The Sumo Kyokai is in charge of professional sumo so it’s probably a good idea to understand more about the organization and the people. While there are some members who were not wrestlers, the executive officers were all successful in the top division. With Kitanoumi’s death a year ago this month and Chiyonofuji’s death over the summer, there’s been quite a bit of change…which we kind of get to ignore. The other day the Kyokai listed the whole group on the website. In Japanese. It’s taking me a while to get through the whole bunch so I’m going to start with the Executives. This will also give a glimpse into some of the more important committees and roles which I hope to feature in future posts. I have a feeling the Lifestyle Guidance Manager role will be particularly interesting to research. I mentioned that to my wife and it evoked memories of little rule books carried by middle schoolers, bans on ear piercings and strict dress codes.
The banzuke for the November tournament in Kyushu was released today by the Japan Sumo Association.
Hakuho – Yokozuna 2E: Having missed the prior basho due to injury, the 69th Yokozuna starts in the bottom slot. Don’t expect this to be an indicator of his performance, if he is healthy I am sure he will lay waste to everyone he faces.
Goeido – Ozeki 1E: As the undefeated champion of Aki, he enters the Kyushu basho as the top Ozeki. Keep in mind, it’s been discussed by the Yokozuna council that should he repeat in Kyushu, he will earn his rope.
Okinoumi – Sekiwake 1W: He moves up 2 slots event with a 8-7 record. This is an result of brutal and punishing outcome of the Aki basho. Okinoumi started strong and finished weak. Let’s hope he can excel in one of Sumo’s toughest slots
Mitakeumi – Komusubi 1E: Big move higher for the young Sumotori. These lower Sanyaku ranks are tough to hold. But he has been looking strong on the Aki Jungyo
Tochiozan – Maegashira #1E: As a fan of Tochiozan, I am very happy to see him get the top Maegashira slot. Best of luck against all of the big men of sumo.
Gagamaru – Maegashira #16E: Somehow, Gagamaru stayed in Makuuchi. I wish him good fortune, and better comportment than his Aki performance.
Taking a break from the Aki Jungyo, Harumafuji payed a personal visit to some very sick children at Ehime University Hospital on the island of Shikoku across the Seto inland sea. As part of his cooperation with the Heart Saving Project, he spent time speaking with and encouraging the pediatric patients.
The HSP charity is dedicated to treating and preventing the high prevalence of juvenile heart disease among Mongolian children, and we salute Ama / Harumafuji for taking time to brighten these young patient’s hospital stay.
As an additional note – the bumblebee Yukata is awesome.
According to Yahoo News Japan, NHK will try out an eye-popping 8K technology broadcast during the Kyushu tournament from Fukuoka starting November 13th. This will be an advanced technology demonstration of what NHK is calling “8K Super Hi-Vision“.
While no one in Japan has an 8K set, NHK is playing back the tournament in select locations in Tokyo, no word if the Kokugikan will be one of them.
Meanwhile, US fans are getting by with 25 minute highlight shows that NHK is sharing with the world. Don’t get me wrong, these are much better than no sumo at all, but I maintain that NHK is missing a fertile market they could develop in sumo. Like most sumo fans in the US, I eagerly await the day that NHK will allow me to pay money to watch a more complete broadcast.
The 69th Yokozuna, Hakuho, rejoined the Aki Jungyo when the tour got to Kyoto on the 22nd. By all accounts he is still not up to full fighting form, but he intends to compete in the November tournament in Kyushu. Hakuho has clearly lost a good amount of mass, and there seems to be a bit of distress in the Japanese sumo press over his reduction.
Personally, I think there are a handful of Rikishi who might be able to up their performance with even a modest weight loss, and it’s excellent that Hakuho is taking the lead here.
Below a clip from twitter of him training with some of the other Rikishi on tour, looking good and likely for Fukuoka.
Green Day came through DC last week and I’m gutted that I couldn’t get a ticket. They were playing the 930 club which is a pretty small venue so I’m not surprised. Nevertheless, I was online when the tickets went on sale and somehow they were all gone within seconds. However, the system still let us try for the next two hours. As a result of all of this bitterness, I’m going to rip off one of their song titles and butcher it for my pleasure. Here goes: “Wake Me Up When [October] Ends.”
