Aki Day 9 Highlights

The top division men decided to step up the tempo heading into the second week, with outstanding sumo from the Asanoyama vs Abi match frankly one of the more amazing matches I have seen this tournament. Likewise the “over the top” effort Enho delivers every day is possibly an inspiration to every other competitor in sumo.

The headline has to be that as predicted, yusho race leader Okinoumi tasted clay for the first time today, though I am not really sure that Ryuden did that much to win. But the race is opening up, and this may be a mad scramble to the finish.

Day 10 looks like the two leaders are back to fighting lower-ranked opponents, which means that the schedulers are saving the matches we know are coming for later in the basho. Fine by me, but I still think Okinoumi has a more than 50/50 chance of taking it all the way to the cup.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Toyonoshima – Wakatakakage latched on to Toyonoshima’s forearm and took him on the merry-go-round. When it was done, Wakatakakage had him disrupted enough that a simple shove put him over the bales. Toyonoshima now make-koshi, and I would guess at risk of returning to Juryo.

Takagenji defeats Tsurugisho – Everyone thought this was a matta except the goyji, and it made for an odd match. But in spite of his poor start, Takagenji shows that he has Tsurugisho’s number.

Tochiozan defeats Nishikigi – Man, hear that crunch at the tachiai? That’s the sound of quality sumo (or injury). Nishikigi employs his favorite double arm-lock hold which has its normal effect of making the receiver shrug to escape and naturally raising their hips. But Tochiozan has played this game for years, and secures an escape that leads to a quick exit for Nishikigi. Skill and experience carry the day.

Shohozan defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries to submarine, but comes in too low and hits the deck. Shohozan, for a moment, looks surprised and worried, but Ishiura is ok. 2 more wins for both men to reach the safety of 8.

Azumaryu defeats Enho – Enho gets an early advantage, and starts loading a throw against Azumaryu. Azumaryu holds on for all he is worth, and circles away to shut down the throw. But try as he might Azumaryu can’t seem to shake Enho’s latch on Azumaryu’s mawashi. The match ends with an abisetaoshi, which is really about what you need to do to get that little guy to let go of your crotch. The gyoji is not sure what he just saw, and timidly gives the gumbai to Enho, but I know, you know and he knows it’s monoii time. The slow motion replay is even less conclusive – what a finish! The gumbai is overruled, and Azumaryu takes the win. Tough luck Enho, that was incredible sumo. As Josh and I discussed on the podcast, the crowd is going crazy during this match. Frankly, Enho is consistently bringing the most exciting sumo to this basho, and he’s doing it every day. The guy is a treasure. Keep in mind, if he stays healthy, this guy is just going to get better.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi gets a great inside position at the tachiai, and moves Yutakayama into reverse. But in a fantastic move, Yutakayama circles to his left and gets behind Sadanoumi and pushes him to the clay. Excellent recovery.

Kotoyuki defeats Kagayaki – The fierce version of Kotoyuki was back again today, and although Kagayaki opened strong, he could only drive Kotoyuki back for a moment before the Sadogatake man responded with gusto. Freeze frame, if you can, on Kotoyuki drive forward. Note the excellent body position, but also note just how good Kagayaki’s feet are planted. Kagayaki’s main weakness – his hips are Highland his weight is about 25cm forward of his toes. Kotoyuki lifts and pushes with great effect and puts Kagayaki over the bales.

Daishoho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi gets to start the match under his terms, but locked into a yotsu match with Daishoho, he struggles to get leverage to move the much bigger man. While Terutsuyoshi struggles for leverage with his right hand grip, Daishoho lands a left hand outside and swings Terutsuyoshi out. Terutsuyoshi is close to make-koshi now, but he should be safe from relegation to Juryo this time out.

Kotoeko defeats Onosho – The two trade the initiative, moving back and forth across the dohyo, but I really liked seeing Kotoeko using some gaburi-yori in there. But after both of them have their turn, they get to the south west corner and try to throw each other, with Kotoeko getting the better stance. Very balanced match.

Meisei defeats Kotoshogiku – Some fans will be frustrated with this match, but please keep in mind that Kotoshogiku is no longer an Ozeki because his knees are in terrible shape. This manifests itself in weakness delivering forward pressure, and today is a showcase for that sad problem. Meisei gave him the preferred setup for the hug-n-chug, but Kotoshogiku could not deliver any power to execute. Meisei now kachi-koshi, picking up his 8th win.

Takarafuji defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi put all of his effort into an armpit attack against Takarafuji, which seems to have little effect. But it costs him position and initiative, which Takarafuji claims, changing the terms of the match and winning.

