Japanese women are more usually associated with the arts of geisha and flower arranging.

But, this week, 16 women took the art of wrestling to Singapore in a bid to promote their sport.

For the Singaporeans, it was an eye opener.

They may look like typical Japanese women: petite, young and attractive.

The youngest of them is just sixteen years of age.

But don’t be fooled by their looks — despite their age, looks and size some of these women rank among the world’s best wrestlers.

The women were in town last Saturday to promote the sport in Singapore, as locals here are traditionally more used to seeing men rather than the fairer sex brawling.

In Japan, however, there are more than 200 women wrestlers on five circuits.

There, women’s pro-wrestling is so popular that the girls usually have to hide behind sunglasses so they aren’t mobbed by enthusiastic fans.

For many Japanese, even those now living in Singapore, the wrestlers defy the typical image of how a woman should behave.

But the wrestlers’ popularity is just because they are seen as ordinary and normal — while also being nonconformist.

They represent something removed from the ordinary constraints of Japanese life.

Off stage the wrestlers insist their girl-next-door image is true.

SOUNDBITE: (Japanese)
“In the ring, I am a big fighter. I do not care about anything else. But outside the ring, I can cook, and do all the other things that ordinary women do.”
SUPER CAPTION: Nagayo Chigusa, wrestler

Nagayo Chigusa is 31 and has devoted the past 17 years to the sport she loves.

Together with 35-year-old Devil Masami, the other pioneer in Japanese pro-women’s wrestling, the two have enthralled and entertained fans.

The heavyweights say for a woman to make it in wrestling, it’s not bulk that counts but guts, perseverance and an athletic background plus a flair for showmanship.

And on Saturday’s exhibition show, theatrics play a big part, just as in matches staged by men of the World Wrestling Federation.

But unlike the men’s matches, the troupe are keen to point out that nothing is staged, everybody, they say, is prepared for violence and accidents.

And in spite of the sport’s lighter, sometimes comic moments, each wrestler is insured for a serious one (m) million U-S dollars.

But not every sparring wrestler will make the cut.

SOUNDBITE: (Japanese)
“I get about 100 applicants each year. I accept about thirteen. But only six are real wrestlers.”
SUPER CAPTION: Yuka Sugiyama, President Gaea Japan Circuit

Champ Nagayo Chiguea is one of those rare breeds.

To make the cut, she does 100 kilogramme bench presses, 10 kilometre jogs, two hour karate workouts and hundreds of sit ups, chin ups and sparring sessions — and that’s every day.

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