The banzuke won’t come out for weeks but I wanted to give it a stab. I found it very difficult to make sense of the lower-level maegashira ranks since everyone below M10, save Endo, belongs in Juryo and none of the top-ranked Juryo wrestlers deserve promotion. If others want to try, I think we could try to score our attempts: 2 points if you get the right rank, 1 if you get the right side (E vs. W). I think I’ll score well from Sekiwake up…the rest is likely pretty far off but still fun to try.
No Rikishi influenced the Aki 2016 Basho than Hakuho, the most dominant Yokozuna in recorded history. Although he sat out the entire tournament with a suite of injuries, nearly every discussion was framed in terms of his absence. By sitting out Aki, Hakuho may have achieved more than anyone could have imagined, but it remains to be seen if he can overcome the injuries that drove him to see a hospital bed instead of his customary place on the dohyo.
Injured And Defeated In Nagoya
During the July tournament in Nagoya, Hakuho started in his customary strong way, laying waste to everyone and anything that stepped into the ring to oppose him. For fans of the art and technique of sumo, watching Hakuho is a joy. He is quick, clever and brutishly strong. His confidence is overflowing, and he displays a respectful, dignified presence while he dispatches his opponents with flair and style.
But in Nagoya, the great performance run came to an end during a rather unusual match against Ikioi on Day 9. In the video below, we can see the point where Hakuho either injures himself, or his injuries manifest to the point that they stop him cold just as he was about to win once more.
Hakuho is pressing the attack against Ikioi, when he suddenly collapses, much to everyone’s surprise (most especially Ikioi)
Followed by what happened when he faced tournament winner Harumafuji
The knee collapse on the champ is quite brutal, he is clearly injured and has no strength in either leg to apply against Harumafuji
Summer Jungyo & Lead Up To Aki
As mentioned elsewhere on Tachiai, the summer long break is a time for Jungyo – the Sumotori take to the road and bring a really nice, compact sumo experience to towns and cities across Japan. Hakuho, who takes his role of Yokozuna with the utmost seriousness, committed himself fully to appearing on tour, and being the standard barer for Sumo. Sadly it seemed that this mean his injuries where not healing, and may in fact have gotten worse.
But as early as late August, it was clear that Hokuho was not in top form, and in fact was in so much pain as to be largely immobilized. In spite of the tendency for Sumotori to continue to march to the dohyo in spite of moderate to severe injuries, it began to be discussed that Hakuho would sit out Aki.
The sumo world erupted in discussion, mostly because at that time, everyone was certain that Kisenosato would be assured of a win and ascendancy to sumo’s highest rank. Of course now in October we know that was not to be, and a new champion stepped forward instead.
When the Aki banzuke was published, Hakuho occupied the Yokozuna 1 East position as has been his place for much of the recent past, but trouble was in motion already.
Kyujo, Hospitalization and Recovery
With less than a week to go before the start of Aki, Hakuho held a press briefing to announce that he would not participate in the Aki basho, but would instead undergo surgery to repair damage to his toe, and to his knee. While there was some description of the damage to his big toe of his right foot, the damage to his left knee, seen so clearly effecting him at Nagoya, was less thoroughly discussed.
True to his word, Hakuho underwent surgery on the 12th to attempt repairs to his injuries. The Sumo world is notoriously tight lipped about things like injuries, surgery and other things that would cause anyone to question the health and performance of their star athletes. But over time it was possible to piece together that Hokuho’s right big toe had several bone chips impacting it, and that he likely damaged the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) of his left knee.
Within a week he was back on his feet, and training like a man driven to regain his throne. He also seems to have undertaken some level of a fasting regime, and lost a noticeable amount of weight. This may have, in fact, been one of the remedies to help his knee heal – reduce the load it carried.
