Sumo Wrestling Terms: A Westerner’s Glossary

This glossary is a work in progress and will constantly have stuff added to it. If you don’t see a term you know of or have heard and would like to be included, drop a comment or hit the contact button. We would love to add it to the list!

So sumo wrestling is a novelty. Coming from Japan, it pits giant men against each other to do one of two things: get their opponent out of the circle or get them to touch the ground with something other than their feet.

It can be a lot to see so many Japanese words and get in over your head. What we’ve done is put together a glossary of sumo terms for the common westerner to delve into so they can get past the terminology.

Basic Sumo Terminology

Sumo (相撲) – “striking one another” simply the name of the sport.
Rikishi (力士) – the sumo wrestler. The kanji (Japanese characters) translate to “strength/power” and “gentleman/samurai.” It is also defined as a “gentleman of strength.”

Sumo Ranks

Sumo is split into divisions but not weight divisions much like other martial arts. It is based on accomplishments and skills.

Makuuchi (幕内) is the top of the pyramid when it comes to sumo. It has a maximum of 42 rikishi. The five divisions in Makuuchi all compete in tournaments together. The top of the heap is called yokozuna. It is the highest rank a rikishi can get. Following yokozuna is ōzeki, sekiwake, komusubi, and maegashira.

Yokozuna (横綱) – “horizontal rope” yokozuna is the highest rank achievable in sumo. There is no set criteria for becoming a yokozuna except one must first be an ōzeki.
Ōzeki (大関)
– the rank immediately under yokozuna. Ōzeki must have 33 wins over the three last tournaments competed in. In addition, an ōzeki must have won 10 matches in their last tournament. There are no set rules for becoming an ōzeki. Other things considered are beating a yokozuna and winning a basho. Also any illegal moves or dodging will count against a rakishi.
Sekiwake (関脇) – Sekiwake’s origin is not known directly, but it’s believed to mean “by his side” referring to protecting the ōzeki. Sekiwake is achieved by achieving a kachi-koshi (winning record in a tournament). Sekiwake requires a space being open in the rank or having a convincing record. Rule of thumb is having an 11-4 record as a komusubi (the next rank down), will get a rikishi promoted. A sekiwake will be demoted if the wrestler gets a losing record for a tournament.
Komusubi (小結) – “the little knot” Komusubi is the second lowest tier of the sumo wrestling title holders. Many komusubi are ranked where they are because there is no space available for them at sekiwake. Komusubi is considered a difficult rank; the wrestler is likely to be matched up against yokozuna and ōzeki the first week of the tournament, pitting them against the best sumo wrestlers there are.
Maegashira (前頭) – The lowest of the makuuchi division. Maegashira wrestlers are divided into East and West divisions. With 21 in each side, the number 1 ranked East rikishi is considered better than the number 1 ranked West all the way down to 21 on each side.

Amazumo (アマ相撲) – amateur sumo

Other sumo ranks below makuuchi are listed below and will be expanded on at a later date in chronological order!

Juryo | Makushita | Sadanme | Jondian | Jonokuchi

General Terminology

Dohyō (土俵) – The ring where sumo bouts are held. The circle is 4.55 meters in diameter and is on a platform of clay that is 6.7 meters on each side. It is also 34 to 60 centimeters high and covered in sand
Kachi-koshi (勝ち越し) – winning record in a tournament
Make-koshi (負け越し) – having a losing record in a tournament
Tachi-ai (立合い) – The initial charge between two sumo wrestlers

Deashi (出足) – the constant movement forward by a rikishi

Ginō-shō (技能賞) – a monetary prize for exceptional technique

Kantō-shō (敢闘賞) – a monetary prize for the fighting spirit

Shukun-shō (殊勲賞) – a monetary prize for an outstanding performance

Finishing Moves

Finishing moves, or kimarite (決まり手), in sumo are broken into seven categories: kihonwaza, nagete, kakete, hinerite, sorite, tokushuwaza, and hiwaza.

