Sumo Gyoji

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What is the role of the gyoji?

The gyoji is the referee of sumo. Rikishi are announced by the yobidashi, and step up into the ring. The gyoji is in charge of proceedings from the time the rikishi arrive in the ring until the bout is over and they leave it. He is the master of ceremonies as well as bout adjudicator.

How does a gyoji signify the end of a bout?

He calls out in a loud voice, “shobu-ari, ” or “there has been a decision.” Then he raises his gunbai in the direction, east or west, of the victor’s face-off position. After the rikishi return to their positions and bow to each other, the gyoji ends the bout by calling out the name of the winner. The gyoji announces the winner in his distinctive voice. For example, the name Takanohana is stretched out as “Takaa-no-hanaa.”
When an incentive prize has been placed on the bout, the gyoji places it on his gunbai and hands it to the winner.

What does the gyoji do if he is uncertain of the winner?

The gyoji must always make an immediate decision, raising his gunbai for either the east or west rikishi. He is not allowed to call a tie or to think the matter over.

Is the gyoji’s decision absolute?

No. When there is a question about the gyoji’s decision, any of the five judges positioned around the base of the ring can raise his hand and call for a discussion of the matter. The gyoji cannot reject such a request.

Can the gyoji question a decision by the judges?

No. When the call of a gyoji is in doubt, the five judges assemble in the ring to discuss it. They make the final decision on the bout and the gyoji is not allowed to question it. A rikishi waiting ringside for his own bout may signal for a mono ii, or discussion, on the bout decision, but he cannot participate in it. The judges may ask for the opinion of the gyoji, otherwise he remains silent and is obliged to concede the decision to the judges.

How does a gyoji signal that a bout has begun?

He watches to make sure that the breathing of the two opponents is “synchronized,” and pulls his gunbai in as he calls out “nokotta!”

What does the gyoji do when pre-bout time is up?

When the judge in charge of timekeeping lets the gyoji know that it is time to begin a bout, the gyoji must then inform the rikishi in the ring. The timekeeper raises his hand, and the gyoji calls out “It’s time!” The gyoji keeps his eye on the judges as the rikishi head for the face-off lines. Yobidashi also let rikishi know that time is up when they hand them towels at the edge of the ring.

Who makes the bout decision if the gyoji is incapacitated while in the ring?

There is always a gyoji who sits below the ring. If anything should happen to the gyoji on duty, this gyoji will take over the job. The ringside gyoji sits in a seat called the gyoji damari on the opposite front side.

What does the gyoji do if his decision is overturned?

An overturn is called a sashi-chigae, and the gyoji is compelled to raise his gunbai for the proclaimed victor. When a gyoji decision is overturned, he is obliged to file a report that day on the matter.

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