A Shadow Over Aki
Even without participating a single day, every match, every scenario, every discussion of who might win was framed by the overwhelming fact that Hakuho was, for once, not present. This should and must not detract from the amazing work and effort Goeido put into his Zensho Yusho victory from Kadoban status, truly a historic feat. But the entire calculus of who faced whom, the momentum and the flow of the basho was massively disrupted by Hakuho’s normal position as the insurmountable obstacle to victory for every rikishi.
The Road to Kyushu
As of this writing, Hakuho has not yet joined the Aki Jungyo, which is currently rambling southwards through Honshu, delighting the fans and letting the rikishi get up close and personal with the public. All indications point to his primary focus is on continuing his recovery, and working to improve his health and performance. He is likely splitting his time between the Miyagino stable in Tokyo, and whatever facilities he has in Mongolia. It remains to be seen if he will join the Jungyo later this month.
The Michael Jordon of Sumo
There can be no serious argument that Hakuho has had a massive and enduring impact on the sport of Sumo. There has never been a more dominant, winning Yokozuna in history, and he has stated he intends to stay active, and winning, until the 2020 Tokyo summer olympics. His goal is to perform the dohyo-iri that will be part of the opening ceremonies. It would be a spectacular crowning achievement to an unparalleled career.
But there should be serious concerns for his ongoing health and ability to perform. If he has in fact damaged his MCL, we should note that in many cases with professional athletes, this manner of injury can end their careers. Thus far there are no clear indications in the press that he continues to have problem in day to day life with his knee, but fans will learn much he first time we see him face off against an opponent.
At Tachiai, we sincerely hope that Hakuho can and will take whatever time is needed to completely recover from his injuries, and returns to Sumo fighting fit and ready to resume his march towards Tokyo 2020.
Bruce’s article from the other day got me thinking about Goeido’s title and possible Yokozuna promotion as well as Kisenosato’s Ozeki career. I put together a chart of the several indicators of ozeki performance for a select group of rikishi to act as a bit of a baseline.
Obviously, titles are the key statistic. In the words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.” Of the ozeki careers I’ve selected, something should stand out. Most of these ozeki won titles, multiple titles, before promotion. I don’t understand why everyone is so eager to see a promotion, whether Goeido or Kisenosato. Our ozeki need to be doing a better job of pulling their weight.
Kaio and Chiyotaikai were great, recent ozeki. Each had a career spanning at least 50 healthy tournaments at the rank of ozeki. 50. Kaio won 5 titles over that span, Chiyotaikai won 2. Compared with those careers, Kisenosato’s a pup. He’s been ozeki for a mere 28 tournaments. Konishiki was ozeki for 35 tournaments and won 3 yusho. These guys never made and are remembered for being great ozeki. There’s no shame in that.
There is shame, however, in a promotion that comes too early. The poster child for this would have to be Futahaguro, a yokozuna with the distinction of never having held the Emperor’s Cup. In a short, four tournaments at the rank of ozeki, he did average 11.5 wins per basho. However, he was promoted after securing two consecutive second-place jun-yusho. His career as yokozuna was winless and cut short when he punched the wife of his oyakata.
We expect a certain level of play from our ozeki. We expect better than 8 wins per tournament, consistently. Actually, I should say we demand 8 wins per tournament. If they don’t get it, they go kadoban – as Terunofuji is now and both Goeido and Kisenosato were at the start of the last basho. We get our 8 wins from Kisenosato. He has actually averaged a cool 10.68 wins which is certainly not too shabby and a far sight better than Goeido’s 8.33.
The thing is, a yokozuna needs titles. And to get those, he needs even more wins. Musashimaru had 5 titles as ozeki over 32 tournaments with an average of 11.03 wins per basho. Clearly both Kisenosato and Goeido can and should perform better if they want to be promoted. It’s a lot better to look back on a great ozeki career than an underperforming yokozuna career. But it’s even better to look back on an ozeki career WITH CHAMPIONSHIPS, like Kaio, Baruto, Kotooshu…even Goeido. Chances are, these guys would have been underperforming yokozuna. Kaio had many injuries. Kisenosato’s been very healthy. Hopefully his time will come but he needs to earn it.
Selected Ozeki Careers (some went on to be Yokozuna)