Sumo

Sumo 101: Becoming a rikishi

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

How does a person go about becoming a professional sumo wrestler and what is the initial process like once you sign up?

Basically it’s as simple as contacting a stable and asking to join. Most heya (stables) have phone and email details on their websites.

There are a couple of caveats, however.

Sumo has minimum height and weight restrictions, as well as age limits for those who want to become a rikishi.

To gain acceptance to the sport you must be at least 167 cm tall and weigh 67 kg.

If you are just shy of those marks, don’t worry. A blind eye will be turned to anyone standing on tiptoes for the height check, and it’s not unknown for skinnier recruits to drink a couple of liters of water before stepping on the scales.

If you are joining in March after graduating from junior high school, the minimums are lowered to 165 cm and 65 kg.

That effectively puts the lower age limit at 15 while the upper one is officially 23.

It can be extended to 25 in certain cases — for example if a person is coming from a successful amateur sumo background.

Each sumo stable is allowed a maximum of one foreign recruit so unless you are a Japanese national you’ll need to find a heya with no foreigners currently enrolled.

Other than that, no prior sumo experience is needed, and in fact some heya only recruit those without an amateur sumo background.

Once a stable has agreed to take you in (often after a short trial period) they will submit the paperwork to the Sumo Association. Once that formality and the entrance physical are complete, you are officially a professional athlete.

You can check out anytime you want, but you can never return. Sumo allows only one shot at making it in the sport.