Hatsu Day 3 Highlights

As Team Tachiai has pronounced many times, we are in a transitional era in sumo. Some steadfast favorites are closing in on the end of their careers, and the next generation continue to build skill, confidence and strength. I had assumed that Hatsu would be the last stand of the old guard, before they faded into the soft focus of fond memories. But following day 3 at the Kokugikan, we may be deeper into the transition than I had thought.

It was a tough day to be a Yokozuna, it’s been a tough start for both Yokozuna: They are currently sitting at 1 win and 2 losses each. Goeido has a dismal 0-3 start, and only Takakeisho seems to be able to carry his rank as of today. It’s no coincidence that Takakeisho is also the vanguard of the new generation, the first to reach Ozeki, but I am certain he will soon have company.

The pressure on Hakuho and Kakuryu will be enormous at this point. Both of them have personal goals that demand they stay in the sport a bit longer. But to keep the young wolves snapping at their heels require that the Yokozuna muster the fighting spirit to return to dominance. This may get ugly.

Highlight Matches

Kaisei defeats Hidenoumi – Juryo visitor Hidenoumi finds massive Kaisei too much to handle, as he manages to be lower at the tachiai, and land a deep left hand mawashi hold moments later. From there it’s forward march, and Hidenoumi has no defensive footing to stop that much rikishi on the move.

Tokushoryu defeats Tochiozan – Tokushoryu’s “Cab Forward Design” robs Tochiozan of any real offensive positioning. Coupled with a broadside of tsuppari to the face, it’s another black star for Tochiozan.

Kiribayama defeats Ikioi – Ikioi fought like a lion to return to the top division, but he has suffered a cold start. Now at dismal 0-3, he can’t seem to find a path to a win. Kiribayama gives way at the tachiai, retreating with resistance and pivoting before the bales to guide Ikioi away.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Azumaryu – Terutsuyoshi has started 3-0, and is looking surprisingly well balanced and energetic. His shorter stature gave him the inside, low position at the tachiai, and Azumaryu struggled to follow through with any offense.

Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi probably thought he was winning this, but a neat pivot against Shimanoumi’s opening advance gave Kotoeko the win. Shimanoumi seemed to stand outside the tawara in a moment of disbelief. Trust me, it was just as puzzling in the Kokugikan, as about 20,000 people said, “Huh?”, then cheered.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tsurugisho – This morning I begged.. “Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, grant Kotoshogiku just a little more cartilage so that he might go out in a blaze of glory.” Rousing from his catnip hangover, the wish was granted. Against all odds, Kotoshogiku engaged the hug-n-chug machine, and bounced his way to his first win of the basho. The crowd in Tokyo cheered almost as loudly to see Kotoshogiku win once more as they did for Enho’s athletics.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyomaru – Kagayaki opens 3-0, and I really love his tactics against Chiyomaru today: a constant hit and shift that kept Chiyomaru turning to face him. Chiyomaru turns in a slightly smaller radius than the planet Venus, and it was not long before Kagayaki had Chiyomaru off balance and at his mercy. Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day again.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I give credit to Chiyotairyu for trying to expand his sumo, but he had some gambits not work today. His tachiai was solid, and had inside position. But his attempt at a pull was a failure, and his recovery effort to load a throw went down in flames. I suspect that he’s going to get it together at some point, and we may see enhanced sumo from him.

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura joins the 0-3 crowd, in spite of fighting well, and using straight ahead sumo. Its just that everything he does ends up mistimed or not quite on balance. He took the fight to Yutakayama today, but his evasion was a bit too “lofty” and Yutakayama took him apart.

Takanosho defeats Aoiyama – Takanosho hands “Big Dan” his first loss of the basho. To me it looked like Aoiyama was working his preferred “attack the face, the slap them down” approach, but his hand may have gotten close to or caught in Takanosho’s mage. That moment when he draws back was all the opening Takanosho needed to drive Aoiyama from the ring.

