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When a sumo wrestler has won a sumo bout he will crouch down and perform a series of hand movements. These are called tegatana o kiru: "The cutting (of the) hand-sword".

After a bout the winner will do some, or all of the following:

  • Bow to the opponent, who then leaves the dohyo. Crouch down facing the center of the dohyo.
  • A sweeping, horizontal hand movement (cut) away from the body, palm facing down.
  • If there is no prize money (kenshokin) the wrestler then gets up and leaves the dohyo.
  • If prize money is involved the gyoji (referee) will crouch down in front of the sumotori presenting the kenshokin on the gunbai ("war fan"). The sumotori makes three small "cuts" in the air above the money. Left, right, and center. He then takes the money, bows to the gyoji, gets up and leaves the dohyo.

The first, sweeping cut, which will always be made, kenshokin or no kenshokin, is a gesture that varies considerably from sumotori to sumotori: from Dejima's somewhat boasting way of slapping his thigh to Homasho's picture perfect, measured and controlled cut.

The three little cuts are in way of thanking three of the Shinto gods1. The cuts can be seen made quickly and carelessly, fingers apart and barely going left - right - center (eg. Russian Maegashira Roho), and they can be seen done with crisp determination, hand cutting through the air like a knife (ah, again young Homasho).

The tegatana o kiru must be performed with the right hand. Yokozuna Asashoryu kept forgetting this, and repeatedly used his left hand2 - a fact that did nothing to endear the fairly unpopular yokozuna to the Japanese sumo audience.

Ideally the movements should be precise and deliberate, but more often than not the wrestlers slop their way through the motions, and only just bow to the gyoji. Personally I think it's a shame. Sumo is tradition, and if routines like tegatana o kiru begin to slip, the next thing we know the gyoji will be clad in a white shirt and calling "Fight" at tachiai!

  1. Amenominakanushi no kami, Takamimusubi no kami, and Kamimusubi no kami.
  2. He eventually learned right from left, but many is the time I have been sitting, watching sumo, calling out: "The right hand, damnit! The right hand!!"

My sources are, besides being glued to the TV whenever sumo is on, http://www.sumoforum.net/glossary.html.

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