Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

It looks like it was hair-pull Wednesday. None of it seemed like a deliberate tactic, but it took at least one clear win from a rikishi on a no-loss streak. There are an impressive number of rank-and-file rikishi who are still 4-0, and sadly two Ozeki who are in real trouble with injuries, and might want to consider kyujo and immediate medical attention.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Aminishiki – A couple of false starts, Chiyonokuni was worried about an Aminishiki henka, and who would not be? Aminishiki took the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni was able to overwhelm uncle sumo’s offense.

Yutakayama defeats Daiamami – Yutakayama picks up his third win, in this evenly balanced oshi/tsuki match. Yutakayama was consistently in better position, and kept Daiamami moving to his tune. My favorite part comes when Daiamami has a solid nodowa, and Yutakayama applies a vigorous slap to his attacker’s face.

Kotoyuki defeats Chiyoshoma – Kotoyuki got into his favorite mode of sumo, and after trading a short series of thrusts, he had Chiyoshoma off balance, and spinning toward the East side.

Yago defeats Kagayaki – Excellent fundamentals as usual from Kagayaki, and he controlled the early part of the match, moving Yago backward, keeping Yago higher and reacting to his sumo. Yago worked to bring Kagayaki to his chest, and when he got Kagayaki wrapped up, he went to work. Although Kagayaki struggled, Yago kept his opponent centered and marched him out. More evidence that Yago is probably going to be a big deal in the next few years.

Abi defeats Endo – It was a cloud of flailing arms immediately from the tachiai, and Abi put himself at risk by attempting an early pull down. Respect to Endo for doing a better job than most at repelling the Abi-zumo attack, but Abi continued to apply pressure, and Endo landed in a heap.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – A solid, protracted mawashi battle. Asanoyama was in control for a good portion of the match, but failed to pick up his first win. It looked like Asanoyama got tired, and Ryuden exploited his opponents exhaustion. Good sumo from both.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – Kaisei seems to have his sumo at full power for the first time in a while, and he remains undefeated. Daieisho gave it everything he had, but there is just too much Kaisei to toss around.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – This match was all Aoiyama, and Onosho could not overcome the Man-Mountain’s superior reach, and was bodily thrown to the clay. But a Monoii was called, and it was determined that Aoiyama had contact with Onosho’s hair during the throw, and was disqualified.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – I hate to say it, but it’s painful to watch Yoshikaze right now. He seems completely out of energy and drive, and he presents little offense in any of his matches. Injury? We don’t get to know.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Shohozan scores his first win by shutting down Kotoshogiku’s hug-n-chug attack, and getting to Kotoshogiku’s side.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – A critical tadpole battle, this match did much to shape the second act, and it’s a fair question to wonder if Takakeisho needs to work out a mechanism to defend against this kind of attack. Mitakeumi was able to shut down the “wave-action” by never letting Takakeisho get enough distance to effective push against him. At close range, Mitakeumi’s bulk and grip carried the match. Excellent strategy from Mitakeumi, and he moves to 4-0. I can point to Takakeisho’s early attempt at a pull-down as the fatal flaw that allowed Mitakeumi to close the gap and back Takakeisho to the bales as the moment he lost the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Ozeki Tochinoshin needs to just go kyujo, and work to get his injury treated. He is going to be kadoban either way, and he may as well save himself from any potential damage that might arise.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – A wide range of thoughts about this, firstly a lot of credit to Ichinojo for outstanding, aggressive sumo two days in a row. He looked like a real champion, and I can’t get enough of this when he is fighting well. Goeido gave it everything he had, and we saw some fantastic attempts to overcome Ichinojo’s size and mass advantage. But with Goeido pressed tightly to his chest, Ichinojo expertly wore him down, and then tossed him aside like a spent ice cream bucket. Fantastic sumo from both, but Goeido likewise needs to own up to his injury and seek treatment before it becomes permanent.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Influenza patient Takayasu blasts through his fever to drop Tochiozan. As the scion of Tagonoura now, I expect Takayasu to further harden his already grim determination to win every time he mounts the dohyo. On a related note, it seems the flu is ripping through Japan right now, and there may be several more rikishi who end up sick before this tournament is complete.

Kakuryu defeats Myogiryu – It was not pretty, but it was a much needed win.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji lost this match because Hakuho used anything he could think of to delay the moment he touched out. It was a masterful act of agility and poise, but it was really a toss up who was the dead body in this match. Although Hakuho won, this is a great barometer of just how far Hokutofuji’s sumo has come. The boss remains undefeated.

