Brodi Henderson, B.C. sumo wrestler, joins Japan's elite league

Brodi Henderson, a 360-pound 20-year old from Victoria who grew up practising sumo in his backyard, is now the only North American in Japan's elite sumo league.

20-year-old learned sumo in Victoria by watching YouTube videos

Brodi Henderson, 20, of Victoria has joined Japan's sumo wrestling league. (Facebook)

A 20-year old from Victoria who grew up practising sumo in his backyard is now the only North American in Japan's elite sumo league.

Brodi Henderson last month with a friend in Osaka, Japan, where the Canadian has made it big in the sumo world. (Facebook)

Brodi Henderson lives full time in Tokyo, training with the best sumo wrestlers in the world — and turning heads, said his father, Lee Henderson.

At six-foot-seven and 360 pounds, he's easy to spot, said Lee Henderson.

"He's the only sumo wrestler ever with blond hair."

"We were standing outside, and people would recognize him from newspapers and TV. They would get out of their cars and hand him their infants and babies, and take pictures with him."

Learned sumo at 15 watching YouTube

Henderson has risen quickly in the world of sumo since first competing in the U.S. at age 15.

"At first he did OK but not spectacular," said Andrew Freund, director of USA Sumo.

Each year, the B.C. teen returned to the U.S. to compete showing a "marked improvement," a sign of his dedication, said Freund.

With few opportunities to train in B.C., Henderson learned by watching videos on YouTube and practising at home.

"We built a sumo ring in our backyard and started humping around 45-gallon [170-litre] jugs of water," said Lee Henderson.

After winning his weight class in the U.S. Sumo open last year, he was chosen to join the Japanese Professional Sumo Association, said his father.

A big part of his training includes sleeping on the floor with 20 other elite wrestlers.

It has been almost three decades since a Canadian joined the elite league in Japan, but Henderson is not the first sumo wrestler from B.C.

In the 1980s, John Tenta of Surrey, B.C., made waves in the sumo world in Japan before returning to North America as a professional wrestler known as The Canadian Earthquake.

Brodi Henderson of Victoria has been getting attention in the Japanese press too. (Brodi Henderson)

With files from Richard Zussman and Dan Burritt

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.