Ryuden defeats Okinoumi – The yusho leader gets his first loss, though to me it seems more like a slippiotoshi than hikiotoshi (hat tip to Kintamayama). The loss came as Okinoumi seemed to lose traction while closing distance to a badly off balance Ryuden to press the attack. No matter, with Okinoumi’s first loss, the yusho race expands.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – That’s what we were missing! Aoiyama returns to his winning form with that double thrust / V-Twin attack mode that Chiyotairyu struggles to withstand. I would love to know what Aoiyama can bench press. I would guess 1.4 Ichinojo.

Hokutofuji defeats Daieisho – Folks may scoff at any thought that the mawashi change had an effect on Hokutofuji, but it seems to have given him a fresh mindset. Sometimes making such a change can provide the mind a very useful break-away point, and perhaps that is what happened for him, but that’s 2 in a row since the change. As with day 8, we see his lower body operating with a surprising degree of independence from any punishment his upper body sustains. I think this is one of the keys to why Hokutofuji interests me to the level he does. He uses his body in a somewhat unusual way in quite a few matches, but especially the ones he wins. Go watch his footwork.

Asanoyama defeats Abi – Wow, just WOW. I tend to say Abi rains tsuppari like a summer rainstorm, but today he was in typhoon mode. But even more impressively, Asanoyama somehow stayed on his feet, bending perilously but remaining upright. Abi circles behind Asanoyama, grabs his mawashi. Dear readers, this is lethal positioning in sumo, but Asanoyama escapes. Asanoyama is now stumbling, and Abi once again closes in for the win, but with Abi’s hand at his throat, Asanoyama has the sumo sense to grab Abi’s mawashi and pivot him out. With these two in the upper ranks, the future of sumo looks like a lot of fun.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – The Grand Tadpole now just needs 3 to return to Ozeki. The critical moment comes at the second merge, following the tachiai. Tamawashi goes for Takakeisho’s head, and leaves his chest wide open. Big mistake in most cases, but Tamawashi has his feet set, and the thrust launches Takakeisho back. The clash again, but each time Tamawashi leaves his chest open, and Takakeisho does what he does best.

Mitakeumi defeats Tomokaze – For a brief moment, we saw Tomokaze doing sumo in a forward gear, but for whatever reason, once he had Mitakeumi on his heels, he chose to try and pull. Well, that’s not really something that you can do with Mitakeumi’s super low center of gravity, and in that brief moment, he turned over control to Mitakeumi, and locked in his own defeat. Tomokaze repeatedly tried to set up a pull, leaving his chest exposed and fair game for Mitakeumi’s osha-attacks.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – I get it that Tochinoshin is badly hurt, and can’t do actual sumo. He’s on the knife’s edge to losing Ozeki rank, but this was an ugly henka that I am sure a lot of fans will not soon forget. Sometimes henka is used to skillfully exploit an opponents tendency to get too far forward. This one was a desperate declaration of insufficiency to face Endo in direct combat. I think a future match between Tochinoshin and Endo will feature some fascinating payback. This loss pushes Endo into a third loss, now 2 behind the co-leaders.

Goeido defeats Shodai – When Goeido is on his sumo, it’s a sight to behold. After a brief struggle for arm position at the tachiai, Goeido power-shoves Shodai into next week.

52 thoughts on “Aki Day 9 Highlights

  1. Ah, those Highland hips of Kagayaki! Bruce, you’re showing your Scottish roots.

    There was a lot of terrific sumo on Day 9, and it’s a darn good thing, because we needed all the well-executed wins by Tochiozan, Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Takakeisho, Mitakeumi, and Goeido to erase the memories of: (a) Takagenji’s win by obvious matta, (b) the questionable monoii decision against Enho (I am more confident than the gyoji that he made the correct call in the first place), (c) Okinoumi taking his first loss by tripping himself, and, most of all, (d) the egregious henka by Tochinoshin.

    On the Enho decision, it was a miraculous defying of gravity that made that a close call. How does Enho do it?!?

    • I am convinced he is using some manner of dark matter physics to change the speed of light near his body, and this modifies the curvature of space-time (and hence gravity).

    • I totally agree with you re: Enho’s decision. I have now watched the replays a bunch of times and it is very hard to see what is going on as they both hit the deck. Probably the fairest thing would have been to replay the match – they seemed to hit the ground at almost exactly the same time. But if I had to pick a winner, i honestly think that Enho somehow managed to arch himself backwards into a kind of horizontal limbo position, with almost his entire body parallel to the ground, so that Azumaryu’s hand touched down first (by a matter of milliseconds). As you say, in total defiance of gravity!

