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Sumo History

Sumo Wrestling Terms

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Aki Autumn; used to describe the major tournament in September.

Banzuke The official list of all participating rikishi in a tournament.

Barometer Nickname for Wakanosato coined by Mike and Kenji. Wakanosato measures the performance of the other sanyaku rikishi each basho. If a rikishi loses to Wakanosato, he is not performing well enough to yusho. This formula held true from the time Wakanosato entered the Makuuchi division until the 2003 Haru basho when Wakanosato beat Chiyotaikai, who later took the yusho at 12-3.

Chanko-nabe A stew unique to sumo where a myriad of fish, meat, vegetables, and noodles are added to a thick broth. Chanko-nabe, along with rice and beer, is the staple diet for the sumo rikishi.

Chumoku-ichiban The most anticipated bout of the day.

Danpatsu-shiki Retirement ceremony that involves the cutting of a rikishi's topknot.

Degeiko Visiting a different stable and practicing with the rikishi there. Usually, a sekitori will do this when there are no other sekitori in his stable to practice with.

Denkoban The lit-up panel hanging high above the seats that lists the days matches and results. The rikishi names are written in black kanji characters on a white background. A red line signifies the winner of the bout.

Deshi An apprentice or understudy. Used to describe the lower-ranked rikishi in a stable.

Dohyo The clay ring in which a sumo match takes place.

Dohyo-iri The ring-entering ceremony.

Dohyo-matsuri The ceremony to purify the dohyo on the first day of a tournament.


Ginosho The technical merit prize awarded to a Maegashira rikishi who displays exceptional technique and variety in winning at least 8 of his 15 bouts.

Gunbaidori When the judges agree with the decision of the gyoji.

Gyoji The referee.

Harite An open-fisted slap to the side of your opponent's face.

Haru Spring; used to describe the major tournament in March.

Hatsu First; used to describe the New Year basho in January.

Side-stepping your opponent's initial charge at the tachi-ai.

Heya A Sumo "stable."

Heya-gashira The highest-ranked rikishi in a stable.

Hikiwaza Technique of pulling down your opponent usually after side-stepping his initial charge.

Hiramaku Another name for the rank of maegashira.

Honbasho A major tournament where a rikishi's rank on the banzuke is determined by his performance.

Inashi A well-timed slap to the opponent's side causing him to fall to the ring floor.

Jungyo A Sumo tour to areas outside the four honbasho locations. These exhibitions have no bearing on a rikishi's rank.

Jun-yusho Runner-up.

Juryo The rank below maegashira; the lowest of the sekitori.


Kachi-koshi A majority of wins at a major tournament.

Kakuage Promotion in rank.

Kadoban A term used to describe an Ozeki who lost a majority of his bouts (makekoshi) at the previous tournament. Losing a majority of bouts again while kadoban means that the Ozeki will be demoted to Sekiwake for the next basho. He may be promoted back up to Ozeki if he posts 10 wins the next basho after demotion.

Kakusage Demotion in rank.

Kan Sixth sense. Frequently used in the expression "sumo-no-kan," or sixth sense in the ring, to describe a rikishi who has sat out for some time and is trying to get his feel for actual tournament competition again.

Kantosho The Fighting Spirit prize awarded to the Maegashira rikishi who displays outstanding tenacity in his sumo by winning at least 8 of his 15 bouts.

Keiko Sumo practice.

Kimarite Technique used to win a sumo bout. Click here to see the entire list.

Kinboshi Literally a "gold star." When a Maegashira-ranked rikishi topples a Yokozuna, he receives an extra 15,000 yen monthly stipend each month for the rest of his sumo career. If a rikishi has 5 kinboshi, he receives 75,000 yen extra a month regardless of his rank.

Kokugikan The indoor stadium in Tokyo where 3 out of each year's six tournaments are held.

Komusubi The lowest of the three sanyaku ranks.

Kosho A status given to an injured rikishi that guarantees his place on the banzuke for the tournament he will miss due to the injury.  The injury must be sustained during a hon-basho bout.

Kyokai Or Sumo Kyokai. The governing body of professional sumo in Japan.

Kyujo Sitting out a tournament due to injury.

Kyushu Refers to the last major tournament of the year held in Fukuoka in November. Fukuoka is located on Kyushu, the southernmost island of the four major islands which make up Japan. 


