Aki Day 1 Highlights

Welcome all to the start of the fall tournament. The first few days of any tournament will typically feature a few shaky starts by some rikishi, as they work to get into tournament form. Some sumo fans refer to this as “ring rust”, and it can take a few days before some rikishi can shake off its effects.

The Freshmen (Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Abi, Hokutofuji) really had an excellent day today, and I am happy with the future of sumo featuring them in years to come. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tadpoles, who struggled quite a bit today. But one should never count out the tadpoles…

Day 1 featured some solid sumo action, and those of you who were watching NHK World in the middle of the (USA) night time were treated to some solid matches. Let’s get started.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji comes out of the tachiai strong, but I was surprised that Chiyomaru did a much better job than normal keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and used that stability to overpower Takagenji’s vigorous attack. The result was a sort of half throw / half tsukiotoshi that was uncharacteristically agile for Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama continues to battle his way back from injury, and a trip to Juryo, with some solid sumo today. Yutakayama took an inside route at the tachiai, but nearly all of this match was the two of them fighting for grip, while pushing as hard to the front as they could manage. Tochiozan had better footwork, but Yutakayama had more strength. Welcome back Yutakayama, the future has been waiting.

Azumaryu defeats Ishiura – Azumaryu deftly deploys a uwatehineri while the two grappled for position at the center of the dohyo.

Tsurugisho defeats Toyonoshima – Tsurugisho’s early try for a pull down nearly cost him the match, but he was able to rally well as Toyonoshima tried the same thing and blew his early advantage.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Neither man gets a solid tachiai. But Kagayaki inexplicably focuses on some kind of face-hold, leaving Nishikigi a solid path to center-mass. Kagayaki realizes that he’s thrown away an opening, but he found Nishikigi effectively able to turn his hips and deflect Kagayaki’s forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Daishoho – Not the typical Shohozan mobility-based sumo, as Daishoho traps him in a double arm-bar. Shohozan gets stalemated for a while, but keeps raising Daishoho and backing him up until he can finish him with shitatenage (it was 2 for 1 shitatenage day).

Enho defeats Onosho – Big news for me, Onosho has the red mawashi back. Yes, he lost this one to Enho, who uncorked some really gob-smack amazing sumo today, but that red mawashi was (at least at one point) home to a potent kami that powered Onosho’s early rise. To my eye, Onosho had this one boxed up and ready to ship before Enho produced some hard to explain, Ura level space-time distortion and threw Onosho to the clay.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – With that injured right knee, Sadanoumi lacks a good amount of his expected maneuverability, and Meisei expertly stays in motion until he can get Sadanoumi off balance and rolls him to the clay with a katasukashi. Nice kimarite!

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to take a single match from Terutsuyoshi, and we get a showcase of how that works today. Terutsuyoshi used some really fantastic ring sense to continue to give ground, forcing Kotoyuki to stay in motion and keep turning. When you are about as wide as you are tall (as Kotoyuki is), it’s a short amount of time before you find yourself off balance and in the wrong end of town. Terutsuyoshi chose his moment, and made it work. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – As always, journeyman sumo from Takarafuji, who absorbs everything Kotoeko can dish out. Takarafuji as Maegashira 8? Middle of the pack? This is the right spot for Takarafuji, and I am hoping he has a good basho this September.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The fun thing about Kotoshogiku these days is that he is frequently on fire the first week, before the strain on his injuries slows him down. Hugely energetic, high attack value sumo from him today, including an excellent throw at the end. Except that he stepped out quite some time before it got to that point, and the most exciting part of the match (Okinoumi was fighting well, too) was all for naught.

Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – When you watch this one, pay close attention to Myogiryu’s foot placement and stance. This is some class-A attention to detail in the middle of a match trying to constrain and contain a raging youngster who had the edge in speed and agility. Shimanoumi gets the advantage twice, but that fantastic defensive setup that Myogiryu had today carried the match.

