Yokozuna Deliberation Council January Updates

YDC-2017-11

Following the Hatsu basho, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council head a regularly scheduled meeting to discuss the state of the sumo world. In prior meetings, the council has rendered opinions on a variety of subjects including Hakuho’s controversial tachiai habits. Some notable elements (thanks to Herouth):

  • Kakuryu has passed his “compete or else” challenge satisfactorily. Council members were concerned about his week 2 fade. They urged him to rest up, heal up and return ready for Osaka.
  • Kisenosato was once again admonished not to return to the dohyo until he is fit and capable of Yokozuna-grade sumo. Kisenosato can’t keep dropping mid-basho. Next time he does that, the YDC will “make a decision” (choose one of its available tools such as reprimand or recommendation to retire).
  • Hakuho is encouraged to heal up and return for Osaka. While public sentiment has turned negative on the dai-Yokozuna, the fact is he is still the strongest and most capable rikishi in any tournament he enters, and the NSK needs him to continue competing if he is at all able. They cautioned him to restrain from using his habitual harizashi+violent kachiage for future matches. As we have seen, this recommended change in his fighting style left Hakuho off tempo and unfocused.

In other news, Hakuho’s toes are improving, and he is practicing shiko (leg stomps) at the stable.

Please note that there is no jungyo promotional tour until after the March basho in Osaka, so rikishi are focusing on training, and participating in a handful of promotional events around Tokyo and Osaka.

20 thoughts on “Yokozuna Deliberation Council January Updates


  1. The YDC comment on Kisenosato has been so vague that different news outlets interpret it in a completely different way. Some say that it was a sort of warning to Kisenosato that he should get it together, and that he may get a warning or a recommendation to retire if he goes tochuu-kyujo. Others interpret the YDC statement as a license to stay kyujo indefinitely (provided he takes complete kyujo, not partial), and that even if he does quit in mid-basho, the next time he will get the YDC’s “lowest grade” weapon, which is actually no weapon at all: an encouragement. “There there, try to do better next time”. Some fans see this as clear preferential treatment of the sole local yokozuna.

    Various members of the YDC were interviewed and made statements to the effect that “Kisenosato should get himself fully healed, we want to see him come back in full power” etc. etc., which only makes me think that they live in La-La Land. I suppose being a bunch of philosophers and fans, they have not noticed the huge dimple in his chest or do not understand what it means. At best he can hope to improve his tachiai and the stability of his stance, and maybe his mental state. But to be a proper Yokozuna you really have to be ship-shape, as Kakuryu proved to us.

    Anyway, Kisenosato himself committed to his next active basho being his “live or die” basho, which I see as a more respectable conduct than lingering in limbo until some other Japanese can get three double-digits for Ozeki and two yusho for Yokozuna. At this rate he may wait until he is 40, because frankly I don’t see any of the current Japanese flock as able to dominate for a whole sumo year. Only Takayasu has an outside chance, and even that is more because he is already past the first barrier (becoming Ozeki).


  2. Shoulder injuries are tough and they hardly ever heal 100 percent. While I root for Kisenosato…I just don’t think its going to come together for him having gone through similar injuries in a high contact sport. I hope he proves me wrong. As Herouth said though there is not much coming up at the time, while that is fun to watch (hard not to swept up by Tochinoshin’s perfromance) there did feel like something was missing. It’s hard telling people these guys re the cream of the crop and Kakuryu drops 4 out of last 5, and Goeido was *shrug*. I’m wondering with Kisenosato if they can just let him take a basho or two off and really try to heal and rehab him as much as possible in a last ditch effort to get the highest percentage of healing possible.


    • Ah, yes – folks are noticing that the difference between the top men of sumo and the lower Makuuchi is starting to flatten out. This happens when you have a really dominant cohort of rikishi who have dominated for a long time, but are now past the point where they can fed off the younger, stronger, healthier competitors. This means we are about 18 months from completing a big rotation of new for old, and a revitilzation of the sport.

      Our era of Hakuho and Asashoryu have meant that for more than a decade, there was a huge gap between the Yokozuna and the rank and file. That gap is decreasing faster than I expected, and it means retirements and promotions a plenty soon.

      The new age of sumo is going to be great, I tell you now. But let’s savor the sunset of some great rikishi a while it lasts.


  3. Worst possible scenario for the rest of 2018 (as far as I’m concerned): Kisenosato never gets healthy and they demand his retirement. Kakuryu finds 15 days of combat every two months is unsustainable for his ailing body and he, too, is encouraged to retire. Hakuho gets fed up with the councils and sumo higher-ups constantly showing their displeasure with him and his fighting style and his interview style and begins taking off any tournament where he is not 1000% healthy. What are we left with? We are left with every tournament being up-for-grabs and younger guys banging each other around with 5 or 6 wrestlers sitting at 10-4 and 9-5 after 14 days. I never want Goeido vs. Shodai being for all the marbles on Day 15. I’m sorry, but I want, no I NEED, multiple Yokozuna in every tournament. Without them, it’s all ”Sumo Lite.”


