YDC Keiko-Soken

Before every Tokyo basho, a special training session takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, called the YDC “Keiko-Soken” (Group observation of keiko). Members of the YDC and the NSK board watch the sekitori practice. This allows the YDC to assess the situation of the Yokozuna, potential Yokozuna, and Grand Sumo in general.

This month’s Keiko-Soken took place earlier today.

Kakuryu vs. Kisenosato

The one who drew the most positive attention was Yokozuna Kakuryu. He first took up Onosho and Mitakeumi. Out of 10 bouts with these lower san-yaku, he won 9. After a bit of rest outside the dohyo, he called upon Kisenosato and Takayasu for four bouts, all won by the Izutsu Yokozuna. He was pleased: “Not bad. One worry less”.

Kisenosato and Goeido

Kisenosato, on the other hand, was lacklustre. Despite practicing with Takayasu like he was on fire for the past few days, he ended up with a miserable 2-6 balance in his bouts with Kakuryu and Goeido. His stance was too high and he couldn’t force his opponents to retreat. As Goeido shook off his left arm and threw him with a kotenage, the Yokozuna sighed.

This performance caused considerable worry among the members of the YDC. Kitamura, the head of the YDC, said that “I have the impression that his strength has not come back. He had some good tachiai, but when pushed, his ability to return the push has not come back. At this rate, he should take another basho off”. When asked whether his “life or death” basho can still be put off he said “Well, five consecutive kyujo is not unprecedented”. Indeed, Takanohana in his day took seven consecutive full kyujo.

Kisenosato was not happy, either: “Oh, that was not good. I have less than two weeks to correct what needs to be corrected”.

Hakkaku, chairman of the NSK board, commented: “He is still too light. If he doesn’t do more bouts, this will not improve. But if he does too many bouts, he may injure himself. There is also a problem of age. If he overdoes things, he will injure some other part. It’s hard to adjust around all that”. [In this context, “light” doesn’t refer to physical mass; rather it’s a description of how easy it is for the other rikishi to push him around. –PinkMawashi]

The third Yokozuna, Hakuho, seems unable to go through an interaction with the YDC without friction.

Hakuho stretching. In the background, his favorite towel rack, Enho.

This public practice was, in fact, Hakuho’s first keiko since the beginning of the year. Actually, the first since the banzuke was announced on December 26th. He started the day doing stretches, shiko, and suri-ashi, while the other Yokozuna and Ozeki were doing actual sumo inside the dohyo. That appeared to be his plan for the day, but Hakkaku was having none of that. “Hakuho!” he snapped at the dai-yokozuna, and instructed him to mount the dohyo. The yokozuna entered the dohyo without even taping himself up, and named Shodai as his partner. Unsurprisingly, he won all seven bouts with the Maegashira.

Shodai was not the partner Hakkaku wanted him to engage, though. “I meant for him to engage an Ozeki if he can. He must have misunderstood.” said Hakkaku.

Furthermore, one of those bouts with Shodai included his now-infamous harite. This caused Kitanofuji, the commentator, to say with a bitter smile: “That man is a scoundrel. He was warned about that by the YDC. Is he trying to start a fight with them?” The members of the YDC, however, avoided criticizing Hakuho for this, perhaps because it was only a single one in a series of 7 bouts. Nevertheless, they did say that “His performance was uninteresting. He just drove Shodai to exhaustion”.

Takayasu vs. Goeido

Goeido was performing well in this keiko-soken. In his engagement with Kisenosato, he won three and lost two bouts, and against Takayasu he won three and lost 1. He was showing his Goeido 2.0 power-tachiai and relentless forward motion.

While Takayasu had a less than brilliant tally of wins vs. losses, he was showing no signs of favoring his right thigh, and was performing his usual powerful rushes. Hakkaku commented: “I have a good feeling about Goeido, and Takayasu is back. I have high hopes from both Ozeki.” Takayasu himself was not too happy, but still hopes to be in the yusho run in Hatsu.

Finally, here is a short video from NHK where you can see some of the aforementioned action:


31 thoughts on “YDC Keiko-Soken

  1. Looks like Enho’s added some weight in his belly, judging by that photo! Maybe makes the towel rack job easier for the time being, although maybe it’s just a flattering posture (depending on one’s take)

    • Yes, but if you slip into “incautiously optimistic”, he’ll throw his back out picking up a towel on January 12th.

      • Nah, he has 6 tsukebito to pick towels for him. I predict he’ll throw it by sneezing too hard. 👃🏻💨

  2. “That man is a scoundrel.”
    Look for the White Phoenix to win Hatsu by any means necessary, and maybe shout “Are you not entertained?” when he clinches.

    • Well, is this freestyle wrestling or sumo?

      Sumo has its own traditions. Deviate from them and there is a large number of people who will not be entertained. Especially those who love sumo rather than Hakuho or his list of records. The two are not synonymous.

