Sumo rules and guidelines

From Akita Wiki

This page aims to outline the necessary information for the referees, judges and participants of the Akita International Sumo Basho.

Sumo is a traditional Japanese sport where the objective is to force your opponent out of the dohyō (sumo ring) or make them touch the ground with any body part other than the soles of their feet. This can be achieved through various techniques such as thrusting, pushing, pulling down, twisting, tripping, sweeping, throwing, and more.

Forbidden techniques

  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Hair pulling
  • Poking
  • Eye gouging
  • Grabbing the vertical parts of the mawashi (sumo belt)
  • Grabbing the groin area
  • Locking fingers (like a prayer grip)
  • Choking
  • Headlocks

Forbidden Techniques in Amateur Sumo

  • Roundhouse face slapping
  • Grabbing loose clothing

Additional Rules for the Akita International Sumo Tournament (to mitigate possible injuries)

  • No intentional face thrusts or slapping
  • No intentional nodowa (pressing against the throat)
  • If infringements continue, the wrestler will be disqualified from the match

Match Procedures


  • The two wrestlers step into the dohyō, make eye contact, and bow.
  • They walk toward the middle of the ring and squat behind their respective white lines, with hands open to display their empty hands, then stand.
  • Once ready, they squat back down and put their fists on the ground to prepare for the tachi-ai (initial charge).
  • When all four fists have touched the ground and the referee says "Hakkeyoi!" in a clear, loud voice, the match begins.


  • The match ends when one wrestler goes out of the ring, or any part of their body other than the soles of their feet touches the ground inside or outside the ring.
  • The referee raises their hand towards the winning side to indicate the winner. The referee must make a call, even if unsure, about who the winner is.
  • Both wrestlers go back to their respective sides, make eye contact, and bow.
  • The loser steps out, the winner will squat down and then step out.

Close or incorrect calls

  • If a close call or incorrect call is suspected, or if a forbidden technique was used, one or multiple judges must raise their hands to indicate a request for discussion.
  • The wrestlers should step off the dohyō while the judges and the referee have a meeting in the center of the ring.
  • A decision will be made to uphold the call, reverse the call, or call for a rematch. If a rematch is called, the same steps as the first match should be followed.

Pausing a match

The referee (gyōji) and judges may pause a match in the following cases:

  • A wrestler is bleeding heavily.
  • A wrestler's belt has become loose.
  • The match goes on for more than 2 minutes.
  • If a match is paused, it will be restarted the same as a regular fight.

Note: The referee can only stop the match if there is an opportunity to do so (e.g., if the wrestlers come to a standstill on the dohyō).

Exceptions to the rules

  • When a competitor loses their balance and is falling towards the ground they are said to be in the shini-tai or dead body position. If the other competitor steps out or puts their hand down just before the dead body hits the ground, they will not be penalized. The person in the dead body position will lose the match.
  • If a wrestler has full control of their opponent while lifting and walking them out of the ring, that wrestler wins.

Note: If both wrestlers are falling side by side (like when throwing each other), the wrestler who touches the ground last is the winner, as this is not considered a dead body.

Ring of Sand

There is a ring of sand that surrounds the outside of the sumo ring, known as a ja-no-me. It's usually about 30 to 45 cm wide.

  • The purpose of this sand is to help the judges determine if a wrestler has touched or stepped out of the ring during a match.
  • It is primarily the responsibility of the judges to keep the sand clear and free of any footprints or disturbances.
  • Wrestlers should not step on this sand as they enter or exit the ring. If they do, a judge should brush the sand clear.


  • A wrestler should not step onto the dohyō if they are bleeding. Injuries from previous fights should be cleaned or bandaged before subsequent fights begin.
  • If a wrestler starts bleeding during a fight the referee can stop the fight, have the issue remedied, and then restart the fight.
  • If blood gets on the dohyō, sprinkle salt on it to purify the area.

Referee and judges' responsibilities

The referee and judges' have specific responsibilities during a sumo match:


  • Ensure the use of forbidden techniques is avoided.
  • Monitor the positioning of the wrestlers' feet when they are near the tawara (edges).
  • Observe any body parts other than the soles of the feet touching the ground.
  • Pay attention to bleeding and injuries.
  • Enforce the dead body rule.
  • Check the tightness of the mawashi.


  • Observe the use of forbidden techniques.
  • Monitor the positioning of the wrestlers' feet when they are near the tawara (edges).
  • Note any body parts other than the soles of the feet touching the ground.
  • Watch for bleeding and injuries.
  • Keep track of the match times (for the timekeeping judge).
  • Assess the calls made by the referee.
  • Enforce the dead body rule.
  • Check the tightness of the mawashi.
  • Keep the ring of sand free of any footprints or disturbances.

If a judge believes that a call was incorrect, foul play was involved, or the match was too close to call, they should raise their hand to indicate a request for discussion.

Sumo Phrases

These are some commonly used phrases in sumo:

  • Tachi-ai (立ち合い): Initial charge
  • Gyōji (行司): Referee
  • Shimpan (審判): Judge
  • Dohyō (土俵): Sumo ring
  • Mawashi (廻し): Sumo belt
  • Tawara (俵): Hay barrels that indicate the edges of the ring
  • Shini-tai (死に体): Dead body (in the context of sumo)
  • Hakkeyoi (はっけよい): Get moving
  • Nokotta (残った): Keep it going
  • Matta (待った): False start
  • Mono-ii (物言い): Judge indicating a request for a meeting after the fight has ended
  • Mizu-iri (水入り): Water break
  • Ja-no-me (蛇の目): The snake's eye; the finely brushed sand around the outside of the ring.

See also