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Glossary of sumo terms

The following words are terms used in sumo wrestling in Japan.
Banzuke for Jan 2012 tournament.
azukari (預り)
Hold. A kind of draw. After a mono-ii, the gyōji or the shimpan "holds" the result if it was too close to call. In 1927, the system was abolished and a torinaoshi (rematch) now takes place instead.
banzuke (番付)
List of sumo wrestlers according to rank for a particular grand tournament, reflecting changes in rank due to the results of the previous tournament. It is written out in a particular calligraphy (see sumō-ji) and released two weeks prior to the tournament.
banzuke-gai (番付外)
Outsider to the list. A wrestler who is not yet ranked, or has fallen off the banzuke due to injury or other reason for non-participation.
basho (場所)
Venue. Any sumo tournament. Compare honbasho.
binzuke (鬢付け)
Also called binzuke abura or binzuke oil. A Japanese pomade, which consists mainly of wax and hardened chamomile oil that is used to style sumo wrestlers' hair and give it it's distinctive smell and sheen. It is used exclusively by tokoyama hairdressers.
chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋)
A stew commonly eaten in large quantities by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight gain diet. It contains dashi or stock with sake or mirin to add flavor. The bulk of chankonabe is made up of large quantities of protein sources, usually chicken, fish (fried and made into balls), tofu, or sometimes beef; and vegetables (daikon, bok choy, etc.).
chikara-mizu (力水)
Power-water. The ladleful of water with which a wrestler will ceremonially rinse out his mouth prior to a bout. It must be handed to him by a wrestler not tainted with a loss on that day, so it is either handed to him by the victorious wrestler of the previous bout if he was on the same side of the dohyō, or if that wrestler was defeated, by the wrestler who will fight in the bout following.
chonmage (丁髷)
Traditional Japanese haircut with a topknot, now only worn by rikishi and so an easy way to recognize that a man is in the sumo profession.
danpatsu-shiki (断髪式)
Retirement ceremony, held for a top wrestler in the Ryōgoku Kokugikan some months after retirement, in which his chonmage, or top knot is cut off. A wrestler must have fought as a sekitori in at least 30 tournaments to qualify for a ceremony at the Kokugikan.
dohyō (土俵)
The ring in which the sumo wrestlers hold their matches, made of a specific clay and spread with sand. A new dohyō is built prior to each tournament.
dohyō-iri (土俵入り)
Ring-entering ceremony, performed only by the wrestlers in the jūryō and makuuchi divisions. The east and west sides perform their dohyō-iri together, in succession; the yokozuna have their own individual dohyō-iri performed separately. The main styles of yokozuna dohyō-iri are Unryū and Shiranui, named after Unryū Kyūkichi and Shiranui Kōemon. A yokozuna performs the ceremony with two attendants, the tachimochi (太刀持ち, sword carrier) and the tsuyuharai (露払い, dew sweeper).
File:Sumo ceremony.jpg
A dohyō-iri ceremony
The 68th yokozuna, Asashōryu, performing a dohyō-iri
fusenpai (不戦敗)
A loss by default for not appearing at a scheduled bout. If a wrestler withdraws from the tournament (injury or retirement), one loss by default will be recorded against him on the following day, and simple absence for the remainder.
fusenshō (不戦勝)
A win by default because of the absence of the opponent. The system was established for the honbasho in the May 1927 tournament. After the issue of Hitachiiwa Eitarō, the system was modified to the modern form. Prior to this, an absence would simply be recorded for both wrestlers, regardless of which one had failed to show.
gunbai (軍配)
A war fan, usually made of wood, used by the gyōji to signal his instructions and final decision during a bout. Historically, it was used by samurai officers in Japan to communicate commands to their soldiers.
gunbai-dori (軍配通り)
The decision following a mono-ii affirming the gyōji's original decision. Literally, "according to the gunbai".
gyōji (行司)
A sumo referee.
gyōji gunbai sashichigae (行司軍配差し違え)
The decision following a mono-ii reversing the gyōji's original decision. Literally, "referee pointed the gunbai incorrectly".
