Hey Reddit - I'm Byamba, a three-time World Sumo Champion. (proof)

I was born in Mongolia and recruited at age 16 by Onokuni, a retired Japanese Grand Champion, to come to Japan and join his professional sumo team. I trained and competed professionally in Japan from 2001-2005.

I've lived in LA since 2006 and have continued to compete in international competitions, winning the heavyweight World Sumo Championship in 2006 and 2007, and the World Games in 2009. You might also recognize me from some the acting I've done, including the sumo scene of Ocean's Thirteen and other TV shows, commercials, and print ads.

During March and April, I'll be touring the US with LivingSocial's Sumo + Sushi. I'll be doing demonstrations and sumo matches in 8 cities across the country that are paired with a full sushi meal (and sake in some cities).

My English isn't perfect, so my manager Andrew will be helping translate and type responses as quickly as possible. What do you want to know?

EDIT: Thanks everyone for the great questions, but I've got to get back to training. Hope to see you on LivingSocial's Sumo + Sushi Tour!

Comments: 240 • Responses: 48  • Date: 

Salacious-71 karma

Is there a lot of strategy involved in Sumo wrestling? What "tactics" do you use?

From an outsider's perspective it just looks like 2 dudes pushing each other, so I am hoping you can give me the inside view on what's really going on.

SumoByamba114 karma

There is a lot of strategy, actually. Usually, the first split second of the match determines the winner. A faster start gives a huge advantage.

Also, the method of attack is critical, and I adjust my charge, based on who the opponent is. For example, against someone who has a strong slapping attack, I move in a certain way to "catch" him right away and get a grip on his belt, so I can stop the slaps and overpower him,

jessieh0455 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this AMA!

As a sumo wrestler in modern times, do you still follow any of the strict traditions of the past? I've heard things like wrestlers couldn't drive their own cars, have special wardrobes they wear in public and such. How much has wrestling changed since the formation?

edit: sp

SumoByamba98 karma

Professional sumo wrestling in Japan is not just a sport. It's a full-time lifestyle, 24/7 and almost 365 days a year. It's not like "normal" sports that have a season. Pro sumo wrestlers are like soldiers in the military, year-round.

Even today, pro sumo wrestlers live in a very similar way to their predecessors, historically.

However, after I left pro sumo, I have had the chance to compete in international sumo all over the world. There are no lifestyle restrictions, and I can manage my own training and schedule. On the down side, though, it's not as easy to find strong people to train with on a regular basis.

ladive50 karma

Can you do any E. Honda moves?

SumoByamba55 karma

Sorry, I don't know E. Honda.

Finial45 karma

Has your mawashi ever fallen off during a tournament fight resulting in disqualification and embarrassment?

SumoByamba83 karma

No, it has never happened to me in nearly 100,000 matches (in practice and in competition).

pipian42 karma

Hi Byamba, thanks for your time. How are non-Japanese sumo wrestlers in Japan treated? Are they held in as high regard as their Japanese counterparts?

SumoByamba75 karma

I felt like I was treated fairly in Japan. In sumo, respect is based on rank. So, since I did well in competition, I earned respect there.

iko_b38 karma


SumoByamba55 karma

I don't know exactly, but I probably eat 4,000 or 5,000 calories a day, if I am training a lot.

Steakerman27 karma

What do you eat on a regular basis to maintain this high income of calories?

SumoByamba48 karma

Here's info on typical sumo diet:


Now, in Los Angeles, I sometimes eat chanko-nabe, but I eat a wide variety of other very healthy foods.

Loanhighknight38 karma

I saw you when you were at 918 F St a few months back. (Proof!)

Two questions:

  1. I've seen you move in person. You're ridiculously fast for a guy your size. What sort of speed training do you do? Any at all?

  2. Do you have a favorite sushi fish?

SumoByamba33 karma

I practice the initial sumo charge many, many times, to improve my speed. I also go jogging, and do sprints.

I like almost all sushi -- tuna, salmon, whatever.

Barking_Giraffe37 karma

What is the match that you remember the most in career and why?

SumoByamba94 karma

I can never forget the first time I won the World Sumo Championships in 2006. The final match was against the Russian Champion, who is 6'8", over 500 pounds, and very muscular. We smashed heads incredibly hard at the start, and he rebounded, falling out of the ring before I did! So, I became World Sumo Champion!

That was a really happy moment for me because that status also opened up the door for me to apply for and receive my green card here! So, I am happy to be in the United States thanks to my sumo success.

