More than 10,000 children have put on padded suits and seized the chance to knock down their brothers, sisters and anyone else who wants to try Junior Sumo.
Summer Sumo a smash with kids
ABU DHABI // Sumo wrestling is not the usual pastime of children in the capital but it seems to be a craze for them this summer. Junior Sumo is one of the activities at this year's Summer in Abu Dhabi event at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) and is one of the most popular attractions.
So far, more than 10,000 children have taken part, and, organisers say, it is mainly girls who are hooked on the Japanese martial art. Participants put on huge padded suits and helmets with the characteristic fighter's ponytail, dressing up like Japanese heavyweight wrestlers. There is no kicking and no punching, just charging at each other and showing resilience as you try to knock your opponent to the floor.
Children as young as five can take part in this adaptation of the Japanese sport, wide grins beaming across their faces. Ahmed al Dhaheri, eight, fought against his friend and even though he lost, could not stop smiling. "I like fighting but it's hard," he said, after being knocked down several times in a row. Sarah al Marar, seven, has taken part almost every day since it began three weeks ago. She and her brother Hamed, six, engaged in the usual sibling rivalry on the sumo mat.
"It's something new for them," said their mother, Sherina al Qubaisi. Hamed says he gets frustrated when his sister beats him. "I like to be competitive with her," he said. "It's good when I win and I feel like a big teddy bear in the suit." It is the first year that organisers have introduced sumo wrestling, which is the second biggest attraction. The most popular is the maze game, Bee Amazed, which has had more than 20,000 participants. Event workers are positioned at each station and record each participant.
Kelvin Yong, the operations director, said: "This year we wanted to try something different. Just because you're not the size of a sumo wrestler doesn't mean you can't do it. Kids and adults love it and there's always a queue for this one. People want to learn and experience new things." Mr Yong says there is a growing trend of families staying in the city during the summer, seeing more people at the event than ever before, putting more pressure on organisers to entertain the capital's kids. Keerthana Chandrababu, 10, who was there with her brother Sudharshan, 14, said: "I've never tried this before. I wanted to try something new."
Her mother, Viji, said: "She's always fighting at home with her brother, but now she only wants to fight with a small boy." Sudharshan said it is a struggle to find things to occupy his time during the long hot summer when there is no choice but to stay indoors. "It's good to have this, it's fun, It's not something we'd experience otherwise." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow this and our other hot-weather series of stories at www.thenational.ae/summer.