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The following words are terms used in sumo wrestling in Japan.

A banzukeazukari (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 sumo-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.
chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋)
A stew commonly eaten in vast quantity by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight gain diet. It contains dashi or chicken 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, handed to him by either the victorious wrestler of the previous bout if he was on the same side of the dohyō, or 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 a easy way to recognise that a man is in the sumo profession.
A dohyō
danpatsu-shiki (断髪式)
Retirement ceremony, held for a top wrestler in the Ryogoku 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 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).
A dohyō-iri ceremonyfusenpai (不戦敗)
No fight loss. The loss recorded by default due to absence for a bout. If a wrestler withdraws from the tournament, one fusenpai will be recorded against him on the following day, and simple absence for the remainder.
fusenshō (不戦勝)
No fight win. A win by default due to 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.
The 68th yokozuna, Asashoryu, performing a dohyō-irigunbai (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.
gyōji (行司)
A sumo referee.
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 sanyaku 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.
heya (部屋)
Room, but usually rendered 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)
Draw. It is very rare now.
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 6 times a year in the modern era, where the results affect the wrestlers' rankings.
ichimon (一門)
A group of related heya. There are five groups: Dewanoumi, Nishonoseki, Takasago, Tokitsukaze and Tatsunami. Until 1965, wrestlers from the same ichimon did not fight each other in tournament competition.
jo-jin
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.
junyusho (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.
kachi-koshi (勝ち越し)
More wins than losses for a wrestler in a tournament. This is 8 wins for a sekitori with 15 bouts in a tournament, and 4 wins for lower-ranked wrestlers with 7 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 ozeki since that time.
kensho-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.
An Edo-period wrestler wearing a keshō-mawashikeshō-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 inadvertantly) is hair-pulling.
komusubi (小結)
Little knot. The fourth-highest rank of sumo wrestlers, and the lowest sanyaku rank.
kosho seido (公傷制度)
Public Injury System. Introduced in 1971, 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 in 2003.
kuroboshi (黒星)
Black star. A loss in a sumo bout, recorded with a black circle.
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 sanyaku. Only the top ranks (maegashira jō'i, 前頭上位) normally fight against sanyaku wrestlers.
maezumo (前相撲)
Before sumo. Unranked sumo wrestlers in their first bouts. Participation in at least one maezumo 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.
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.
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.
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.
mochikyukin (持ち給金)
A system of bonus payments to wrestlers.
A mono-iimono-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 Gyoji doesn't judge win-loss. The system existed in Edo period.
negishi-ryu (根岸流)
The conservative style of calligraphy used in the banzuke. See sumo-ji.
Nihon Sumo Kyokai (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, 年寄株). Also used as a suffix as a personal honorific.
ōzeki (大関)
Great barrier, but usually translated Champion. The second-highest rank of sumo wrestlers.
rikishi (力士)
Literally, Strong man. The most common term for a professional sumo wrestler, although sumotori is sometimes used instead. See 力士 in Japanese.
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.
sanyaku (三役)
Three ranks. The "titleholder" ranks at the top of sumo. There are actually 4 ranks in sanyaku: 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.
sanyaku soroibumi (三役揃い踏み)
Ritual preceding the final three bouts of a honbasho day where three of the sanyaku-ranked wrestlers from the east and west sides in turn perform shiko simultaneously.
sekitori (関取)
Taken the barrier. Sumo wrestlers ranked jūryō or higher.
sekiwake (関脇)
The third-highest rank of sumo wrestlers.
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 and gain a psychological advantage.
A yokozuna performing a shikoshiko (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 dohyo-iri.
shikona (四股名)
A wrestler's "fighting 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.
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 Sumo Kyokai, 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.
shiroboshi (白星)
White star. A victory in a sumo bout, recorded with a white circle.
sumo-ji (相撲字)
Calligraphy style with very wide brushstrokes used to write the banzuke.
Sumō moji (相撲文字) samplesumo moji (相撲文字)
See sumo-ji.
sumotori (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.
tawara (俵)
Bales of rice straw. Tawara are half-buried in the clay of the dohyō to mark its boundaries.
A tegata made by Teraotegata (手形)
A type of memorabilia consisting of a wrestlers 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 disshes.
tenno-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 sekitori wrestlers into the elaborate oichomage for official tournaments and public engagements.
torikumi (取組)
A bout during a basho.
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.
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.
yobidashi (呼出 or 呼び出し)
Announcer. General assistants at basho. 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 dohyo-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.
yūshō (優勝)
A tournament championship in any division, awarded to the wrestler who wins the most bouts.





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Published - January 2009


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