I Got Next: Searching for the Next One, Tachiai Introduces Readers to the “Tatakiage”

Hakuho is “The One.” He owns just about every conceivable record in the books. This past tournament he registered his 1050th win, surpassing Kaio’s mark of 1047. He will complete the “Hakuho Conquest” (1066 wins) in time for the Olympics in 2020. His career was made possible by the fact that he started so early, joining a heya at 16. These youngsters who start so low and achieve so much are called the “Tatakiage.”

The Many Hands Began To Scan For the Next Plateau

Now that he’s achieved so much, and set so many bars so extraordinarily high, the question becomes “Who is next?” Will anyone be able to do what Hakuho the Conqueror has done? The current crop of champions do not have the health to come anywhere close. Hakuho’s the only Yokozuna left standing for the summer Jungyo tour, Terunofuji and Goeido are in a dangerous cycle punctuated by recurring injuries and threats of demotion. Takayasu, our shin-ozeki, will need six and a half years of zensho yushos to catch up to where Hakuho is now. And with Hak winning yushos, it’s not only a moving target but one where all current wrestlers are losing ground.

None of the up-and-comers, like Mitakeumi, will have a chance at such a long career. In spite of his rapid rise to the upper divisions and makuuchi, he got a comparatively late start in professional sumo. We’re now watching another up-and-comer, Yago, skip the lower divisions on the heels of their successful college careers and start in the Makushita division in their early twenties. Even Hakuho’s disciple, Enho, got a bit of a late start, like Shodai. Tatakiage wrestlers like Hakuho forgo high school and college to pursue their dohyo dreams.

So who has the chops? We are familiar with Wakaichiro, the Texan rikishi who started his career last year at 18. After securing his kachi-koshi in Nagoya we hope to see him continue his strong progress. However, this article profiles a Musashigawa-beya stablemate named Tokuda who has begun his sumo career before finishing high school. After a strong Jonidan tournament in Tokyo, he was promoted into sandanme, but will fall back down into Jonidan in September.

It’s a difficult path for these youngsters. Not all will make it to the upper divisions and many will drop out. But Hakuho has demonstrated what they can achieve. It may be this early start in sumo which imbues a successful wrestler with the ring presence and the canny abilities required for a long career. Kisenosato started at 16. Kotoshogiku at 18. Many impressive wrestlers will come out of the universities ready for successful careers in sumo. But anyone who hopes to become “The Next One” and come close to any of Hakuho’s records will need to come from the ranks of the Tatakiage.

9 thoughts on “I Got Next: Searching for the Next One, Tachiai Introduces Readers to the “Tatakiage”

  1. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsYesterday, I got into a nostalgic mood, so I watched Chiyonofuji’s Kanreki Dohyo Iri. This took place on May 2015. A year later, the man was dead.

    But notice his tachi-mochi and tsuyuharai.

    My most optimistic prediction is that the next record-breaking Yokozuna will be the tachi-mochi in Hakuho’s own Kanreki Dohyo Iri. That is, that at the moment there may be a 2 years old toddler running around in Japan or Mongolia who will do his first maezumo maybe 15 years from now, and starts working at those yusho a couple of years later.

    But in reality, I think no less than 50 years will pass before anybody else sets foot on those rungs marked “Chiyonofuji”, “Kaio”, and “Hakuho” again. Never mind that other ladder with the yet-to-be-reached “Futabayama” rung.

    • You could certainly be right that the next Great One is but a wee tot, or as yet unborn. However, at least here in ‘Murica, athletes are getting better and staying active for longer, and with more success. The classic contemporary example is Tom Brady, playing a contact sport (not, however in the most concussive role) into his forties, Elway and the elder Manning got rings in their late thirties, and here where I live in AZ the legend of The Big Unit himself, Randy Johnson, is fueled by memories of triple digit fastballs at 45, while the current closing pitcher for the Diamondbacks, and place kicker for the Cardinals are over forty as well. Now, I don’t know what sort of tiger blood these hombres are drinking, but clearly sports medicine and performance nutrition have advanced to the degree that some individuals can extend their prime years indefinitely (Brady says he wants to play until he is fifty!) if they are sufficiently gifted genetically, and able to avoid catastrophic injury (Although even that is becoming less of a career death sentence, with Peyton coming back after taking a year off for cervical surgery). My point is (I do have one!) the next sumo immortal might not need to start his career before he starts shaving, but rather he might be a rikishi who embraces a more progressive training/nutrition/inter-basho rehab program. I know professional sumo in Japan likes to pretend to some degree that it is still the 17th century, but if anybody dares to supplement their teppo routines with a bodybuilding program, or to wash down their chanko with creatine and BCAAs, they may go far…

      • I’ve been watching the “30 most popular rikishi” videos at Jason’s channel in the past few days, and it struck me that Sumo wrestlers in the past, at least the good ones that everybody remembers, were rather lean. Very different than what you see today. The fact that you get taller rikishi today is not surprising. Today’s basketball players are also taller than those of the 60s. But they are also a lot heavier even in proportion to their height.