hakkeyoi (はっけよい)
The phrase shouted by a sumo referee during a bout, specifically when the action has stalled and the wrestlers have reached a stand-off. It means, "Put some spirit into it!"
hanamichi (花道)
The two main east and west "paths" leading from the preparation rooms to the dohyō.
haridashi (張り出し)
Overhang. If there are more than two wrestlers at any san'yaku rank, the additional wrestlers are termed haridashi. Prior to 1995, such wrestlers were listed on the banzuke in extensions or "overhangs" to the row for makuuchi wrestlers. This is now an informal designation, since presently all wrestlers are listed within the normal bounds of the row.
henka (変化)
A sidestep to avoid an attack. If done, it is usually at the tachi-ai to set up a slap-down technique, but this is often regarded as bad sumo and unworthy of higher ranked wrestlers. Some say it is a legitimate "outsmarting" move, and provides a necessary balance to direct force, "henka" meaning "changing; to change".
heya (部屋)
Literally "room", but usually rendered as stable. The establishment where a wrestler trains, and also lives while he is in the lower divisions. It is pronounced beya in compounds, such as in the name of the stable. (For example, the heya named Sadogatake is called Sadogatake-beya.)
hikiwake (引分)
A draw. Though common in early sumo, it is very rare in the modern age.
hiwaza (非技)
Non-technique. A winning situation where the victorious wrestler did not initiate a kimarite. The Japan Sumo Association recognizes five hiwaza. See kimarite for descriptions.
honbasho (本場所)
A professional sumo tournament, held six times a year in the modern era, where the results affect the wrestlers' rankings.
ichimon (一門)
A group of related heya. There are six groups: Dewanoumi, Nishonoseki, Takasago, Tokitsukaze, Isegahama, and Takanohana. Until 1965, wrestlers from the same ichimon did not fight each other in tournament competition.
jōi-jin (上位陣)
High rankers. A term loosely used to describe wrestlers who would expect to face a yokozuna during a tournament. In practice this normally means anyone ranked maegashira 4 or above.
jonidan (序二段)
The second-lowest division of sumo wrestlers, below sandanme and above jonokuchi.
jonokuchi (序の口)
An expression meaning this is only the beginning. The lowest division of sumo wrestlers.
jungyō (巡業)
Regional tours in Japan and sometimes abroad, undertaken between honbasho, during which the wrestlers give exhibition matches.
junyūshō (準優勝)
 An informal designation for a second place finish in a sumo championship.
jūryō (十両)
Ten ryō, for the original salary of a professional sumo wrestler. The second-highest division of sumo wrestlers, below makuuchi and above makushita, and the lowest division where the wrestlers receive a salary and full privileges.
kabu (株)
See toshiyori kabu.
kachi-koshi (勝ち越し)
More wins than losses for a wrestler in a tournament. This is eight wins for a sekitori with fifteen bouts in a tournament, and four wins for lower-ranked wrestlers with seven bouts in a tournament. Gaining kachi-koshi generally results in promotion. The opposite is make-koshi.
kadoban (角番)
An ōzeki who has suffered make-koshi in his previous tournament and so will be demoted if he fails to score at least eight wins. The present rules date from July 1969 and there have been over 100 cases of kadoban ōzeki since that time.
kettei-sen (決定戦)
A playoff between two or more wrestlers in a division who are tied for the lead on the last day of the tournament.
kenshō-kin (懸賞金)
Prize money based on sponsorship of the bout, awarded to the winner upon the gyōji's gunbai. The banners of the sponsors are paraded around the dohyō prior to the bout, and their names are announced. Half the sponsorship fees go to the Japan Sumo Association, and half to the winner.
