As the fifth day of the Kyushu basho concludes, the torikumi that Leonid was so excited about turned out to be just as excellent as predicted, although not necessarily for the expected reasons.
Tokoshoryu – Myogiryu. Lots of pre-tachiai sizing up, but when the bout starts, Tokoshoryu looks totally outmatched. Myogiryu wraps his arms around high up his opponent’s torso in a double-underarm grip, and simply walks him out.
Kotoyuki – Nishikigi. Matta from Kotoyuki – there seems to be a lot of it going around this basho. The actual bout starts well, but Kotoyuki honestly just looks like his heart isn’t in it. He gets a solid tachiai, but he attempts to maneuver around to Nishikigi’s left and just ends up losing ground in an oshi-zumo battle. He’s driven back easily, and just sort of steps out. Maybe he lost track of his position on the dohyo and tripped on the bales?
Daiamami – Aminishiki. Aminishiki raring to go, Daiamami looks like he’d much rather be eating chanko and watching Takekaze and Ikioi go at it. The bout starts with what I was sure was going to be a matta…
Then the match of the day happens. I am frankly blown away at Aminishiki’s performance here. First he gets a solid left-hand grip on the mawashi right off the tachi-ai, swings Daiamami around, and goes for a knee pick. Daiamami narrowly avoids it by getting his right leg back under him in time, turns head-on to the older rikishi, and forces him back to the bales – but not out. Aminishiki is leaning way forwards, but his grip (right underarm, left overarm) is too strong for Daiamami to just slap him down, and it seems Daiamami doesn’t want to risk back-pedalling.
Daiamami keeps Aminishiki on the bales, slowly levering him upright, dragging both arms up hard, but can’t break his left overarm mawashi grip. Then Aminishiki kicks him in the left shin and forces him to step backwards, taking the opportunity to get off the bales and around to the left. Daiamami drives forward again, but Aminishiki has room to maneuver now, and he backs up fast, overbalancing Daiamami forwards, and executes a sukuinage that I kind of want to print out and frame. Then he saunters back to the west, checking his nails.
This is why we love Uncle Sumo. Even Daiamami looks kind of star-struck.
Takekaze – Ikioi. After the last bout, anything would be a bit of a disappointment. This was a perfectly solid performance, but nothing outstanding.
Kaisei – Kagayaki. Kagayaki opens well, turning Kaisei to the left on the tachiai and moving around to his side, looking for the okuridashi. Kaisei recovers with a deftness and speed that we definitely weren’t seeing from him a couple of tournaments ago, gets back into a more comfortable migi-yotsu, and uses his superior strength to drive Kagayaki out.
Okinoumi – Daieisho. Okinoumi is able to keep Daiesho at bay with slaps and nodowa, but when Daiesho gets closer he’s forced to retreat, with one hand hooked around the back of Daiesho’s neck. As Daiesho leans in harder, Okinoumi shifts his grip, grabs his opponent by the upper arms, and drags him down, denying him anything to hold on to.
Endo – Asanoyama. An excellent yotsu-zumo match, with lots of fighting for a favourable grip. Eventually, Endo gets what he wants, swings Asanoyama around, and forces him out. If you’re a fan of yotsu-zumo, watch this one several times, and find a recording that lets you see it from different angles. You can really see how the rikishi will sacrifice positioning on the dohyo while they struggle to obtain or keep the grip that they want. In the end, despite being driven way back, Endo wins because of that grip.
Chiyomaru – Tochinoshin. Clash of styles here; Chiyomaru is very oshi-zumo focussed while Tochinoshin is a pure yotsu guy. If you look at Chiyomaru’s profile, the vast majority of his losses come from yorikiri – and that’s what happens here. The tsuppari barrage can’t force Tochinoshin back or even keep him at bay, and he soon has a left overarm, right underarm grip, and begins to drive the eternally round one back. When on the tawara, Chiyomaru pulls his right arm out, although I’m not sure what he expected it to achieve at this stage, and he’s out a moment later.
Shodai – Arawashi. I love the sumo that these two put on. Shodai’s tachi-ai looks a bit more committed than usual, but Arawashi absorbs it and starts into the throw attempts straight away. He starts out pinning both Shodai’s arms from the outside, preventing the morozashi, then tries for a kotenage, doesn’t land it, and finds himself being controlled and driven back by Shodai. After three or four attempts, Arawashi finally makes the kotenage work, dragging Shodai over his extended right leg and sending him tumbling.
Takarafuji – Daishomaru. This one was just really unexciting compared to the last few, I’m sorry to say. They both looked so hesitant! Takarafuji wins by yorikiri, but honestly, it’s more like Daishomaru lost by poorly-timed sidestep.
