While I am certainly grumpy about the state of the upper ranks, it’s clear that a lot of well deserved attention will be focused on Takakeisho during the Hatsu basho. A young, dynamic rikishi, he has been on a nearly unbroken upward tear since his Makuuchi debut 2 years ago. He is now poised on the cusp of an Ozeki promotion, amid talk that he may represent a look at the future of sumo.
Takakeisho has a distinctive bulbous body shape that makes him look a bit like a tadpole, and was part of the invention of the “Tadpole” moniker. But that name glosses over some specifics about Takakeisho and his sumo that I think are important to understanding his future. Clearly Takakeisho is a man driven to compete, and to hone himself to ever higher levels of performance. He has become a master at a unique brand of oshi-zumo that he continues to refine with great effect (seen here against Kisenosato 1 year ago).
At Tachiai we have referred to this as his trademark “Wave Action” that features him delivering potent double-arm thrusts squarely towards his opponent’s center of mass, while rapidly shifting his position. His attack style delivers a steady rain of power that disrupts, unbalances and frequently defeats any rikishi he faces.
I take delight in understanding that this approach was developed in part because Takakeisho has fairly short arms. This might normally hamper a rikishi’s career, but he has found a way to use this feature of his body type as a potent weapon instead.
With his Kyushu basho win in the history books, Takakeisho participated in many celebrations and festivities in the two months since the last tournament. Sometimes this hampers the performance of a rikishi in the following basho, and Team Tachiai will be watching with great interest to see if the extra burden, pressure and distraction of being the Kyushu yusho winner will weight down the young rising star. Fans keeping score understand that his magic number is 11 to be considered for a promotion to Ozeki, which given his most recent post-injury record (42 over 4 basho), should be within reach. Much of his chances will come down to the somewhat questionable state of the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps, as only Takayasu and Mitakeumi were able to defeat him in November. Tachiai will be following him closely, and hoping for a good, strong showing in Tokyo from Takakeisho.