Decisions, decisions…

At the risk of having a post that’s more controversial than anything the president of the USA is going to do in the Kokugikan two days from now… I happen to disagree with Bruce’s opinion regarding the Tochinoshin/Asanoyama decision.

Possible, but inconclusive, touch

It’s true that Onomatsu oyakata is a well-known butcher of kyogi explanations. But is he a well-known butcher of actual decisions?

Before we go, let’s mention that no single frame can be proof that there was no touch. Take a look at the photo posted that Bruce posted earlier:

Here it’s clearly not touching

But this frame could have been taken just before or just after the critical moment. If you have a touching frame, it proves a touch. But if you have a not-touching frame, it doesn’t prove that there was no touch. Take a look at the video:

So, was that a touch? Was that just a shadow? Not even the luckiest photographer can conclude that there is no touch at all. The frame I posted could be a touch, or it could be shadow filling in the pixels. The cameras are not right next to the dohyo, and the resolution is not all that good.

An article at Asahi Shimbun (paywalled, but a good soul on Twitter took screenshots) reveals to us what happened during the monoii and the kyogi (conference) that followed it.

The monoii was raised by Hanaregoma oyakata, who was the one sitting closest to where tochinoshin’s foot was hanging over the tawara. He saw it touch, and raised his hand to mark a monoii.

The judges needed to make a call about it. Point one: the call cannot be a torinaoshi. Torinaoshi may only be called in cases where both rikishi touch ground at the same time (“dotai”). This wasn’t the case here. Either Tochinoshin touched out, in which case Asanoyama was still in and wins, or he didn’t touch out, in which case Tochinoshin is alive and wins.

The judges then called the video room. Unfortunately, the video room told them they cannot see a touch or a janome disturbance.

Point two: that doesn’t mean there was no touch. It just means that the videos they had were not conclusive. As I said, the frame I posted above could mean he touched, or it could just be shadow that fills the pixels.

Point three: a light enough touch would not leave a discernible mark on the janome. That is, discernible by the same video cameras. Yes, Tochinoshin is a heavy guy. But his huge muscles were working hard at keeping that heel from touching ground. If it did, it didn’t do so with all of his weight on it.

So at this point, the referees start to discuss the matter, because they have to reach a decision. All they have to go on is what they saw, and the only one who saw it up close is Hanaregoma. People in the crowd shout for a redo, but again, that’s impossible. Hanaregoma suggests a vote. But Onomatsu oyakata decides that Hanaregoma should call it, because he was the one who saw it and the other’s haven’t. Hanaregoma says there was a very light touch, and that’s the decision.

When a monoii is called, the ultimate decision is the judges’, and theirs alone. If there is a conclusive video that shows the monoii is wrong, it’s fine. But the video is there to help the judges – it’s never the decider.

Now, I’ve seen references to football or other sports. Those do not apply here. In sumo, the gyoji has to make a call at the end of each bout, no matter if he is sure or not. He has to call it even if there is a dotai. So the ultimate decision is not his, it’s the judges. One of my followers complained “if there is no conclusive evidence, it’s ridiculous to reverse the gyoji’s gunbai”. But the gunbai is not holy. It’s not “right by default”. A judge sat half a meter from the dohyo, was looking at the tawara, and saw something that the referee didn’t see from his side.

The shimpan don’t watch the bouts for entertainment value like we do. They concentrate on contact points and centers of gravity. While we may be admiring somebody’s kotenage, they will be watching the boring feet.

Were they right? Was Tochinoshin out? Well, it’s hard to tell. Because the video is inconclusive – even the good footage that is available to the video room, which is better than the footage that’s currently circulating through social media, most of which is taken with a smartphone from a TV screen (probably including the footage I included above).

Only one man saw the alleged touch. He may have been wrong. But was the decision making process bad? I think not. In particular, I don’t think Onomatsu oyakata’s decision to let the only man who saw it decide is unreasonable. The others didn’t see it, so they only act on hearsay. He has to have a decision by the end. It’s a tough call, but that’s what he had to work with.

But yes, he butchered the explanation again.

BruceThanks all for reading and commenting on this post. At this time I am going to end the ability to add further comments to this post. The call and the win / loss are recorded, and the tally has been settled. Endless thanks to Herouth for wading into a hot button subject and taking the time to explain.

There are 2 days left in the basho, and we will see if Tochinoshin can make his 10th.

40 thoughts on “Decisions, decisions…

  1. Well, whether a person wants to believe his heal touched or not; What IS obvious is that Asanoyama was already on his way down when the supposed heal touch occurred – and that should have meant a re-match at least. Either way, and for whatever reason the Judge(s) thought were correct – they simply blew a chance to show they know how to handle ‘their’ Sumo Basho. But instead, they alienated a lot of Sumo fans generally and gave this Basho and themselves a bit of a black eye.

  2. Before I came here to comment, I reviewed the match frame-by-frame and found the frame posted at the top of the OP. I looked as carefully as I could for marks on the janome. I watched Gould’s videos and heard his account of the monoii. In the end, I arrived at the same place you did, Herouth. Hanaregoma says he saw sand stick to Tochinoshin’s foot and no one can point to any specific thing that says he’s wrong.

  3. I don’t know how Hanaregoma oyakata can see the foot touch clearly. He was sitting on the side of dohyo that’s at 90 degrees angle to the side where the alleged foot touch happened. The wrestlers would be in the way, plus the tawara itself would be in the way (since the foot touch has to occur on the outer side of the tawara, which would be facing at a 90% to Hanaregoma oyakata).

    The other judge who was actually the closest, was apparently unsure and did not raise his hand for a mono-ii.

    The decision still doesn’t make sense to me.


    • No, you have the same inconclusive video everyone else has. You have a video artifact that could be shadow, or could be a light touch. You are Tochinoshin’s fans. You are sure this is conclusive evidence, but I look at it and see… Compression artifacts.

      • I suspect, from viewing several different videos, that the only compression artifacts in play here reside in the aqueous humor the Hanaregoma oyakata.

    • I don’t think that there is much doubt that he remained in. Also, IMHO there is not much doubt that very poor judgement was used in arriving at the final decision.

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