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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Japanese women put up a fight
By Vanessa Asell
BBC, Tokyo

Japanese woman are traditionally associated with polite and submissive behaviour.

But the thousands of spectators who flock to women's pro-wrestling fights view the women as heroines, who show that Japanese women can also be strong and assertive.

Japanese pro-wrestlers
Not the way Japanese women are meant to behave
"Japanese women are not good at showing their feelings, what they think and what they say is always different," one fan said.

"But wrestlers can show their feelings. I find that very attractive. They give me courage. They support Japanese women, who often tend to be looked down on. In the ring, they can apply all the power they want."

Another fan agreed. "Normally, Japanese women don't move like this, so I was touched by their strength. They had great outfits and were so different from normal Japanese women," she said.

It is not just their glitzy clothing which lends to the spectacle. Since the sport arrived in Japan 40 years ago, fighters are giving the public an increasingly dangerous-looking show.

Carlos Amano, 27, has been wrestling for eight years. She started because her grandfather was a big fan.

With her masculine looks, stocky build and short spiky hair, she defies all Japanese beauty ideals.

But she said that, although the moves looked impressive, they were not particularly violent.

"Compared to when I started... a lot of new techniques have been developing... I don't find there is a lot of violence on the mat because I'm always training hard to protect myself from getting injured. Pro-wrestling is a professional sport so there are rules we follow. All wrestlers try to do moves that don't injure the other fighters. I'm always cautious about injuries and violence," she said.

But what you see in the ring seems to tell another story.

Women stamp and kick each other, and they often end a fight with bruises or even in hospital.

Carlos Amano
Wrestler Carlos Amano says she is careful to avoid injury

Veteran sports writer Hirotsugu Suyama argued that violence was common to all sports.

"I think it's dangerous but I think every sport is dangerous - rugby, baseball judo, American football. But the fight is exciting and beautiful and wonderful."

Noriyo Kunihiro, the head of the women's wrestling federation, admitted she was worried about the violence in the ring.

"Sometimes they are really getting angry with their fighters," she said.

But fans seem to be insatiable in their appetite to see a violent show. Referee Sachiko Ito said the women had to develop more and more moves and techniques to give the audience the fix they wanted.

The fans themselves say the wrestlers may look tough, but in ordinary life they become very different people.

"Usually, normal Japanese women don't use their strength. Japanese pro-wrestling women do when they fight, but outside the ring they are gentle and polite," one fan explained.

"This is a very attractive point for me. All wrestlers have two characteristics - they are strong and they are traditional Japanese Oriental women. That's why I'm a fan."

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