Sumo
Lingo!

There's a lot of sumo lingo! Below is a (hopefully) useful list for you to refer to.

Call me out if there is a word you think should be here. 🙂


banzuke

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 calligraphy and usually released on the Monday 13 days prior to the first day of the tournament.

banzuke-gai

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

Venue, tournament - usually in reference to honbasho (see that entry)

binzuke

A Japanese pomade, which consists mainly of wax and hardened chamomile oil that is used to style sumo wrestlers' hair and give it its distinctive smell and sheen. It is used exclusively by tokoyama hairdressers.

chankonabe

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.

chikara-mizu

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 dohyo, or if that wrestler was defeated, by the wrestler who will fight in the bout following.

danpatsu-shiki

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.

dohyo

The ring in which the sumo wrestlers hold their matches, made of a specific clay and spread with sand. A new dohyo is built prior to each tournament.

dohyo-iri

Ring-entering ceremony, performed only by the wrestlers in the juryo and makuuchi divisions. The east and west sides perform their dohyo-iri together, in succession; the yokozuna have their own individual dohyo-iri performed separately.

e-banzuke

Picture banzuke with paintings of top division sekitori, gyoji and sometimes yobidashi.

fusenpai

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.

fusensho

A win by default because of the absence of the opponent.

gaburi-yori - often shorted to gaburi

Pushing the opponent with the torso. Hug and chug; think Kotoshogiku.

gunbai

A war fan, usually made of wood, used by the gyoji 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.

gino-sho

Technique prize. One of three special prizes awarded to rikishi for performance in a basho.

gunbai-dori

The decision following a mono-ii affirming the gyoji's original decision. Literally, "according to the gunbai".

gyoji

The sumo referee who stands in the middle before wrestlers start.

hakkeyoi

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

The two main east and west "paths" leading from the preparation rooms to the dohyo.

henka

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

A sumo 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.)

heyagashira

The most senior-ranked wrestler in a stable (or heya).

hiramaku

See maegashira

honbasho

A professional sumo tournament, held six times a year in the modern era, where the results affect the wrestlers' rankings.

ichimon

A group of related heya. There are five groups: Dewanoumi, Nishonoseki, Takasago, Tokitsukaze, and Isegahama. These groups tend to cooperate closely on inter-stable training and the occasional transfer of personnel.

jo'i-jin - often shorted to jo'i

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

The second-lowest division of sumo wrestlers, below sandanme and above jonokuchi.

jonokuchi

An expression meaning this is only the beginning. The lowest division of sumo wrestlers.

jungyo

Regional tours in Japan and sometimes abroad, undertaken between honbasho, during which the wrestlers give exhibition matches.

junyusho

An informal designation for a second-place finish in a sumo championship.

juryo

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

The coveted sumo coaching license which certifies someone as a sumo elder, of which there are a limited number of 105. Recently retired sekitori, can either buy from its previous owner or inherit it. Rikishi who have one promised to them, but are still active, will often loan/rent them out to retired rikishi who can't acquire one on their own.

kachi-age

Technique where the wrestler folds his arms and rushes forward to hit opponent's chest or chin to make his posture upright. This is most commonly done at the tachi-ai and can also result in stunning the opponent.

kachi-koshi - (KK)

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

An ozeki who has suffered make-koshi in his previous tournament and so will be demoted if he fails to score at least eight wins.

kanto-sho

Fighting Spirit prize. One of three special prizes awarded to rikishi for performance in a basho.

keiko

Term referring to practice or training in sumō. Practice usually in morning and is called asageiko

kettei-sen

A playoff between two or more wrestlers in a division who are tied for the lead on the last day of the tournament.

kensho-kin  - often shortened to "kensho"

Prize money, awarded to the winner in an envelop set atop the gyoji's gunbai. The banners of the sponsors are paraded around the dohyo prior to the bout, and their names are announced. Only makuuchi bouts are allowed kensho-kin.

kesho-mawashi

The loincloth fronted with a heavily decorated apron worn by sekitori wrestlers for the dohyo-iri. These are very expensive, and are usually paid for by the wrestler's organization of supporters or a commercial sponsor.

kimarite

Winning techniques in a sumo bout, announced by the referee on declaring the winner. The Japan Sumo Association recognizes eighty-two different kimarite.

kinboshi

Gold star. Awarded to a maegashira who defeats a yokozuna during a honbasho. It represents a permanent salary bonus.

