Becoming a Rikishi

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Can anyone become a rikishi (sumo wrestler)?

There are three qualifications:

  1. Must have completed compulsory education (ninthgrade) and be under 23 years old on the day of the test.
  2. Must be 173 centimeters or taller.
  3. Must weigh at least 75 kilograms.

Women cannot become rikishi. It is stipulated in sumo regulations that only men may participate in the sport.

How can one become a rikishi?

A young man gets permission from the head of the stable he would like to join, and then asks him to submit the following forms to the Japan Sumo Association (JSA):

  1. Parental approval form
  2. Familly register
  3. Certificate of health from a doctor

The perspective rikishi must then take the physical test administered by the JSA doctor. If he passes, he is registered as an official rikishi of the JSA. These rikishi are called “new apprentices.”

Does a non-Japanese need special qualifications to become a rikishi ?

No, qualifications are the same as for Japanese. A person from another country is, however, required to have two responsible individuals serve as guarantors. Non-Japanese take the same physical exam required of other new apprentices and are registered with the JSA when they pass it. They then submit their alien registration card to the JSA.

Are there any rikishi who do not belong to a stable?

No. All rikishi are members of a stable. There are no “free agents.” Thus, all rikishi have a stablemaster (oyakata).

Can rikishi change stables?

No. Once a rikishi joins a stable he cannot change it unless his stablemaster dies or decides to establish a new stable independent of the original one. The loyalty is not to the stable as much as it is to the stablemaster himself.

How can a rikishi start his sumo career at the makushita (fourth rank from the bottom) level?

In certain cases, a rikishi who has competed in specific college or other amateur league events and attained the specified winning record may begin wrestling at the makushita level, in the lowest position, no. 60, of that rank. The stablemaster files a request with the JSA and the board of trustees grants approval.

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