A rikishi is a professional sumo wrestler and is most commonly from Japan where the sport of Sumo is practiced professionally. The word literally means ‘striking one another’. The sport is a type of full-contact wrestling where two opponents contest within a circular ring. The objective is to force your opponent out of the ring or ensure a body part other than the soles of his feet touches the floor. It is considered Japan’s national sport and originates from the nation. Despite being a modern Japanese martial art, the history spans several centuries. For a sumo wrestler, life is very strict and controlled. Many of ancient traditions have been preserved with the rules regulated by the Japan Sumo Association. This is the professional arm of the sport. Each wrestler must belong to a heya, an organisation where they live and train. Strict tradition decrees what they must eat and wear while at the commune. Women are not allowed to compete in professional sumo.
A Kojiki is an early Japanese manuscript that covers aspects like genealogies, myths, songs and legends. It was here that sumo was first mentioned in a chronicle dating back to 712. The first recording of a sumo match was made in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan) in 720 with the match dating back to 23 BC. Early unregulated fights until the Japanese middle ages often led to an opponent dying in the contest. During the Japanese Middle Ages (1185-1603) and specifically the Kamakura period, sumo lost some of its importance in the court. It was repurposed from a ritualistic contest to a military combat training among the revered samurai. During the Edo period (1603-1867) sumo was banned for the moment because of regular wild fighting on the streets. Since 1867 Emperor Meiji restored the popularity of sumo and the traditions of the sport.
The International Sumo Federation (IFS) is the highest authority and world governing body for the sport of sumo. Founded in 1992, it currently has over 80 international members. IFS is recognized by the International Olympic Committee and is based in Tokyo.