Chiyoshoma – Ichinojo. Chiyoshoma opens with tsuppari, forcing Ichinojo to lean into him, and tries for the slap-down but the mountainous rikishi stays on his feet (though not going anywhere fast). Chiyoshoma changes tactics, moving in and securing a right overarm grip, then turns almost completely around for a high-power uwatenage attempt. It’s not enough to send Ichinojo over, but it unbalances him, turns him sideways, and puts him between Chiyoshoma and the edge of the dohyo. Then it’s just an easy push-out, and Ichinojo’s first loss.
Chiyonokuni – Hokutofuji. If Endo – Asanoyama and Shodai – Arawashi were excellent technical yotsu bouts, this is the other end of the yotsu spectrum: A display of bulging muscles and exhausting effort. No grip change attempts, but Hokutofuji does pull back for a moment to drop his head and plant it against Chiyonokuni’s chest. He drives, Chiyonokuni tries for an uwatenage that doesn’t end the match but does offbalance Hokutofuji enough to fight back away from the bales. Chiyonokuni can’t restore his right inside grip, goes for a kotenage instead, and Hokutofuji pulls away entirely then re-attacks from the side and easily shoves Chiyonokuni out. Well, maybe “easily” is putting it a bit lightly, nothing about this match looked easy.
Kotoshogiku – Chiyotairyu. We enter the San’yaku bouts with a kind of sad trombone sound. Chiyotairyu can’t even get the tsuppari barrage started. Kotoshogiku is inside, gaburi-ing away, and the bout is over like that. ‘Giku needed the win; Chiyotairyu is not having a good basho. It’s his first time in the joi, so not really surprising that the first week would be a bit nasty. He gets Goeido tomorrow.
Mitakeumi gets the fusensho win since Terunofuji has finally accepted the complete futility of trying to do San’yaku-level sumo in his current state. I will never understand why he thought participating in the jungyo was a good idea.
Takakeisho – Yoshikaze. This wasn’t the highlight bout I was expecting, but it’s a good reminder that Takakeisho is improving rapidly. They bounce off each other at the tachiai, Takakeisho thrusts Yoshikaze away to the right when he tries to rush back in, then takes advantage of Yoshikaze’s poor positioning to oshidashi him out.
Tamawashi – Takayasu. Takayasu’s slaps and thrusts aren’t enough to keep Tamawashi at bay. He gets in close right off the tachiai, secures an actual left ottsuke (as opposed to whatever Kisenosato had the other day), and manages to drive Takayasu backwards the length of the dohyo as if doing butsukari. The big guy gets turned around at the end and shown out – Takayasu’s first loss of the basho. Will Takakeisho hand him another one tomorrow? The run of four wins was a good start, but Takayasu is under-trained, is kadoban, and I worry for my favourite rikishi.
Goeido – Onosho. After a solid tachiai, Goeido hops backwards and drags Onosho down. Not much to say about the match itself, but I hope this use of retreating sumo was just a one-off to defeat Onosho (who has a serious overcommitment problem), rather than a return to the overly-reactive style that we’d all rather he stay away from. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with reactive sumo – it’s just that Goeido is so much better when he’s on the attack! And since he faces Chiyotairyu tomorrow, the attack is where he wants to be; backing away from Chiyotairyu just means you spend longer getting pummelled by tsuppari.
Tochiozan – Hakuho… What? That wasn’t just a matta, even the Gyoji wasn’t in position yet! Did Hakuho lose track of what point in the pre-bout ritual they were at?
Hakuho easily wins the actual bout, holding Tochiozan at bay with one hand then quickly pulls him forward, sidesteps, and easily pushes him out the rest of the way – adding an extra little unnecessary shove off the dohyo. Boo, hiss.
Tochiozan is now the only non-kyujo rikishi in the division with no wins. Tomorrow, he gets to try to change that against Kisenosato.
Kisenosato – Shohozan. Yep, Shohozan was watching yesterday’s bout. He attacks the left side relentlessly, controlling Kisenosato’s weak left arm, trying throws and force-out techniques until he finally gets the yokozuna to the bales. Kisenosato isn’t finished, though, and pulls off an amazing last-moment throw, landing on top of Shohozan for the win. But it’s not the sort of win that a Yokozuna should be proud of.
I’ve got to say, I’m unhappy with the state of affairs at the Yokozuna ranks. Kisenosato is not putting on yokozuna-like sumo. Hakuho is not showing yokozuna-like conduct. Kakuryu has been kyujo for six of the last ten basho. And Harumafuji, well, I don’t really want to talk about that. But that’s a sour note, and the vast majority of today has been cracking good fun.