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How is a sumo bout decided?
The rules are simple. It is easiest to think of it in terms of the loser.
- The first rikishi to touch the ring with anything except the bottoms of his feet is the loser.
- The first rikishi to touch any area outside of the ring with any part of his body is the loser.
Is the first rikishi out of the ring always the loser?
It is not a loss if it is a case of “sending feet” (okuriashi) ,in which a rikishi picks his opponent up off ground and, when setting him outside the ring, puts his own foot out first. A rikishi who is pushing his opponent towards the edge of the ring will sometimes mistakenly put his own foot out before finishing the job. This is counted as a loss, and is called “over-eager foot” or isamiashi.
What if a rikishi steps out of the ring with his heel?
If a rikishi picks up his opponent and then backs up, stepping out of the ring with his heel, it is a loss. Okuriashi counts only if a rikishi is moving forward.
Is it a loss if a rikishi’s hair touches the ground?
Yes. Hair is counted as a part of the body. If a rikishi is pushing his opponent out and his hair touches the ground an instant before his opponent falls, the call is more difficult. In such cases, the decisions tend to vary. Many rikishi will strain to lift their heads up as they fall to keep their hair off the ground.
Does a rikishi lose if both legs fly over the edge of the ring?
Whether one or both legs fly through the air out of the ring, a rikishi does not lose if he lands back inside. Even if both rikishi are in mid-air out of bounds simultaneously, the loss goes to the one who lands first.
Does a rikishi lose if his belt comes undone and falls to the ground?
The front of the belt wrapped around he stomach of a rikishi is called maemitsu, and if it comes untied and falls, it is a loss. A belt that is merely loose will not affect a bout outcome. (Another name for maemitsu is maemawashi.)
Is there such a thing as a “tie by injury”?
Yes, there is. This type of tie is called if a bout cannot continue on account of an injury. As with a regular tie, which is called because the rikishi involved are too exhausted to go on with a bout, the decision is made by the judges surrounding the ring.
Are there any rules that prohibit rikishi from taking falls?
Yes, there are. If a rikishi does not fight to win, not only will he be punished, but so will his stable master. The rules are clearly spelled out in the JSA “Regulations for Punishing Intentionally Spiritless Sumo.”