Natsu Day 2 Highlights

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Ladies, gentlemen, and rikishi, it’s time for Day 2 highlights! With the stateside team hobbled from accessing live sumo, I’m here in Tokyo and will make a good fist – nay, Aoiyama roundhouse slap – of the commentary today.

Day 2 Highlights

Dohyo-iri & broadcast notes: It’s interesting to see Japanese Nishikigi and Shodai rocking kesho-mawashi with a Mongolian flag on it, since they have to wear Kakuryu’s kesho-mawashi ahead of the Yokozuna’s dohyo-iri. Man of culture Ishiura, free from the burden of similar responsibilities owing to Hakuho being kyujo in this tournament, has a fresh and striking new “Carpe Diem” kesho-mawashi, provided by his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu friends. Kakuryu’s dohyo-iri is executed very nicely.

During the break, Takakeisho appears on TV for an interview in a Takanohana yukata – perhaps someone can make a Takamisugi yukata for him. The Japanese feed today featured someone called “Araiso oyakata” on co-commentary. Must be some new guy they’re testing out. Ross Mihara also points out that hiragana text of the rikishi names is now included in the NHK broadcast, which makes it easier for those learning Japanese to read.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishoho – Chiyoshoma lands a slap but it’s otherwise an even tachiai, which is deceptive, due to Chiyoshoma’s (lack of) size relative to Daishoho. Chiyoshoma gets a decent grip on his compatriot with both arms inside, Daishoho can’t definitively break his grip and gets shuffled out. Workmanlike win, and one Chiyoshoma needed down at M17.

Ishiura defeats Ikioi – Ikioi in Juryo is just something I don’t want to talk about, but this is some high octane sumo and he appears at least a little more fit at the moment. Ikioi gives it a massive blast at the tachiai and Ishiura, as usual, tries a shift to the side. Ikioi really had the bearing of the smaller man, but Ishiura’s mobility is just too much and he’s able to pull out a yoritaoshi manoeuvre at the edge as both men go out. It’s a beautiful move. Ikioi seems pained by the decision and goes straight to the replay screen to see exactly how it lost it.

Tokushoryu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Bulbous Tokushoryu just dominates the smaller Terutsuyoshi. The best the wee man can do here is just give Tokushoryu a big hug. He tries to get in low, but Tokushoryu absorbs him, and uses his leg power to march forward with the Isegahama man locked up. Both men are now at 1-1.

Kotoeko defeats Enho – Enho gets in low and shifts to the right, and seems to initially try to set his legs for a tripping manoeuvre. Kotoeko has him sideways with a grip on the front and back of his mawashi and there’s just nowhere he can go, and Kotoeko marshalls him back – the winning move is oshidashi. Kotoeko worked out if you suffocate Enho’s mobility, he can be dominated. Both of these guys are 1-1 as well.

Chiyomaru defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi is heavily bandaged and you wouldn’t have thought he’s just come off two consecutive yusho in the lower level. Chiyomaru tries his usual mix of pushes followed by pulldown attempts, but it’s not really working for him. Eventually the two men come to a grappling position, but Chiyomaru still wants absolutely no part of his opponent’s mawashi. He levers Shimanoumi up high by getting one arm in under his arm and uses his left to push up on his chest, and with Shimanoumi off balance, he finishes him off. It’s not especially elegant to watch, but that’s Chiyomaru.

Sadanoumi defeats Yago – Sadanoumi bounces off Yago at the tachiai like one of those rubber balls they used to make for bored kids. Yago is doing everything he can to keep Sadanoumi away from him – except he’s doing it moving backwards, and that’s a mistake. Eventually Sadanoumi’s tenacity pays off and Yago has nowhere to go. Sadanoumi gets in under his arms and one thrust is really all it takes at that point to finish the job.

Shohozan defeats Kagayaki – “Tactics” Kagayaki’s game plan seemed to be to match Shohozan, but they don’t teach what Shohozan does in textbooks. With Kagayaki focused on playing Shohozan’s furious slapping game, Shohozan uses both arms to fully lock up Kagayaki and completely blunt his attack. Kagayaki prolongs the inevitable at the tawara as long as possible, but he’s got nothing but homework to do. Big Guns Shohozan is now up to 2-0.