      • Looked to me like Azumaryu’s right knee touches down first, but I couldn’t see any dirt on it afterward…

        If not the knee then Azumaryu’s right arm clearly touches first, but he’s using it to protect Enho and himself from injury — he could have pulled the arm away from the ground and landed more-or-less directly on Enho. The (oh god) shini-tai rule article on Wikipedia says this is called kabai-te and is an instance in which the wrestler who contacts the ground first may be given the win.

        • I saw the same as you. In real time I thought clearly Azumaryu won, but watching the replays a few times it seems pretty clear that his whole lower leg touched down first and next his hand. Now if they applied the rule you cited, I wonder why the judged then explained that Enho’s body touched down first. That was clearly not the case. I think a redo would have been the proper way here.

          • The judge didn’t actually say that, he said “Enho no tai wa saki ni ochite” – Enho fell first. When they want to say “touched down first” they don’t usually use “tai” (body), but the specific body part (“kakato”, “te” etc.) and they use “tsuite (tsuku)” – touched – rather than “ochite (ochiru)” – fell.

            • Ok, thanks for the explanation. I was putting “fell down” and “touched down” the same meaning, as probably most people would, but now that you point it out it’s true they often announce the body part that touched down first. However I simply don’t pay enough attention/study that enough to distinguish, whether that might be just different style among the judges or a distinction in meaning.
              In any case, I was somewhat surprised by the ruling.

    • Enho won that bout by a whole lot. Azumaryu’s right knee was on the floor ages before Enho’s back. The level of judging seems to be falling even lower than the level of fighting lately.

  2. Don’t know why and can’t explain but I just hate Abi’s sumo. Same with Takakeisho. These oshi practitioners are so off balance that it goes against every principle in martial arts. I guess when you distill the rules of wrestling to the point where dynamics rules over statics then you get such extreme off-balance practitioners. I read somewhere that Raiden was an oshi-sumo guy as well. I much prefer to see Ama, Hakuho, or Asashoryu style yotsu-sumo with speed and strength.

    • I would respectfully suggest that if you cannot enjoy the thrilling spectacle of Abi vs. Asanoyama today, then you are denying yourself a significant portion of pleasure that sumo can afford.
      Taking a gamble by shifting one’s centre of gravity way forwards will always be a core tactic in sumo. Of course its fine to prefer Yotsu to Oshi. But it is silly to close off one’s mind from appreciating good Oshi-zumo when it occurs.
      (Apologies in advance if this comment makes me sound like a patronising asshole!)

      • The best part of Abi v Asanoyama was that Yotsu-zumo won. I wonder why people like Takakeisho don’t get henka-ed more. A side-step followed by a simple push at right angles to the stance usually knocks these unbalanced fighters over.

        • The very reason Takakeisho is so successful is that he’s just not a generic pusher with questionable footwork like so many others.

  3. The performance of Gyoji’s and judges was questionable. 1) Takagenji / Tsurugisho match clearly had a matta, both rikishi thought so. 2) In slow motion, it looked like Azumaryu touched the ground first, not Enho and 3) It looked like Ryuden pulled the top knot (or at least came very close to doing so) of Okinoumi. Why are the refereeing and judging standards so poor in Sumo?

    • I totally agree with #1 and 2. As for #3, I thought of that too before watching the reply, but as Herouth explained a few days ago, it’s only a hairpull when you close your hand (and grab the hair), which Ryuden imho didn’t. I can live with #2 as a few near blind old man just seeing something we don’t, which happens every other time a mono-ii is called, but #1 … that was a crime, pure robbery. How can no one interfere here, I mean Tsurugushi had both hands at least 1m above ground, when he got ambushed.

  4. As always I’m incredibly impressed with Enho’s sumo. Even if he doesn’t win he displays magnificent technique, awareness, flexibility..the list could go on forever.

    I’m a huge fan of Tochinoshin, but honestly that one hurt. You’re better than that, I know you’re injured and on your last leg Literally but still, throw some heart into your sumo you big Bear.

  5. If the replay is inconclusive and the Gyoji isn’t sure who won, then that’s a prime point for a torinaoshi. If a torinaoshi isn’t acceptable, then go with what the Gyoji said. In other words, I literally have no idea why Enho lost today. I agree with Vired99 that the judging performance across the board has been iffy in a lot of places recently.

  6. I too think that Enho should at least have gotten a torinaoshi, and I loved Asanoyama staying in there.

    Off topic, a question for anyone whose Japanese pronunciation is good – I have managed to learn the right number of syllables to say in Wakatakakage (writing it is still tricky), but as a native speaker of English, which is a stress-timed language (we make the vowels longer in the stressed/accented syllables), I’d like to have a better handle on how to stress it when speaking aloud. Today Ross Mihara said something like WAka TAka KAge, and the Japanese announcer was more like waKAta kaKAge, and I’m pretty sure I’ve also heard something like waKAta KAkage. So, I gather that stress in Japanese works differently, but… can anyone clarify?