File:Kuniyoshi Utagawa, The sumo wrestler 2.jpg
An Edo-period wrestler wearing a keshō-mawashi
keshō-mawashi (化粧廻し)
The loincloth fronted with a heavily decorated apron worn by sekitori wrestlers for the dohyō-iri. These are very expensive, and are usually paid for by the wrestler's organization of supporters or a commercial sponsor.
kimarite (決まり手)
Winning techniques in a sumo bout, announced by the referee on declaring the winner. The Japan Sumo Association recognizes eighty-two different kimarite.
kinboshi (金星)
Gold star. Awarded to a maegashira who defeats a yokozuna during a honbasho. It represents a permanent salary bonus.
kinjite (禁じ手)
Forbidden hand. A foul move during a bout, which results in disqualification. Examples include punching, kicking and eye-poking. The only kinjite likely to be seen these days (usually inadvertently) is hair-pulling.
komusubi (小結)
Little knot. The fourth-highest rank of sumo wrestlers, and the lowest san'yaku rank.
kōshō seido (公傷制度)
Public Injury System. Introduced in 1972, this system allowed a wrestler who had been injured in the ring during a tournament to sit out the next tournament without any effect on his rank. It was controversially abolished at the end of 2003.
kuroboshi (黒星)
Black star. A loss in a sumo bout, recorded with a black circle.
kyūjō (休場)
A wrestler's absence from a honbasho, usually due to injury.
maegashira (前頭)
Those ahead. The fifth-highest rank of sumo wrestlers, and the lowest makuuchi rank. This rank makes up the bulk of the makuuchi division, comprising around 30 wrestlers depending on the number in san'yaku. Only the top ranks (maegashira jō'i, 前頭上位) normally fight against san'yaku wrestlers.
maezumō (前相撲)
Before sumo. Unranked sumo wrestlers in their first bouts. Participation in at least one maezumō bout is required to enter the jonokuchi division for the following honbasho.
make-koshi (負け越し)
More losses than wins for a wrestler in a tournament. Make-koshi generally results in demotion, although there are special rules on demotion for ōzeki. The opposite is kachi-koshi.
makushita (幕下)
Below the curtain. The third highest division of sumo wrestlers, below jūryō and above sandanme. Originally the division right below makuuchi, explaining its name, before jūryō was split off from it to become the new second highest division.
makushita tsukedashi (幕下付け出し)
A successful amateur wrestler who is allowed to enter pro sumo at the third highest division (makushita). From 1966 until 2001 a rikishi would begin at the rank of makushita 60, the bottom of the division. From 2001 this was raised to makushita 15, but entry criteria were made stricter; a wrestler now has to have won one of the four major amateur titles. In the event of two victories in the same year, he can begin at makushita 10.
makuuchi (幕内) or maku-no-uchi (幕の内)
Inside the curtain. The top division in sumo. It is named for the curtained-off waiting area once reserved for professional wrestlers during basho, and comprises 42 wrestlers.
man'in onrei (満員御礼)
Full house. Banners are unfurled from the ceiling when this is achieved during honbasho.
mawashi (廻し)
The thick-waisted loincloth worn for sumo training and competition. Those of sekitori wrestlers are white cotton for training and colored silk for competition; lower ranks wear dark cotton for both training and competition.
mochikyūkin (持ち給金)
A system of bonus payments to sekitori wrestlers.
mono-ii (物言い)
The discussion held by the shimpan when the gyōji's decision for a bout is called into question.
mushōbu (無勝負)
No Result. A kind of draw; the gyōji doesn't count a win or a loss. This outcome was recognised in the Edo period.
negishi-ryū (根岸流)
The conservative style of calligraphy used in the banzuke. See sumō-ji.
nekodamashi (猫騙し)
Clapping of the hands at the tachi-ai to distract the opponent.
Nihon Sumō Kyōkai (日本相撲協会)
Japan Sumo Association, the governing body for professional sumo.
oyakata (親方)
A sumo coach, almost always the owner of one of the 105 name licenses (toshiyori kabu). Also used as a suffix as a personal honorific.