Shohozan defeats Onosho – Has Onosho re-injured that knee? His normally poor balance is downright pathetic right now, and Shohozan made fast work of him, sending him straight to the clay. As an Onosho booster, this kind of thing is tough to watch. Onosho starts Hatsu 0-3.

Ryuden defeats Tochinoshin – Ryuden’s tachiai was near perfect, and he had Tochinoshin locked up and pinned before the big Georgain could even get started. From there Tochinoshin struggled to break Ryuden’s hold, but Shin-Ikioi was latched in for the ride. Tochinoshin tried everything sort of a cricket bat to peel away from Ryuden, but with no effect. The former Ozeki takes his second loss.

Enho defeats Meisei – Japan loves Enho. Enho loves Japan. Enho becomes not harmful. Enho is a friend of all childrens. Enho’s sumo makes nature smile and dance. By the skill of our one true Enho, Meisei starts Hatsu 0-3.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – I have a theory that Shodai is eating some kind of custom, high test natto, and the effect is much like Popeye and spinach. That maki-kai was awesome and completely shut down Takarafuji’s stalemate strategy. Shodai starts 3-0.

Tamawashi defeats Abi – An injured Abi has to fight Tamawashi twice thanks to a monoii, and seems to have further tweaked his knee in the process. Tamawashi was on form today, and dominated Abi, who has to hope he can pick up 8 wins from somewhere.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu showed a surprising amount of strength on his left today, and that surprised me. He gave Mitakeumi a solid fight, and managed a well timed side step in the teeth of a Mitakeumi advance followed by a thrust between the shoulders for the win. 8 more to go, Takayasu. Its a long and ugly road you travel.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – Asanoyama got his left hand outside almost immediately, but Okinoumi is strong and accomplished yotsu rikishi. The chest to chest battle was intense if it was brief, and Asanoyama proved himself stronger. Short of injury, I don’t see how this guy is not destined for higher rank soon.

Endo defeats Goeido – Japan has a fever for Endo. The hype in the Kokugikan for Endo was dripping from the rafters and echoing from the walls. Their champion of the new year did not disappoint as he dispatched the winless Goeido with gusto to advance to 3-0.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho succeeded in standing the Ozeki up at the tachiai, but Takakeisho was ready, and went on the attack. Daieisho must have known his doom when Takakeisho broke contact and lunged into a double arm thrust. Daieisho stood up to 3 rounds of thrusts, but even stone would give way to Takakeisho once he lunges.

Hokutofuji defeats Kakuryu – Another kinboshi dropped today as Hokutofuji was able to land the a nodowa at the tachiai. Kakuryu could not capitalize on Hokutofuji being too far forward as the Yokozuna broke Hokutofuji’s neck-hold. Kakuryu pulled at Hokutofuji’s neck, but only fueled his own demise.

Myogiryu defeats Hakuho – The Boss goes down 2 straight days to rank and file opponents. This is a troubling sign, and I do not like where this leads. Hakuho was caught by surprise, too far forward and took committed to his armpit attack on Myogiryu. Better luck tomorrow, Boss.

42 thoughts on “Hatsu Day 3 Highlights

  1. It looked like Hakuho was looking past Myogiryu. I guess a 20-1 record will do that for you. Almost as if he is saving energy and focus for fights that are going to be tougher.

    • Hakuho’s left foot slipped back, sliding over the white line (shikirisen – I think it’s called). Too far back and vulnerable to tipping. Myogiryu sensed it instantly. Bam, like a reflex.

  2. Three days in and kyujo speculation is starting for both Yokozuna. Personally, I hope they are both capable of winning 10. It seems like the standard has become, be in the yusho race or don’t bother to show up…and I don’t think it needs to be that strict. I’d rather see two Yokozuna pick up 8 or 9 wins each than sit out 8-9 days, rinse during Jungyo, and repeat.

    • I suppose the counter to that is if a Yokozuna is performing so poorly, must there not be some underlying health issue? Obviously it doesn’t work like that in practice, as you may lose to emerging talent/future Yokozuna who simply deserved the wins, but there’s a logic there: a healthy Yokozuna is too good to lose, ergo one that is losing must be hurt and thus can go kyujo.