Onosho defeats Tochiozan – Onosho seems to cheat a bit over the shikiri-sen at the tachiai. Despite this, Tochiozan initially has the stronger forward movement, but after absorbing his hit at the tachiai Onosho turns on the thrusters and has this over in 2 or 3 shoves. Anticlimactic. Onosho is also now up to 2-0.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – This is a match that looked like it happened at about 15 frames per second. It’s an even, ponderous tachiai. Credit to Kaisei for trying to move forward, but Nishikigi takes a step back and tosses him aside in one smooth motion with a kotenage.

Asanoyama defeats Tomokaze – Beautiful, beautiful throw. Asanoyama pursues his left hand grip as if his name was Tochinoshin. As soon as he gets it, he immediately pulls the throw. Technically, this is a level of sumo Tomokaze won’t have experienced very much at the lower levels. 2-0 start for Asanoyama.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – Which Shodai do we get today? Shodai stands up at the tachiai and doesn’t really move for about 10 or 15 seconds as he works instead on his arm placement. Eventually he moves forward and Takarafuji, off balance, gets flushed like a porcelain Takara Standard. Takarafuji is usually pretty decent defensively in these exact situations, as he’s better skilled than most at turning a match around from defensive positions with reactive sumo, but his left foot slips and it ends up fairly easy for Shodai.

Yoshikaze defeats Meisei – Meisei takes a running start at the tachiai, but he comes in with his head down. All that the wily veteran Yoshikaze needs to do is take the hit, pivot and let his younger opponent continue his forward movement straight onward into the first few rows of seats. Easy.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – While there’s been a lot of grappling action today, few of the grapplers seem to want much to do with the mawashi. Okinoumi takes Myogiryu head on, neither man gets a belt grip, but Myogiryu is a little more adept in this more traditional wrestling stance and it’s one way traffic. Okinoumi is better on the belt, and Myogiryu keeping him away made this a much more straightforward matchup.

Ryuden defeats Abi – Ryuden gets a much better tachiai but after that it’s all Abi. If you’ve ever seen Abi, I probably don’t have to describe what happens: it’s the classic double straight arm attack. Abi will be upset with himself for coughing this up. He has Ryuden on the ropes and has a couple chances to put him away, but Ryuden often is at his best when he has his back to the tawara. He finds another lever to push forward back into the middle of the ring and Abi’s long legs simply collapse from under him. Ryuden got away with one there but his hair, as usual, is an absolute mess. This was probably the best bout of a straightforward day to this point, until…

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Epic win for Mitakeumi. Tamawashi looks like he’s maybe lost a bit of thrust from his push and thrust game, but he gave it a lot here. The two men start with a bit of a tussle that has Mitakeumi penning Tamawashi back, and both men keeping each other at long-arms’ length. But when the two men separate, this match is always going to favor Tamawashi. And they do separate about 3 or 4 times, Tamawashi landing a slap and taking a charge at the komusubi. He charges about 4 or 5 times, but Mitakeumi uses his momentum against him and hits the pull down as he’s moving backward. Tamawashi will win this match 9 times out of 10 against a weaker opponent, but Mitakeumi is seasoned, skilled and composed enough to deal with it impressively.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – This match initially looks like a bit of a wet blanket after the last one. But actually, they give it a good go. Chiyotairyu’s tachiai just doesn’t really work against the massive Ichinojo, he bounced straight back and ran out of ideas. There’s a bit of handbags, then Ichinojo gets a belt grip he decides he doesn’t really need and just moves forward and shoves the Kokonoe man straight out.