Makuuchi The division containing the top five ranks in Sumo: yokozuna, ozeki, sekiwake, komusubi and maegashira.

Mawashi The silk belt that rikishi wear.

Maegashira The rank below komusubi and above juryo; the lowest of the makuuchi division.

Make-koshi A majority of losses.

Makikae Changing the grip on your opponent's belt, usually from outside to inside.

Makushita The rank below juryo.

Matta A false start at the beginning of a bout.

Mizu-iri A break in the middle of an unusually long bout.

Mono-ii When judges meet to discuss the accuracy of a gyoji's decision.

Musubi-no-ichiban The final bout of the day.


Nagoya A city between Osaka and Tokyo where a major tournament is held in July.

Natsu Summer; refers to the major tournament held in May in Tokyo.

Nekodamashi Move first used by Mainoumi where a rikishi claps his hands in front of his opponent's face at the tachi-ai to throw him off guard.

Nihon-sumo-kyokai The Japan Sumo Association.

Okuridashi A winning technique that involves pushing the opponent out of the dohyo from behind.

Osaka A large city in Kansai, south of Tokyo where the Haru-basho, or Spring Tournament, is held in March.

Ozeki The second rank from the top, below yokozuna.

Rank and File Term used by Mike and Kenji to describe the Maegashira-ranked rikishi in Makuuchi.

Rijicho The chairman of the Japan Sumo Association.

Rikishi A Sumo "wrestler."


Sanbangeiko Practice technique where two rikishi fight over and over until exhausted.

Sanyaku The group of rikishi in the Ozeki, Sekiwake, and Komusubi ranks.

Sekiwake The rank below ozeki and above komusubi.

Senshuraku The final day of a tournament.

Shikiri The preliminaries and warm-up before a bout.

Shikiri-sen The white lines in the center of the dohyo from which the rikishi begin a bout.

Shiko The stamping of feet on the ground to strengthen the legs.

Shinpan A judge. Five judges sit around the dohyo to help officiate the bouts.

Shisho A stable master.

Shitatenage A winning technique that involves throwing the opponent down by using an inner grip on his mawashi.

Shukunsho The Outstanding Performance prize awarded to a Maegashira rikishi who topples several Yokozuna and/or Ozeki along his way in winning at least 8 of his 15 bouts.

Sumo The national sport of Japan. The Japanese here is actually "ozumo," or "Grand Sumo."

Suna-kaburi The first six spectator rows around the dohyo. The name is derived from suna, or sand, and kaburi, to wear on one's head. A spectator sitting in the first few rows around the dohyo may be hit with flying sand from the bouts in the ring.


Tachiai The initial charge at the beginning of a bout.

Taiketsu A match between two rikishi.

Tate-gyoji The chief gyoji.

Tawara The narrow bales of straw that mark the perimeter of the dohyo.

Tegata A rikishi's handprint, the Sumo equivalent of a signature.

Tenran-zumo Sumo performed before the Emperor of Japan.

Teppo The striking of a wooden pole to strengthen the arms and shoulders.

Tenpai The Emperor's Cup, or huge trophy awarded to the yusho rikishi.

Tokudawara The tawara that are slightly set back from the dohyo's ring. Originally, they were to allow the gyoji to enter the ring back when the tawara were full-sized bales of straw; now they give a few extra centimeters of fighting space to hard-pressed rikishi.

Torikumi A Sumo bout.

Tori-naoshi A rematch, called when a bout is too close to determine the winner.

Tsuna-tori An act of tying the white Yokozuna rope around the waste of a newly promoted Yokozuna.


Waza A technique.

Yagura The scaffolding or tower outside the entrance to a tournament; a taiko drum is placed at the top and beaten to announce the tournament.

Yakata The roof that is suspended above the dohyo.

Yaocho A fixed bout.

Yobidashi The announcers who call out the names of the rikishi at the beginning of each match.

Yokozuna The highest rank in Sumo from which a rikishi cannot be demoted.

Yorikiri A winning technique that involves forcing the opponent out of the dohyo by using a grip on his mawashi.

Yotsu-zumo Fighting with a grip on your opponent's belt.

Yusho A tournament victory.

Zabuton A cushion used when sitting on the floor. Before their bouts, rikishi sit on their personal zabuton at ringside.



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