Yorikiri Sumo Descriptive Essay
I thought it would be interesting to write a post detailing the most common kimarite, and how to distinguish between ones that look quite similar. There are plenty of glossaries out there, but the brief descriptions don’t make it easy to visualize what’s going on, and they rarely take the time to elaborate on the differences between related techniques.
Then I realized that it was going to be an intimidating text wall, and it was probably best to break it up into a series of posts.
What exactly are kimarite?
When a sumo bout is over, a referee (gyoji) will declare the technique that was used to win. There is an official list of eighty-two of these winning techniques, ranging from the extremely common (such as simply pushing the opponent out of the ring) to the extremely rare (such as Shumokuzori, the bell hammer back body drop, on the official record as having been used exactly once in a basho).
But translating kimarite as “technique” gives the wrong impression. There are many techniques practiced extensively by rikishi and employed in the course of winning a sumo bout that are not kimarite, and there are kimarite that are not practiced and are not an important part of sumo skill – and even some that are not intentionally used to win a bout. Skill at sumo is far more than an extensive list of kimarite, and while a profile of a rikishi will sometimes mention how many different kimarite they have performed, this should not necessarily be taken as an indication of expertise. Similarly, commentators like to make a big thing out of rare kimarite, and it certainly is cool to see something unusual – but don’t read too much into it.
There are two main ways to lose a sumo bout: Touch the ground outside the tawara, or touch the ground with a part of the body other than the sole of the foot. For many rikishi, forcing the opponent out of the dohyo is Plan A, and these are some of the most common kimarite on record.
Tsukidashi: Forcing the opponent out with palm thrusts (tsuppari), without maintaining contact. Despite the prevalence of tsuppari in yotsu-zumo, this kimarite isn’t as frequent as you might think. Usually, the tsuppari barrage is enough to drive the opponent back to the edge, but because the tawara are a raised ridge to brace against, it’s difficult to push them over that way (unless they are already retreating, or you have a serious size/strength advantage, or they try to sidestep and mess it up). It’s approximately the tenth most common kimarite overall, and in my experience, is often indicative of a fairly one-sided match.
Oshidashi: Forcing the opponent out while maintaining contact, but not holding the mawashi. There is overlap between Oshidashi and Tsukidashi. In an ‘ideal’ Oshidashi, the victorious rikishi stays in contact, and does not fully extend their arms to push the opponent out. But what about occasions when the winner keeps bent arms but does not maintain contact, or when contact is maintained but the arms are mostly straight? From reviewing past bouts, the most important aspect of Tsukidashi seems to be the alternating left-right pushes, while a double-handed push – even fully extending the arms and not maintaining contact – is usually ruled as Oshidashi. For this reason, Oshidashi is much more common: The tsuppari barrage gets the opponent to the tawara, but it takes a double-handed shove to get them over.
Yorikiri:I have to admit to something – I was wrong about the definition of this kimarite previously. I was under the impression that it required forcing the opponent out while holding the mawashi, on one or both sides – but there are examples of bouts won by yorikiri where the victorious rikishi did NOT appear to have any kind of a mawashi grip. I am not, in fact, completely certain where Yorikiri ends and other techniques begin. It seems that if there is a mawashi grip, it’s Yorikiri, but if there isn’t, it might be Yorikiri if the two rikishi are chest-to-chest and the winner is essentially using their whole body to conduct the force-out.
Yorikiri is by far the most common kimarite on record, occurring approximately twice as often as the second most common, Oshidashi, and nearly ten times as often as Tsukidashi. In fact, Yorikiri and the similar technique Yoritaoshi were the kimarite of record in over a third of recorded bouts (although you should note that these are the all-time records, and in recent years, Yorikiri and Oshidashi are approximately equally common).
This is a situation where the translation of kimarite as “technique” is misleading. Just as yotsu-zumo is a field with a great variety of different styles and techniques within it, there are many styles of Yorikiri. Kotoshogiku’s is one of the more recognisable, putting that belly to good use. Terunofuji’s is more of a lift-and-carry.
Kimedashi: Forcing the opponent out while holding and immobilizing the arms. Substantially less common than the above kimarite, and not considered a basic technique, this sometimes shows up as the counter to a moro-zashi (an inside grip with both hands on the back of the opponent’s mawashi). The idea is to wrap your arms around the outside of the opponent’s arms from above, clasp your hands together, and lift and pull in tightly, applying pressure to the elbows, locking their arms straight and minimizing their ability to apply leverage effectively. You can then use this double-armbar to walk them backwards out of the dohyo. You can see it perfectly here. It doesn’t always involve that double-overarm grip, though: In this bout, Komanokuni (not Komanoumi; the video title is wrong) pushes Sotairyu out with one arm lock and a throat push (nodawa), and the kimarite was ruled as Kimedashi.