Tochinoshin defeats Daieisho – This one’s a quickie. Daieisho is a bit of an awkward customer for Tochinoshin because his particular style is the kind of sumo that Tochinoshin is vulnerable to generally. Daieisho desperately tries to keep Tochinoshin’s left hand from reaching its intended target, but Tochinoshin homes in on it and once he lands the grip, Daieisho is completely helpless. Tochinoshin has this match won, but picks up the little man at the tawara just for good measure and some good, clean, cheeky fun. 2 down, 8 to go in the Ozeki Challenge.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Great match. Aoiyama actually decides to go chest to chest with the ozeki in lieu of his usual twin piston pushing attack. I think this was a good game plan, because with his enormous frame, he’s able to blunt Goeido’s almost unmatched speed and offense from the tachiai. Goeido in worse form (physically or mentally) would have coughed this up, but he’s able to use the big man’s momentum against him and ends up pulling a beltless arm throw. It’s another really lovely throw, in the same bracket as Asanoyama’s from earlier. Goeido 2-0 and looking good.

Takakeisho defeats Kotoshogiku – Takakeisho’s tsukebito gives his back a vigourous scrub before he makes his way into the arena. Here are two guys with two of the most opposing styles you could wish to see. But really, are any of us that different? Kotoshogiku gives Takakeisho the eyes at the tachiai, and survives an early pull down attempt. This is the opposite of the Meisei situation from earlier, as this could have been over much sooner had Kotoshogiku not been watching his opponent. As it happens, however, the shin-ozeki stays centered, making sure his missed pull-down doesn’t create a vulnerable opening for Kotoshogiku to land any kind of grip. He takes control of the match against the former ozeki, landing a couple significant thrusts to the Sadogatake man’s chest and takes the win… and the head to head advantage 3-2.

Takayasu defeats Endo – Something looked not right to me about Takayasu as he prepared for the tachiai. But he got an opponent that was less prepared than he was, and decides to level a tsuki-oshi attack against the most popular Maegashira in the land. Endo would have had some chances to get back into this match given his superior mobility, but could never get his feet set. After Takayasu’s third wave of forward moving attacks it was inevitable that Endo’s fans 6 or 7 rows back were able to get some much desired face time. A dominant win in the end. Kind of like Bowser against someone playing Super Mario for the first time.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – Kakuryu just absolutely destroys Hokutofuji and there will be no sixth kinboshi today for the Saitama man. It’s possible this match lasted less than two seconds. Hokutofuji launches in from the tachiai, but Kakuryu turns all that energy back on him and returns it forward, getting one hand under his armpit and another one around his neck and winning with one shove. Hokutofuji keeps moving about 15 rows back before he has to turn around and come back and bow to complete the day’s action. Not much shame in that though, the Yokozuna looks in good form, and advances to 2-0.

36 thoughts on “Natsu Day 2 Highlights

  1. The kana “sidecars” on the shikona? Yeah, Abema started that…. sniff Abema….

    • It’s such a brilliant thing to do, especially when watching lower division matches and it’s tough to guess the shikona – ie is it a Hokuto- or a Kita-, O- or Dai-, etc.

  2. I continue to watch Takakeisho with great interest. His sumo form is the same base template, but with a bunch of new aspects. I think the first big additional was the asymmetrical wave, followed by the “wave step”. Now he pulls the trigger on the first wave much earlier.

    It’s like finding some culinary genius has done amazing things with hotdogs and beans. Here is Takakeisho innovating with the tools he was given: his short arms and small hands. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I am quite impressed with his level of innovation.

    • If Takakeisho remains this dominant for an extended period of time, I wonder how long the YDC can deny his promotion. Hakuho is injured, so that means there’s potentially three or four losses from the other Ozeki and Kauryu on his schedule. If he wins even two of those matches, he has a great chance of consistently winning over 10 matches and has a shot at a yusho each basho. Even if both Yokozuna are healthy, Takakeisho will be a contender. It’s fascinating.

      • As long as he satisfies the requirements (two consecutive yusho or the equivalent), I don’t think they will deny it at all. I think the question is what will they do in the event that he puts up a yusho and a jun yusho 14 (or a jun yusho 14 and a yusho). He will need to put up 13+ though to be in that conversation, and he’s only done that once. Perhaps this basho, however unlikely (owing to how notoriously shin-ozeki consistently fail to challenge in their debut ozeki tournament), will be the second!

        It is possible however quite unlikely he will find himself in that situation in the near future. But we’ll see. If Tochinoshin bounces back it’s going to create a bit of an ozeki logjam that may benefit him.

      • I agree with Josh.

