Sumo Wrestling Ranking

The sumo ranking chart, known as the "Banzuke," displays the ranks and positions of sumo wrestlers. It includes various divisions, ranging from "Yokozuna" to "Jonokuchi." Here's an explanation of the typical sumo ranking divisions

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Yokozuna is the highest rank in sumo wrestling, identified by the wide rope (tsuna) worn around the waist, known as the "yokozuna rope." This rope resembles the Shinto shimekazari rope often seen on temple gates and sacred trees, serving to purify and signify its importance. Although it can weigh up to 20 kilograms, the yokozuna rope is not used in matches; instead, it is worn during the yokozuna's dohyo-iri ring entrance ceremony.

Becoming a Yokozuna

The Yokozuna rank in sumo wrestling is determined by the Japan Sumo Association, considering a wrestler's power, skill, and dignity (hinkaku). While winning two consecutive championships as an ozeki is a general guideline, there are no strict criteria or a set number of Yokozuna at any given time. The rank is permanent, but Yokozuna are expected to retire if they can't compete at their best.

The criteria, especially the requirement of hinkaku, have sparked controversy, especially when foreign wrestlers like Hawaiian ozeki Konishiki faced discrimination. However, the debate ended in 1993 when ozeki Akebono was promoted to Yokozuna after only eight months.

In the past, Yokozuna status was granted differently, often influenced by a wrestler's patron rather than their abilities. It wasn't a separate rank and was held by Ozeki with special privileges.

Yokozuna in history

The origin of the rank of yokozuna in sumo wrestling is shrouded in uncertainty, with two competing legends. One story dates back to the 9th century, where a wrestler named Hajikami supposedly tied a shimenawa (sacred rope) around his waist as a challenge, leading to the creation of sumo as we know it. Another tale attributes the birth of yokozuna to the legendary wrestler Akashi Shiganosuke, who in 1630, tied a shimenawa around his waist as a sign of respect when visiting the Emperor and was later posthumously awarded the title.  Nevertheless, historical depictions in ukiyo-e prints from 1789 onwards show yokozuna, starting with Tanikaze Kajinosuke, wearing the shimenawa.

Akashi Shiganosuke is believed to be the first yokozuna. Although there is no proof, he is recognized by the Japan Sumo Association as the first yokozuna who actually existed in the Edo period

Dohyo-iri (Ring entry ceremony)

The formal establishment of the Yokozuna rank, starting with Tanikaze's time, appears to have been driven in part by a desire to give the very best wrestlers a distinct ring entry ceremony (dohyo-iri) separate from other top division wrestlers. During the dohyo-iri, all top division wrestlers are ceremonially presented before the day's competitive bouts. Typically, top division wrestlers are introduced and form a circle around the wrestling ring (dohyo) while wearing elaborately decorated silk "aprons" known as kesho mawashi. They perform a brief symbolic "dance" before leaving to change into their fighting attire (mawashi) and prepare for their matches.

In contrast, a Yokozuna is introduced after the lower-ranked wrestlers and is accompanied by two other top division wrestlers who serve as assistants. The "dewsweeper" or tsuyuharai precedes the Yokozuna, while the "sword bearer" or tachimochi follows him into the arena, carrying a traditional Japanese katana symbolizing the Yokozuna's samurai status. The tachimochi is typically the higher-ranked of the assisting wrestlers. During the ceremony, the Yokozuna wears his tsuna (sacred rope) around his waist, and the ceremonial aprons of all three wrestlers form a matching set.

Inside the ring, the Yokozuna takes center stage and performs a more intricate ritual dance. There are two forms of this dance, with the Yokozuna usually choosing one upon his promotion. The choice of dance and the method of tying the rope around his waist can vary. The "Unryu" style, currently more popular, has one loop at the back, while the "Shiranui" style has two. These styles are named after two famous Yokozuna from the Edo period, although historical evidence of them actually performing these dances is lacking. Some scholars even believe that the ring entering rituals of these two Yokozuna might have been confused over time.


The Prestigious Ozeki Rank in Sumo Wrestling

In the world of sumo wrestling, the title of Ozeki holds a prestigious place, ranking just below the highest attainable rank, Yokozuna. Before the introduction of the Yokozuna rank, Ozeki stood as the pinnacle of achievement in the sport.

How to Attain the Ozeki Rank

To ascend to the esteemed Ozeki rank, a rikishi competing at the rank of sekiwake or komusubi must secure approximately 33 victories over the course of three consecutive basho, which are the sumo tournaments. This promotion also takes into account the quality of their sumo performance. The name "Ozeki" carries a literal meaning of "the great barrier," signifying the elevated standard demanded by this rank when compared to the lower echelons.

