Aki Basho Genki Report


Genki-Report

The Injury Count Increases

Once again, we are on the cusp of a basho that is marred by injuries and likely outages for Sumo’s star attractions. Tachiai readers will note that this is part of the longer overall trend, where the men who have dominated sumo for years are reaching the end of their completive period, and the cumulative damage done to their bodies now comes due.

The aggressive rise of a new crop of riskishi, that I sometimes jokingly call the “Angry Tadpoles” can be thought of as the result of two forces. The push factor of their individual training, work, dedication and flat-out skill that propels them to higher ranks. There is also a pull factor of the men who have occupied these positions increasingly being less healthy and able to defend their ranks.

To be clear, I am expecting Yokozunae Hakuho, Kisenosato and Kakuryu to not participate in the Aki basho. I also think it is strongly possible that both Endo and Ura may announce they will not be competing either.

Just from injuries alone, I expect Aki to be a basho that may be dominated by a rikishi who has never before won a basho, and it may be a glorious run.

Rikishi: Hakuho
Genki: ✭
Notes: Last year, the dai-Yokozuna skipped Aki in order to undergo surgery to repair his left knee, and remove a painful bone chip from his right big toe. He drove himself relentlessly to recover to excellent fighting form, and took the May and July tournament championships. But now that left knee is causing him constant pain, and he is likely unable to execute effective sumo.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Harumafuji
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: Do I think Harumafuji is healthy? No indeed. But he is tough and he is going to will himself to compete at Aki, no matter what the pain or discomfort. He has injuries to both knees, both elbows and lord knows what else. But it’s clear he is only going to leave the dohyo when he is too injured to walk.
Forecast: Yusho contender

Rikishi: Kisenosato
Genki: ✭
Notes: Kisenosato has not been training. His body is still weak, and we still have to wonder if his torn pectoral muscle will ever be useful again. Granted he did some training with shin-juryo Yago, but this level of combat is a ridiculously light compared to what he would face in Makuuchi. The YDC has urge Kisenosato not to return to the dohyo until he is fit and ready to compete. We will know he is ready when he resumes training with his stablemate Takayasu.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Kakuryu
Genki: ✭
Notes: Kakuryu is in a weak and perilous position. He has been so wracked with injuries since withdrawing from Nagoya that he has not been training (see a theme here?), and he is in no condition to compete. Furthermore, it has been made clear his next basho really needs to be a strong performance, or he will be asked to retire.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Terunofuji
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: He had to withdraw from Nagoya, as his June knee repair surgery was not healed enough for effective sumo. He took the entire summer off to rest and recover, and seems to be somewhat improved. He has been active in pre-basho training matches, and he even looks to be fairly strong. If he is mended, he is a yusho candidate. But he is one bad fall away from retirement now. Keep in mind, he is kadoban and must have 8 wins to hold on to his Ozeki rank.
Forecast: Double digit wins

Rikishi: Goeido
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Last year Goeido surprised the sumo world by coming into Aki kadoban, and leaving with his first yusho. Furthermore, he was undefeated at Aki, making his victory all the more impressive. Goeido is very hit-or-miss, but his pre-basho training seems to indicate that he is mostly in “Goeido 2.0 Mode”, and could in fact be a contender.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: His conditioning has deteriorated because for several months he has not been able to hone his sumo in daily scrimmage against Kisenosato. As a result, I suspect he is not nearly as ready as he was a year ago, and in fact we may see him kadoban for the first time. His practice matches during jungyo and his inter-basho warm ups have been good but not great. Furthermore, Takayasu has had a bad habit in the past of letting himself worry and over-think his sumo.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Mitakeumi
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Mitakeumi is the chieftain of the Angry Tadpoles, a rank he should wear with pride. He has shown remarkable strength, talent and adaptability in his climb to Sekiwake 1E, and he is now in a spot where he can try to assemble 33 wins. Furthermore, it’s quite clear that like the great Hakuho, he is having the time of his life, and every day on the dohyo is joy to him.
Forecast: Double digit wins, Possible Yusho contender.

Rikishi: Yoshikaze
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Scarred by years of battle, and once again at Sekiwake (though as the oldest one in the modern era), Yoshikaze is never one to ignore. He can and will beat any rikishi on any given day. In recent tournaments he has shown a fantastic breadth of sumo skills, and never surrenders. There has been some speculation in the Japanese sumo press that he might become the oldest Ozeki ever, but frankly I think “The Berserker” just wants to get the job done.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Tamawashi
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: He has been dethroned from his long term posting to Sekiwake, and it’s now time for him to either fade lower in the banzuke, or battle back to the top. His fans know he has more than enough sumo to re-take his rank from Mitakeumi, but it remains to be seen if he can muster the energy to win.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: The big Georgian suffers from injuries that have held him back, but in Nagoya he turned in a strong kachi-koshi to follow up from his Jun-Yusho in May. Many fans expected him to be posted to a San’yaku rank, but he should feel no shame for being the top Maegashira. His enormous strength and nearly boundless endurance means that anyone who dares him to a yotsu-zumō battle will be in trouble.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Kotoshogiku
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Sorry Ojisan, but your time has passed. Listen to your body and retire soon. We all still love you, and your back bends and pelvic thrust sumo will never be forgotten.
Forecast: Maki-koshi