        It sounds as if you think the YDC is motivated to deny him a promotion. Why would you think that? He has to first meet the criteria or be on the way to do it, for it to even be a point of discussion.

        Any Ozeki who wins two consecutive tournaments will be given the rope – unless there is some scandal he gets involved in, driving or whatever, just in the wrong moment.

        Note that even Hakuho, who won a Yusho off his shin-Ozeki basho (a very rare accomplishment) didn’t manage to get the yusho in the following basho. The question of Takakeisho’s next promotion will probably not be up in the air for a few basho yet – maybe not before Reiwa 2 – though there are, of course, newspapers in Japan who are quick to celebrate him even now, after just two days of sumo.

        Ozeki usually have an easier first week than second week. We can should expect all the Ozeki to end this week with no more than one loss, unless their injuries are too burdensome. I wouldn’t be speculating about promotions before his first Yusho as an Ozeki, and wouldn’t speculate about that Yusho before the “third act” of the basho.

      • As my fellow bloggers note, you don’t get to be Yokozuna just by being consistently good. You have to win two consecutive yusho or equivalent. The “equivalent” bit is intentionally somewhat ambiguous and subjective, but so far we haven’t seen anything that close out of Takakeisho (13-2 Y and 11-4 J wouldn’t do it). I say this as a fan and someone who thinks he’s likely to get there eventually.

    • Fully. He’s entering the beginning of his shokunin status. Devoting years to mastery of the one art.

      Part of what you’re saying also I think comes down to his ability to vary the tactic to the opponent. He executed a match specifically for an opponent who is A) unsteady on his feet (Kotoshogiku’s unsteady footwork has been his undoing in later years) and then B) isn’t going to shove him (cue Andy’s kimarite visualiser). Kotoshogiku was the perfect opponent for what he executed today.

      Goeido, Takayasu, Hakuho, Mitakeumi, Tamawashi and Kakuryu would have all buried him after missing that pull – so I’ll be curious to see how he changes it up when he takes them on.

  3. Not only was Asanoyama’s throw beautiful, but the speed he exhibited to get in and land a belt grip was incredible! Asanoyama has a tendency to show excellent sumo until he is right on the verge of Kachia Koshi, so I hope he can buck the trend and finish strong.

    • I suspect he had an injury in the last basho. He definitely hasn’t been this assertive for awhile and it’s great to see.

  4. The bouts today were pretty good overall. Even then “workman-esque” bouts were interesting to watch. Asanoyama looks solid, so I’m wondering if he had an “invisible injury” last basho.
    Onosho, I hope, has figured out that forward sumo is winning sumo. He didn’t over-extend in this bout, so I hope that becomes a trend.
    Has Ryuden figured out Abi’s sumo? That’s possible due to how he handled this bout. It wasn’t elegant, but it worked.
    Ugh. That was A LOT of pulling from Mitakeumi. is he injured? He couldn’t push Tamawashi out when he had the chance.
    Forward Ichinojo! I wonder if the difference from yesterday is he knew that he wasn’t getting pushed out? That’s an intriguing look into his mind if that’s the case.
    Angry Tochinoshin = best Tochinoshin! He’s definitely motivated, but I’m worried that this “win at all costs” mentality will cause him to either burn out or get more injuries.
    Goeido is in good form. Let’s see how long it lasts.
    Takayasu won because Endo was sloppy. He’s still too high at the tachiai. I remain unconvinced that he’ll win a yusho.
    KAKURYU! No one expects him to charge forward and it’s obvious. Hokotofuji almost left the arena floor when he tried to slow down from being pushed off the dohyo!

    • Mitakeumi still doesn’t look 100% but unless he took him right from the tachiai, I think he was on the back foot much of that match. I don’t know that anyone wants to win going backwards (except maybe Aminishiki) but I think it’s the sign of a quality rikishi to win with a Plan C when Plan A and B don’t work.

      I don’t think Tochinoshin expended too much energy today but I agree it probably would be good for him to not lift absolutely everyone especially in a situation where he doesn’t have to.

      • Aminishiki doesn’t want to pull, either. He keeps saying he wants to go forward, and that pulling is a bad habit of his, etc.