KK - abbrev for kachi-koshi, a majority of wins for tournament (see kachi-koshi for more details).

komusubi

The fourth-highest rank of sumo wrestlers, and the lowest sanyaku rank.

kore yori sanyaku

The final three torikumi during senshuraku. The winner of the first bout wins a pair of arrows.

kuroboshi

Black star. A loss in a sumo bout, recorded with a black circle.

kyujo

A wrestler's absence from a honbasho, usually due to injury. Can be for part or all of a basho.

maegashira

The fifth and lowest rank in makuuchi division. This rank makes up the bulk of the makuuchi division, comprising around 30 wrestlers depending on the number in sanyaku (titled wrestlers, komusubi and above)

maezumo

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.

mage  - full term "chon-mage"

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.

make-koshi (MK)

More losses than wins for a wrestler in a tournament. 7-8 record or worse for top two divisions. Make-koshi generally results in demotion. The opposite is kachi-koshi.

makikae

Changing from an overarm to an underarm grip on one's opponent's belt. If done properly can lead to a speedy victory, however if not done properly will often end in quick defeat.

makushita

Below the curtain. The third highest division of sumo wrestlers, below juryo and above sandanme.

makushita tsukedashi

A system where an amateur wrestler who has won one of the four major amateur titles is allowed to skip the bottom three divisions and enter pro sumo at the makushita third highest division at the rank of makushita 15. In the event of achieving two of these titles in the same year, he can begin at makushita 10.

makuuchi  -  also maku-no-uchi

The top division in sumo. It comprises 42 wrestlers.

matta

False start. When the wrestlers do not have mutual consent in the start of the match and one of the wrestlers starts before the other wrestler is ready, a matta is called, and the match is restarted.

mawashi

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.

mizu-iri

Water break. When a match goes on for around 4 minutes, the gyoji will stop the match for a water break for the safety of the wrestlers. In the two sekitori divisions, he will then place them back in exactly the same position to resume the match, while lower division bouts are restarted from the tachi-ai.

MK - abbrev for make-koshi, a majority of losses for a tournament (see make-koshi for more details).

mono-ii

The discussion held by the shimpan when the gyoji's decision for a bout is called into question.

moro-zashi

Deep double underarm grip which prevents the opponent from grabbing the belt.

musubi no ichiban

The final bout of the day.

nakabi

Middle day, the second Sunday in an official tournament (basho).

nodowa

Thrusting at an opponents throat.

nokotta

Something the referee shouts during the bout indicating to the wrestler on defense that he is still in the ring.

NSK - Nihon Sumo Kyokai

Japan Sumo Association, the governing body for professional sumo.

o'ichomage - often shorted to o'icho

This is the hair style worn in tournaments by juryo and makuuchi wrestlers. It is so named because the top-knot is fanned out on top of the head in a shape resembling a ginkgo-leaf. It is only worn during formal events such as unofficial tournaments.

oshi-zumo

Pushing sumo, and is more commonly referred to in English as a Pusher (oshi)-Thruster (tsuki). One who fights in the oshi-zumo style prefers fighting apart, not grabbing the belt as in yotsu-zumo

oyakata

A sumo coach, almost always the owner of one of the 105 name licenses (kabu). Also used as a suffix as a personal honorific.

ozeki

The second-highest rank of sumo wrestlers, with better pay and different promotion/demotion rules.

rikishi

The most common term for a professional sumo wrestler, although sumotori is sometimes used instead.

sagari

The strings inserted into the front of the mawashi for competition. The sagari of sekitori wrestlers are stiffened with a seaweed-based glue.

sandanme

Third level. The third lowest division of sumo wrestlers, above jonidan and below makushita.

sandanme tsukedashi

A system instituted in 2015 where an amateur wrestler finishing in the top 8 of either the All-Japan Championships, All-Japan Corporate Championships, National Student Championships, or the National Sports Festival Adults tournament is allowed to skip the bottom two divisions and start at the bottom of the sandanme division. (See also makushita tsukedashi.)

