Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 5 (Dec 6)

🌐 Location: Beppu, Oita
😛 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We have only a short report today, and less goofy than the usual. But those who are new here are going to learn about kawaigari. Learning is a good thing, isn’t it?

So, let’s start in the morning. The first activity of the day is handshakes with the fans. Yoshikaze participates.

But notice that he does it in a yukata, which is rather unusual. Most of the rikishi do the handshakes in their practice mawashi. This tells us that not only is Yoshikaze off the torikumi, he is also not doing any keiko. One has to wonder what ails him, or rather, what is it that ails him enough not to do keiko, but still not enough to excuse himself from part or all of the Jungyo.

On the sidelines, we have Okinoumi doing some push-ups:

I think he is not quite up to par by military standards.

Next we have some moshi-ai bouts. First, Takakeisho vs. Daieisho, followed by Takakeisho vs. Onosho:

I wonder who it was who got tossed off the dohyo.

Next we have Abi vs. Onosho, followed by Abi vs. Ichinojo.

A direct push doesn’t work against the boulder, so Abi goes for a (somewhat crude) death spin.

Next up, Takayasu vs. Endo, then Takayasu vs. Tochiozan:

Tochinoshin with Ichinojo:

Oof, Ichinojo’s legs don’t look very pretty.

And neither does his sumo. 😩

Finally, the Yokozuna gets on the dohyo. This is significant, as up till now he didn’t do any on-dohyo activity. Well, technically he did some stretches and shiko at the corner of the dohyo, but that’s not something he really needs a dohyo for.

The Yokozuna – all of them – tend to scale their activity up through the Jungyo. There are different degrees of intensity. Doing basics is ground level. Then you have butsukari geiko (where you are the dominant), which is slightly higher (you have to use your feet and you get smashed in the chest). Then there is doing your own butsukari, and doing bouts with low and high ranking rikishi.

The Yokozuna is not yet on the torikumi list – the Musubi is between the two participating Ozeki – but he did start giving butsukari today. The pushing partner was Takakeisho.

Butsukari is a drill in which one side – usually higher-ranked – offers his chest, and the other side has to push him, again and again, all the way to the edge of the dohyo. If you succeed, you do a squat, and continue until the high-ranker decides you’ve had enough. If you fail, the dominant throws you on the floor, or he may choose to get you to walk around in what I call a “monkey walk” – it’s not exactly the same as suri-ashi, and the dominant usually has his hand on your neck to bend you down.

That’s the basics. But then there is kawaigari. Now, you wouldn’t know it from the NSK video above, but this was actually a kawaigari session.

A kawaigari session is butsukari with extra testosterone. On the dominant’s part, that is. It’s a show of dominance, and a serious challenge for the submissive. You get shouted at. And kicked. And your hair may be pulled, or your ass slapped. And all you can do is go “yes, sir”, “yes, sir”, and keep up. At some point you get exhausted. But you have to get up and keep going. You are not supposed to waste the time of the high-ranking rikishi who is giving you his precious attention.

This is a well known ritual in the sumo world. And watching it is not easy for newcomers. Though the original version is worse – it includes spits and hard beating with a bamboo stick. I’m told this still goes on today – though not in public. The public version is not really hazardous to one’s health.

Hakuho loves kawaigari. Having been a Yokozuna so long, nobody can give him one. But he can sure give it to others, they can’t refuse, and it’s considered an honor – while it makes it very clear who’s boss, which is exactly how the Yokozuna likes it. And so, you won a Yusho, young man? Get some “TLC” (that’s what “kawaigari” means) from the Yokozuna. Here is the extended version:

Hakuho is an excellent performer. He makes sure all of the spectators get a good view – standing at different edges of the dohyo each time. He gets more laughs than the shokkiri team – but also signals to the audience when to applaud the exhausted Komusubi. He kicks and growls – and makes sure that Takakeisho’s mawashi knot doesn’t come undone.

But this performance caused quite a stir with one faction of sumo fans – the so-called “Takanohana cultists” (not all Takanohana fans belong to this category). They – or rather, some of them, because I don’t believe anybody who has been a sumo fan for any serious length of time would be – were outraged by Hakuho’s “hideous” treatment of Takakeisho. “That man does not deserve to be a Yokozuna!”. “Why did the NSK censor all the kicking and hair pulling?”. “I really hope Takakeisho makes it through this Jungyo uninjured”. “Hakuho makes sure no young talent can rise in the sumo world”. Some even searched the Internet and found evidence that Harumafuji used to do the same! Those awful Mongolians!

That, my friends, is called “cherry picking”. Because the practice is quite widespread, and no, it’s not restricted to awful Mongolians. Here we have some kawaigari Goeido gave Hokutofuji in 2016.