If the opponent falls due to one of these techniques, striking the ground with a part of the body other than the foot, the kimarite name changes, becoming Tsukitaoshi, Oshitaoshi, Yoritaoshi, or Kimetaoshi. Generally, one doesn’t try to perform these kimarite – they’re often the result of the opponent slipping or catching a heel on the tawara while being driven backwards, or resisting until the last possible moment until they can’t step out without falling. Very heroic, but not necessarily good for one’s health.
As an aside, the rules for these seem to be a little confusing. It appears that Yoritaoshi specifically refers to falling out of the dohyo while being held by the mawashi (falling inside the dohyo in this way is Abisetaoshi), but it’s easy to find examples of Oshitaoshi and Kimetaoshi that take place comfortably inside the ring.
Tsuridashi: Picking the opponent up by the mawashi and lifting him out of the dohyo entirely. Not considered a basic technique, and only really seen in the Makuuchi and Juryo divisions thanks to the strength required. Here we have an ample demonstration of why a moro-zashi grip is so strong – it gives you leverage that you can use to lift a much heavier rikishi (if you’re really strong, you can do this without the moro-zashi grip, like Chiyootori does to the colossal Gagamaru here). The defining feature of Tsuridashi is that the opponent is lifted entirely off the ground, and then lands with one or both feet outside the tawara. Terunofuji and Mitakeumi have been trading these on the Jungyo recently.
Okuridashi: Pushing the opponent out from behind. The trick is getting there! There are several other techniques with the “Okuri” prefix, and they’re all moves performed from behind the other rikishi. Once this happens, the match will usually be over quite quickly. Although there are exceptions, and sometimes a rikishi will even be able to drive out an opponent behind them by aggressively walking backwards (Ushiromotare, an essential inclusion in any basho drinking game).
That’s all I have time for in this initial post. There will be more later, covering other types of kimarite, to hopefully make the gyoji decisions a little less opaque, and to make it easier for you to search for videos of the most exciting victories. Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions in the comments, or correct me if I got something wrong. I am bound to have got at least one thing wrong.
Kimarite(決まり手,kimari-te) are winning techniques in a sumo bout. For each bout in a Grand Sumo tournament (or honbasho), a sumo referee, or gyōji, will decide and announce the type of kimarite used by the winner. It is possible (although rare) for the judges to modify this decision later. Records of the kimarite are kept and statistical information on the preferred techniques of different wrestlers can be deduced easily. For example, a pie chart of the kimarite used by each sekitori in the past year can be found on the Japan Sumo Association webpage.
Currently the Japan Sumo Association recognises eighty-two types of kimarite, but only about a dozen are used regularly. For example, yorikiri, oshidashi and hatakikomi are frequent methods used to win bouts. In addition to kimarite, a bout can end in a disqualification if either wrestler makes a foul (禁手 kinjite), such as striking with a closed fist.
The following is a full list of kimarite. Literal translations of the Japanese are also given.
Basic techniques. These, with the exception of the rarely seen Abisetaoshi, are some of the most common kimarite in sumo.
Forcing down the opponent on their back by leaning forward while in a grappling position (backward force down).
Pushing the opponent out of the ring without holding their mawashi or belt, nor fully extending his arms. Hand contact must be maintained through the push (front push out).
Pushing the opponent down out of the ring (the opponent falls out of the ring instead of backing out) without holding their mawashi. Hand contact is maintained throughout the push (front push down).
Thrusting the opponent backwards out of the ring with one or a series of hand thrusts. The attacker does not have to maintain hand contact (front thrust out).
Thrusting the opponent down out of the ring (the opponent falls over the edge) onto their back with a hard thrust or shove (front thrust down).
Maintaining a grip on the opponent's mawashi, the opponent is forced backwards out of the ring (front force out).
Maintaining a grip on the opponent's mawashi, the opponent is forced backwards out of the ring and collapses on their back from the force of the attack (front crush out).
While moving backwards to the side, the opponent is pulled past the attacker and out of the ring by grabbing and pulling their arm with both hands (one-armed shoulder throw).
Lifting the opponent's thigh with one's leg, while grasping the opponent with both arms, and then throwing the off-balance opponent to the ground (hooking inner thigh throw).
Bending over and pulling the opponent over the attacker's hip, then throwing the opponent to the ground on their back (hip throw).
The attacker wraps their arm around the opponent's extended arm (差し手 - gripping arm), then throws the opponent to the ground without touching their mawashi. A common move (armlock throw).
The attacker wraps the opponent's head (or neck) in his arms, throwing him down (headlock throw).
Extending the right (left) leg around the outside of the opponent's right (left) knee thereby sweeping both of his legs off the surface and throwing him down (body drop throw).
The attacker extends their arm under the opponent's arm to grab the opponent's mawashi while dragging the opponent forwards and/or to the side, throwing them to the ground (pulling underarm throw).