I also want to give back to others, which is why I coach sumo practices in Los Angeles, and demonstrate sumo all over the country, to share this amazing tradition.

LuckyLukeWarm29 karma

Are you or other wrestlers in this sport pretty popular with the ladies?

SumoByamba61 karma

Of course!

captainAwesomePants25 karma

Sumo oranges - awesome or offensive to sumo wrestlers?

SumoByamba41 karma

Those are fine.

Fog_xyz24 karma

How are people responding to the "corruption" in sumo? Are there fewer fans these days?

SumoByamba47 karma

I'm not so worried about that, because you see scandals in any sport, from doping in baseball, to Lance Armstrong, to NBA referees fixing the course of games, in collaboration with gamblers.

So, any sport has it's dark side, but I think most sumo wrestlers and coaches play fairly.

notathrowaway23 karma

What's the heaviest weight that you can lift?

SumoByamba79 karma

I don't max out because it makes the muscles too stiff. Flexibility is much more important in sumo than strength. So, I do a lot of high rep lifts that simulate the constant motion and dynamic action in a sumo match.

MenorhaJones20 karma

What's your favorite food... And how much can you consume in a single sitting?

SumoByamba61 karma

I love Japanese food. For example, everyone knows sushi, and it's one of my favorites. However, I also love "chanko-nabe", which Americans are NOT familiar with. It's a kind of "sumo stew", and we eat it every day in pro sumo in Japan.

In terms of quantity, I eat more than most people (maybe double), but it's not a ridiculous amount.

I am also a master chef, and can make great sushi and the best chanko-nabe!

TheLargeMan8 karma

What foods do you eat to gain weight?

SumoByamba34 karma

Normally in sumo, we eat "chanko-nabe" after training. See http://www.sumobyamba.com/dietnutrition.php

It's very high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and the broth is rich. We have this after practice, to help absorb nutrients and recover energy. We usually have bowls of rice along with it, for more calories.

xenoplastic20 karma

How do you think you would do in a mixed martial arts competition?

SumoByamba53 karma

MMA has a lot of techniques. I have experience in other martial arts. When I was 15 in Mongolia, I was already national junior Champion in judo, sambo, and Mongolian wrestling. So, I know that I have the ability to do very well in MMA!

Anyway, though, I would want to train specifically for MMA before I try to do a real fight, but I am sure I would do well.

J_Golbez19 karma

When you retire, do you plan on shedding (losing) a lot of weight? It seems like it would be a health hazard to be that heavy for too long.

SumoByamba45 karma

I plan to use a little weight (maybe going from 370 lbs to 300 lbs) after I retire. Even now, though, my body fat percentage is pretty low, and I am very healthy, so probably can't lose an enormous amount because it is mostly muscle!

TheLargeMan17 karma

Hey Byamba! First, I would like to start by saying you are awesome. Second, what are the repercussions of being in such a demanding sport?

SumoByamba36 karma

Thank you!

Sumo is a tough sport, but if you train properly, eat a healthy diet, and sleep enough, you can maintain a good condition. We do a lot of warm-ups and calisthenics to prevent injuries, too. Beyond physical steps, sumo requires mental toughness and discipline, too.

rhench15 karma

What type of opponent do you find most difficult to face? Is it their technique, their proportions or some other factor that makes them challenging?

Also, have you ever developed a rivalry with a particular opponent, and how did that turn out?

Thank you for doing an AmA!

SumoByamba30 karma

Opponents with speed and good technique are much more dangerous than opponents who are simply large or strong.

razoRamone3113 karma

Could top sumo wrestlers make it in the nfl as lineman?

SumoByamba21 karma

Yes, I think so.

soap_dispencer12 karma

Stephen Levin and his team with Freakanomics made a compelling case towards the prevalence of cheating, or yaocho, in the sport of sumo. Do you have any comment on this?

SumoByamba19 karma

I don't know about that book, but I think in any sport, there are a few athletes who might break the rules.

Anxious_Molester11 karma

Your take on wrestling not going to be an Olympic sport anymore?

SumoByamba24 karma

That's too bad.

martodve10 karma

Hi Byamba, thanks for doing this AMA!
How did you break through the sumo world? How did you start off?

SumoByamba14 karma

You can see my background here:


SirSoliloquy10 karma

I've heard that Japan isn't too pleased about how sumo champions tend to be from other countries these days.

Have you personally experienced any backlash from the Japanese due to you being born in Mongolia?