I think Goeido has never been in Mongolia. Here is one Takayasu gave a youngster from his heya a few years back in a public training:

OK. Lesson over. Now, unlike those cultists, you’ll know a kawaigari when you see one.

I do not have much from the latter part of the day. I do have these two serious, stern-faced sekitori doing their dohyo-iri:

Who are we kidding? You think Abi can stay serious for more than two seconds?

Hey, concentrate on the dohyo-iri, Daddy-Long-Legs.

To wrap up, here is a pixie:

Enho is giving butsukari to one of the low-rankers. Thing is, Hakuho is on the dohyo, and seems to be saying something to his wee uchi-deshi, which gives Enho an expression which is completely incompatible with butsukari or sekitori dominance in general. 🤗

35 thoughts on “Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 5 (Dec 6)

  1. In the wake of the recent scandal with Takanoiwa, it’s interesting to learn about kawaigari and its part in sumo. Both things, the scandal and kawaigari, are parts of the same cultural knot that has to be worked on and opened so that more differentiation between the two things is more apparent. The non-public version of kawaigari sounds like a beating to me, though.

    • The Takanohana Cult’s reaction maybe reveals why the Mongolians dominate sumo: Too much of modern Japan is not used to real, hard, aggressive training and competition. They don’t have the grit and work ethic the Mongolians have. Or the Eastern Europeans.

      Obviously, this is not all Japanese rikishi. I think Takayasu is one of the toughest, mentally in the sport. But the fact that this kind of training provoked this reaction really says something. It’s the kind of training I’d pay good money for at a gym.

    • Indeed – which is why it is not public. I have footage from the 80s, but nowadays such footage would cause a scandal.

            • This is 1980, Nagoya basho. That’s Takanohana Kenshi – the father of Takanohana Koji. And yes, he was Ozeki at the time.

              • Thinking about it, it makes sense that Jr. would want to reform the system to be less senselessly brutal, especially if he was given softer (or harder) treatment as the son of an Ozeki.

              • I have yet to understand what it was, exactly, that Takanohana wanted to reform. I never found anything specific that he said, other than that everything is very bad and should be changed.

          • Were Takanohana and Hakuho trained in this harsh method? Since they are both “legendary “ perhaps that is one factor in their success. Sumo is certainly not a sport that promotes weakness in body or spirit.

            • Everybody including everybody was trained in this harsh method. That was how the sumo world worked (and as I mentioned, some say it still works that way). Kyokushuzan mentioned being hit on the head with a shovel. Bamboo sticks were a common tool. Brutality doesn’t make people any greater. It just allows fewer people to survive and keeps itself going.

  2. It looked like in that Kawaigari, when the senior rikishi got to the edge, sometimes he’d drop with his full weight forcing the junior rikishi to not just push him out but keep him standing AND force him out. Hakuho, Goeido, and Takayasu did it (not every time).

    Damn, that looks like fun.

  3. Thanks for the kawaigari lesson Herouth! Hakuho is very gentle with Takakeisho – I’ve seen old videos of him dragging Ichinojo around by the hair which looked worse ( for the crowds of course!) I thought they’d banned the bamboo pole beatings at practice after the Tokitsukaze incident. Sad to hear that is still going on.

    • Yes. Officially it:s forbidden. My hope is that since sumo is so popular that many people come to morning practices, perhaps there is little opportunity to do this without being captured on some spectator’s phone. John Gunning insists that it is still practiced, though.

  4. The Takanohana Cult’s reaction maybe reveals why the Mongolians dominate sumo: They work harder for it. It seems like too much of modern Japan is not used to real, hard, aggressive training and competition. They don’t have the grit and work ethic the Mongolians have. Or the Eastern Europeans.

    Obviously, this is not all Japanese rikishi. I think Takayasu is one of the toughest, mentally in the sport. But the fact that this kind of training provoked this reaction really says something. It’s the kind of training I’d pay good money for at a gym.

      • No, they’re not “necessary”. But you cut out enough ‘unnecessary’ steps in your training, and it shows.

        These aren’t real kicks. This isn’t a kickboxing lesson. Take one of those and you’ll see about paying for being kicked. Nor was the hair pull anything worse than a nudge.

        Hakuho was setting the pace. Takakeisho wasn’t getting up fast enough. Because of course he wasn’t, his entire body and mind were screaming at him to take a break. The human body and human psychology are not just naturally wired to push to the physical maximum, but that’s how you get better. Yes, it’s psychologically hard, but Sumo is a psychologically hard sport. You’re going to get in a ring, and you’re going to get slapped, shouldered, headbutted, and yes, there might even be yelling.Getting used to that in training, and getting used to pushing your body that extra mile makes the difference.

        The stories of behind closed doors sessions is another thing. But I didn’t see anything wrong with what Hakuho is doing.