The attacker extends their arm under the opponent's arm to grab the opponent's mawashi and turns sideways, pulling the opponent down and throwing them to the ground (underarm throw).
The attacker extends their arm under the opponent's armpit and across their back while turning sideways, forcing the opponent forward and throwing him to the ground without touching the mawashi (beltless arm throw).
The attacker grabs the opponent's mawashi and lifts his body off the surface, pulling them into the air past the attacker and throwing them down (lifting throw).
The attacker extends their arm over the opponent's arm/back to grab the opponent's mawashi while pulling them forwards to the ground (pulling overarm throw).
The attacker extends their arm over the opponent's arm to grab the opponent's mawashi and throws the opponent to the ground while turning sideways (overarm throw).
With both wrestlers grasping each other's mawashi, pushing one's leg up under the opponent's groin, lifting them off the surface and then throwing them down on their side (inner thigh throw).
Leg tripping techniques.
Grabbing the opponent's leg and pulling upward with both hands, causing the opponent to fall over (leg pick).
Hooking a heel under the opponent's opposite heel and forcing them to fall over backwards by pushing or twisting their arm (pulling heel hook).
Wrapping one's leg around the opponent's leg of the opposite side, and tripping him backwards while grasping onto his upper body (hooking backward counter throw).
Kicking the inside of the opponent's foot. This is usually accompanied by a quick pull that causes the opponent to lose balance and fall (minor inner foot sweep).
Directly after tachi-ai, kicking the opponent's legs to the outside and thrusting or twisting him down to the dohyō (pulling inside ankle sweep).
The attacker places his leg behind the knee of the opponent, and while twisting the opponent sideways and backwards, sweeps him over the attacker's leg and throws him down (twisting backward knee trip).
When an opponent responds to being thrown and puts his leg out forward to balance himself, grabbing the underside of the thigh and lifting it up, throwing the opponent down (over thigh scooping body drop).
Lifting the opponent's ankle from the front, causing them to fall (ankle pick).
A triple attack. Wrapping one leg around the opponent's (inside leg trip), grabbing the other leg behind the thigh, and thrusting the head into the opponent's chest, the attacker pushes him up and off the surface, then throwing him down on his back (triple attack force out).
This is a very rare technique, first used in the modern era by Mainoumi Shūhei, who used it two or three times in the early 1990s (officially twice, on a third occasion his win was judged by most observers to be a mitokorozeme, but was officially judged an uchigake).
Kicking an off-balance opponent on the outside of their standing leg's foot, then throwing him to the surface (ankle kicking twist down).
When the opponent escapes from a komatsukui by extending the other foot, the attacker switches to lift the opponent's other off-balance foot and throws him down (thigh scooping body drop).
Wrapping the calf around the opponent's calf from the outside and driving him over backwards (outside leg trip). The UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, with a sumo background, has successfully used this multiple times in the course of his mixed martial arts career.
Directly after a nage or hikkake is avoided by the opponent, grabbing the opponent's thigh from the outside, lifting it, and throwing them down on their back (over thigh scooping body drop).
Directly after a nage or hikkake is avoided by the opponent, driving the knee under the opponent's thigh and pulling them down to the surface (rear foot sweep).
Directly after a nage is avoided by the opponent, grabbing the ankle of the opponent and pulling them down to the surface (ankle pick).
As the opponent is losing their balance to the front (or is moving forward), grabbing the leg and pulling it back, thereby ensuring the opponent falls to the surface (rear toe pick).
Wrapping the calf around the opponent's calf from the inside and forcing him down on his back (inside leg trip).
While against the ring of the surface, the attacker grabs the underside of the opponent's thigh or knee with one hand and pushes with the other arm, thereby forcing the opponent out or down (thigh grabbing push down).
Twist down techniques.
A throw with both arms pulling on the opponent's arm, causing the opponent to fall over forward (the fisherman's throw). It is so named because it resembles the traditional Japanese technique for casting fishing nets.
With both hands clasped around the opponent's back, the opponent is twisted over sideways (clasped hand twist down). See Tokkurinage.
Reaching over the opponent's back and grabbing hold of their mawashi, the opponent is pulled over in front or beside the attacker (backward belt throw).
Wrapping both arms around the opponent's extended arm and forcing him down to the dohyō by way of one's shoulder (two-handed arm twist down). (Similar to the tottari, but the body is positioned differently)
Wrapping two hands around the opponent's arm, both grasping the opponent's shoulder and forcing him down (under-shoulder swing down).
Twisting the opponent's arm down, causing a fall (arm lock twist down).
Twisting the opponent's neck down, causing a fall (head twisting throw).
Reacting quickly to an opponent's actions, twisting the opponent's off-balance body down to the dohyō without grasping the mawashi (twist down).
