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SUM Of its parts: MotoGP™ wrestles in Japan

MotoGP™ once again was privileged to witness the ultimate cultural representation of the nation hosting the race

When the morning sun rises in Tokyo, so too do the Rikishi (Sumo) in training at Tokyo’s Arashio Heya (Sumo House), and today, they changed up their training to invite World Championship riders Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Jorge Martín (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) to train together ahead of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan.

Rikishi Riders: MotoGP™ tries sumo wrestling

After studying the Rikishi training schedule for the first time, the riders donned their shorts and joined the Rikishi in the sacred Dohyo (fight ring) to learn some basic Sumo wrestling moves. After a quick stretch and warm up it was time for the MotoGP™ stars to test out their new skills against the Rikishi.

First up was Nakagami who came in hot and gave his all to push the young Rikishi out of the ring. But his efforts were fruitless against the unshakeable warrior who didn’t move an inch. Martín tried his luck next but was easily lifted over the wrestler’s head and taken out of the ring. The pressure was on when it came time for Morbidelli to step into the challenge but once again the Rikishi came out victorious. With one last effort, all three riders tried to move the solid young Sumo who took hold of all three riders at once and easily pushed them out of the ring. “All three of us tried to move the Sumo, we gave everything but it was like trying to move stone. They’re so strong and he easily pushed us out of the ring with no effort at all. I am really surprised at how strong they are, it’s incredible” recalled Morbidelli.

After training it was time for breakfast. The head Rikishi of the Arashio Heya explained to the riders how breakfast and sleep is an important component to their training routine in helping to keep them nourished but also to assist in their body growth. The athletes shared a traditional Chenkonabe (vegetable and beef hot pot) and good conversation to finish off a morning of training no one was likely to forget. “It was an amazing experience, I’m Japanese but it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced Sumo” said Nakagami. “It was interesting because I thought it would be completely different but when I saw how they trained I was surprised and I enjoyed seeing their passion. If I have time I want to visit the Sumo again.”

With new skills learned and a better appreciation for the iconic Japanese sport, the riders are ready to take on the toughest competition with FP1 of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan underway on Friday at 9am local time. 

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