Sumo

Sumo 101: Joining sumo

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Virtually every athlete on teams like Real Madrid or the Chicago Bears came up through a youth system or showed promise while playing in high school or college, with many of them already well versed in their sport of choice by the time their age hits double figures.

It’s the same in most top-level individual sports — think Tiger Woods age 3 up against Bob Hope on TV, or the Williams sisters in a tennis academy before they had even finished elementary school.

The notion of a person walking off the street into a major tournament asking to be part of the draw, or knocking on the door of a major football team with no experience in the game but getting a tryout that same day is laughable.

Yet that’s what happens in sumo.

Assuming you have Japanese nationality and have reached the age of 15, with a regular size and weight you will be given a shot.

Not only that but you’ll be competing in real tournaments within a couple of months and could (in theory) be a top-level highly-paid professional in a year and a half.

Connections in sumo aren’t needed either. These days stables have websites and social media accounts with contact information for those wanting to try their hand at sumo.

No experience or knowledge of the sport is required. Take a look at the new recruits in mazeumo (pre-sumo) each tournament and you’ll see skinny kids mounting the dohyo from the wrong side, not knowing the rituals and looking utterly clueless about technique.

Even Hakuho, the greatest of all time, was once in that position, and the fact that all the stables in sumo initially turned down the boy that would eventually go on to shatter virtually ever record in the sport, means that none of them want to be burned again.

Becoming a professional sumo wrestler is just a phone call or email away.