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One-of-a-kind sumo & martial arts school opening in LaPlace

LAPLACE — Andre Coleman of LaPlace challenges the stereotype that sumo wrestling involves oversized men comically crashing into each other.                         

Since 2013, he’s reveled in the physicality of the sport and led countless men, women and children to success in the ring.

Coleman recently moved back to St. John the Baptist Parish after living in Missouri for more than 20 years and operating Welcome Mat Sumo Club for the past five.

Coleman and his wife, sumo wrestler Cody Stout, are officially opening Welcome Mat NOLA Martial Arts Academy Tuesday (Jan. 1) at 212 Woodland Drive, Suite G in LaPlace. They plan to introduce sumo to the community.

Welcome Mat NOLA is the first of its kind in Louisiana, according to Coleman, with the closest sumo wrestling clubs located in Texas and Florida.

“I think there’s a very misguided stereotype that every sumo wrestler is out of shape and pretty much fat and sloppy,” Coleman said.

“We’re trying to change that stereotype. We’ll be teaching stretching, muscle memory, muscle strength and balance.

“Most people just think of martial arts as one dimensional, and what we’re trying to do here is bring another dimension of martial arts to the area.”

Students will also learn how to participate in a tournament and apply lessons through mock matches in a sumo ring.

Judo classes will also be offered on a weekly basis, Coleman said.

“Judo is an Olympic sport that teaches a child or an adult to use someone else’s weight against them,” Coleman said. “There’s no striking involved. It’s all about throwing the body.”

The fun kicked off this weekend with a three-day sumo camp featuring 25 participants from six states, including several members of the USA national team that competes around the world annually.

Walk-ins are still available from 2 to 4:30 p.m. today (Dec. 29) and from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday for $20 per day on Woodland Drive.

Children are seen at a youth judo tournament. Welcome Mat NOLA will offer instruction in numerous disciplines, including judo, for all ages.

Sumo and judo demonstrations and class sign-up will be available at the Welcome Mat NOLA grand opening, which starts at 3 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 1).

Starting in January, kids sumo classes will be held from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and kids judo classes will be held from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Adult classes are from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays for sumo and Tuesdays and Thursdays for judo.

Registration for the first month of classes is $150 for children 16 and under and $175 for adults. The cost includes a wrestling belt and membership to the United States Sumo Federation.

Monthly fees drop to $80 for children and $95 for adults for all subsequent months.

Coleman said sumo wrestling is open to men, women and children of all sizes. Lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight divisions ensure there is a place for all.

Stout, who is also teaching classes, encourages women to give sumo and judo a chance.

“We are very open and accepting to everyone,” Stout said. “For adults, it’s a great workout for confidence and a great community to be part of in America. It’s very genuine, and it’s still small, so it feels like a family reunion for all of us when we have our camp.”

Stout said sumo and judo are great confidence builders for children and are designed to where anyone can succeed regardless of prior experience.

Coleman and Stout were introduced to the sumo scene in 2013 and immediately found a passion for it. Before long, they were competing in almost every competition available, including national and world tournaments.

For Coleman, sumo is a combination of taekwondo, judo, football and wrestling.

“It’s a combination of power, balance, technique and skill rolled into one,” Coleman said. “What makes it unique is how fast the matches are and how much strength goes into those matches.”

To sign up, call 985-224-3376 or visit welcomematnola.org.