Big-time fun for Bechtel students

Big-time fun for Bechtel students

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

“Mr. Nguyen! Mr. Nguyen!”, “Mr. Tefft! Mr. Tefft!”

The students of Bechtel Elementary School chanted as two of their teachers took the stage, one after the other, to face big sumo wrestlers on the ring. When the teachers managed to pick up victories in the exhibition matches, their excitement soared.

On the afternoon of Nov. 3, a national holiday in Japan called “Bunka no Hi (Culture Day),” about 20 wrestlers from the sumo club team of the Okinawa Kenritsu Chubu Norin Koukou (Okinawa prefectural Chubu agriculture and forestry high school) visited the school on Camp McTureous to let nearly 800 kids experience authentic sumo.

The team is comprised of student athletes, nine of who were as big as professional sumo wrestlers, some were still young and small, but all of them looked very tough in the “Mawashi” loinclothes.

“I think that this event is a great experience for two cultures to come together,” Teacher Alexis Dempsey said before the event. “Being in a foreign country, it’s important for us to learn another culture.”

As soon as the sumo wrestlers started demonstrating their skills and physical strength, the kids were glued to every single move. They cheered at big sumo wrestlers colliding each other, or small ones slamming big ones to the ground. Even the flexibility of the wrestlers, who spread their legs wide on the ground in a warm-up session, impressed the kids.

The crowd was pumped up when teachers entered the ring, and the energy seemed to have peaked with their victories. But the climax was yet to come.

Taking the ring after the two teachers were about 10 kids from the school. When summoned, each of them stepped forward to face off with a wrestler.

The crowd went nuts again, rooting for their friends as they went up against the giant men. With the crowd on their side, the kids battled despite the huge size gap. There were moments where the sumo wrestlers lifted up the kids on their shoulders like a scene from pro-wrestling, or ran around as if to play a tag, showing off their physical capabilities. But that was not good enough to discourage the small but brave challengers. The effort of the boys and girls brought in a series of “surprising” upsets, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

“That was fun. It was the second time for me to do this. I love it,” said Alec, a 5th grader.

Charity, a 4th grade girl humbly but happily said, “I was scared, but I enjoyed it.”

It’s not just the kids that had a great time. This was also a good opportunity for the sumo wrestlers.

“The kids were very good at boosting the mood,” said Masatada Ootani, one of the largest members of the team at 346 lbs. “But they were very friendly and showed good response. I am really glad my team made this visit. It makes me feel good to see sumo being well received by people from other countries. And I really enjoyed the entertaining mood, which I don’t see very often. Our regular trainings and competitions are very tense, serious and quiet.”

The crowd at Bechtel was anything but quiet, and they’ll surely be talking about the event for a long time to come.


Read a related article here.

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