your area, please support it!