As outlined in a previous Sumo 101, joining sumo is often a matter of just getting in touch with a stable.
Experience in the ring or a background in the sport aren’t prerequisites, as virtually anyone with Japanese nationality will be accepted into sumo.
The reality, however, is that many, if not most, new recruits have already stepped into the ring at some level as an amateur.
Some of course come through a university system whose main tournaments are filled with top-level talent.
Others though get their only taste of sumo as children at one of the many underage events held around the country.
The Wanpaku (Urchin) organization runs a series of competitions that culminate in the national finals at the Kokugikan each summer.
The regional events are open to all, and lots of children without any sumo experience take part.
That’s not to say that there aren’t serious and dedicated entrants though.
Go around the sumo clubs in Japan and you’ll see boys and girls as young as three training hard each weekend.
By the time they are in elementary school, kids like those are proficient in most of the main techniques. From there it’s just a matter of building size and gaining experience.
Once they reach junior high school they are more than a match for any adult of regular size without a sumo background.
Kids sumo has most of the same rules as the adult version with a few moves and positions removed to ensure their safety.
The Wanpaku national championship, which will be held on August 4 this year, is a major event in underage sumo and is attended by many in the professional game.
Fifth- and sixth-year elementary students also have their own yokozuna and the grand champion performs a ring entering ceremony.