    • Brace yourself for a long period of “Sumo Lite”, then. After the four-yokozuna era of the early 1990s, there was no Yokozuna for 6 months, then Akebono became sole Yokozuna for almost two years, with Takanohana – the future dai-yokozuna – unable to clinch two in a row. Becoming yokozuna is hard. Especially when there are many rikishi of equal level.


      • If we can suspend disbelief for a moment and compare sumo with the NFL (yeah, I know it’s a stretch), I look at it this way: very very few NFL fans wanted a Jacksonville-Philadelphia Super Bowl.I compare that scenario to be similar to Arawashi vs. Mitakeumi on Day 15 for the championship. Some people, maybe only me, need Tom Brady, (Hakuho) or Aaron Rodgers, (Kakuryu) or Drew Brees (Kisenosato) in the Big Show playing for all the marbles.


        • Not a stretch at all, injuries are chipping away at the product. I loved to root against the Yokozuna’s when they were all healthy and now I want them to win to keep them around.


    • Sadly, what you describe is more likely than most of us would hope. Last year we published several posts about how the NSK was in dire need to keep their kanban rikishi healthy. Now they have the outcome of that decision. Be aware than you don’t even need Hakuho in the “fed up” state to get there. He is one big injury away from intai. The fact that his toe is once again damaged is a troubling indicator, as this has been somewhat chronic with him.

      We will get some great new Yokozuna soon enough, I would guess 2019. But until then it’s going to be a lot more competitive across the ranks. Frankly that’s a good thing.


  4. The YDC annoys me. (I can only imagine how annoying it is to Hakuho.)

    This group giving out “advice” such as “Rest up, heal up, and return ready in Osaka”… Maybe it’s fine as encouragement, but who has any confidence in their ability to make medical recommendations?

    Everybody agrees there are too many injuries, but where the official role for qualified sports medicine doctors? Sumo has official roles for hairdressers, ushers, referees, judges, stable masters, etc.

    Then we read the lawsuit story about the guy with the broken jaw in 2014, and find that his stable master told him to apply ice and it wait for it to heal. Haphazard medical care is the part of sumo that most bothers me.

    Thanks for letting me vent.


    • OK, but this really has nothing to do with the YDC. It’s a group separate from the NSK, whose mandate is to represent the spirit of the Japanese people w.r.t. sumo. As such, they are not supposed to be experts on medicine or give advice at coaching levels. It’s more about conduct and perception.


  5. The YDC just points the main lines for Yokozuna ,” Got injured,rest,heal ,return or retire” and ”Don’t pull dirty tricks ,do Yokozuna sumo”The members are not doctors ,but a variety of scholars/academics.


  6. What is the fighting style Hakuho uses that is so controversial to the higher ups? He doesnt henka so what dont they like? I am not well versed in this area I guess.


    • Erik, virtually everyone on this board is more sumo-knowledgable than I, but I’ll give this a shot and if I’m incorrect, many others will explain things better. Yokozuna are expected to fight ”in a noble manner”, that is no tricks, no sneakiness, or manifestations of ultra-violence. Hakuho has a move that is so awesome and he performs it so perfectly, the higher-ups have a problem with it: he will begin the bout with a face slap or a fake face slap which seems to get his opponents to close his eyes in anticipation of it and then deliver a stunningly powerful elbow blast to the chin which has knocked people out. The big guys don’t care for that maneuver and consider it not in the tradition of a Yokozuna’s fighting style. And he’s always had the nasty habit of unnecessarily pushing his opponent off the dohyo right after he’s been declared the winner. He’s been warned about that numerous times. I’m sure there are other things he does in the ring that grate on sumo management.


      • Thank you for the reply. I figured the face slap was his move and I was wondering why more people didnt do it. Seems a little silly to me that after so much success they are trying to make it harder for him to win. I have heard and witnessed the unnecessary push and agree he needs to cut that out.


        • Erik, ”why they are making harder for Hakuho to win” is a query that will get you about 100 replies. It absolutely astounds me, as well. Just one more thing about this sport that I will never ever understand. If I had to come up with one reason, I would repeat something I said last month that Hakuho is the ultimate showman in a sport that simply detests showmanship. That makes the most sense to me, but who knows.


            • I have noticed that. It seems to me the Mongolians really dominate. Has that been a historical thing or is this a more modern occurrence? Or is it just more apparent right now having 3 Mongolian yokozuna


      • I’m a Hakuho fan, but I dislike that they regulated on the slap/forearm blast. If you’re another rikishi you know what you can do? SLAP BACK!! Henka him (unless a you’re a higher rank). Although it is kind of funny when someone higher ranked henkas and the crowd does like a slow quarter applause of disapproval.


  7. The Mongolian presence in recent given the long history of sumo. Mongolia has their own form of wrestling which is quite a bit like sumo, and the kids compete starting at a young age. So Mongolia represents a pool of skilled youngsters that can (sometimes) succeed in the Japanese sumo world.

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