        Sometimes he just doesn’t have the power, so he makes good use of his dohyo sense. Today’s bout, for example: He was very active and pushed forward, but Chiyonoumi made him work, and after a few seconds, you could see Uncle’s energy draining, which is when he started going backwards (and lost).

        • That is so interesting re: Aminishiki because from watching him (especially when he came back up last year) it felt like, ok well maybe this is just kind of a late career coping mechanism, that it’s what he realises he has to do to win. Like that he must do reactive sumo since he knows probably he can’t win going forward.

          I wouldn’t actually think there’s much wrong with that mindset as long as he accepts it’s not going to be a winning strategy all the time, or even that it’s an acceptable Plan B if he can’t go forward. But I think to your point it’s not really the done thing in sumo, where culturally the idea is always to go forward.

  5. I had a careful look at the Ryuden-Abi match just make sure — I thought the gyoji got it right but it was extremely close — and to my surprise I found that Ryuden’s right hand touched down first. I looked frame-by-frame on Jason’s video, which offers two perspectives, one from the match and one from the slo-mo replay.

    • Keep in mind that if the top of a rikishi’s foot touches the dohyo they lose. I haven’t looked at the video that closely, but considering Abi’s unrecoverable position, and the fact that Ryuden caused his fall, I think that was enough to convince the gyoji and the judges.

      • Oh I looked at Abi’s feet carefully. One one in the air (his heel touched down outside the dohyo); the other was flat against the bales. Abi was in a much worse position but the rules say whoever touches down first loses.

        • No, the rules don’t say that exactly. The rules say that if you lose your balance in a way that’s not recoverable, you become “shinitai”. I still have to take a close look at what touched where, but watching the digest I got the impression that Ryuden’s hand was a classic case of “kabai-te” (what everybody calls “the shinitai rule”).

          • My understanding is that shini-tai applies when the body is dead due to the superior technique of the opponent. In this case it was Abi who was applying the technique (looked like hatakikomi to me).

            • The rule itself doesn’t say anything about who wins. It simply says that if you lose your balance in an unrecoverable way, you are shini-tai.

              Once you are shini-tai, any number of things can happen. Your opponent can also be shini-tai, in which case a winner is decided by considerations like who initiated the attack. But if your opponent was not shini-tai at the time, it’s basically his win.

              • If that’s so then there’s a lot of misinformation about it out there. Wikipedia mentions “superior technique” and on reddit a year ago Asashosakari was writing, “As shaky as his position was, the guy getting thrown (Kakuryu) still had one foot planted on the ground, which generally means he can’t be considered “dead” (shinitai is the technical term).”

          • I thought that rule only applied once you were in the air, and Abi’s foot stayed on the dohyo the entire time.

            • The Japanese definitions generally refer to balance, not to the state of the feet. One dictionary definition does refer to feet, but I’m not sure what kind of pose it can possibly mean”つま先が上を向いて足の裏が返り、立て直すことが不可能と判断される状態。” – A state in which the toes point upwards and the soles are flipped”. Mmm… what? Other dictionary definitions refer just to the fact that one cannot regain one’s balance. Japanese Wikipedia says the same but it also says that there is actually no clear criteria for shinitai and it’s mostly a matter of judgement.

              I’d say most of the cases are such that a foot in the dohyo means you are still alive. But in this case, Abi’s calf was nearly touching the ground, his feet were not below him, he was clearly collapsing. In fact, now that I think of it, his foot actually matches that odd description above – the tip is pointing upward, and the sole is facing the crowd. But really, I don’t think it’s about that. It’s him losing balance while Ryuden was still struggling to regain it.

    • I tend to agree—in any case, it was close enough (and Abi was enough of an initiator) that it should have been a torinaoshi.

      • Yeah, that would have made sense; I’ve seen calls that close and ambiguous go torinaoshi before. But you can’t have a re-do if you don’t have a monoii…

        • Actually, I’ve now watched it several times, and Ryuden is most certainly the one who pushed Abi, not the other way around. From the moment he comes back from the edge of the dohyo Abi is no longer initiating anything.

