Aki Day 10 Highlights

I was hoping, oh I was hoping that we would get a massive multi-way brawl during the last 5 days for the yusho. The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan smiled, thrashed its long stripy tail and made it thus, for which I am eternally grateful. Although they were fighting what should have been (mathematically anyhow) easy opponents, co-leaders Meisei and Okinoumi both hit the clay on day 10, resulting in a brutal 5 way tie for the lead in the yusho race, with an additional 9 rikishi in striking range. At this point, no matter who is fighting for the next couple of days, it has yusho implications.

We have not seen a basho like this in many years, and frankly I thinking of taking vacation days from work just to watch this one. Yes the Yokozuna are both out hurt, and the Ozeki corps is as weak as at any time in the last 2 years. But the level of motivation that is present now across 14 rikishi, with the yusho in reach, is unmatched. I am going to assume we will see Makushita joi levels of intensity in the coming days among the best fighters that sumo can muster today.

Woven into this insane tapestry of combat is the drama of Tochinoshin still pushing to hold on to Ozeki, injured, struggling, but still in the hunt for his 8. Takakeisho 2 wins away from returning to Ozeki from a Sekiwake demotion, and both Asanoyama and Mitakeumi in the hunt for their second Emperor’s cup. Given who is actually still competing, I don’t think you could build a bigger final 5 days than this.

In other news, Toyonoshima went kyujo with an injury to his Achilles tendon, cementing his return to Juryo and giving Nishikigi a default win.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Takagenji – Takagenji can’t make it work against a Juryo man with a losing record. Granted it’s former Makuuchi rikishi Daiamami, but its an indication of just how big a mess Takagenji is right now. I feel for this guy, and I am sure he is going to be back sooner rather than later.

Tochiozan defeats Azumaryu – Tochiozan got a whiff of the funk of that slow barge back to Juryo, and has said, “Nope!”. Azumaryu came in low, stretched go get lower, and Tochiozan helped him get lower still and touch the dohyo.

Yutakayama defeats Daishoho – Another messy match with Yutakayama, who seems to be struggling to find his sumo. He gives up the centerline position he took at the tachiai, and uses his mobility to foil Daishoho’s counter-thrust attack. As I tend to say, go watch the footwork in this match. Although Yutakayama is on the move and might appear a bit rough in the upper body, his feet tell the story.

Tsurugisho defeats Meisei – The first co-leader hits the clay. Meisei gets morozashi early in the match, but is completely out matched by Tsurugisho. This match puzzles me, Tsurugisho’s hips are high, his stance is tall and upright, and Meisei should have been able to eat him alive. Meisei tried to swing him into a throw, but Tsurugisho just collapsed on top of him to win the match.

Kagayaki defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi. Terutsuyoshi could not get close enough to really execute any offense against Kagayaki, who kept his stance wide and his hips low. Another day of excellent fundamentals from Kagayaki.

Kotoyuki defeats Ishiura – Fierce Kotoyuki mounted the dohyo again, and frankly I am not sure what Ishiura had in mind with his tachiai. It looks like half submarine, half flying henka. The result is that Ishiura is airborne, and essentially weightless for a time. Kotoyuki did not pass up the opportunity, and hands Ishiura another loss.

Sadanoumi defeats Okinoumi – Down goes yusho leader #2. Once again it looks like Okinoumi lost traction, and I am thinking that white bandage boot on his left foot is at least partly to blame. Okinoumi gives up the inside position to Sadanoumi, and finds himself in the passenger seat for a rough ride.

Takarafuji defeats Shohozan – Shohozan seemed to lack any strength to counter Takarafuji’s advance, and quickly found himself with his heels on the tawara, and stepped out without resistance. Better to take the loss than risk the injury, I would imagine.

Onosho defeats Kotoshogiku – I thought this was an excellent match, although it underscored how little power Kotoshogiku can generate these days. Onosho applies a hybrid thrusting / armpit attack repeatedly to prevent Kotoshogiku from ever squaring his hips and initiating his gaburi-yori. That was solid sumo, Onosho.

Enho defeats Kotoeko – A odd little match, with the softest tachiai I have seen in a long time – reminiscent of a Hattorizakura match. Enho then proceeds to keep a seemingly calculated distance from Kotoeko, and attacks Kotoeko’s hands. Multiple times Enho moves in to grapple with Kotoeko briefly, then escapes. Enho does eventually take a hold of Kotoeko and win, but this was strange but effective sumo from Enho.