      • There’s an underlying health issue for everyone. I’m beginning to appreciate what they’re going through as my son runs my knees into the ground. A half-hour kicking the damn soccer ball and my shin wants to break in half.

  3. I feel bad for Ikioi these days. He reminds me of a professional baseball player who tears up the minor leagues, hits .340 and looks like Babe Ruth, but once he sees major league pitching again, he appears overmatched and overwhelmed. It must be very frustrating for him.

    • By now, even the Pope and his whole sectum know how to slap down Ikioi by the bales. I wonder if he will manage to 0-15 losing all the bouts in the exact same way.

  4. Daieisho took a neck shot and was wrong-footed by it; his disrupted balance gave Takakeisho an opening to apply two hands first to upper chest and then to center mass.

    Tsurugisho gets the moro-zashi, takes Kotoshogiku to the bales, and then just seems to stop fighting. Kotoshogiku bumps him across the ring and then gives him a dame-oshi off the dohyo. Why was Kotoshogiku het up enough for that? Maybe his blood was up due to the close escape. Or maybe — wait, let me put on this tinfoil hat — maybe he was annoyed that Tsurugisho started too strong and thereby made it too obvious. Look, I know that everything I saw admits an innocent explanation; I also feel certain that there’s a low level of yaocho still happening in matches that don’t have a lot (relatively speaking) riding on them and thus do not attract unusual scrutiny.

    • Well, none of us know and none of will ever know about such matters. If one is prone to cynicism, he will see things that make him feel that shenanigans are afoot throughout the sport. But once you begin to travel down that road, you can easily begin to question the outcome of every bout and the motives of every wrestler. Personally, I think it’s a bad path on venture upon.

      • I mostly resist the temptation. In my three years of sumo fandom there’s only been one really undeniable instance (not that people didn’t deny it anyway) and you have to watch it frame by frame to verify that the loser was not actually given any momentum by the winner’s arm-grab-that-whiffed and fell over on purpose.

      • a rugged and painful path indeed
        yet breaking down mukiryoku/yaocho is necessary for veteran viewers who are attracted to understand sumo more than superficially (a surprisingly small percentage)

        open discussion is nearly prohibited except for sumotalk
        generally unpleasant for all parties

        custom is a kind of doublespeak or dog-whistling, as we hear from some of the savvy english commentators-
        ‘ … and it looks like kaisei has no real defense today, as daieshomaru escorts him backward over the tawara … ‘

        we just have to keep in mind- (impossible as it seems) most fans literally don’t see it, don’t want to see it and more than anything do not want to hear about it
        so careful commentary requested in regard for majority preferences

        and yah, good example
        the ‘gik’ share has been as good as any and better than most with ‘luck’

        his indignance as you describe examples how over-the-top it is
        ‘how dare you lose so improperly to your senpai and former legitimate ozeki and even important and-not-faked yusho winner; take that, you naughty and unanointed inferior, away with you!’

        • Look, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape.
          You don’t spit into the wind.
          You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
          And you don’t go belly to belly with Kotoshogiku!

          He just put himself into Koto’s strong point. One slip of attention is all it takes.

          Good on ya, Koto!

    • Tsurugisho’s strong start was a sign of Kotoshogiku’s weakness. The former ozeki messed up Tsurugisho’s tachiai timing with those last-second pre-tachiai shoulder flexes. He caused Tsurugisho to flinch just when the younger man was ready to launch.

  5. Terutsuyoshi reminds me of Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. A darker outfit means a more focused and experienced person. Also, the darker colored mawashi suits him better in my opinion. His record reflects that too.

    Kotoshogiku used a mild dame-oshi at the end of his match in a “Do not underestimate me!” manner. Worth noting if we’re going to calling other rikishi on the carpet about that sort of thing.

    Enho continues to impress because, once again, he changes up his strategy after a defeat. More of this, please!

    I hope Takayasu brings the fire and focus he used today to the rest of his matches. That is how he will find success on the dohyo!