Taking the opponent's arm extended over one's arm and twisting the arm downward, while grabbing the opponent's body and throwing it in the same direction as the arm (backward twisting overarm throw).
Grabbing the opponent's mawashi while pulling out and down, forcing the opponent's knees to the dohyō (forward force down).
To wrap one arm around the opponent's extended arm while grasping onto the opponent's wrist with the other hand, twisting and forcing the opponent down (arm bar throw counter or "anti-tottari").
Extending the arm under the opponent's arm to grasp the mawashi, then pulling the mawashi down until the opponent falls or touches his knee to the dohyō (twisting underarm throw).
Using the left (right) hand to grab onto the outside of the opponent's right (left) knee and twisting the opponent over one's left (right) knee (outer thigh propping twist down).
Grasping the opponent's neck or head with both hands and twisting him down to the dohyō (two handed head twist down).
Wrapping both arms around the opponent's extended arm and forcing him forward down to the dohyō (arm bar throw).
Twisting the opponent down to the dohyō by forcing the arms on the opponent's upper torso, off of his center of gravity (thrust down).
Using the left (right) hand to grab onto the outside of the opponent's left (right) knee and twisting the opponent down (inner thigh propping twist down).
Extending the arm over the opponent's arm to grasp the mawashi, then pulling the mawashi down until the opponent falls or touches his knee to the dohyō (twisting overarm throw).
When the head is used to thrust an opponent down during a hineri (head pivot throw).
Backwards body drop techniques.
Diving under the charge of the opponent, the attacker grabs behind one or both of the opponent's knees, or their mawashi and pulls them up and over backwards (backwards body drop).
Putting one's head under the opponent's extended arm and body, and forcing the opponent backwards over one's legs (hooking backwards body drop).
In the same position as a tasukizori, but the wrestler throws himself backwards, thus ensuring that his opponent lands first under him (bell hammer drop). The name is derived from the similarity to the shape of Japanese bell hammers.
With one arm around the opponents arm and one arm around the opponents leg, lifting the opponent and throwing him sideways and backwards (outer reverse backwards body drop).
With one arm around the opponents arm and one arm around the opponents leg, lifting the opponent perpendicular across the shoulders and throwing him down (kimono-string drop). The name refers to the cords used to tie the sleeves of the traditional Japanese kimono.
Shifting the extended opponent's arm around and twisting the opponent behind one's back and down to the dohyō (underarm forward body drop).
Slapping down the opponent's shoulder, back, or arm and forcing them to fall forwards touching the clay (slap down).
Pulling on the opponent's shoulder, arm, or mawashi and forcing them to fall forwards touching the clay (hand pull down).
While moving backwards to the side, the opponent is pulled past the attacker and out of the dohyō by grabbing and pulling their arm with both hands (arm grabbing force out).
Immobilizing the opponent's arms and shoulders with one's arms and forcing him out of the dohyō (arm barring force out).
Immobilizing the opponent's arms and shoulders with one's arms and forcing him down (arm barring force down).
To push an off-balance opponent out of the dohyō from behind (rear push out).
To trip an opponent's ankle up from behind (rear leg trip).
To pull an opponent down from behind (rear pull down).
To throw an opponent from behind (rear throw down).
To knock down an opponent from behind (rear push down).
To pick up the opponent by his mawashi from behind and throw him out of the dohyō (rear lift out).
To pick up the opponent by his mawashi from behind and throw him down on the dohyō (rear lifting body slam).
Pushing the opponent's head down from the back of the neck (head chop down).
While wrestlers face each other, to pick up the opponent by his mawashi and deliver him outside of the dohyō (lift out).
While wrestlers face each other, to pick up the opponent by his mawashi and slam him onto the dohyō (lifting body slam).
While the opponent is behind the wrestler, to back up and push him out of the dohyō (backward lean out).
When near the edge of the dohyō, to bend oneself backwards and twist the opponent's body until he steps out of the dohyō (backward pivot throw).
To push one foot of the opponent out of the ring from the side, extending the arm across the opponent's body and using the leg to force him off balance (upper-arm force out).
Reacting to the opponent's reaction to the attacker's inside pull, the attacker pulls them off by grabbing around them around the waist, before throwing them down (pulling body slam).
Non-techniques. There are five ways in which a wrestler can win without employing a technique.
The opponent accidentally takes a backward step outside the ring with no attack initiated against him (rear step out).
In the performance of a kimarite the opponent inadvertently steps too far forward and places a foot outside the ring. (forward step out).
The opponent falls over backwards without a technique being initiated against him. This usually happens because he has over-committed to an attack. (inadvertent collapse).
The opponent stumbles and lands on one or both knees without any significant prior contact with the winning wrestler (knee touch down).
The opponent stumbles and lands on one or both hands without any significant prior contact with the winning wrestler (hand touch down).