This is a technique very often seen right at tachiai (the start of the bout). The winner steps or jumps to one side when the opponent charges, slapping him on the shoulder or back to bring him down ("hataku" means "slap", and "komi" indicates that the opponent falls within the dohyo). The charging rikishi (wrestler, lit. "strong man") will either fall or be forced to touch the ground (the dohyo) with his hands - either way, he loses.
Losing by hatakikomi is rather often the fate of the oshi-zumo rikishi (the "bull-rusher"). An oshi-specialist relies on the charge to push or slap his opponent out of the dohyo, but his momentum makes him vulnerable to a calculating yotsu-zumo wrestler - a technician. On the other hand, if a rikishi attempts a hatakikomi and fails, he will more often than not be off-balance, and pretty vulnerable himself.
Another technique, hikiotoshi looks a lot like hatakikomi, but instead of slapping the loser down, the winner pulls him forward and down ("Hiki" is "to pull opponent down" and "otoshi" is "making opponent fall towards his front or side"). Tsukiotoshi, a thrust-down technique is equally difficult to distinguish from both hatakikomi and hikiotoshi.
Hatakikomi is not reserved for the light-footed rikishi; presence of mind is the key-word. Many times hatakikomi will be a "defensive" move to counter an attack at any given time during a bout. It can seem surprising that a well known oshi-sumotori like Ozeki Chiyotaikai rather often wins by hatakikomi; the fact is, that since his opponents know that he will come charging, they give all they've got - and when he suddenly breaks off and lets them pass, they don't stand much of a chance.
Of 1729 bouts in the Makuuchi division, 140 (8.1%) were won by Hatakikomi.1
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- Statistics from the March, May, July, September, and November Basho, 2005, and the January Basho, 2006.
Thanks to mauler for definition/translation.
My sources are www.scgroup.com/sumo and www.sumo.or.jp/eng/index.html