Nagoya Day 7 Highlights

I stated up front that I expected Hakuho to take the yusho, and possibly do it with 15 straight wins. I continue to think this is a strong possibility, but if you take the body of his 7 matches thus far in Nagoya, you can see a trend. Firstly, each day he struggles a bit more to win. His sumo is less smooth and efficient, and he is definitely favoring that right arm.

While he may have “rested up” and gotten to the point where he felt like things were good, once he is in full power combat with real opponents, it’s possible that he either re-injured that bicep tear in his right arm, or the strain of daily matches has brought in the biggest long term threat, inflammation. I cite this as a threat because swelling will tear tissue, and create damage that cannot heal.

Right now, The Boss is playing for time. He has a personal goal to make it to next summer to still be an active Yokozuna during the Tokyo 2020 summer olympics, and to continue in sumo until he can secure his Japanese citizenship and transition to an Oyakata. The question now, can his arm hold out that long? If he takes the pattern of one tournament on, one tournament off, he needs to just survive 3 more tournaments to reach his olympics goal. That’s 25 more wins (1+8+8+8) for the winningest man in sumo.

But as an egotist, I could see Hakuho driving himself to the point of muscle failure in that injured arm, simply to maintain the facade of the invisible, unbeatable ultimate dai-Yokozuna. Let’s hope it does not come to that. But his sumo is very rough now, and I fear he will have some big problems with his second week opponents. He can reach the safety of kachi-koshi on Sunday by beating Shodai.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tokushoryu – Terutsuyoshi’s poorly executed henka attempt nearly lost him the match, but he rallied and drove Juryo visitor Tokushoryu out of the ring. That was one fine recovery.

Toyonoshima defeats Sadanoumi – As always, act 2 brings some great reversals, and after having a miserable basho in act 1, perhaps Toyonoshima has found his sumo. Toyonoshima finally looked more like his normal self, as he used his belly to disrupt Sadanoumi’s offense, and closed the match with a painful looking tottari.

Kotoyuki defeats Chiyomaru – Kotoyuki’s superior mobility carried this match, coupled with Chiyomaru’s poorly executed attempt at a pull down.

Kagayaki defeats Enho – Once in a while, Enho’s up and under tachiai misses its mark. This happened today as Kagayaki blocked him out at the initial charge and powerfully tossed his much smaller opponent out of the ring. Enho never had a moment to plant his feet to defend, and Kagayaki’s mobility ensured he was glued to Enho’s retreat.

Yago defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan owned the tachiai, but for some reason broke contact, probably to try and improve his body / arm position. This left him off temp and Yago battled him for every attempt at a grip. With Tochiozan off balance, Yago was able to slap him down for the win. Fairly sloppy match, but I am sure Yago is happy for the win.

Kotoeko defeats Kaisei – Kaisei had a strong position, but that injured right arm robs him of any chance to generate meaningful offense. Kotoeko’s sukuinage was brilliantly executed, with his left foot as close to out as you could ever get and still win.

Shohozan defeats Takagenji – It seems Shohozan did indeed study that match against Okinoumi, as he applied a variation on the same theme. Although Shohozan’s usual style of sumo is a fairly brutal oshi style, he took Takagenji to his chest, and wore him down. For the second day in a row, this worked.

Okinoumi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi works for his normal arm pin, but Okinoumi deftly entraps him instead, pulls him off balance to the right and rolls it into a uwatehineri. When you have veterans like Okinoumi on the dohyo, you can get some really impressive displays of sumo skill.

Onosho defeats Daishoho – Onosho really needed this win. He nearly bounced too far back at the tachiai, but was able to recover and advance with surprising strength and speed. His balance was still to far out in front of his big toe, but today it worked for him.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tomokaze – I am not sure if it was the plan, or Chiyotairyu improvised today, but this was lightning fast and perfectly executed. Tomokaze, to his credit, absorbed most of that cannon ball tachiai, but Chiyotairyu smoothly shifted to his right, and pushed hard. That put Tomokaze off balance and out of control.

Shimanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – As I mentioned earlier in the week, I was happily enjoying the genki Kotoshogiku, but knew that with his catalog of injuries he was going to struggle later. We can see in this match against Shimanoumi, that the former Ozeki just can’t quite generate much in the way of forward pressure.

Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – Myogiryu continues his dominance over the Boulder, and for at least today, he distracted Ichinojo by attacking his neck / face. For whatever reason, Ichinojo decided to respond in kind rather than pressing the attack to win, and while Myogiryu received something that looked like the Vulcan Death Grip, his right hand found a deep grip on Ichinojo’s mawashi. Now Ichinojo is high, and has no real grip on Myogiryu. Myogiryu drops his hips, and Ichinojo has no defense. I am sure it hurt, but Myogiryu’s gambit paid off.

Meisei defeats Takarafuji – I think everyone in the Dolphin Arena was relieved for Meisei, who finally scored his first win of the basho. Sadly, journeyman technician Takarafuji only has 2 wins thus far.

Hokutofuji defeats Abi – This is the first time that Hokutofuji was able to score a win against Abi, and I think it happened because Hokutofuji’s tachiai landed deeper than Abi expected, and he was able to shut down Abi’s right hand lead off to his normal thrusting attack. Abi-zumo requires a bit of distance to the opponent, and has Hokutofuji has show before, his lower body is nearly autonomous, able to advance while his upper body absorbs blow after blow.

Ryuden defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi came out strong, and took the tachiai, forcing Ryuden back. But Tamawashi has a predictable left-right thrusting attack, and Ryuden was able to pivot at the end of Tamawashi’s right arm thrust, leaving no where for his left to go. Now off balance and leaning forward, Ryuden finishes him with a shove to the shoulder. Nice timing on Ryuden’s part.

Mitakeumi defeats Asanoyama – Don’t fret Asanoyama fans. His first trip to the upper reaches of Maegashira was always going to be a rough ride. His sumo is still solid, and it’s still improving. Mitakeumi gave him a close in demo of tadpole sumo, and it worked brilliantly. Robbed of any ability to land a grip, Asanoyama tries to pull, and that release of forward pressure is all any tadpole needs to put you away.

Takayasu defeats Aoiyama – In spite of his 3-4 record, I don’t think Aoiyama has looked this good since two years ago at Nagoya where he took the jun-yusho. If you look at Aoiyama’s foot placement during this match, its quite excellent, and his focus on keeping maximum pressure against Takayasu’s upper body is relentless. But when his attempt to throw Takayasu failed, he was defenseless, and Takayasu moved him out for the win. Good sumo from both. I think that Andy may have been on to something he thought it might be time for Takayasu to contend for the cup.

Endo defeats Goeido – I am calling it now, Goeido’s ankle is acting up again, and we are not going to see good Ozeki sumo out of him for the rest of the tournament. He is going to try to piece together his 8, which he might do, but don’t look for his awesome pure offense sumo on a daily basis. I think Endo was surprised by how easy it was to land a mawashi grip at the tachiai.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – The Yokozuna looked rough, out of control and trying anything he could short of his favorite throws, all of which count on that right arm. Fans who are not comfortable with the sometimes brutal nature of sumo should be put on notice. Once Monday rolls around, Hakuho will be facing higher ranked opponents, and every one of them are going to work to attack that arm. I am sure The Boss knows it too, and why the day 8 match against Shodai is going to be pivotal.

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – I will say it, Kakuryu looks more genki right now than Hakuho. Shodai gave him a few tricksy moves, but really had no answer to the Yokozuna’s forward advance.

29 thoughts on “Nagoya Day 7 Highlights

  1. Kakuryu looks great, Hokutofuji looks good, Takayasu keeps winning – I’m enjoying this basho immensely! Worried about Hakuho, though.

  2. I really disliked the way Hakuho gave Daeisho that extra squashing down with both hands well after he’d clearly won.

    Very impressive Kotoeko!

    • I thoroughly agree with that. Hakuho’s egoism is very off putting. Harruafuji was the exact opposite. Well, in the ring at least.

