Quick Guide: Sumo Wrestling Glossary

Quick Guide: Sumo Wrestling Glossary

Posted by on February 3, 2017 – Japanese Study

Every year on the first Sunday of February, our students and the Coto Academy team get the chance to witness the annual Sumo Grand Tournament in Kokugikan, Tokyo’s indoor stadium where 3 out of the six yearly tournaments are held. 相撲すもう dates back to 2000 years ago, but it really flourished as a spectator sport in the early 1600’s. Strict rules and traditions can be observed throughout a tournament. A beginner watching sumo for the first time is quickly surprised by how very little time is spent wrestling. The wrestlers spend most of their time performing pre-bout ceremonies rooted deeply in Shinto tradition… To scare their opponents before the fight begins.

We’ve gathered a quick list of sumo terminology that will come in handy, but don’t worry about memorizing too much!

  • 力士りきし
    A Sumo “wrestler.”
  • 横綱よこずな
    The highest rank in Sumo, usually translated as “Grand Champion”, from which a rikishi cannot be demoted.
  • 部屋へや
    Literally room, means “stable” in the context of sumo.
  • 師匠ししょう
    An elder and experienced 力士, in charge of a sumo stable.
  • 廻しまわし
    A huge thick belt that 力士 wear for training (cotton) and competition (silk).
  • 土俵どひょう
    The ring, made of clay and spread with sand.
  • 番付ばんずけ
    The official list of 力士, according to rank, participating in a particular grand tournament. The list reflects changes in rank due to the results of the previous tournament.
  • 立会たちあい
    The initial charge at the beginning of a bout.
  • 審判しんぱん
    One of the five judges sitting around the ring, to help officiate the bouts.
  • 取組とりくみ
    A sumo bout.
  • わざ
    A technique. To the untrained eye, rikishi actions might look like a playground brawl, but in fact wrestlers can perform more than 80 winning tricks during a bout!

For example:

  • なし: A well-timed slap to the opponent’s side causing him to fall to the ring floor.
  • おくし: A winning technique that involves pushing the opponent out of the ring from behind.
  • 優勝ゆうしょう
    A tournament victory.

Seeing sumo in action is one of the best cultural experiences you can have in Japan and watching a grand tournament should definitely be on your list. If you’re with us on Sunday, we hope you’ll have fun!