        • That, exactly, seems to be the problem. He thinks that winning is not the main thing, it’s the only thing. And while this western idiom works fine anywhere outside Japan’s national sport, it doesn’t work in Sumo. After all, every bout is a religious ritual performed in a consecrated shrine. The Yokozuna’s rope marks him as a sacred dwelling of a kami. He is not a mere athlete.

          • The problem may be that Hakuho’s chosen kami is Loki. ;)

            Sadly I think Kisenosato may be toast, barring some miraculous therapy. I’m sure the twitter haters will find a way to blame it on the Mongolians after the fact.

            • It was the evil, murderous Harumafuji who threw him off the dohyo! That was completely on purpose!

  3. The reports confirm what I think a lot of us believe about this basho: last chance for Kakuryu; next to last chance for Kisenosato.

    • Indeed. While the pronunciation for Kisenosato was “the next basho he attends is his deciding one”, the one for Kakuryu was “Hatsu basho is his deciding one”, and the reactions from the YDC confirm at least the leniency towards Kisenosato.

        • I would assume a “Yokozuna Kachi-koshi” (10 wins) should be enough, especially in the current fragile situation at the top. But of course, I’m not a member of the YDC.

          • Well he’s looking in good form at the moment. Really looking forward to seeing him take on Takakeisho, Onosho and Hokotofuji

  4. Kisenosato still looks pretty bad.Don’t know if he ever will regain his pro-injury strength.It would be wise for him, to enter the injury list for Hatsu.

    • Frankly, I think the wisest thing for him to do would be to retire. He will never gain back his pre-injury strength, because that pectoral muscle was torn, and if you look at him closely you’ll see the typical “dimple” where a muscle should have been. He is trying to compensate for this with the rest of his body, and that strategy hasn’t worked so far. Another kyujo would just be putting off the inevitable.

      When Hakkaku says he has hopes from the Ozeki, I think he means “I hope one of them starts on a rope run soon, so that we have another Japanese Yokozuna before Kisenosato has to let go of his chon-mage”. The pressure on Kisenosato is only increasing in the wake of the Harumafuji scandal and now with the top gyoji’s sexual assault scandal. But not any amount of rest or any amount of pressure are going to bring back that pectoral muscle tissue.

      • Neither Takayasu or Goeido should be a Yokozuna any time soon based on what we have seen in the last year.

        Goeido is either injured or throwing away leading positions, or generally registering fairly low kachi koshi.

        Even when’s Takayasu isn’t injured, he seems to lose a large number of bouts in the second week.

        Neither has shown sustained periods of unbeatable sumo

        Maybe 2018 will change that but I’m not overly hopeful at this stage, particularly with Goeido and the frequency with which he goes backwards to lower ranked opponents

        • Remember, Takayasu has only had one full, uninjured basho as Ozeki. He’s still relatively new to the position. I agree he’s not Yokozuna material yet, but I think he could potentially get there.

          Goeido, though… his sumo is excellent. On his good days, he looks like a Yokozuna. But his mindset isn’t there and he doesn’t have enough good days. He could, potentially, get the rope one day, but it would surprise me more than Takayasu growing into the role.

      • I also noticed the muscle ”dimple” you are mentioning (atrophied probably).He is practically one-armed .As much as he is my favorite rikishi ,i think it’s end of the road for him.Also,what going? It’s raining scandals lately in sumo world.”Sexual assault on a teen” this is really terrible.

  5. I’m very amused to see that Twitter’s porn-detection algorithms have picked up that your sumo photos have a lot of hot sweaty naked flesh on display, and have censored them lest they inflame someone’s passions.

    • Yes, about a month ago Twitter’s porn algorithm seems to have changed from “boob detection mode” (which mainly censored Kisenosato, Aoiyama and Kagayaki) to “flesh color detection mode”. Since then you can’t publish any sumo picture. I wonder how it reacts to Mongolian Bukh (which at least frontally is rather lacking in the garment department).

    • There was an unofficial tweet claiming it will be in September. In any case there is hardly a doubt in my mind that he will have one. As far as his relationship with the Kyokai goes, he followed the appropriate steps, the same as Asashoryu, and Asashoryu had a full ceremony at the Kokugikan.

        • The turnaround time for high-profile retirements is typically 6-12 months, being as they usually take place at the Kokugikan shortly after a Tokyo tournament. With a “normal” November retirement May would have been possible. But due to the police stuff – and the press attention that needs to die down first – it’s now arguably too close to organize everything in time, so September looks the most likely. Maybe even January 2019.

  6. Hi, I am just beginning to delve into sumo. I read: “his now-infamous harite” – could you explain this further?
    Is there a move, which is considered bad sumo that he practices?
    Side question: Is this the same problem as with henka – that is considered “not worthy” of ózeki / yokozuna?
    Thank you.


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