HONOLULU (KHON2) – When it comes to next week, Sunday, we’re speaking of February 12th, I’m sure many of you will be more hyped about the Super Bowl.

But let me give you something else to be hyped about.

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This is the 13th Hakuho Hai Cup Tournament taking place in Tokyo, Japan, for sumo wrestling.

And the cool thing about it is there’s a contingency here in Hawaii that is actually representing the United States with six young sumo athletes from 10 to 15 years of age, traveling up there and competing in this, again, on February 12th.

So, to find out more about this, we’re here with the President and the coach of Aloha State Sumo Association, Kena Heffernan.

If you don’t mind sharing a little bit about what it really has taken for you and your students to be prepared for this competition coming up next week.

“Well, it’s going to be the first time in three years that we’re being able to go to Japan since they’ve opened it,” says Heffernan.

“And the wonderful part is that our boys are going to be the sole representatives of the USA. So, they’re going to be the Ambassadors of Aloha up there. And they’ve been training virtually during COVID.  Every week we still trained virtually, and they’ve been really turning up since the summertime to get their bodies ready and to get in the right spirit.”

Tell me a little bit about you.

I mean, as a president and their coach, what is your experience within Sumo?

“Well, I think that initially I think our dad kind of threw my brother and I in the pot initially to teach us a little bit about life and getting knocked down and having to get back up,” says Heffernan.

“But we were welcomed with open arms with John Jacks, with the Vierra brothers, with these wonderful individuals.  Even now with Ozeki Konishiki and Musashimaru. Once you are part of the sumo family, that’s a family for life.”

I think it’s fascinating when it comes to the lessons of life.

You speak of life.

The lessons of life that you can take from the sumo mat into your real life and throughout your days.

What are some of those life lessons that you try to teach your students?

“Well, one of the things that I’m really impressed by in our Hawaii youth is just the heart that they have,” says Heffernan.

“And, you know, for them to be resilient, to get knocked down, to get back up, and for them to always be striving to move forward, that’s something that I love about our kids across the state. And our six kids have it in spades.  So I look forward for them to be to do, you know, their job, you know, and have fun and battle it out in the ring, earn the respect and give respect to their to their junior counterparts. There’ll be 17 countries there, I think 1500 athletes, as you said earlier. And I look forward to seeing them.”

And you also mentioned about the simple gesture of bowing.

“Yeah. So, this is one of those things where it’s always was remarkable, just something that they’re able to bow before they go to battle and then they battle at the end,” says Heffernan.

“And that’s something that has always, that I’ve always taken with me, those lessons. And even for the pro side, when they squat down, even though they’re squatting down, you can’t necessarily tell, you know, whether they won, whether they lost.  And for them to squat down, to give respect to their opponent, that’s something that always stuck with me. So, it’s something I hope for these kids, too, that once they get in there, I’ll give you my best, give me your best. And when they’re done, they leave it in the ring, they bow and leave the room.”

Best wishes to you and for you and your students. Again, this is the 13th Hakuho Hai Cup Tournament taking place on February 12th, all the way up in Tokyo, Japan.

So, to help the Aloha State Sumo Association in their journey to take their entire team up, they’re going to have a fundraiser this weekend selling prime rib plates.

They have that and some apparel available. 

Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8

So for all the information and how you can help the Aloha State Sumo Association, send them an email at alohastatesumo@gmail.com.