Rikishi: Hokutofuji
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: I am very excited that Hokutofuji is solidly in the upper Maegashira ranks for his second basho. Few rikishi can survive at this level, and this is why you see some favorites yo-yo up and down the banzuke. Hokutofuji, if he can remain healthy, is likely to be a big deal once the current crop of leading sumotori take their bows and retire.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Aoiyama
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: For whatever ridiculous reason, this guy got played up as a spoiler to Hakuho’s yusho in Nagoya. Frankly, his sumo was never up to the task of combating even the lower half of Hakuho, let alone the entire Yokozuna. Now he finds himself squarely in the joi, and he has a difficult schedule ahead. He has a very limited range of kimarite, but with few Yokozuna competing, he may not face the pounding he would with a healthy roster.
Forecast: Make-koshi

Rikishi: Onosho
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Onosho faces his first time in the upper part of Makuuchi. As with Aoiyama, the expected Yokozuna recuperation basho will likely give him an easier time than he might have had otherwise. He is strong, he is skilled and like Hokutofuji, he is going to be a big deal if he can stay healthy. Still, I expect he is going to find him self out-matched for now, but he will improve.
Forecast: Make-koshi

Rikishi: Ura
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Ura left Nagoya injured. He was injured to the extent that he did not even participate in any sumo activities over the summer break. Like far too many rikishi, he now faces the prospects of nursing a damaged knee back to usefulness. Prior to the banzuke, many fans (myself included) hoped for a stiff demotion, to allow him time to work in the lower ranks to maintain his sumo while his body healed. Sadly he is once again in danger of being an opponent for the Ozeki and San’yaku battle fleet. At this point his goal must include survival.
Forecast: Make-koshi

10 thoughts on “Aki Basho Genki Report

  1. Rikishi: Takakeisho
    Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
    Notes: Takakeisho’s trajectory in 2017 is very similar to that of fellow tsuki/oshi specialist Mitakeumi in 2016: two double-digit records leading up to a first appearance at Maegashira 1 in July, a respectable-for-first-turn-through-the-meat-grinder showing of 5-10, and a demotion to Maegashira 5 for Aki. Last year Mitakeumi had a 10-5 record at Aki; Takakeisho has the drive and skill to equal or better that performance.
    Forecast: Double digit wins

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very very curious about Takakeisho this basho. I want to see how he bounces back from his joi initiation. I am hoping for a solid return.

      Like

    • In my opinion there is a major difference between Mitakeumi and Takakeisho: From his first steps in Makuutshi Mitakeumi strifed to increase his sumo, not only in terms of improving the techniques he already knew, but by developing mawashi skills and evolving his sumo. Takakeisho is more focussed on imrpoing his tsupari and not widen his sumo reportoire.

      While this self-improvement it is Mitakeumis strength, it is also his weakness – as evidenced in his bout against none other than Takekeisho last basho. He stubornly went for the mawashi, didn´t switch to tsupari and lost. This match showed also that Mitakeumi is still not fighting at ozeki level – he lacks the adaptility of a true ozeki.If he had switched styles midway I am sure he could have worn Takakeisho down with tsupari and coudl have finished him off – either via pushing/thrusting or mawashi-sumo.

      I´m sure Takakeisho will fight a solid basho and I hope he will develpo mawashi-skills as a result of the beatdown he received last basho. Because at the end of the day there is a pretty finite limit to what a rikishi can achieve on the the strength of his pushing/thrusting alone. And I sure hope Takakeisho will rise above these limits.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Part of Takakeisho’s evolution was the beating he took in Nagoya. This includes the taunting that Hakuho gave him. His sumo is (at that time) insufficient for the joi, and it was time for him to understand that. So now we get to see what he does about it

        I personally think Takakeisho is quite capable of expanding his sumo to encompass joi / San’yaku level skill. But now we get the fun of watching him figure it out. Mitakeumi (as you note) did this, and it was a fantastic transformation.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I do not think it is financial. It is more like an obligation-honor kind of thing. Yokozuna are not only the leaders of the pack, they represent the spirit of Sumo. Remember that to become Yokozuna, winning tournaments alone is not sufficient, the candidate also has to display hinkaku, aka the spiritual qualification for the position.
      So basically, a Yokozuna is expected to consistently perform as befits his great position, or step back entirely if he can no longer deliver that consistency. Sitting out a basho or even more than one, while permitted, is not seen as ideal. A normal rikishi will drop in rank when sitting out, a yokozuna will eventually be encouraged to retire.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Is this glut of injuries just one of those things, a statistical blip driven by the age and condition of the big guns in particular? Or is there more to it: for example, the average rikishi is heavier than ever before and this puts enormous strain on joints, not to mention exacerbating the impact from falls off the dohyo?

    Interested in views.

    Like

  3. Excellent summary! Should be a very interesting basho.

    A funny mistake I noted: “Yoshikaze…Scared by years of battle…”

    I don’t think this guy has ever been scared in his life. Scarred maybe, especially with his raw hamburger face after each match…

    (I’m just being funny here, I know you meant “scarred”!).

    Liked by 1 person

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