Women’s 2 time National lightweight Champion Marissa Tybor:
I recently had the great opportunity to ask some questions about Sumo and life in general with a woman who could be described a myriad of ways, but I am choosing this as an opportunity to use an adjective rarely used in this sport. The most beautiful sumo wrestler in America Marissa Tybor: You will find as I did her answers are as brilliant and purposeful as her wrestling is, if you ever have the opportunity to watch Marissa in the Dohyo I would say it is well worth the ticket price.
1) Marissa, you are a two time National Champion Woman’s Lightweight Sumo wrestler, but from what I understand you are involved in Krav Maga and a few other sports as well. What does your full athletic resume look like by now?
Well, by now, I have about 3 pages of honors and awards listing from high school to current, 2013. I have played sports my whole life and could not imagine a life without some type of exercise. During college, I played NCAA Golf and Softball. I eventually retired from those sports and continued my expedition of athletics by getting involved in martial arts. Martial Arts is what changed my life for the rest of my life. I am very fortunate for my abilities to play sports.
2) Who were the women (or men) you looked up to as a child? Do you think it is important for trailblazing women like yourself to be aware they too could be a role model?
To be honest, I looked up to Michael Jordon and Tiger Woods because they were superb athletes. I didn’t want their abilities in the sports that they were playing, I wanted their mind set when they played their sport.
I look back on the women sports and I cannot recall any women I look up to back then. I know growing up, I looked up to my mother and grandmother, on my mother’s side. I just could never imagine a life without their compassion, dedication to their lifestyles, and how they taught me to “never give up.”
3) What is the one thing you would like to impart on young women considering combat sports such as Boxing, MMA, Judo, Sumo ect?
There are several times when I leave my martial arts facilities, get into my car, and cry my eyes out. If I can impart one thing for young women in martial arts, it would be to never give up. Always continue to go for what you want. There will always be men or boys that may make fun of you or challenge you, you may be the only women standing in a crowd of male students, know that its important to recognize those situations as a means to motivate you to continue to accomplish your goals in becoming the best.
4) There are about 5 times as many men as women in this sport, how often are you able to find a suitable training partner to practice sumo?
It is extremely difficult to find training partners in a sport such as sumo. I try my hardest to relate my current training in Krav Maga to my Sumo training. Usually, I just find one of my brothers and sumo them to the ground 😉
5) You were recently inducted into an athletic hall of fame, tell me about that?
I was inducted into the hall of fame, March 24, 2013. It was such an experience. I was the youngest female to be inducted in the Girls Catholic Hall of Fame. Wow, what an achievement. When the speaker read my accomplishments, I turned to my mother and said, “I did all of that?” She turned back to me and said, “Marissa, you did.” That will always be a memory to cherish for my lifetime.
6) Here is a tough question and you can pass if you like. I understand you were very close to retiring from Sumo this last year, what made you change your mind?
I have been given so many opportunities in one lifetime at such a young age, I aspire to become a PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis. I continue to go to school full time, work full time, and compete in USA Sumo. It was becoming extremely difficult to manage it all.
I decided to turn my position down for World Combat Games in Sumo, but continue to compete in USA Tournaments. I could only compete in Sumo if my school work was complete. So there I stand, not retired.
7) In pro sumo it is said that a woman cannot even touch the Dohyo, or the Rikishi could be injured and the ring would be impure. Do you think the strict adherence to the ancient heritage which is so important in the Shinto religion, which of course Sumo is a large part of does damage to the chances amateur sumo has of making it into the Olympics?
I cannot answer this question in a sense that I know what is right or wrong. I strongly believe by incorporating women, it is an example of changing times in a society which deliberately do not accept women as equal to men. I do not know the “Shinto Religion” to be able to comment on such a strong topic. I do know that the future of women in amateur sumo in increasing and I hope, one day, we can look back and say, “Wow, women sumo wrestlers have made history.”
8) While I hope it is a long way off, when you do hang up your mawashi what would you like your main contribution to this sport to be?
I am told by my trainers to always have a purpose in anything you do. My main contribution is to make USA SUMO known, and to allow spectators to watch men and women wrestlers compete. My main contribution, to make history.
9) You recently had a scare from a bug bite (?), can you tell me the story?
On July 9, 2013, I was stung by a hornet in my parents living room, while reading. Within 5 minutes, my body was completely numb, within 10 min, I was foaming from the mouth, not able to speak or move. I was in and out of the hospital. The next morning I had seizures in Walgreens and sent back to the hospital. For 7 days, I had to listen to doctors and nurses telling me, I was faking the seizures and heart beats. I would have seizures lasting 12-15 mins, I was code blue twice… it was scary. I thought that I was never going to make it out. Eventually two doctors saved my life. The psychiatrist and neurologist both agreed that I had dystonic episodes due to an allergic reaction to hornet venom. People continue to ask if this situation has changed my life. It would be insanity if this situation did not change my life.
10) What is your day job?
I am currently a behavior therapist at Applied Behavior Analysis of Illinois. I work with individuals with developmental disabilities and psychiatric issues. I look at behaviors that are concerning to the individual or family, we decide what needs to be change and how to change it so the individuals can have more opportunities at community events and social outings.
11) Ok, you are intelligent, crazy talented, (hall of famer) seem to have an awesome energy about yourself, and beautiful. What is one thing that might surprise people who think they know you well?
One thing that would surprise a lot of people, except my family of course, is: I am a two time cancer survivor. In 2006 and 2010, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer, requiring two surgeries. I am fine now. I will never forget how young I was the first time I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was scary and I had two friends that went with me to treatment and surgery. I continue to thank them for everything they did during that time. The second time, I was living in California. I had exceptional doctors in Hawaii and California.
The important concept to get from this experience is that we all go through different challenges and we may never know why we go through such heartache. It is important to know that we can make it through and that situations like these, only make use stronger in the end.
12)You just competed in your second women’s US Sumo open. How did you place and have you seen the competition getting stronger?
I placed first in Women’s lightweight division. Am I getting stronger, yes mentally. I still have lots of improvements to make, just like any athlete. We always strive for perfection, obtaining excellence.