In some ways, Jackson Wald’s look at sumo in NYC is a typical scrappy-band-of-enthusiasts subculture story. In others, it’s a sports-underdog story. And perhaps most surprisingly, it’s a portrait of a man for whom sumo simply makes sense. A memorable profile, disguised in a mawashi.

Practice was scarce today; a combination of injuries and a muggy, dense rain enveloping New York City kept the vast majority of its six members home for the weekend. Grammer quickly gave me a tour of his home—the bookshelves lined with thick texts on poetry, art, and existentialism, the kitchen stocked full of his sumo-training nutrients, and the dohyo itself, marked off in his living room by wedges of black electrical tape. And then we got to the matter at hand: it was time for Grammer and I to train.

Practice began with 100 shiko, an exercise that combines a deep squat with high leg raises, each motion ending with an emphatic stomp. Next came 100 teppo, or pillar strikes. We positioned ourselves on opposite sides of Grammer’s living room and began methodically hitting the supporting columns of his walls. (Grammer does 300 of these a week, and if you look closely enough at a patch near the living room window, you’ll see a long, lightning-bolt-shaped crack stretching from the top of the frame to the base of the wall: residual damage from the repeated blows). After five minutes of suriashi, a squatted walk around the dohyo, we partnered up and transitioned into butsukari—each of us taking turns, in a waltz-like rhythm, striking the other’s breast as we shuffled diagonally across the ring. By this point, only thirty minutes into the training, I was drenched in a coat of communal sweat, and my hips were screaming in pain. A wave of apprehension washed over me— primarily because the Beya’s technique coach had just walked through the door, and that meant it was time to spar.