ōzeki (大関)
Great barrier, but usually translated as champion. The second-highest rank of sumo wrestlers.
rikishi (力士)
Literally, Powerful man. The most common term for a professional sumo wrestler, although sumōtori is sometimes used instead.
sagari (下がり)
The strings inserted into the front of the mawashi for competition. The sagari of sekitori wrestlers are stiffened with a seaweed-based glue.
sandanme (三段目)
Third level. The third lowest division of sumo wrestlers, above jonidan and below makushita.
sanshō (三賞)
Three prizes. Special prizes awarded to makuuchi wrestlers for exceptional performance.
san'yaku (三役)
Three ranks. The "titleholder" ranks at the top of sumo. There are actually 4 ranks in san'yaku: yokozuna, ōzeki, sekiwake and komusubi, since the yokozuna is historically an ōzeki with a license to perform his own ring-entering ceremony. The word is occasionally used to refer only to sekiwake and komusubi.
san'yaku soroibumi (三役揃い踏み)
Ritual preceding the final three bouts on the final day (senshūraku) of a honbasho, where three of the san'yaku-ranked wrestlers from the east and west sides in turn perform shiko simultaneously.
sekitori (関取)
Literally "Taken the barrier". Sumo wrestlers ranked jūryō or higher.
sekiwake (関脇)
The third-highest rank of sumo wrestlers.
senshūraku (千秋楽)
The final day of a sumo tournament.
sewanin (世話人)
Assistant. A retired wrestler who remains with his own stable to assist with various tasks, administrative or otherwise, in the stable and at tournaments and regional exhibitions.
shikiri (仕切り)
Toeing the mark. The preparation period before a bout, during which the wrestlers stare each other down, crouch repeatedly, perform the ritual salt-throwing, and other tactics to try to gain a psychological advantage.
shikiri-sen (仕切り線)
The two short white lines in the middle of the ring that wrestlers must crouch behind before starting a bout.
A yokozuna performing a shiko
shiko (四股)
The sumo exercise where each leg in succession is lifted as high and as straight as possible, and then brought down to stomp on the ground with considerable force. In training this may be repeated hundreds of times in a row. Shiko is also performed ritually to drive away demons before each bout and as part of the yokozuna dohyō-iri.
shikona (四股名)
A wrestler's "fighting or ring name", often a poetic expression which may contain elements specific to the wrestler's heya. Japanese wrestlers frequently do not adopt a shikona until they reach makushita or jūryō; foreign wrestlers adopt one on entering the sport. On rare occasions, a wrestler may fight under his original family name for his entire career, such as former ōzeki Dejima and former yokozuna Wajima.
shimpan (審判)
Ringside judges or umpires who may issue final rulings on any disputed decision. There are five shimpan for each bout, drawn from senior members of the Nihon Sumō Kyōkai, and wearing traditional formal kimono.
shimpan-iin (審判委員)
Umpire committee. The shimpan as a group.
shin-deshi (新弟子)
New pupil. A new recruit into sumo.
shini-tai (死に体)
Dead body. A wrestler who was not technically the first to touch outside the ring but is nonetheless ruled the loser, for example when he is pushed out with such force that he is still in the air when his opponent touches down.
shinjo (新序)
A designation given to wrestlers who had performed well in maezumō that allowed them to participate in jonokuchi in the same tournament. Additionally, if they performed well at this stage, they were allowed to skip straight to the jonidan rank in the next tournament. This system is no longer used.
shinjo shusse hirō (新序出世披露)
Occasion co-ordinated where new wrestlers who have been accepted into professional sumo are presented to audience; they wear borrowed keshō-mawashi during this ceremony which takes place on the middle Sunday of each tournament.[1]
shiroboshi (白星)
White star. A victory in a sumo bout, recorded with a white circle.
File:Sumo Prime Minister Cup 09 Sep.jpg
The Prime Minister's Cup on display
shishō (師匠)
Master, teacher. A sumo elder in charge of a sumo stable.
shonichi (初日)
First day. The first day of a tournament, or the first win after a series of losses.
sōridaijin-hai (総理大臣杯)
Prime Minister's Cup. Ceremonial cup presented by the sitting Prime Minister or an intermediary to the makuuchi champion at every tournament held in Ryogoku.
sumō-ji (相撲字)
Calligraphy style with very wide brushstrokes used to write the banzuke.
