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The Day After Shiko

I woke up on Tuesday morning sandwiched between the blankets of my warm futon feeling snug and content. It didn't take me long, though, to remember where I was and that I had to get out of that warm cocoon to stand in the cold for a couple hours wearing nothing but heavy canvas underpants. So I procrastinated until my roommates started waking up and going downstairs themselves. Then I finally threw off my covers and stood to roll up my bedding.

But once on my legs, I nearly collapsed. I'd clearly overdone it on the shikos the day before. No leg workout had ever left me feeling like this the next day: not my first uphill runs, not skiing, not my first time snowboarding. From my knees to my pelvis, from my calves to my ass, inner thigh, outer thigh, everywhere, all I felt was pain. It hurt to walk. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit.

Laying down, however, wasn't so bad, so I crawled back into bed and wondered whether to bail on sumo practice this morning. On the one hand, I didn't want the guys to think I was a wuss. The sumo world, from what I could tell, doesn't really stand for that sort of thing. And I was worried that the Oyakata, who'd extended so much hospitality already, would think I was insincere, ready to drop my eagerness to wake up early, skip breakfast and put on a mawashi at the first little ache.

On the other hand, I worried that, even if I could make it into a mawashi and onto the practice floor, I probably wouldn't make it through the first round of shikos. I'd put someone through the trouble of getting me into the mawashi, only to slink off the practice floor before the fighting even started.

So I decided to do a few test shikos right there in my room. At the foot of my futon, I squatted, kicked up my right leg, squatted again, then kicked up my left. Each movement was as awkward as it was painful, my legs having the dexterity of cooked noodles. Murayoshi, still in his futon, saw me painfully shiko-ing alone in the dark and asked, "What are you doing?"

"My legs hurt," I answered, through clenched teeth.

"If your legs hurt, don't bother even putting on a mawashi," he said, which is exactly what I wanted to hear. I crawled back into bed to kill some time and steel myself for the next couple hours in the common room being forced to keep my aching legs crossed.

When I finally went downstairs, I passed Murayoshi in the hall, who said, "Make sure to thank the Kashira for dinner." The Kashira was seated in his customary position on the ledge by the practice floor and when I thanked him for the previous night's Korean barbecue, he said, "So your legs hurt, huh?"

"They do," I answered, and he smirked. A few of the other wrestlers, hearing that I wasn't joining them because my legs ached, also chuckled. When the Oyakata came down from his apartment a while into the practice, he saw me sitting in the common room, wearing sweats.

"His legs hurt," explained the smiling Kashira, and the Oyakata laughed too.

NEXT: Dohyo-Tsukuri