          • I don’t see it that way.

            Starting from the first frame of 2:15 in Jason’s video (about 30 frames per second):

            2:15.0: Abi has decided to go for the slap-down. He will lift his right arm to get it onto Ryuden’s back behind his neck.

            2:15.5: Abi has taken a shuffle step to his right and is about to step back with his left foot. Ryuden is inside with both hands; neither hand is in position to push, and Ryuden doesn’t have (and will never establish) body contact for a forward push.

            2:16.1: Abi has stepped back with his left foot on Ryuden’s shikirisen and Ryuden is starting to come forward. Ryuden’s right hand is no longer in contact with Abi and won’t make significant contact for the rest of the match

            2:16.7: Ryuden has been coming forward but Abi has been hopping in reverse under his own power just as fast. Now Ryuden is in the ring’s center and Abi’s right foot is on Ryuden’s shikirisen, left foot extended behind. Abi still has his balance at this point. Ryuden’s left hand is still in contact with Abi but he’s not doing anything with it.

            2:17.0: Ryuden still coming forward, Abi still bouncing backward. Abi is applying downward force to Ryuden’s neck, and Ryuden is starting to stumble. Ryuden’s left hand has lost contact and is moving downward. Abi is about to move backward and to his left very awkwardly.

            2:17.2: Abi is twisting awkwardly, trying to avoid Ryuden’s forward stumble. Ryuden’s left hand has landed on Abi’s right thigh. Ryuden’s balance is gone at this point. (Abi’s too.)

            2:17.5: Ryuden’s left hand has slipped off Abi’s thigh and Ryuden is completely in the air. Abi has managed to get out of Ryuden’s way, but only at the cost of his own balance.

            2:18.0: Both rikishi are in the process of falling over.

            2:19.1: Ryuden’s right hand is down solidly. His feet are in the air moving upward. Abi is about to touch down; the shape of his left calf shows the moment of contact, one frame later.

            • Well, I see Ryuden planting his head into Abi’s shoulder and driving forward and Abi is not going backwards because he wants to. He then tries an inashi to make Ryuden’s forward pressure work against him – but misses his footing and finds himself a dead body.

              • My personal opinion is that if we are parsing it this finely based on frame-by-frame video, and still disagreeing, there is no way for the gyoji to do anything more than guess in real time, and a monoii should have been called, most likely leading to a torinaoshi. But I can see the point of view that the shimpan don’t want to call a monoii unless one of them saw a clear reason to disagree with the call…

              • Well, my personal opinion is that if the (much more experienced than any of us) Gyoji didn’t see a problem, none of the (rather more experienced with their own feet and bodies) Shimpan saw any problem, and neither did the commentator or the caster watching the slow-mo (Araiso oyakata was doing the duty on NHK, I didn’t find Abema footage to compare) – then the chances are that the gyoji is right. Araiso was quite enthusiastic about Ryuden’s stability. I’m looking at Japanese fans tweets about this bout. Nothing.

              • From what I can see Ryuden’s head is only in contact with Abi’s right shoulder between 1:14.3 and 1:14.8, corresponding to about 2:16.2 to 2:16.7 in the above chronology (the angle isn’t good for seeing face-to-shoulder contact in the reply). Abi’s initial step back with the left foot starts at 1:13.7 with Ryuden’s head on the left side of Abi’s head; between 1:13.7 and 1:14.3 Ryuden’s face is passing in front of Abi’s.

  6. Very entertaining post, Josh. Confident and purposeful are the words which come to mind after Asanoyama’s first two bouts. He’s looking very sharp.

  7. One thing I noticed about his bout today is that Ichinojo had his hands down first as he usually does, whereas yesterday Daieisho had his hands down before the behemoth. I have to wonder how much, if at all, this threw Ichinojo off his game.

    • I’m glad someone else looks at things like this too!!! It’s a very unremarked thing sometimes, that it’s not only about the actual deployment of the tachiai but also the preparedness, especially for those rikishi who maybe lose the battle sometimes mentally as well as physically.

  8. I felt like Tamawashi and Mitakeumi came down to luck as much as anything else. They’re pretty evenly-matched, IMHO.


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