39 thoughts on “Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

  1. I seem to be the dead body nag specialist here.

    It’s not “the dead body” – both wrestlers can be dead body. That’s exactly what this monoii was all about.

    Head shimpan: “A monoii was called to check if this was not a dotai. But the conclusion is that Hakuho stayed in. Gunbai dori”.

    In plain English: the point of contention was whether or not both wrestlers were dead. Hokutofuji was dead for certain. But was Hakuho dead or alive? The conclusion was that he was alive – “stayed in” meant that the foot he had on the tawara was still there when Hokutofuji “died”.

    “Dotai” is when both wrestlers are dead at the same time and there is no way to judge who won (e.g. if both attacked at the same time).

    The “dead body rule” does not determine a winner. It just describes a state, on which to base the actual decision.

    • Correct. I think the point I was trying to make is that Hokutofuji’s sumo has come a long way, and almost had “The Boss” this time. But of course, Hakuho being the greatest rikishi anyone has seen, was able to resist just enough to win this one. The guy is simply in a league of his own.

      • Yeah. Hokutofuji certainly would have won if it wasn’t for Hakuho’s footwork. And once again, I’m thinking what would have happened if Hakuho didn’t have that surgery of his. There is no way he could do those tricks. Nevertheless, it’s worrying that he can’t keep the fight at the center at the dohyo and has to channel Aminishiki. At this point, I’m not sure whether Andy shouldn’t start working on that wasabi marinade.

  2. Takakeisho slipping back into an old habit of trying to pull/ slap down his opponent when they are both fairly evenly poised, letting his opponent get into a stronger position and then losing immediately after. He must avoid doing this! He should have persevered with his pushing attack for longer

    • An excellent point, clearly it was the mistake that cost him the match, and I worry it disrupted his momentum. I think it was a huge boost for Mitakeumi, in that each day he shows up more confident and ready to do battle.

      I am guessing that Takakeisho’s battle modes are still a work in progress.

  3. What about the Aoiyama decision? To me it did not look like a hairpull. Anyone who knows about the rule in question?

    • I thought it looked completely inadvertent, but the rules being what they are, Aoiyama had to forfeit the win, even thought he owned that match from start to finish.

      • I believe as long as the fingers are caught in the hair during a pulldown, it’s a hairpull, regardless of intent.

    • Judging by the NHK casting team (and we are talking about Kitanofuji as commentator, so an actual expert), it was a close call. Everybody agreed that Aoiyama didn’t actually grab at the mage. However, he had a finger in it. Or so it seemed. Kitanofuji judged that finger “safe”. The shimpan judged it “foul”.

      The fact that the head judge was Onosho’s stablemaster doesn’t make me happy.

      • But even so, I completely understand the whole hand on hair thing, yet it wasn’t only because Onosho played it up that it was noticed. Look at the Kotoshogiku bout. He literally grabbed Shouzans hair and pulled but Shouzan didn’t play it up. Even if he had won I’m sure nothing would have been done.

        • That’s where I believe you are wrong. I just mentioned this on Twitter. The question is not “is this intentional”. Japanese don’t believe they can know what intention or feeling somebody else has in mind. What they judge is what they can see: does it contribute to the win or not. Kotoshogiku pulls at shohozan’s hair. Does it help kotoshogiku win? Nope. So no problem.

    • Well you should be looking at the slowmo replay again. I think his fingers slipping into Onoshos hair wasn’t deliberate but instead of releasing them he does a clear pulling movement, harshly pulling Onoshos head to the side.

  4. I was rather dissapointed by Ichinojo. Of course he won. In the end he outweighted Goeido, but the match was all Goeido. If not for fighting with one arm, Goeido would have won the match very early. Heads up to him for putting up this effort being so restrained by his injury.
    The biggest dissapointment however was Onosho. Yes, he won, but that were Aoiyamas fingers accidently getting caught in his hair. He had absolutely no match plan and was completely overwhelmed.
    Great escape from Hakuho (and I agree with the decision), but this was just inexperience by Hokutofuji. Great match. Overall some nice matches on the belt today.

    • Very impressive sumo from Goeido today. It’s one reason I think he should go kyujo at once and focus on repairing that injury.

      • But there’s the rub: how long does it take to repair a torn muscle? More than a month? Apparently, or he would have done it. The same problem repeats: if they go for long-term proper fixes, then they have to give up their rank. Above 30 years of age, that’s no longer a viable option. They try to gambarize and that’s it. Goeido didn’t get that muscle tear fixed in Kyushu, so he does not intend to fix it, period. At best, he can rest a while.

