Sumo judging committee

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How many judges sit around the ring?

For all ranks, there are five judges who sit around the ring to determine the outcome of bouts. This system has been in place since 1973. For makushita and lower bouts, the five judges take turns acting as the head. The head always sits on the “front” side, and it is he who explains a bout in question (monoii). For juryo and above, there is a permanent head in each group of five judges. Only the chairman and two vice-chairmen of the judging committee may act as head judges.

Do judges sit in specific places?

Yes. One each sits in the rikishi damari on the east and west sides. Two sit in the gyoji damari, Of those, the one closest to the east (under the red tassel) is the timekeeper. The head judge sits in the front-side damari. (Tamari is the area immediately below the ring.) The gyoji damari is on the opposite-front side, or south. There is always one gyoji who waits there for his bout to come up, and two judges sit on either side of him. The ranks of the judge seats are, in order, front side, east, under red tassel, under white tassel, and west. When the judges are of equal standing and take turns acting as head, they rotate their seats. For example, today’s head will sit on the front side, tomorrow he will move to the east, and so on. This keeps all five on a completely equal footing, with all sharing responsibilities.

Is there a specific order in which judges speak during a monoii (discussion to decide a disputed bout)?

Judges are all equal in terms of voicing opinions. If, however, a consensus cannot be reached, the head judge makes the final decision on the bout outcome.

Do judges follow a dress code?

Yes. Judges on duty must be dressed in formal kimono bearing their crests and white tabi socks. They wear tatami sandals over their tabi, although this is not specified in the rules.

Who can become a judge?

Elders act as judges. Members of the judging committee are elected by the board of trustees to terms of one year. The chairman of the committee is elected with the others and then appointed by the chairman of the board of trustees. The vice-chairman approved by the entire board of trustees. There are twenty judges in all, and they work in shifts to determine all of the bouts throughout the day.

Does a monoii ever result in a tie?

Yes. A gyoji must choose a winner, but the judges can then declare it a tie. Accordingly, the decision broadcast after a monoii can be one of the following:

  •  as declared by the gyoji
  •  overturn of gyoji decision
  •  tie and rematch

A “tie and rematch” is not a bout decision. The rikishi are required to fight the bout again. Even if a gyoji does not agree with an overturn or a rematch, he is not allowed to voice his opinions .

Who decides what the winning move is?

This job is handled in shifts by several men, and a gyoji makes the announcement. When the winning move is clear to all, the gyoji in the announcer’s seat will announce it without waiting for confirmation, but the official decision comes from the elder. Gyoji are in charge of PA announcements, and the announcer and elder in charge of winning moves are connected by an interphone. For makushita and lower bouts, this elder sits under the black tassel next to the aisle. For juryo and above, he watches the bouts from the video room. Every once in a while, a winning move will be announced and then a correction issued. This is usually because the gyoji and the elder in charge have had a difference of opinion.

Who has the last word on the winning move?

The announcement over the PA system is the final decision. It is recorded as the formal JSA result.

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