Distinctions Between Ozeki and Yokozuna

Unlike a Yokozuna, an Ozeki is subject to demotion if they experience two consecutive makekoshi tournaments, where they accumulate more losses than wins. Following the first makekoshi, the Ozeki is labeled as "kadoban" and must secure a "kachikoshi," indicating a majority of wins, in the subsequent basho to avoid demotion to the rank of sekiwake. To regain the coveted Ozeki rank, they must attain victory in ten or more bouts during the following tournament. Failure to achieve this requires them to embark on the promotion process anew to reclaim their Ozeki status.


Sekiwake is the third-highest rank in professional sumo wrestling, and it's part of the san'yaku ranks. The term likely comes from the idea of guarding the ōzeki (a higher rank wrestler) at their side.

To become a sekiwake, a wrestler must consistently achieve a winning record in tournaments. Promotion depends on either an open spot, which is fairly common, or an exceptionally convincing performance in the previous tournament.  Lower ranks need more wins for promotion. There are special criteria, like a minimum of 33 wins over three tournaments, to advance from sekiwake to ōzeki; just having consecutive winning records as a sekiwake isn't sufficient.

Unlike ōzeki and yokozuna, a wrestler usually loses the sekiwake rank immediately after a losing tournament, except in rare cases when there are no suitable replacements among komusubi and upper maegashira wrestlers.

Sekiwake and komusubi ranks are often grouped together as the junior san'yaku ranks, in contrast to ōzeki and yokozuna.

In terms of salary, "sekiwake" and "komusubi" are the same as

sanyaku. The monthly salary is 1.8 million yen.

 They are also called upon to accompany the chairman of the Sumo Association during tournament opening and closing speeches and represent wrestlers at various events, especially when there are few ōzeki and yokozuna. If a wrestler reaches this rank, it may be the highest rank they achieve.


Komusubi, which literally means "the little knot," is the fourth highest rank in sumo wrestling and belongs to the san'yaku group of ranks.

Komusubi and sekiwake are often grouped together as the junior san'yaku ranks, in contrast to the strict promotion criteria for ōzeki and yokozuna. Wrestlers at these ranks face challenges in maintaining their positions due to the fierce competition.

Reaching the rank of komusubi comes with benefits such as a salary increase and the opportunity to stand beside the chairman of the Sumo Association during tournament opening and closing speeches. These wrestlers may also represent their peers at various events, especially when the number of ōzeki and yokozuna is low. Even if a wrestler only reaches this rank for one tournament, they are referred to as "former komusubi (ring name)" after retirement, signifying a relatively successful sumo career.

There must always be a minimum of two wrestlers ranked as komusubi, and in certain circumstances, this can increase to three or four. However, such cases are rare, and sometimes wrestlers achieve this rank due to luck when other competitors don't clearly qualify for it.


Maegashira is the lowest of the top five ranks in the makuuchi division of sumo wrestling. The maegashira ranks are numbered from one at the top down, with two wrestlers in each rank, one designated as "east" and the other as "west."

The number of maegashira ranks can vary but is typically between 15 and 17, with a total of 42 wrestlers in the makuuchi division. Movement within the maegashira ranks depends on a wrestler's performance in the previous tournament. For instance, a maegashira 2 with an 8–7 record might move up one rank to maegashira 1, while a maegashira 14 who wins the division championship could be promoted as high as komusubi.

Wrestlers ranked maegashira five or below usually compete against each other, while those ranked maegashira four or above often face san'yaku wrestlers, including ōzeki and yokozuna. Maegashira 1 and 2 wrestlers typically face all san'yaku opponents, making these ranks particularly challenging to maintain.

When a maegashira defeats a yokozuna, it's called a "gold star" or "kinboshi," and the wrestler is rewarded monetarily for this achievement throughout their career.


Jūryō is the second-highest division in sumo wrestling with 28 fixed positions. The name originally referred to the income a wrestler in this division could expect. It's officially called "jūmaime," meaning "tenth placing," but universally known as "jūryō." Jūryō and makuuchi wrestlers are called "sekitori" and receive a monthly salary and other perks. Wrestlers below jūryō are in training and get an allowance.

Jūryō and makuuchi wrestlers compete in fifteen bouts per tournament, and jūryō wrestlers may face top-division opponents due to injuries or for promotion purposes. Promotions to jūryō are announced shortly after a tournament, unlike other rankings.

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