    • Hakuho has been disgraceful to the Yokozuna name in the past two matches. First the excessive stare-down with Aoiyama when he, as the top dog, needs to be the one to set the example and get down and fight, and now today with shoving his opponent’s face into the clay for a good five seconds after victory had already been decided. Hakuho had skills for ages, but the seeming chip on his shoulder seems very off-putting. He is the grandest of grand champions; he does not need to act like a petulant child when things do not go exactly how he wants them to. There is deference to higher ranks, and then there’s the lengths Hakuho takes that to. The more he ages out, the more this unseemly side rears its ugly head. It’s a shame, because he is synonymous with the sport now, and his antics give the whole a bad name it isn’t always deserving of.

      • I. A can tell you this is the consensus in Japan about Hakuho. I detest when he wins and pushes rikishi off the dohyo. I respected Harumafuji would grab them to prevent them from falling off. Whilst Hakuho may be impressive, he’s just a bit of a jerk.

  3. I read the Chyotairyu-Tomokaze bout differently. It appears to me that Chyotairyu mixed things up today, with essentially a hit-and-shift strategy. His tachiai was quite soft, which befuddled Tomokaze, who had expected the usual Chiyotairyu cannon blast.

  4. I watched today’s matches on Abema, where they had former Yokozuna Wakanohana doing the commentary. That’s a treat in its own right – they have this little dohyo, and he demonstrates his explanation physically (his ukemi was Akatsu, the sumo impressionist), and it’s like watching a master class.

    I don’t know whose bout it was, but he explained why a makikae (switching from outside to inside grip) is dangerous: to do it, you have to pull your arm back. The wrong way to do it is pull your upper body back (demonstrates) – it gives your opponent an opening and you find yourself walking backwards. Instead, you have to lean sideways into your opponent with your other shoulder, keeping the forward pressure (demonstrates) and the other shoulder naturally goes backward.

    He kept me riveted to the screen between the bouts.

    He had two things to say about Ichinojo’s bout. First, he said Myogiryu had his mawashi below ichinojo’s. With his belly, he pushed Ichinojo’s mawashi up, effectively leveraging against his mawashi’s edge with his own. Ichinojo then stands on the heels of his feet, and can easily be pushed backwards.

    The other was a serious criticism of the way Ichinojo chose to open this bout – with a harizashi. He explained there were many kinds of harizashi, with the effect changing according to where your slap lands etc., but whatever it is, Ichinojo’s was horribly wrong because he was going way too high for it, so could never land the actual “sashi” – slide of the hand inside – and found himself too high at the tachiai. “This was a horrible harizashi” finished the former Yokozuna.

    And he is also of the opinion that Hakuho will have a hard time in the second week, while Kakuryu seems to be going forward and will probably end the tournament well.

    • It’s not a requirement set in the rules. He is expected to hand in his resignation if he has a real make-koshi, but 8 or 9 wins are considered a weak result for a Yokozuna, and thus, 10 wins are considered a “Yokozuna Kachi Koshi”, in the sense that, like any other wrestler, if you go below 10 here and there it’s not the end of the world, but if you have too many of those, you’re in trouble.

      I was going to remark on this, actually. I don’t think Hakuho can really allow himself to just win 8 bouts every other tournament. He is not an Ozeki. If he wins just 8 one basho, he’ll get murmurs from the YDC. If he does it twice, I believe the murmurs will become “encouragement” (of the same sort Kisenosato got and was generally interpreted as “get on the dohyo and fight like a Yokozuna”), and an additional one may end up with a “recommendation to retire”, a disastrous outcome that will not allow him to stay with the NSK. Mixing these with regular kyujo is just a recipe for disaster. As long as he mixes zensho yusho with kyujo, the YDC can’t say anything other than “He claps his hands out of order”, which has little practical consequences (Miyagino oyakata may not agree with me). If he mixes weak records with kyujo… it’s a different kettle of fish.

  5. If anyone is going to know how to read Enho, it’s Kagayaki. They were in the same junior high sumo team and must have had hundreds of training matches, so Kagayaki knows exactly how to avoid all the little guy’s tricks.

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