Kihonwaza (基本技) – basic techniques in sumo
Nagete (投げ手) – techniques using throws
Kakete (掛け手) – techniques using leg tripping
Hinerite (捻り手) – techniques involving twist downs
Sorite (反り手) – techniques involving backwards body drops
Tokushuwaza (特殊技) – different techniques that are not traditional trips, pulls, throws etc.
Hiwaza (非技) – ways rikishi win matches without using technique

Kihonwaza Techniques

Abisetaoshi (浴びせ倒し) – while grappling, the rikishi leans forward, forcing the opponent on their back

Oshidashi (押し出し) – a front push out. The wrestler pushes out of the ring by his opponent by holding on to the belt and not fully extending his arms
Oshitaoshi (押し倒し) – a front push down where the wrestler pushes his opponent out of the ring without the opponent falling down. Hand contact is maintained throughout the whole push.
Tsukidashi (突き出し) – a front thrust out where the wrestler pushes the opponent out with a series of pushes with the hand. Hand contact is not necessary to maintain.
Tsukitaoshi (突き倒し) – a front thrust down where the opponent is downed out of the ring, falling over the edge onto their back with hand thrusts or shoves
Yorikiri (寄り切り) – grabbing and keeping a grip on the opponent’s belt forcing them out of the ring backwards.
Yoritaoshi (寄り倒し) – gripping the opponent’s belt and forcing the opponent out o fate ring and the opponent collapses to their back from the attack. Know also as a front crush out.

Nagete Techniques

Ipponzeoi (一本背負い) – Throwing the attacker out of the ring by the arm with both hands while moving backwards.
Kakenage (掛け投げ) – Lifting the attacker’s thigh on one leg while holding the opponent with both arms and throwing the opponent to the ground.
Koshinage (腰投げ) – similar to a hip throw in judo, the attacker is pulled over the hip and thrown to the ground.
Kotenage (小手投げ) – grabbing the attackers extending arm, wrapping around it and throwing to the ground without touching their belt
Kubinage (首投げ) – a headlock throw where the attacker wraps the opponent’s head up and throws the opponent to the ground
Nichonage (二丁投げ) – a sweep where the attacker extends the leg on the outside of the same leg, sweeping both legs, throwing him to the surface
Shitatedashinage (下手出し投げ) – grabbing the opponent’s belt under their arm, dragging the opponent forward or to the side and on to the ground
Shitatenage (下手投げ) – an underarm throw where the attacker gets under the opponent’s arm, grabbing the belt and turning sideways to pull the opponent to the ground
Sukuinage (掬い投げ) – an arm throw where the attacker goes under the arm pit, across the back and turns sideways, bringing the opponent forward and throwing him to the ground
Tsukaminage (つかみ投げ) – Grabbing the opponent’s belt and lifting the opponent up and throwing them on the ground
Uwatedashinage (上手出し投げ) – extending the arm over the opponent’s arm or back to grab the belt while pulling them to the ground forwards
Uwatenage (上手投げ) – extending the arm over the opponent’s arm, grabbing the belt, and throwing the opponent to the ground by turning sideways
Yaguranage (櫓投げ) – both wrestlers grabs the other’s belt, the attacker pushes his leg under the groin, lifts them up and lifts them off the surface and throws the opponent to the side

