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Sumo wrestling is not only a 2,000-year-old martial art and the Japanese national sport, it is also the sport of choice for a growing number of athletes across the globe. The objective of sumo wrestling is a simple one. Two competitors stand inside a dohyo, or a 15-foot ring, and attempt to force their opponent either to the ground or out of the dohyo.
In recent years, the sport of sumo wrestling has grown more and more popular in the United States. This becomes evident when attending the USA Sumo Open, which is the largest amateur sumo wrestling tournament outside of Japan. Elite sumo wrestlers from Russia, Mongolia, Egypt, throughout the U.S., and all across the world travel to Long Beach to participate in the highly regarded tournament. Furthermore, growing interest in the sport has led to an increasing number of clubs forming and joining the U.S. Sumo Federation, the nation’s regulating body. It is not surprising, then, that the U.S. sent a strong national team to the 2019 World Sumo Championships in Osaka, Japan.
CBT SoCal’s Dr. Jason von Stietz had the distinct honor of providing sport psychology services to one of the U.S. national champions striving to win a world title in Osaka. Dr. von Stietz met with the national champion to discuss the unique pressures of training for a world championship, struggling with injuries, and having limited training resources. Dr. von Stietz and the national champ used cognitive behavior therapy to address unhelpful thinking styles that were leading to frustration, muscle tension, and affecting the champs performance during training. Positive self-talk, chosen specifically because of it’s special meaning to the champion, and mindfulness techniques were used to help the champ stay focused on the task at hand. Research, and the experience of numerous elite athletes, show that athletes perform at their best when they are able to focus on the task at hand in spite of any negative emotions or physical discomfort.
Although the national champ did not win the world title as he was hoping, he had a strong showing against elite competition earning a record of 2-2. He reported feeling disappointed at the outcome. However, more importantly, he reported learning from his mistakes, feeling resolved to continue growing as a competitor, and committing himself to continue striving for a world championship. He and Dr. von Stietz plan to continue partnering during his journey to the next World Championship.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He works in the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and El Segundo.