Ryuden defeats Chiyotairyu – If Ryuden is genki, Maegashira 5 might be a bit low on the banzuke for him. He gets a left hand on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi, which puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away Chiyotairyu’s primary offensive technique. I was surprised that Chiyotairyu let him grab him and did not stay mobile.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – Shodai looked a mess today, but if you want to see why Shodai can actually keep close to a winning record most basho, look at his multiple well-executed escapes from Tamawashi’s blistering attacks. If we could get that man a tachiai graft from ex-Kisenosato…

Tomokaze defeats Abi – Abi launches his traditional Abi-zumo opening, and Tomokaze is having none of it. Attempting a hatakikomi against Abi is a dangerous move, but Tomokaze makes it work. This guy needs to stay un-injured and fighting strong.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I am not quite sure how Takakeisho recovered from that near-face-plant, but he threw everything including the kitchen sink at Daieisho, who was likewise dialed up to 11. The wave-action system does not seem to be quite up to battle-spec just yet, and I am going to assume that our tadpole has a lot of ring rust to overcome. But he’s on his march to 10, and sumo fans around the world are going to be riveted to his journey this September.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – This whole match came down to Asanoyama getting a shallow left hand grip at the tachiai, and never letting go. Mitakeumi then chose to rotate left and attempt a hatakikomi, and in the move to pull down Asanoyama, he more or less conceded the match. Asanoyama was too latched on to Mitakeumi to go down.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – I had a tough time watching both the match and the replays. It’s 100% clear now, from direct observation, that it’s never a good idea to make your crippled strong-man fight a giant. Tochinoshin does not look well enough to compete, and that knee is more or less done for. Grim.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Whatever injuries Goeido is nursing right now, he has contained. His blistering tachiai and all out center-mass attack against Aoiyama left the man-mountain nowhere to go. I recall with hopeful anticipation that for some reason Aki is always the time when we see Goeido shine.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, what have you done? This match had all of Hokutofuji’s best elements stitched together in a lightning fast, seat of the pants battle. Hakuho loves to deliver a face slap at the tachiai, and many times it effectively disrupts an opponents attack. Today if left him wide open for Hokutofuji’s brutal handshake tachiai. Oh, how long have I been waiting to see someone make Hakuho pay for that move. Today was payday on that desire. With the nodowa in place, it forced Hakuho to waste precious time clearing it out before he could start an attack, and just like that Hokutofuji is calling the terms of the match. Hokutofuji lands a mawashi grip, and I think the speed and strength of that move surprised the Yokozuna. Hakuho gives ground and attempts to load a throw, but with absolute perfect timing, Hokutofuji catches the Yokozuna shifting his weight and lunges ahead. That’s all that it took, and The Boss gives up a well earned kinboshi. I am going to be looping through this match all day. Just fantastic. Hokutofuji doesn’t need to win another match this basho to be proud of his efforts.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo is a master technician, and I am sure he had a solid, well constructed attack plan against the Nagoya yusho winner. None of that mattered as Kakuryu did not give him a chance to unpack any of it. A little dodgy winning with a hatakikomi, but he needed to shut Endo down quickly before the man in gold could get started.

20 thoughts on “Aki Day 1 Highlights

  1. Enho will always continue to impress me. His skill at getting out of rough situations and constantly thinking of new opportunities to attack while flying about it silly impressive.

    I really liked the fire I saw in Giku today but unfortunately his ring sense failed him a touch.

    Ichinojo stood there and simply turned a touch. Watching this bout over and over it looks like Tochinoshins knee slipped out of socket and back in causing him to lift his weight off of it, (I’m just assuming this from my personal experience with the same issues).

    I love how animated Hokutofuji was after that bout! Good for him!

    • I was planning on re-watching the highlights during coffee break today, but your comment about Tochinoshin’s knee is making me not want to! Knee injuries give me the heebie jeebies, and Tochinoshin has been making me really nervous with that knee! His signature lift-with-the-legs move places a lot of demand on his knees, and it will be interesting to see how his technique changes to compensate.

  2. The Endo-Kakuryu match deserves close look to see what Kakuryu did and why the hatakikomi was a great technical move. At the tachiai Endo gets his right hand onto Kakuryu’s torso under the left armpit. Kakuryu swipes it away and Endo hammers it back, first hitting Kakuryu on the left side of the chest from underneath and then resetting the hand to the armpit. This gives the yokozuna the information he needs to execute the hatakikomi.