        • To be fair, I understand the point, but as an Ozeki you can take off up to 6 month, if you come back with 10+ victories and 4 month if you trust yourself to get a kachikoshi once healthy. Quite a luxury position compared to other non-yokozuna rikishi.
          Maybe the recovery needs upwards 4month, I wouldn’t know … not a doc, but aside from today it didn’t look like Goeido can put up much of a challenge. I have a feeling a lot of the rikishi underestimate how much they are hampered by an injury, maybe because the intensity in training is different from honbasho. It’s the last 10% they can’t go anymore, not the first 90.

          • Not exactly. You need to practice sumo for at least a month if you want to get 10 wins or even 8 at Ozeki competition level. If you went Kyujo at the end of tournament A, you have 1.5 months to tournament B, then 1 month before you have to start practicing for tournament C.

  5. I’m just amazed again by Hakuho’s ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

    Sad that Aoiyama lost as the way he’s going he could be in yusho contention. And he was pretty unlucky given I think we’re all agreed it was unintentional. As mentioned previously, Kotoshogiku on Shohozan looked far worse but then he lost anyway.

    This tournament has had it all – kinboshi, Ozeki losing all over the place, Yokozuna retirement, close calls, top knot pulling – and it’s only day 4!

    The performance of the joi, Komusubi and Sekiwake are really exciting, great sumo so far from Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, Ichinojo, Tamawashi and Hokutofuji!

  6. On a more serious note – Hakuho fluking at least 2 bouts early in the Basho is usually an alarm bell that something may be wrong with his machinery.

    To beat Takakeisho you can’t let him create separation to use an NFLism

    • I don’t think I’d call it fluke – it’s the incredible ability he has to turn an inevitable loss into a victory. Hokutofuji looked 99% certain to win that match when he had Hakuho at the edge

  7. Finally, the first rikishi in a while to get in Takakeisho’s face and stay there. It was comical watching guys stand there waiting for him to hit them again. He doesn’t have arms! Stop letting him cannonball into you! I love the guy’s fighting spirit, but all you have to do is use the arms you have that he doesn’t.

    • The trick seems to be not letting Takakeisho’s tachiai create too much separation. If a rikishi can remain in the vicinity after receiving Takakeisho’s tachiai blast, then he seems to have a fair chance of defeating the alligator-armed one.

  8. On the topic of hair-pulling, every time I see someone get a handfull of Takayasu’s back or shoulders I wince. I assume it is not a culturally cool thing for them to wax/shave like swimmers do?

    • Since some of them definitely… manscape… I would say it’s a personal decision on the part of the particular rikishi. I think the hair has become Takayasu’s trademark. Also kaisei is making fun of his own body hair. I don’t think body hair gives anybody enough leverage to bother anybody, really.

    • That’s what I thought; I only got to see what NHK World shows in the Grand Sumo Highlights reel, but Onosho looked…frustrated. I think he wanted to earn that win, and I didn’t see any signs of “indicating distress,” at least on the camera angle NHK World showed.

  9. I loved the Ichinojo – Goeido bout. G fought as fiercely as he good. He just didn’t have the endurance to push The Boulder out. I’m not even a big Goeido fan, but I applaud his effort today. Great match.

    And oh yeah. Go, Ichi, go!

    I’m mystified by Kotoshogiku’s blatant hair pull, particularly after he had just watched Aoiyama lose due to an inadvertent tangle of his hand in Onosho’s hair. What’s up with that?

    Great save by the GOAT! I think he has morphed from Lord of the Ring to Lord of the Ring’s Edge. But he should not have been caught out like that in the first place. I say this as a Hakuho fan. It seems he is weaker that he used to be, in the legs. Perhaps he did not have time to build up his legs properly after surgery. Either this, or in some other way he is not as ship shape as he would have us believe. I hope this is temporary.

    Apart from Kisenosato’s retirement, this has been a great basho so far. What will tomorrow bring?

  10. I’ve seen so many times where I thought there was a hand on/in top-knots, but this is the first time in the short time I’ve been watching that I saw a judges’ conference actually rule it’d happened. I kind of wondered if Aoiyama’s fingers being taped actually made it harder to get his hand out.

    The Ichinojo-Goeido bout was the highlight, though, IMHO, even if the Mitakeumi-Takakeisho bout was likely more important for yusho contention.

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