      • Although I won’t defend the brutality of sumo’s training methods, I will speak up in defense of the usefulness of a certain amount of roughness as an aid to training. When an athlete is exhausted, a goad can help motivate an extra rep, an extra push. The nature and intensity of the goad should always be set by the athlete and the limits must be respected by the trainer.

        • I think it depends on the individual. What motivates one demotivates another. Me, if I’m doing something hard which requires every bit of effort on my part, I prefer to be left alone. Neither being goaded nor cheered. Both encroach on already deficient mental reservoirs. So I would pay for neither.

          Frankly, I don’t think this part of kawaigari has anything to do with training. Most butsukari sessions in the Jungyo are the straightforward push-or-roll variety. Kawaigari is invented to assert the hierarchy and put the wrestler in his place, not really to improve his sumo.

  5. Is “kawaigari” linguistically related to “kawaii” as in Hello Kitty? If so the Japanese capable of near-English levels of irony.

    • Yes, it is. Adding “garu” to an adjective means “showing outward signs of” – in this case, showing outward signs of feeling that somebody is kawaii. The usual sense of the word is to pamper somebody. So kawaigari means “pampering”, and yes, it’s a very obvious euphemism.

      • I’d like to thank you also for using these kinds of terms in your own coverage of kawaigari. At first I did not understand why you often wrote about it in terms of “tender loving care” and “showing love” and so on. But now I have learned that this is very in keeping with how it is described in Japanese and in sumo culture. Thank you very much for increasing our understanding of sumo.

  6. At least in this very public session I detect signs that Takakeisho’s submission was… feigned is the wrong word — let’s say it may have had a certain theatric aspect to it. I’m not saying the exercise isn’t exhausting — I’m sure it is! — but I suspect a certain amount of flopping and laying down for kicks and hairpulls helped to conserve energy for that last push at 5:12.

  7. Thanks Herouth for explaining butsukari vs kawaigari, this is all new to me! I did see a video of Terunofuji receiving what seemed to me to be a particularly brutal butsukari, which of course I now know was kawaigari. But it was particularly shocking to see him get the treatment as a former Ozeki

  8. Kate Grant it right: brutality is nothing new to the Japanese. These men know exactly what they are up against. Look at their ears. Many are cauliflowered and that’s not caused by being slapped. These are some of the toughest guys on the planet and that’s because they train tough. Is Kawaigari necessary? No. Is it expected? Absolutely and every single rikishi knows it. The idea it is a Mongolian thing is ludicrous. Perhaps they enjoy it more, I can’t say.
    As for the success of Mongolians, I’d say it was more about body shape and other gentic factors. This is noted in many sports. But mentality? No, as the Japanese have as much drive and desire as any on Earth.
    As for the meaning of Kawaigari, I have not seen the kanji, but “Kawai” means both cute and scary, depending on how it is pronounced. Pronounced like the island, it is scary, not cute. Emphasize the “Kow” and especially the ending “ii” it means cute. Confusing them when speaking can cause real misunderstanding. But “Scary Pushing Practice” makes much more sense than “Cute Pushing Practice.” Of course, the sarcasm of a double entendre is also quite Japanese.

    • kawaii (可愛い/かわいい) and kowai (怖い/こわい) are two unrelated words. They are pronounced differently in the same way that “book” and “beak” are pronounced differently – they are two different words. “Kawaigari” definitely comes from “kawaii”, not from “kowai”.

      Most beliefs that different nations gravitate toward different sports due to genetic differences tend not to pass muster scientifically.

      • Thanks for the kanji on that. I speak more than I can read. (I confused kekko and keiko at first. Ha!) But I said nothing about “Nations.” I said genetics. Natural body shape, height, stockiness, etc. And I’m not suggesting there is only one type of physique that succeeds. But it is certainly true that humans are born with more or less natural ability, both physically and intellectually. This is true within any race or genetic set of humans. To be clear, no race is superior in any way. But why do Mongolians seem to excel more than Japanese? It is not desire, imo. Are all Mongolians physically predisposed to be better wrestlers? Certainly not. But, as a percentage of their polulation? Possibly. There are likely cultural issues, I am sure, as a rougher upbringing in an impoverished environment breeds toughness and fearlessness. Also, a desire to get away from that poverty. But that’d be about the nation, the culture, and not genetics. I look forward to seeing Enho in Makunouchi. Will he fair better than Ishiura? Size matters. But if it was only size then Ichinojo would be champ. On the other hand, Takakeisho has proven that a bowling ball with arms like a T-Rex can succeed. Perhaps, in the end, it is an inate mental ability that distinguishes rikishi, such as when one is in the “zone” and everything slows down, but they easily enter that state by volition, by choice. That’d certainly be an advantage. It is an interesting question.

    • Could be. Today I saw a pic of him coming to the venue and his yukata almost reached his toes. It does look like he is trying to hide something.


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