Sumo

Sumo 101: Winning techniques

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The Japan Sumo Association lists 82 different ways to win a bout. These winning techniques are called kimarite and the applicable one is announced in the arena immediately following each fight.

There are also five “non techniques” covering situations such as a wrestler stepping out of the ring backwards without any contact being made.

While there are various ways to classify the moves, they essentially fall into two categories: throwing and pushing/thrusting.

When discussing a wrestler on air or in print it’s common to state his favored techniques.

Generally speaking, the bigger men prefer pushing, while lighter wrestlers lean toward belt techniques. But there are plenty of exceptions to that rule, and most top competitors are proficient in both styles.

New recruits are taught pushing techniques first as they are easier to master and, if used properly, help avoid injury since they allow wrestlers to avoid getting tangled up.

To reach the sport’s pinnacle purely as a pusher/thruster is very difficult, as it’s a high-risk strategy that requires impeccable timing and ring sense.

The last two yokozuna to primarily employ such a style were Hawaiians Akebono and Musashimaru, but even they fought more on the mawashi toward the end of their respective careers as injuries took a toll on their ability to drive forward at speed.

Smaller wrestlers such as Mainoumi and Ura, who defeat larger foes using a wide variety of techniques, are always among the biggest fan favorites.

Nearly half of all bouts are won by yorikiri (frontal force-out) or oshidashi (frontal push-out).

Other kimarite such as mitokorozeme (triple-attack force-out) are so rare that they have only been seen in the top division a handful of times.

Sometimes a wrestler becomes intrinsically connected with his favorite kimarite. Rarely is yokozuna Wakanohana I discussed without a mention of yobimodoshi (pulling body slam), and vice versa.

It’s an extremely difficult move that requires a significant power difference between two combatants.

Yokozuna Hakuho is a keen student of sumo history and tried without success for several years to use Wakanohana’s famous technique before finally achieving it in September 2013. His win over Takarafuji was the first time the technique had been seen in the top division in 16 years.