A Word On Kisenosato


As Liam reported, Kisenosato has finally put an end to the drama and announced his retirement. Herouth explained how we got here and Bruce did a great job pointing out why this was what needed to be done. Minutes before the announcement came down, I had retweeted survey results from Sponichi that 78% of respondents thought he should retire, belying the idea that he had a groundswell of fan supporting the idea that he should continue. We could hear it in the crowds’ reaction to each of his three losses.

The great thing is, that drama is over now. Kisenosato will continue his sumo career as coach, then as head of his own stable of wrestlers. And there really was no other way forward. If he had lost again, the howls would grow along with the discomfort of the Sumo Kyokai and Yokozuna Deliberation Council. If he won, the inevitable may be delayed by a day or two. But with more wins, or some dream (fantasy) comeback kachi-koshi record, surely questions would arise about their legitimacy given his recent poor results. Perhaps this is where the idea of yaocho, that it’s all fixed, can finally be put to bed.

The second thing that I hope comes out of this is a real reform within stables regarding the treatment of wrestlers’ injuries, if it hasn’t started to happen already. We’ve seen some chronic injuries rested, but others continue to come back, tournament after tournament, only to finish with 1, 2, or at max 4 wins and never really healing completely…I’m looking at you Ikioi…not to mention the entire Ozeki corps. It would be a slow change but hopefully the days are over where a shattered arm would be patched up with an expectation of continuing with keiko bright and early the next morning.

I look forward to seeing Kisenosato wearing a blue jumpsuit of the NSK during future basho, in a hakama and presiding over mono-ii as shinpan, or in jeans, laughing with fans during jungyo in Ibaraki as he guides his own deshi through their own careers. Undoubtedly, he’s now free from the pressure to perform that has been hanging over his every appearance over the past year.

And a final note: Kisenosato owes Nishikigi a beer. Odds of a second kinboshi have now surely plummeted. If Nishikigi gets a kinboshi against Hakuho this tournament, I’ll eat my hat — with a special wasabi marinade — during the next podcast.

I wish Kisenosato well as he begins the next chapter of his sumo career as Araiso oyakata (荒磯親方).

18 thoughts on “A Word On Kisenosato

  1. Goeido may soon be a similar story because of his arm injury that he didn’t repair. That’s the main reason he’s currently struggling. He might also make a trip to the barber soon.

  2. The fact that Hakuho had to tweet a picture of his knee X-Ray to avoid being accused of laziness makes me skeptical that the attitude will change any time soon =-\

  3. The ongoing tragedy is mercifully over. All best hopes for the Yokozuna’s future.
    As was mentioned the sad state of the Ozeki’s, not much hope for any of them to get the time to heal properly. Very harsh.

  4. Better prepare that wasabi marinade already. I’m sure Nishikigi will drop some matches, when we don’t expect it to the likes of Shohozan or Shodai, but against the big guns he seems unfazed ;) I think he is still getting underestimated by his opponents.

    • Yeah, having watched today’s match with Hakuho again doing the tawara dance, I think Nishikigi actually has a chance to surprise him, especially as the Yokozuna doesn’t know him and his style. Nishikigi himself doesn’t know what his style is, I think…

  5. kisenosato retiring means ‘… the idea of yaocho, that it’s all fixed, can finally be put to bed.’
    what math are you using to reach this conclusion?

    some viewers, and some writers, may find it tidy to deny yaocho
    however, like it or not, one can’t understand sumo without coming to understand yaocho/mukiryoku

    kisenosato definitely got his share of help, as did comrades kotoshogiku and goeido
    now we have takakeisho, who too often faces opponents who simply stand and wait to be pushed out while he puts together his powerful ‘waves’

    fixed bouts (overall) degrade the quality of sumo
    pretending it doesn’t happen isn’t making things better

    but maybe i misunderstand your wish to ‘finally’ put it all to bed
    andy, what is your description of yaocho/mukiryoku in present day sumo?

    • If you think you can judge yaocho by the way a bout looks, think again. Yaocho is virtually invisible. All the “he moved too early!” and “His grip was too shallow” and all that stuff are worthless. You simply can’t tell. People make mistakes and misjudgments and have timing problems in sumo because not all of them are super skilled and everybody is human. The only way to really detect yaocho is from external evidence (phones, tsukebito confessions, bank transactions), and statistically (that famous research that showed that a larger than expected number of wrestler lose after their kachi-koshi, and then beat the same wrestler in the next basho).

      In Takakeisho’s case, he comes from the wrong heya. One thing that Takanohana was always fanatic about is yaocho. Takakeisho is too straight-laced and seems to follow his former stablemaster’s ideals out of true faith. If there was anybody in that heya who did yaocho then maybe, maybe I would say Takanoiwa, but only on the base of character. Takakeisho is simply not the type.

      The case of “not giving it all” is a different matter because people sometimes do prefer to live to fight another day and don’t want to commit professional suicide to win a nearly-lost battle. That’s natural, but falls under the same category as a basketball coach benching his lead players when the opponent leads by 20 near the end of the fourth quarter.

      So how prevalent is yaocho after 2011? Well, somebody has to run those same statistics and see. There is no other way of knowing. Definitely not by looking at bouts.

    • This would have been THE prime situation where a dodgy win or two would have been most likely, in my mind. The fact that he essentially fell on his face…time and time again…silences the idea that sumo is anything like WWE-style “pro-wres”.

  6. The article is about Kisenosato. Discussion of yaocho is inappropriate.

    Thank you Kise for years of thrilling sumo. Perhaps he stayed too long but it’s his nature to fight to the end.

    What sumo should take form this saga is the need to embrace modern medicine. The Rikishi are so valuable. They have to be protected. When they are injured, don’t use loss of rank to compel them to return before they are healed. There should be a core of excellent athletic medicine doctors available to every Rikishi and they should be encouraged to use them.

    All the best Kise

  7. Its a damn shame but the guys probably going to go down as the worst yokozuna ever. I think his record is something like 36-36-108 with a horrific Kinboshi rate. Dude doesn’t deserve that legacy.

    • Oh, not by a long shot. Futahaguro has that title locked up. 0 yusho, and I believe he assaulted tsukebito and his okamisan.

      • Futahaguro had a record of 74-33-13 as a Yokuzuna. And much less than 18 gold stars that Kisenosato handed out.

        So we’re talking semantics here. Ben was talking record, whereas Andy is talking reputation.

        • 2 yusho vs 0. If we were talking post-promotion, we’re still talking 1 yusho vs 0. When measuring Yokozuna, that’s the stat that matters. The rest are tie-breakers. Like in American football or NBA or MLB or NHL, I’d be saying “rings are what matters.” Except, as Yokozuna you go out there and win those championships on your own so it’s not like he was the backup kicker or something and lucked into a ring. He hung around too long while injured. That naturally jacked up his W/L record. Hakuho isn’t “the greatest” because of his win/loss record. He’s the greatest because he’s sitting on 41 yusho…and counting. Kisenosato won two yusho, in a row, in spectacular and dramatic fashion. Not the greatest Yokozuna…but a long way ahead of “the worst”.

  8. it is good to be honest, admitting to the widespread mukiryoku
    of course, not every rikishi goes all out every time; that would be suicide in any endeavor

    what counts is not who got paid, but who let up, and i don’t mean by lack of suicidally giving 110%
    when one guy doesn’t fight, that’s the mukiryoku we refer to, and can see every day of the basho

    but herouth and andy, methinks thou doth protest too much
    your valid expertise about sumo is diminished by pretending all the bouts are legit, and this is a real disservice, especially for those newer to watching and reliant on your views


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