sansho

Three prizes. Special prizes awarded to makuuchi wrestlers for exceptional performance. Ozeki and yokozuna cannot receive them.

sanyaku

Three ranks. The "titleholder" ranks at the top of sumo. There are actually 4 ranks in sanyaku: yokozuna, ozeki, sekiwake and komusubi, since the yokozuna is historically an ozeki with a license to perform his own ring-entering ceremony. The word is occasionally used to refer only to sekiwake and komusubi.

sashichigae - full term: gyoji gunbai sashichigae

The decision following a mono-ii reversing the gyoji's original decision. Literally, "referee pointed the gunbai incorrectly".

sekitori

Sumo wrestlers ranked juryo or higher. They receive a salary instead of an allowance

sekiwake

The third-highest rank of sumo wrestlers.

senshuraku

The final day of a sumo tournament. Senshuraku literally translates as "many years of comfort."

shikiri

The preparation period before a bout, during which the wrestlers stare each other down, crouch repeatedly, perform the ritual salt-throwing, etc.

shikiri-sen

The two short white lines in the middle of the ring that wrestlers must crouch behind before starting a bout.

shiko

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. Shiko is also performed ritually to drive away demons before each bout and as part of the yokozuna dohyo-iri.

shikona

A wrestler's "ring name",  Then name may contain elements specific to the wrestler's heya or a relative who excelled in sumo before him and so on. Japanese wrestlers frequently do not adopt a shikona until they reach makushita or juryo.

shimpan - full term shobu shinpan

Ringside judges dressed in black umpires who may issue final rulings on any disputed decision. There are five shimpan for each bout, drawn from senior members of the NSK, and wearing formal black kimono.

shin-deshi

A new recruit into sumo.

shini-tai

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 shusse hiro

Occasion co-ordinated where new wrestlers who have been accepted into professional sumo are presented to audience; they wear borrowed kesho-mawashi during this ceremony which takes place on the middle Sunday of each basho.

shiroboshi

White star. A victory in a sumo bout, recorded with a white circle.

shitaku-beya

Preparation room. Room in which rikishi in the ranks of jūryō and above wait before their matches. This is where they will place their belongings, put on their belt, and warm up for their match.

shonichi

First day. The first day of a tournament, or the first win after a series of losses.

shukun-sho

Outstanding performance prize. One of three special prizes awarded to rikishi for performance in a basho.

soridaijin-hai

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.

sumotori - called o-sumosan by general public

Literally, one who does sumo. A sumo wrestler.

tachi-ai

The initial charge at the beginning of a bout.

tate-gyoji

The two designated highest ranking gyoji, who preside over the last few bouts of a tournament day. The highest ranking gyoji takes the professional name Kimura Shonosuke while the lower takes the name Shikimori Inosuke.

tawara

Bales of rice straw. Tawara are the half-buried bales in the clay of the dohyo to mark "the ring"

tegata

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.

tenno-hai

Emperor's Cup, awarded to the winner of the top division tournament championship since 1925.

tokoyama

Hairdressers employed by the Sumo Association to style the hair of wrestlers and to fashion the elaborate o'ichomage of sekitori for official tournaments and public engagements.

torikumi

A bout during a tournament. May also refer to a day's bout schedule.

torinaoshi

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

A sumo elder.

tsukebito or tsukibito

A rikishi in the lower divisions who serves as a personal attendant to a sekitori ranked wrestler.

tsuna

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 (zig-zag paper strips symbolizing lightning), hang from the front.

tsuppari

To rapidly deliver open hand strikes to the opponent. This technique is frequently employed by oshi-zumo wrestlers.

yaocho

"fixed game", referring to a bout with a predetermined outcome. This was also believed to exist and definitively proven so in the 2011 scandal, and has hopefully been largely rooted out since.

yobidashi

Caller / usher /announcer. General assistants at tournaments. They call the wrestlers to the dohyo before their bouts, display the advertising banners before sponsored bouts, and any other needed jobs.

yokozuna

The top and most prestigious rank in sumo. Wrestlers at this rank are held to a higher standard of conduct. A wrestler cannot be demoted from this rank, one must retire.

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