    Kakuryu starts the technique by chopping Endo’s right hand away from his body again. Endo reaches out to put his right hand back on Kakuryu’s torso, just as Kakuryu expected, and the yokozuna is ready: while Endo was maneuvering around Kakuryu’s blocking left hand Kakuryu was sliding his right hand around to the back of Endo’s head. Kakuryu moves a little back and to his right while pressing down on Endo’s neck; Endo’s right hand makes light contact but Kakuryu is concentrating on making sure that there’s no support for Endo’s breaking balance.

  3. Whether it’s injuries or an exhausting Jungyo tour, a lot of basho don’t start with fireworks and determined, energetic rikishi. This basho has already completely bucked that trend and I am absolutely ecstatic about it!

    I have a theory that most of the Megashira realize that a basho with a weakened Ozeki corps is a ripe opportunity for jumping up the banzuke. Whoever gets winning records this time around are absolutely going to earn them. Having Hakuho lose on the first day motivates everyone else just as much if not more too. I honestly don’t remember a basho recently where someone in a match either looked hapless or a step slow. Even the people who were beaten were putting all of their effort into everything today and it showed.

    Fun, procedural question about judging a sumo match: If Hakuho’s left foot doesn’t drag on the dohyo as he’s exiting it, in other words he’s completely airborne, does that mean he’d win because Hokotofuji would have hit the dohyo first or would the “dead body” rule apply because Hakuho isn’t the person who attacked?

    I’m in the “dead body” rule camp because all of the offense was 100% was Hokotofuji. But, I’m curious to hear what other people think.

    • I’m in the dead body camp, and I feel bolstered by the fact that not only was there no mono-ii, there didn’t seem to be a hint of indecision.

    • If he has both feet off the ground, he’s dead as Monty Python’s Polly. It doesn’t matter who attacked if Hokutofuji still has his own feet on the ground.

  4. Do I detect some friction between Raja Pradhan and John Gunning? After the Aoiyama-Goeido bout John said, “Well if you don’t want to be working with me I’m going to tell you Goeido wants to fight Aoiyama every single day because that gives him a 23-to-3 head-to-head record.” Earlier, in the middle of the Tamawashi-Shodai match Raja said, “Tamawashi is in the driver’s seat from start to finish!” and after the match John observed in a manner that could be friendly or could be a little passive aggressive that, “I like the way you predicted he’d be in the driving seat from start to finish halfway through the bout… if you’re watching at home that’s next-level commentating!”

    • It just sounded to me like a bunch of joking around and good fun throughout the day, like when they were teasing each other about each other’s yusho predictions. I watched the whole 2 hour broadcast on NHK G and thought it was a decent listen, JG is by a mile the best color commentator on the English side.

  5. After the face slap Hokutofuji seemed to get his hands up quickly to block the inevitable big shoulder from the boss. Have to do whatever you can to even up the odds even if it does involve a flat shovel to the face – ouch!

  6. Hakuho continues having the same problem from the previous basho. He doesn’t have a sashi anymore. That slap to the face is not just for decoration. It’s part of a slap-and-grab. Only, the grab never materializes. Last basho he had all sorts of plan B, plan C and plan D. But today either he had none, or Hokutofuji was just much, much better. If the Yokozuna can’t move his arms fast enough to insert them under his opponent, I think that Japanese citizenship is going to be fulfilling its purpose sooner than he would like.

    This was the first time in two years that he lost on the first day, and the first time in his entire career to give a kinboshi on day one.

    Abema TV featured Wakanohana again today. Sadly I wasn’t able to watch too much live, as Sunday is a hard day at work. I only managed to catch Terutsuyoshi and Takarafuji’s matches live. Of Terutsuyoshi, he said it was a bad tachiai. And of course he is right. Of Takarafuji, that his backside was too high and he was lucky he won.

  7. One rarely sees the winner of a bout checking out the replay after he leaves the dohyo, but Terutsuyoshi did after this chaotic bout. I think he was wondering, “What in the world just happened?!?”

    If it showed anything (other than massive ring rust), Takakeisho’s Day One bout seems a good indicator that his injured knee is in decent shape. Those two big hops he took put a lot of stress on it.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.