Ryuden defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze starts this match in forward gear, thrusting strongly at Ryuden’s chest, but I guess the temptation was too strong, and he reaches with his left arm to try to pull. Of course the pull releases forward pressure, and Ryuden now owns this match. Ryuden’s left hand outside grip is firm, and Tomokaze is chest to chest an unable to try any more pulls. Ryuden establishes an unassailable defensive body position, and proceeds to wear Tomokaze down, wearing him out and finally throwing him to the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi works hard for a right hand inside grip, and briefly gets it. But the entire time he’s working that advantage, Asanoyama is moving him away from the center of the dohyo, and before Shimanoumi can establish any workable attack, the match is lost. Asanoyama picks up his kachi-koshi, and his share of the lead.

Daieisho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s initial thrust and pull gambit failed miserably, and Daieisho completely dominates the match. Aoiyama’s 8th loss, and a disappointing make-koshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Hokutofuji tried to use his “handshake tachiai” to establish a nodowa today, but Endo expertly blocked it and established an inside position at the state time. But the very next moment, Endo thrusts Hokutofuji away. At that instant, comparing their body positions, Endo is on his toes and reaching forward with his mass too far in front of his arches. Hokutofuji is flat on his feet, his weight centered, his stance wide. He catches Endo by the neck and that lower body of his takes over and drives forward. Endo is never able to recover his balance or set his feet for defense, and the win goes too Hokutofuji. Textbook example of Hokutofuji’s sumo. He seems to have unmatched control over his lower body.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Oh, the match history between these two. This match looked a lot like many of the prior, with Mitakeumi absorbing volley after volley of thrusts, and just absorbing them while carefully giving ground. It’s a waiting game, looking for Tamawashi to over-extend. He does, Mitakeumi throws him to the clay and he’s kachi-koshi and tied for the lead.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Not really “wave action” today, more of a ripple ripple shove attack. Shodai is overwhelmed right from the tachiai, but tries a turn at the tawara to send Takakeisho off balance, but Takakeisho reads it perfectly, and helps Shodai continue the motion, and drops him on the tawara. Takakeisho scores his kachi-koshi while Shodai suffers his make-koshi in the same bout.

Abi defeats Goeido – Goeido’s opening gambit was to get that left hand on Abi’s mawashi, no matter what. He misses and finds himself without access to plan B. With Abi thrusting away, Goeido desperately tries anything, and grabs Abi’s right forearm. But the Ozeki is off balance, his body is turned and his feet are nowhere useful. A powerful open handed blow from Abi’s left to Goeido’s chest sends him flying for a loss. Great sumo from Abi today.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – A surprising match, as Tochinoshin successfully executes a yotsu win over Chiyotairyu, administering his make-koshi and moving a step closer to clearing kadoban. You can see the pain written on Tochinoshin’s body, but he endures and claims a precious victory. 3 more to go.

20 thoughts on “Aki Day 10 Highlights

  1. Heroics from Tochinoshin today to make up for yesterdays shameful shenanigans. But Bruce, you are so right, it looked like absolute agony. Normally if Tochi counters Chiyotairyu’s tachiai and gets him into a proper wrestling match it would be game over: just walk him out of the ring or lift him over the tawara for an awesomeness bonus. But when you are working with three functional limbs it’s bloody hard work.

    As for the Meisei match I didn’t think it was too odd. Meisei had the advantageous lower position but he was at a funny angle, too far around to the left. A more complete (or just bigger) performer would have just bulled his opponent out of there, but Meisei is a purist and went for the throw even though he wasn’t really set for it. Did I mention that I think that Meisei is utterly wonderful?

    • I very much liked this “light man” match. A little glimpse into what might be (in an imaginary world) where Grand Sumo had a lightweight division.

    • Yes totally agree! It showed yet another side to Enho’s ingenuity that against Kotoeko (small, manoeuvrable) he did not go for his standard opening gambit of going low as possible at the tachiai to get his head buried in the opposing tummy. By standing off and waiting he backed himself to be more nimble and inventive in a running battle – and he was right!

  2. “Tsurugisho just collapsed on top of him to win the match.”
    I agree. Meisei needed to twist just a smidgen, but he didn’t. Rather strange as it looked like it was all his. I thought Tsurugisho had been robbed yesterday…so it all pans out (I guess.)

    Enho bout. I’ve been watching sumo since the days of Taiho and Kashiwado (with lapses in between) and have never seen anything like the disruption this guy causes. It’s great fun to watch but it’s not exactly “normal” sumo. Still, I always look forward to an Enho match.

