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Sumo Wrestling Rules

"The sport of sumo has very few rules, which can result in some exciting bouts. Sumo takes place in a ring approximately 15 feet in diameter that is raised about 2 1/2 feet off the ground on a huge block of clay called a dohyo. A light sprinkling of sand is applied inside of the ring. The edge of the ring is made of tightly wound straw bands called tawara and rises up about 3 inches out of the dohyo. A new dohyo is created for each tournament. Five judges, or shinpan dressed in black kimono, sit below the dohyo and around the ring. These judges are former rikishi themselves. A referee, or gyoji, dressed in an elaborate kimono stands at the edge of the ring and officiates the bout. At the end of the bout, the gyoji points to the winner. In a particularly close bout, any of the five judges can dispute the call made by the referee. In this case, a conference, called a mono-ii, is held inside the ring with the gyoji and five shinpan to discuss the match. In modern times, television instant replay is used to determine the actual outcome of a match when in dispute.

A rikishi loses a match when any part of his body other than the bottoms of his feet touches the dohyo or when he is pushed or thrown outside of the ring. In the middle of the ring are two white lines called shikirisen. These lines are the starting points of each rikishi for each bout. When a judge gives the signal for the rikishi to fight, both rikishi crouch behind their respective shikirisen and face each other. When both rikishi place both hands clenched in fists on or behind the shikirisen, the bout begins. The tachi-ai, or initial charge, is extremely important in gaining the advantage and momentum over your opponent.

During the actual bout, a rikishi may use any technique or maneuver except pulling his opponent's hair, hitting his opponent with a closed fist, boxing his opponent's ears, choking his opponent (although he may push at the throat), or grabbing his opponent's mawashi in the crotch area. Rikishi use all sorts of techniques during the bout; however, a rikishi's style can usually be classified as one of two styles: oshi-zumo, or a tendency to push your opponent out of the ring, and yotsu-zumo, a tendency to grab your opponent's belt and force him out of the ring. The truly best rikishi are adept at using both styles to beat their opponents.

At the end of each bout, a kimarite, or winning technique, is announced informing the spectators exactly what method was used to win the bout. While there are over 60 official kimarite, only a dozen or so are seen regularly. Perhaps the greatest advantage a rikishi can gain over his opponent is to reach around and grab his opponent's belt thus keeping his opponent's arm pinned near his body. This technique is called uwate, or outside grip. Maintaining the outside grip, a rikishi commonly throws his opponent down (uwate-nage), or uses his position to force his opponent outside of the ring (yorikiri). As a sumo fan, understanding the different kimarite and techniques used by the rikishi, greatly enhances the viewing experience."

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