File:Sumomoji sample.png
Sumō moji (相撲文字) sample
sumō moji (相撲文字)
See sumō-ji.
sumōtori (相撲取)
Literally, One who does sumo. Sumo wrestler, but occasionally refers only to sekitori.
tachi-ai (立ち合い)
The initial charge at the beginning of a bout.
tate-gyōji (立行司)
The two designated highest ranking gyōji, who preside over the last few bouts of a tournament day. The highest ranking gyōji takes the professional name Kimura Shōnosuke while the lower takes the name Shikimori Inosuke.
tawara (俵)
Bales of rice straw. Tawara are half-buried in the clay of the dohyō to mark its boundaries.
File:Sumo Emperor Cup.JPG
Emperor's Cup on display
A tegata made by Terao
tegata (手形)
Hand print. A memento consisting of a wrestler's handprint in red or black ink and his shikona written by the wrestler in calligraphy on a square paperboard. It can be an original or a copy. A copy of a tegata may also be imprinted onto other memorabilia such as porcelain dishes.
tennō-hai (天皇杯)
Emperor's Cup, awarded to the winner of the top division tournament championship since 1925.
tokoyama (床山)
Hairdressers employed by the Sumo Association to style the hair of wrestlers and to fashion the the elaborate ōichomage of sekitori for official tournaments and public engagements.
torikumi (取組)
A bout during a tournament. May also refer to a day's bout schedule.
torinaoshi (取り直し)
A rematch. When the result of a bout is too close to call even after the shimpan hold a mono-ii, they may call for the bout to be refought from the tachi-ai.
toshiyori (年寄)
A sumo elder.
toshiyori kabu (年寄株)
A coaching license, of which there are a limited number of 105, which a recently retired sekitori, can either buy from its previous owner or inherit from his father or father-in-law.
tsukebito (付け人)
A rikishi in the lower divisions who serves as a personal attendant to a sekitori ranked wrestler.
tsuna (綱)
The heavy rope worn by the yokozuna from which that rank takes its name. It weighs about 15 kg, and is much thicker in front than where it is tied in back. Five shide (紙垂), zig-zag paper strips symbolizing lightning, hang from the front. It strongly resembles the shimenawa used to mark sacred areas in Shinto.
Thrusting sumo, one of the sports' two principal styles. Includes such popular kimarite as oshidashi, oshitaoshi, osukidashi, and osukitaoshi.[2]
wakaimonogashira (若い者頭)
Youth leader. A functionary of the sumo association, who works with new recruits at his former stable or associated ichimon, and also arranges maezumō matches.
wankpaku sumo (わんぱく相撲)
Sumo for elementary school-aged children. The national final is held at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.
yaochō (八百長)
"Put-up job" or "fixed game", referring to a bout with a predetermined outcome.
yobidashi (呼出 or 呼び出し)
Announcer. General assistants at tournaments. They call the wrestlers to the dohyō before their bouts, build the dohyō prior to a tournament and maintain it between bouts, display the advertising banners before sponsored bouts, maintain the supply of ceremonial salt and chikara-mizu, and any other needed odd jobs.
yokozuna (横綱)
Horizontal rope. The top rank in sumo, usually translated Grand Champion. The name comes from the rope a yokozuna wears for the dohyō-iri. See tsuna.
Yokozuna Shingi Kai (横綱審議会) or Yokozuna Shingi Iinkai (横綱審議委員会)
Yokozuna Deliberation Council, a body formed in 1950 whose 15 members are drawn from outside the Japan Sumo Association, that meets following each honbasho to consider candidates for promotion to yokozuna. A recommendation is passed back to the Sumo Association who have the final say. It also offers opinions on the performance of current yokozuna.
yumitori-shiki (弓取り式)
The bow-twirling ceremony performed at the end of each honbasho day by a designated wrestler, the yumitori, who is usually from the makushita division, and is usually a member of a yokozuna's stable.
yūshō (優勝)
A tournament championship in any division, awarded to the wrestler who wins the most bouts.
zenshō (全勝)
A perfect tournament where, depending on the division, the wrestler finishes 15-0 or 7-0 in the tournament.


  1. ^ Hall, Mina (1997). The Big Book of Sumo (Paperback). Berkeley, CA, USA: Stone Bridge Press. p. 31. ISBN 1-880656-28-0. 
  2. ^