SumoByamba26 karma

I didn't experience prejudice or discrimination in Japan.

On the other hand, people usually like to support their local heroes, so many of the Japanese wrestlers have a stronger fan base than us Mongolians. That isn't negativity toward us, though. That's just because many fans like wrestlers who grew up in their own area.

SalvadorSnipez10 karma

  • How did you start?
  • Do you go through any specific weightlifting regimen?
  • Do you have a Specific diet?
  • When starting Did you lose a lot?
  • How do you train?

SumoByamba21 karma

You can see my Bio (http://www.sumobyamba.com/bio.php) for information on how I started.

In terms of diet, this shows how I used to eat in Japan (http://www.sumobyamba.com/dietnutrition.php). Now that I live in Los Angeles, though, I eat more variety, i.e. not only Japanese food.

This explains my training regimen in Japan (http://www.sumobyamba.com/traininglifestyle.php). Now, in Los Angeles, I mix in more activities like jogging, additional weightlifting, and basketball.

Even at the beginning, I almost always won! That's because you always start in the lower divisions, and the opponents there are smaller, weaker, and younger. Even as I moved to higher divisions, though, I continued to win most of matches. By the time I was 18 years old, I was already the highest-ranked sumo wrestler on my entire team.

ActuatedSathman9 karma

What goes into your training regime?

SumoByamba13 karma

You can learn about Japanese sumo training here:


Now, my training is a little more flexible because I am in Los Angeles.

fastr13378 karma

Hey Byamba, thanks for the IAMA. I am a judo practitioner, and have seen a few big throws in sumo. do you work on hip throws or foot sweeps in your sumo training at all?

SumoByamba15 karma

Yes, we work on all those moves.

-Viking-8 karma

Since most sumo wrestlers I've seen are very large, are health problems related to weight or diet very common?

SumoByamba26 karma

Sure, there are some unhealthy or overly obese sumo wrestlers.

Really, though, almost all of the champion-level sumo wrestlers are great athletes, in great shape, with very few health problems.

The Japanese sumo diet is very healthy, high in protein and vitamins, low in fat, with almost nothing but fresh vegetables and meats, and nearly no sweets.

Hardy19878 karma

What got you interested in becoming a Sumo wrestler? What is your Win - Loss Record? Are there many Non Asian Sumo Wrestlers?

Thanks you look like a beast.

SumoByamba24 karma

When I was 15 in Mongolia, a Japanese Grand Champion scouted my country for young athletes, and he picked me. You can see a short bio here -- http://www.sumobyamba.com/bio.php.

I won most of my matches in professional sumo, but I don't have the exact numbers now.

In international sumo, I have an extremely high winning percentage, definitely 95% or more. For example, in the annual US Sumo Open (http://www.usasumo.com/ussumoopen2012.html), I've competed for the past 6 years, and my record there is 59 wins and 1 loss! Many of my opponents there are national sumo champions in their respective countries.

In Japan, there are just a very few non-Asian sumo wrestlers, because pro sumo allows only one non-Japanese wrestler in each team. Sometimes a team has 30 or 40 guys, so the percentage of foreigners (and especially the percent of non-Asian sumo wrestlers) is very small.

In international sumo, there are people of all ethnicities competing.

TheOriginalSoni7 karma

What would you have been, if you had not been a Sumo Wrestler?

SumoByamba14 karma

I would have gone into business.

TheOriginalSoni8 karma

No offence meant, but are Sumo fighters naturally this heavily built or is it acquired? Just tried imagining you (per your picture) in a business suit, and found myself unable to.

SumoByamba20 karma

When I walk around in shorts and t-shirt, most people guess that I am between 250-300 pounds. I am really close to 370 pounds, but when my trunk and legs are covered up, it's hard to tell how thick they are.

See photos of my here in a kimono:


I don't think I appear as big there.

Also, look at theh last photo (bottom right of the page) here:


I am wearing a dress shirt and slacks.

When I started pro sumo, I was "only" about 200 pounds, so it took me a lot of time to put on so much muscle.

thebestestofthebest6 karma

Ever swim with a dolphin?

SumoByamba15 karma

Not yet!

redgreenpaper16 karma

how much can you bench squat and deadlift ?

SumoByamba13 karma

See above. I don't really max out, but I do high-volume, high-rep training.

I do lots of stretches and calisthenics, to keep limber. I do a better full leg split than Van Damme, actually.

Maxing out on weights tends to impair the flexibility.