    Abi is definitely hurt and I’m wondering if he’ll go kyujo soon. Sad to see and I hope he recovers well and quickly.

    Endo and Hokotofuji are both on fire right now! Their match against each other is definitely something to look towards in anticipation!

    Takakeisho is finding his groove. He’s still not 100%, but he’s good enough right now to deal with everyone else and that’s what counts.

    Myogiryu is still underestimated and continues to quietly put together quality sumo and wins. I don’t know how much longer he can stay under the radar as the victories pile up against top ranked opponents, though.

    I unfortunately also have to start wondering how much longer Tochinoshin will continue to fight. He is doing better than last basho, but I think everyone, including him, knows his knee isn’t going to get better anytime soon. He’s still high enough on the banzuke to be in Makuuchi for the next basho, but if he continues with this poor form after that doesn’t look good at all.

    • Myogiryu is 33 and a san’yaku veteran—13 basho, including 8 at sekiwake. He can occasionally still summon that form.

      • When I started watching sumo again in 2014 Myogiryu looked like a potential Next Big Thing and was very popular. He was a late starter and has had a lot of time out with injury so he has fewer miles on the clock than most 33 year olds.

        • I was kinda struck today in the intro to the Mitakeumi vs. Takayasu bout to see that the “young up-and-comer” is 27 and the “grizzled veteran on the downslope of his career” is 29.

  6. For information, there is a youtube channel named Dato Tulashvili with complete makuuchi coverage. For now.

  7. You better get photos of Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Goeido while you can before they withdraw. Hakuho’s loss to Myogiryu is the type just not seen from him ever. Kakuryu is reverting back to bad habits to likely protect from further injury aggravation. And Goeido looks lost, and more importantly, like he’s not having fun and is ready to walk away. Endo and Hokutofuji look energized and ready to step into the oncoming void of top rankers. I know that the schedulers won’t do it, but I want to see Yokozuna vs. Ozeki and Sekiwake now while they’re still competing.

    • Imagine the look on Goeido’s customarily sunny countenance if you told him “you’re fighting Hakuho tomorrow because we know you aren’t going to make it into the second week and we need to put bums on cushions.”

      That’s “bums” in the English sense btw.

    • As a kadoban Ozeki, Goiedo is not withdrawing until he picks up his 8th loss (or, less likely, win), unless he’s absolutely physically unable to fight.

  8. Excellent write-up today: a great read.

    At least Hakuho’s loss today LOOKED like a Hakuho loss in that he was careless and overconfident, but I fear something is deeply wrong with the boss, either physically or mentally. I wouldn’t want to rule him (or Kakyuru) out at this stage but it’s almost 30 years since a yokozuna won a yusho from a 1-2 start.

    My boy Kagayaki has made a cracking start. I’m just hoping he doesn’t relapse into his bad habit of taking his foot off the gas when things are going well.

  9. Hakuho, noooooooooooooo! He must be injured more than usual.

    My only question is which yokozuna will blink first and go kyujo.

    Enho managed to redeem Miyagino beya today. What a fight.

    I root for Endo, but it looks to me like Endo didn’t win that bout so much as Goeido lost it. Still, could this be Endo’s tournament?

    • So sitting there in the corner of the Kokugikan at the edge of a crowd of lovely Australian folk, I myself screamed “Noooooo!” when Hakuho went down.

  10. There seemed to be two cupping circles on Enho’s right shoulderblade. I don’t recall seeing them in other rikishi, is that common?

  11. Real possibility of only one Ozeki in Haru,

    Endo has 3 excellent wins, but I can’t wait for him to face the likes of Asanoyama, Hokutofuji, Daeisho, Takakeisho, Shodai and Mitakeumi. Best one among these 7 has a good chance at the end, but Hakuho may win his next 12.

    Myogiryu – the great spoiler; he comes with the goods when its least expected

    Excellent tournament already, with no injuries so far.

    • The Endo interview after beating Hakuho made me laugh. “You made a funny face after beating the Big Boss. What did you mean by that?”

      “Who me? Why nothing at all. (whistles innocently, while looking off into space)”

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