    Asanoyama. This is my guy. I think he’ll be a Yokozuna. Perfect physique as long as he doesn’t gain anymore weight.

    Goeido: He was terrible today. I don’t know what else to say.

    Tochinoshin: I love this guy but it’s stressful watching him. I get a cramp in my legs just watching him on the screen (as I try to boost him along)!

  3. Enho’s bout against Kotoeko looked like a lot of Enho’s Jungyo bouts, in which Enho’s opponent often forgoes a meaningful tachiai and just waits for Enho to overcommit.

    I thought that Ishiura may have been thinking of executing a hit-and-shift strategy, but the shift portion of this strategy went out of control in response to Kotoyuki’s especially fierce tachiai.

    We now have a Next Gen basho, in which Mitakeumi, at the ripe old age of 26, is the elder statesman of the top dogs (sorry, Okinoumi, I’m not going to include you in that group).

  4. Very nice to see that it was back to normal service for Ryuden – once he clamped those long arms on the mawashi, he was happy to make it a long, slow game of attrition. A clever finish to outwit Tomokaze like that.

    I loved the moment in the Endo v Hokutofuji bout when Endo suddenly side-stepped at the edge and both men were for a split second equally unbalanced and vulnerable. It is testament to Hokutofuji’s lower-body strength and balance that he recovered fractionally quicker – making the prospect of an Endo Yusho recede back into improbable fantasy!

    Did I just anxiously imagine it, or did Takakeisho ever so slightly limp back to his mark after defeating Shodai?

    Finally: GO ON ABI!! This was a battle of two men who rely on an explosive tachiai. Given that Goeido is now effectively the senior remaining grown-up in this Basho, I felt like Abi deserved a few purple cushions to rain down to mark this upset victory.

  5. I’m continually impressed with Asanoyama. He really does have the skill and strength and poise to be an Ozeki.

    I’m glad to see the Bear attempt his brand of sumo, but it was hard to watch. I’m curious to see how it affects his performance tomorrow. I’m not sure he can do much more of that this basho before having to bow out. I expect him to get a few more sloppy wins to grab his 8 then quickly peace out to the nearest hospital.

    Enho did a fantastic job of creating a new way to handle a particularly difficult bulldog. He knows who he is weak against and he decided to try something new to figure out a way to correct that weakness. Good for you Pixie of the Flame.

    Side note: I miss my Mongolian Boulder :(( Heal up Ichinojo and come back strong for us, okay!?

    Today was by far the most exciting day for me this Basho. We’ve got a CRAZY 5 way race for the Yusho with a plethora of men on their heels. There’s going to be some carnage incoming soon. Hold on to your Zabuton!

  6. I’m glad that someone’s mentioned the subject of Weight. A few months ago, Mitakeumi was quoted as saying that he thought he was a bit too heavy and was going to try to lose a few kilos. Instead, he’s packed more on. This seems to have limited the techniques he uses.

    Look at Hokutofuji, with similar age, career start, weight. His frame is much broader, and he seems to carry his weight in a much … springier way — I’m very fond of that little skip he does after a win. Mitakeumi’s shoulders are narrower (hence: Tadpole), and his extra pounds seem to have smothered his flexibility and what he can do with his arms.

    The range of tactics he showed two or three years ago would have been the envy of all the only-pushers, but it seems as though he’s slipped back to join them. Or is it my imagination? He outweighs Tamawashi and Asanoyama, who both tower over him, and Kotoshogiku, who’s the same height but hardly known for his agility.

    • I agree with you about Mitakeumi. That’s nice to know that he recognizes that he needs to lose some weight…because it’s true. I first started screaming at the screen about it the tourney after his yusho.

  7. The ozeki status of Tochinoshin and Takakeisho has been in the spotlight thus far but now I’m starting to wonder about Goeido. Yet another narrative to heap on to the ever-growing pile of narratives this basho

  8. I listened to the podcast today and the hosts mentioned a playoff scenario of 11-4 rikishi. I laughed and laughed as I couldn’t recall a tournament being won with so few wins. And so I looked it up, going all the way back to 1950. The tournament has, in fact, been won with an 11-4 record three times during that time span: Harumafuji, September 2017; Musashimaru, November 1996; and Tochiazuma, January 1972. Very interesting and news to me!

  9. I am pretty sure that a musubi no ichiban featuring a combined record of 6-12 was not what the good folks that spent quite some money buying tickets in advance had in mind. Perhaps a Hakuho vs Takakeisho by day 10.

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