Nagoya Story 6 – Ura Joins The Upper Ranks


Ura-Throw

Survival of The Flexible.

Ura Kazuki easily divides sumo fans world wide. Almost everyone who follows sumo knows of him, and those that love sumo either love him or hate him. He is unorthodox, unconventional, unpredictable and undoubtably amazing to watch in action. Since his professional debut February 2015, he has been on a nearly unstoppable march to the higher ranks.

Ura (his actual name), came to sumo during his college studies, where he was a member of the sumo club at Kwansei Gakuin University. Rather than start at Makushita, as many college sumotori do, he was started at the bottom and had to fight his way up. He promptly won the Jonokuchi yusho with a blistering 7-0 record. He followed that up with another 7-0 Jonidan debut, losing the yusho in a playoff. His hot streak continued through Sandanme and Makushita, only slowing down once he reached Juryo.

Ura’s style is highly improvisational, and he will intentionally do things no other rikishi would ever consider. One of my favorite is his “reverse tachiai”, where he intentionally moves backwards at the initial charge. His unorthodox moves have at time infuriated sumo leadership, but its nearly impossible to fault Ura for much. He seems to truly love sumo, and he appears to be a genuinely nice guy. Though it is seldom shown on the highlight show, his manners on and around the dohyo are exemplary, and he conducts himself with great dignity and humility. I sometimes refer to him as a “rikishi from the future”, as I think that strong, fast, flexible and unpredictable is the way forward.

To be clear, in my opinion no one in sumo has tried to make life easy for Ura, in fact it could be said he is given a hard road whenever possible. But he continues to grind on, more or less always enthusiastic and optimist. Moreover he seems to be having a lot of fun.

Nagoya represents a new chapter in Ura’s career. Ranked at Maegashira 4 East, we will at long last get Ura face some of the top men in Sumo. While the results of an Ura vs Harumafuji match up might be painful to watch, it is a necessary stage in Ura’s continued evolution. As an Ura fan, I would be surprised if he can finish with a kachi-koshi, but I am eager to see how he can adapt to the challenges of sumo’s upper ranks.

Some highlights of Ura’s amazing performances from prior tournaments below:

7 thoughts on “Nagoya Story 6 – Ura Joins The Upper Ranks

  1. Love him, but I just don’t see him being big enough to do damage at the higher levels.

    I semi-agree on the future of sumo, especially in terms of an evolving tachiai, but I suspect it will be more phases in cycle than evolution. Very similar to offensive/defensive linemen in the NFL (or, less obviously, styles of play in basketball).

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    • You are probably right about his impact on the upper ranks, but as an engineer by trade, I never trust the math when I can do a field test. Sure, the simulator told me the giant capacitor was going to catch fire, but can that really compare to seeing if it actually happens that way?

      We Marines have a motto of “Adapt, Survive and Overcome”. I am keen to see if Ura can make that happen too. Somewhere, the ghost of Darwin smiles.

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  2. Before we’re letting the legend of Ura grow far too big – he didn’t just fall into sumo in his university days, he’s been training it regularly since at least elementary school, though he wasn’t all that successful for much of his school career. ja.wiki actually says he first tried sumo at age 4, which I reckon is a lot earlier than most contemporary professional rikishi.

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    • I am not sure Ura will even get a turn in San’yaku. Each time he has faced the next higher level of challenge, it has taken him some time to dial in his sumo. Some of his crazy stuff may work once in a while, but success in the top half of Makuuchi may require him to invent a new set of tactics. That’s the part that excites me, as I think he is capable of it.

      Regardless of his future prospects, I predict that Ura has already changed sumo for the better.

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      • I dunno. People always think that guys who succeed with unusual body dimensions (Toyonoshima, Takanoyama, Ura to name just the most recent ones) will somehow inspire a new generation, but it really doesn’t ever happen, largely because it’s damn hard to make it work.

        Heck, even the last decade’s popular claim that the Mongolian influx will lead to a more athletic sumo environment isn’t looking so hot right now, considering two of the four most notable young Mongolian rikishi are weighing more than 180 kg… Seems to me that far from changing things, the usual outcome is that everything new just gets amalgamated into the prevailing trends.

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      • Actually, make that three out of five…I totally blanked on Ichinojo there for a moment. (The others are Terunofuji, Mitoryu, Kiribayama and Asahiryu, and the last one of those might not actually pan out.)

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  3. When I first watched Ura, I didn’t know what to make of him. He adds a lot of fun and a different dimension to the sport but like others, I have doubts on how far he can take it as he climbs up the ladder. I do think he’s on to something with his flexibility and unpredictability, but I actually see the Rikishi of the Future as the leaner, more muscular (or at least more well defined) body types rather than the massive sea cucumbers like the Kaisei/Tochinoshin formats.

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