    • I am a poor expert, but my western Japan bias tells me it would be

      WaKataka Kage

      As in the first blob would erupt like a machine gun, with the briefest of pause and then a notable change in cadence for the last 2 syllables. It’s one of the things that makes it fun to say.

    • It depends on the kanji. If Wakatakakage is written as three kanji characters (I don’t know how it’s written), broken up as “waka” (young), “Taka” (eagle?, “Kage” (shadow?), the emphasis would be on the “wa” the “ta” and the “ka.”

      • Thanks – I just hunted around and found this from an old post in sumoforum:

        “Onami III starts at first as Wakatakakage (looks better in kanji: 若隆景) – the Waka from grandpa’s Wakabayama, the rest from the name of the 3rd of the 3 sons of Mori Motonari (to whom he showed that 3 arrows won’t break easily if bundled), Kobayakawa Takakage. Arashio-oyakata gave him the shikona. http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20170304/sum17030419180009-n1.html

        Does that fit with what you were thinking?

        • Kinda. The point is to read each character. There is a “wa” character but this isn’t it. This is “waka”, so the stress is on the “wa”. I was mistaken on guessing eagle for taka. This is a different taka. (Young and shadow is correct, though).

    • Japanese doesn’t have stresses. It does have certain pitch variations that may sound like stress to us, but they change from region to region, or frankly, even from person to person. I heard it as all sorts of mixes. It kind of depends on where in the sentence it’s used, and if you add the “zeki” to it, and whatnot. Just don’t stress.

      • :D Okay, thanks. I guess the long vowels in some words sound like stress to me, but his name doesn’t seem to have any. (When I was learning Chinese, it was hard to say 4th (falling) tone words properly, because the falling tone sounds like angry or peremptory emphasis in English – those suprasegmentals – pronunciation on a level beyond consonants and vowels – can trip me up.)

  7. Same here. I didn’t see Enho lose. Wtf was that? He did not land first.

    And also. I loved tochi’s henka. The guy is doing everything in his currently limited arsenal to keep Ozeki anyway he can. If he does it will be incredible

    • I agree re: henka. Endo should have been prepared for it. That’s one less day of strain on Tochinoshin’s knees. And an important, easy win.

  8. tochinoshin’s message was clear “ok, if the current system forces rikishis to fight when they are suffering serious injuries this is what you got.
    I can’t blame him at all.

    • You make it sound like this was some sort of novel stand being taken rather than just something we’ve seen in hundreds of situations involving dozens of rikishi before.

      • I don’t know how it sounds to you, to be honest I am pretty much not interested with this specific aspect of my comment. But more importantly I didn’t say that it was a stand alone case… what I am saying is forcing rikishi to fight even in seriously injured condition and outraged by a henka is a blatant hypocrisy.

        that’s all.

  9. the Georgian Bear got my interest in sumo back in early 2017, watching the sky crane is so much fun! now I stay for enho and asanoyama.

    Endo has consistently beaten Tochinoshin though, even a time where his foot brushed out and it was missed. Tochinoshin remembers all that, and likely knew Endo would go for the shallow grip again. So he did what Endo didn’t expect.
    I don’t like the henka in general, but as Kintamayama said, it is legal and they should be prepared for it.

    I need a better explanation of the wave action tsuppari.

    • Sure! So first of all, it’s a play on an anime series “Star Blazers”, which features a space going battleship that has a primary weapon a “Wave Motion Gun”. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful weapon that atomizes everything in its path.

      So along comes Takakeisho, who has this knack for generating periodic, double arm thrusts. They happen in “waves” that progressively overwhelm his opponent. You can time them crashing and resetting, much like you would at the beach. So in my somewhat questionable mind, I conflated the two together and decided his primary weapon was to be coined “Wave Action Tsuppari”.

      Some video of the more modern incarnation of “Star Blazers” and the wave motion gun below. Of course the whole process with Takakeisho happens much more rapidly, but seems to have similar effect.

        • My pleasure! So go watch some Hokutofuji matches, and take a look at his right hand at the tachiai. See how he moves it out rapidly like he is going to “shake hands” with his opponent. Instead what normally happens is that right hand goes for the throat or an armpit. But that right hand / arm moving rapidly forward and upward as if to shake hands is the basis of the “handshake tachiai”.

          One of the things about it, because his palm is facing inward (sometimes call “knife hand” in the US Marines) is that there is very low surface area to be stopped by an arm or a counter-slap, and that right hand frequently is the source of his opening gambit.

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