        And then you have the throwing style. I don’t have statistics, and I may be wrong, but I think that’s something the Mongolians brought with them to Japan – fancy throws that end up with rivals upside down in the front rows.

        So what I’m seeing is Sumo where career expectancy is actually shorter than it used to be – the higher the level, the faster you get into the makuuchi joi, the worse your injuries are going to get. I’m sure Kisenosato would not be in as bad a situation right now if he weight only 130kg. Or Ura if Takayasu didn’t flip him like a pancake.

        So first, I don’t think that the Japanese should change their Chanko to anything else. I know that some of the guys use modern equipment to build their muscles. Their problem is not so much body building, although some of the stables do put too much stress on weight as opposed to muscle. The problem is really with their attitude towards sports medicine on the one hand, and the bloody dangerous arrangement of the dohyo on the other. At the current rate I don’t see how Yokozuna like Takanosato, who had an 18 years career almost free of injury, let alone Chiyonofuji or Kitanoumi, are going to exist at all.

        • I have also been watching the countdown on Jason’s channel and have been thinking about the body shape issue.

          I thought that I would take a look at the BMIs (Body Mass Index) of current wrestlers and compare them to past yokozuna. I started with the 50 or so wrestlers who have competed in makuuchi this year. The BMIs range from the relatively trim Arawashi on 36 all the way up to Chiyomaru on 59. With the median being 48. Of the current crop of yokozuna we have Kisenosato (53), Kakuryu (45), Hakuho (43) and Harumafuji (40), which means that 3 of the our are on the skinny side by modern standards. On a side note the figures also show that Kotoyuki (58) really, really needs to lose some lard.

          Next I took a look at all the yokuna who were active since the six-basho system came in in 1958. Of course Musashimaru (64) and Akebono (61) broke the scales but the only others who were above the current median were Onokuni (57), Kitanoumi (53) and Kagamisato (53) whilst Takanosato came in bang on the median at 48. The other 22 yokuzuna were all on the skinny side right down to Wakanohana I who had a BMI of 33. Her’s the data:

          Musashimaru 64 retired
          Akebono 61 retired
          Chiyomaru 59 active
          Gagamaru 58 active
          Kotoyuki 58 active
          Onokuni 57 retired
          Kotoshogiku 56 active
          Takakeisho 56 active
          Tokushoryu 55 active
          Toyohibiki 55 active
          Aoiyama 55 active
          Chiyootori 54 active
          Yutakayama 54 active
          Ichinojo 53 active
          Kisenosato 53 active
          Kitanoumi 53 retired
          Kagamisato 53 retired
          Takekaze 51 active
          Terunofuji 51 active
          Nishikigi 51 active
          Takayasu 50 active
          Daishomaru 50 active
          Onosho 50 active
          Takarafuji 50 active
          Mitakeumi 49 active
          Kaisei 49 active
          Tamawashi 48 active
          Goeido 48 active
          Tochinoshin 48 active
          Chiyotairyu 48 active
          Shodai 48 active
          Hokutofuji 48 active
          Takanosato 48 retired
          Chiyoo 47 active
          Takanoiwa 47 active
          Yoshikaze 46 active
          Hokutoumi 46 retired
          Kakuryu 45 active
          Ura 45 active
          Okinoumi 45 active
          Shohozan 45 active
          Takanohana 45 retired
          Kotozakura 45 retired
          Yoshibayama 45 retired
          Tochiozan 44 active
          Ikioi 44 active
          Kagayaki 44 active
          Sadanoumi 44 active
          Asahoryu 44 retired
          Taiho 44 retired
          Endo 43 active
          Hakuho 43 active
          Myogiryu 43 active
          Tamanoumi 43 retired
          Daieisho 42 active
          Osunaarashi 42 active
          Sokokurai 42 active
          Kyokushuho 42 active
          Chiyonokuni 42 active
          Tochinishiki 42 retired
          Wakanohana 3 41 retired
          Asahifuji 41 retired
          Mienoumi 41 retired
          Harumafuji 40 active
          Futahaguro 40 retired
          Ishiura 39 active
          Chiyoshoma 39 active
          Kitanofuji 39 retired
          Sadanoyama 39 retired
          Kashiwado 39 retired
          Chiyonofuji 38 retired
          Wajima 38 retired
          Asashio 38 retired
          Wakanohana 2 37 retired
          Arawashi 36 active
          Tochinoumi 35 retired
          Chiyonoyama 34 retired
          Wakanohana 1 33 retired

          • The numerus typos in the above pot are due to the senescent tate of my laptop and not jut ignrnce.

          • Wow, kudos for digging up the numbers.

            So your point is that Yokozuna tend to maintain a relatively healthy BMI as compared to the lower ranking wrestlers?

            I’ll need to dig my own numbers to support or refute my own claim (that weights have risen over the years) as I cannot use your BMI figures – I think that pure mass is more important than body shape w.r.t. severity of injuries.

  2. I’m so proud. I manage data for a living and am always impressed with evidence based discussions. :) Must again give a shout out to the SumoDB. I am smitten. Sumodb.sumogames.de. And if anyone knows of more data, feel free to shout.


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