Kakete Techniques

Ashitori (足取り) – an ankle pick where the attacker grabs his opponent’s leg and pulls it upwards, tipping his opponent over
Chongake (ちょん掛け) – sweeping the heel with your own heel forcing them to fall over backwards with a push or twisting the arm
Kawazugake (河津掛け) – the attacker wraps the leg around the opposite leg of the opponent, tripping him backwards while holding on to the upper body
Kekaeshi (蹴返し) – kicking the inside of the opponent’s foot which is usually followed by a quick pull to cause the opponent to fall
Ketaguri (蹴手繰り) – immediately after the first exchange, the attacker kicks the opponents legs to the outside and pushing him to the ground
Kirikaeshi (切り返し) – placing the leg behind the knee of the opponent and twisting the opponent backwards to the side sweeping him over the leg
Komatasukui (小股掬い) – grabbing the leg and lifting it up, throwing the opponent to the ground while the opponent is balancing himself after a throw attempt
Kozumatori (小褄取り) – an ankle pick, grabbing the ankle from the front and causing them to fall back
Mitokorozeme (三所攻め) – an incredibly rare move. The rikishi grabs the inside of one leg for an inside leg trip, grabs the other leg behind the thigh and thrusts his head into his opponent’s chest. The attacker then pushes him up and off the surface throwing them on his back
Nimaigeri (二枚蹴り) – kicking the posted leg out from an off-balanced opponent and throwing them to the ground
Omata (大股) – when an opponent escapes a komatsukui by extending their other foot. The attacker then switches and lifts the other foot and throws them down
Sotogake (外掛け) – Wrapping the calf around the opponent’s calf on the outside and driving them backwards
Sotokomata (外小股) – after an opponent avoids a nage or hikkake, the attacker grabs the opponent’s thigh from the outside, lifts it, and throws them down on the back
Susohari (裾払い) – after an opponent avoids a nage or hikkake, the attacker drives his knee under the opponent’s thigh and pulls them to the floor.
Susotori (裾取り) – after an opponent avoids a nage, the attacker grabs the ankle of his opponent and drags them to the floor
Tsumatori (褄取り) – When the opponent is losing balance off their front foot or is moving forward, the attacker grabs the leg and pulls it back forcing the opponent to fall to the floor
Uchigake (内掛け) – When the attacker wraps his calf around the inside of his opponent’s calf and forces him down on his back
Watashikomi (渡し込み) – while against the edge of the circle, the attacker grabs underneath the opponent’s thigh or knee with one hand and pushes with the opposite hand forcing his opponent out

Hinerite Techniques

Amiuchi (網打ち) – a throw using both arms pulling the opponent’s arm causing the opponent to fall over
Gasshohineri (合掌捻り) – both hands clasped around an opponent’s back twisting the opponent over sideways
Harimanage (波離間投げ) – reaching over the opponent’s back, grabbing their belt. The opponent is then pulled over, in front, or beside the attacker. Also known as a backward belt throw
Kainahineri (腕捻り) – wrapping both arms around the opponent’s outstretched arm and forcing them to the ground with the shoulder
Katasukashi (肩透かし) – wrapping both hands around an opponent’s arm and grabbing the shoulder and forcing the opponent down
Kotehineri (小手捻り) – forcing the opponent down but twisting the arm down
Kubihineri (首捻り) – twisting the neck of an opponent down forcing a fall
Makiotoshi (巻き落とし) – Twisting an opponent when they are off balance without using the belt
Osakate (大逆手) – Taking an opponent’s extended arm over the attackers arm twisting the arm down and grabbing the body and throwing it at the same time
Sabaori (鯖折り) – Grabbing the opponent’s belt and pulling down and out dropping the opponent’s knee to the floor
Sakatottari (逆とったり) – Wrapping the arm around an opponent’s extended arm and grabbing the wrist with the other hand and twisting the opponent to the ground
Shitatehineri (下手捻り) – extending the arm under the opponent’s arm grabbing the belt. The attacker then pulls the belt down until the opponent touches the floor
Sotomuso (外無双) – using the hand to grab the opponent’s opposite knee and twisting the opponent over his own knee forcing the opponent down
Tokkurinage (徳利投げ) – Grabbing the opponent by the neck or head with both hands twisting him down to the floor
Tottari (とったり) – Wrapping the arms around the opponent’s extended arm and pulling him forward to the ground
Tsukiotoshi (突き落とし) – Twisting the opponent down to the floor by pushing the arms on the upper body causing the opponent to get off balance and falling
Uchimuso (突き落とし) – Using the hand to grab the same side knee and pushing the opponent to the ground
Uwatehineri (上手捻り) – Extending the attacker’s arm over the opponent’s arm, grabbing the belt and pulling the belt down until the opponent falls to the ground
Zubuneri (ずぶねり) – Using the head to bring an opponent down during a hineri