Amon_Equalist6 karma

How much do you weigh?

SumoByamba16 karma

I'm about 370 pounds.

butteryT5 karma

What do you like to do in your spare time?

SumoByamba15 karma

I play basketball, watch movies, and hang out with my friends.

lukanx5 karma

What kind of training exercise (cardio, strength, etc) do you do as a sumo wrestler? Do you have a special diet you have to adhere to?

SumoByamba13 karma

See these pages for more information:

http://www.sumobyamba.com/bio.php http://www.sumobyamba.com/traininglifestyle.php http://www.sumobyamba.com/dietnutrition.php http://www.sumobyamba.com/qa.php

However, these days, in Los Angeles, my schedule, training, and diet are more flexible.

cannabiswarrior4 karma

Hey Byamba, I'm not really a big Sumo wrestling fan but I can definatley appreciate the dedication and hard work that guys like you put into it. The question I had was one of Sumo hierarchy - I don't know if it still exists but I heard that in Japan, people purposely loose matches because if they were to win, everyone would be very angry - because apparently they hold wrestlers in much more high regard if you establish yourself and make gains through long periods of time/dedication (years); - rather than a "Mike Tyson" so to speak, who just demolishes all his opponents even though he's only been sumo wrestling for a year or less. Thoughts?


SumoByamba16 karma

I'm not really familiar with the phenomenon you are talking about. I always try my best to win every match, no matter what.

ClavicusNitrus3 karma

What is the hardest part of doing what you do, what tests your mental strength and makes it feel like you can't go on any further, if anything does make it hard for you that is.

SumoByamba9 karma

Real sumo training is very tough. If you try authentic Japanese sumo training, you will probably want to give up in a few minutes. So, mental toughness is key.

redgreenpaper13 karma

do you follow a bulk and cut nutrition schedule or just permanent bulk?

SumoByamba8 karma

I don't do either of those. I just stay at the same comfortable weight all year-round.

snakeojakeo3 karma

do you think that diet, and added mass, are key to the strength needed in sumo? in other words, if one were to focus on strength training alone, without trying to put on extra bodyweight, could the person still be successful?

SumoByamba8 karma

Yes, you can focus on strength, speed, and technique. Even if you are not so huge, it's OK.

saxamaphone3 karma

It sounds like you left Japan pretty early in your career. Even though you've been successful after leaving, do you ever wish you could have stayed there? What was the hardest part about giving that up?

SumoByamba17 karma

Yes, I had a big decision to make. I like many things about sumo culture and life in Japan. However, there were some challenges and restrictions in pro sumo life.

So, even though I was moving up the ranks and had a bright future in pro sumo if I had continued, I finally decided to leave, to explore other options with more freedom.

Nucalibre3 karma

What sort of strength training is used for Sumo wrestling? Do wrestlers squat, deadlift, press, and clean; or is strength gained more through sparring?

SumoByamba12 karma

I do some strength training -- mostly multiple sets of high reps, in exercices like bench press, squat, dumbell curls, etc.

sakil73952 karma

how bad is the corruption in the industry

SumoByamba8 karma

I am not really aware of that.

goldcougar2 karma

What is your opinion of the segment in the movie Freakonomics which discussed that some matches in Sumo were rigged. For example the statistics about how often one gets their 8th win to end with a winning record.

SumoByamba7 karma

I don't know about that movie, but I think in any sport, there are a few athletes who might break the rules.

mlaporta20082 karma

If you were given the opportunity to contend for the WWE Tag Team Title at Wrestlemania, who would be your Tag Team partner?

SumoByamba9 karma

Sorry, but I don't follow pro wrestling much, so I don't know who to choose!

Make_it_Snow2 karma

Please describe a typical meal you would eat when you're bulking up.

Damnskipp2 karma

Can you please describe your highlight match (Your most epic battle)?

SumoByamba6 karma

Yes, I described it above, and I'll repeat it here:

I can never forget the first time I won the World Sumo Championships in 2006. The final match was against the Russian Champion, who is 6'8", over 500 pounds, and very muscular. We smashed heads incredibly hard at the start, and he rebounded, falling out of the ring before I did! So, I became World Sumo Champion!

TheLargeMan-14 karma

You vs Fat bastard....who wins?

SumoByamba14 karma

I don't know "Fat Bastard", but I'm sure I can beat him. Size is not so important.

I am more concerned about facing a strong, fast 200-pound opponent, than a fat, 600-pound guy.