Sorite Techniques

Izori (居反り) – Driving under the opponent’s chargrills and grabbing behind the knees (single or double) or their belt and pulling them up and over backward
Kakezori (掛け反り) – When the attacker puts his head under the opponent’s arm or body and forces him backwards over his legs
Shumokuzori (撞木反り) – while in the same position as a tasukizori, the wrestler instead throws himself backwards and the opponent lands first under him
Sototasukizori (外たすき反り) – With an arm around your opponent’s arm and one around his leg, the attacker lifts up the opponent and throws him sideways and backwards
Tasukizori (たすき反り) – The attacker has one arm around the opponent’s arm and one around his leg. The attacker then lifts the opponent up perpendicular across his shoulders throwing him to the ground
Tsutaezori (伝え反り) – Using the opponent’s extended arm around and behind the back down to the ground

Tokushuwaza Techniques

Hatakikomi (叩き込み) – Slapping the opponent’s shoulder, back, or arm and forcing them to fall to the clay
Hikiotoshi (引き落とし) – Pulling the opponent by the belt, arm, or shoulder and forcing them to fall forward
Hikkake (引っ掛け) – While moving to the side or backwards, the opponent is pulled past the attacker by the arm with both hands and is pulled past the circle
Kimedashi (極め出し) – Wrapping up the opponent’s arms and shoulders and pushing them out of the ring
Kimetaoshi (極め倒し) – Wrapping up the opponent’s arms and shoulders forcing them to the ground
Okuridashi (送り出し) – Pushing an off balance opponent out of the circle from behind
Okurigake (送り掛け) – Tripping an opponent by the ankle from behind
Okurikikiotoshi (送り引き落とし) – Pulling the opponent down from behind
Okurinage (送り投げ) – Throwing an opponent from behind
Okuritaoshi (送り倒し) – Knocking down an opponent from behind with a push
Okuritsuridashi (送り吊り出し) – Picking up an opponent form behind by the belt and throwing him out of the ring
Okuritsuriotoshi (送り吊り落とし) – Picking an opponent up by the belt from behind and throwing him on the ground
Sokubiotoshi (素首落とし) – Pushing an opponent’s head down by the back of the neck
Tsuridashi (吊り出し) – While the wrestlers are face-to-face, the attacker picks up the opponent by the belt and drops him out of the circle
Tsuriotoshi (吊り落とし) – While the wrestlers are face-to-face, the attacker picks up the opponent by the belt and slams him to the ground
Ushiromotare (後ろもたれ) – when opponent is behind the attacker, the attacker backs up and pushes him out of the circle
Utchari (うっちゃり) – While near the edge of the circle, the attacker bends himself backwards and twists the opponent’s body until he’s out of the circle
Waridashi (割り出し) – Pushing one foot of the opponent out of the ring from the side and pushing across the body of the opponent forcing him off balance
Yobimodoshi (呼び戻し) – Reacting to the opponent’s inside pull, pulling the opponent off by grabbing the waist and throwing them down

Hiwaza Techniques

Fumidashi (踏み出し) – When an opponent accidentally takes a step out of the circle without being attacked
Isamiashi (勇み足) – While trying to finish a match, the opponent accidentally steps forward and out of the ring
Koshikudake (腰砕け) – The opponent falls over backwards without an attack on them, usually due to the opponent over committing
Tsukihiza (つきひざ) – The opponent stumbles and lands on the knees (one or both) without any real contact with the winning wrestler
Tsukite (つき手) – When the opponent stumbles and lands on the hands without any real contact with the winning wrestler

Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!


  1. This “Westerner’s Glossary” is a really cool idea. I like how the Japanese language has a specific word for practically everything.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed! I’m working on adding definitions and videos every basho! Make sure to check back!

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