Matsumoto Kota, New Shikoroyama Recruit, to Join Stable at Harubasho

Shikoroyama-oyakata welcomed Matsumoto Kota, a 3rd-year middle school student to his heya.

He comes over to the stable with the six years of judo experience he’s gathered since he was a third grader in elementary school. As Herouth noted, Shikoroyama wants to ingrain oshi-style skills in his young recruit to avoid injury. A versatile toolset is very important and we wish young Matsumoto well and look forward to covering his maezumo debut alongside the Ukrainian Sergey Sokolovksy.

This Twitter thread highlighted a very interesting point about whether throws and a throw-heavy style (perhaps like Enho’s?) leads to injury any more so than an oshi-style. I was also very interested in the fact that this youngster has elected to skip high school in favor of entering the sumo world. The article mentioned his father’s support and reminded me of the story of my great-grandfather, whose father told him one day that he needed to leave school (at 14) and take a job as a clerk in the local bank.

It’s obviously a big step and a big commitment from such a young kid but he will likely have more of a safety net in “The Heya Life” than what was available to my ancestor. Sumo seems to be a viable lifestyle for young Japanese boys who are not interested in going to join the corporate world and really makes me wonder if such options could be developed in the US, and obviously available to boys and girls.

18 thoughts on “Matsumoto Kota, New Shikoroyama Recruit, to Join Stable at Harubasho

  1. I remember John Gunning on air commenting on this. His view (I’m paraphrasing here, with unreliable memory) was that yotsu-zumo was more injury prone. A lot more hard falls on each other’s arms and legs is a big factor.

  2. If you think about some top wrestlers who’ve had catastrophic injuries, Tochinoshin, Osunaarashi, Ura, Terunofuji, they were all yotsu guys. Yotsu matches tend to be longer, leading to more sustained stress on the body and there is more twisting and bending of limbs involved.

  3. There’s also a question of weight. No matter how muscular you are, each kilo you add will eventually be detrimental to your lower leg articulations, especially your knees. Yotsu style usually means heavier rikishi.

  4. Whilst Enho could well be described as a yotsu guy, he is not engaging in many chest-to-chest battles of strength or endangering his knees and joints by trying to lift opponents up and out. I guess the danger for him is more that he will get crushed one day or injure himself by trying to change direction too quickly/radically.
    More generally i guess there is a distinction between yotsu practioners for whom a yori-kiri force out is their bread and butter, compared with those who are mostly thinking about a throw. Endo is certainly a yotsu guy, but i feel he is generally thinking about a throw rather than a force-out. Not sure which approach might tend to be more injury-prone….

    • I will remark tangentially that while Enho’s throws are beautiful, some of my favorite Enho victories are the ones where his opponents focus on defending against throws and thereby become vulnerable to yori-kiri; I love to see Enho win with the force out.

  5. To your final point – the UK and Europe obviously also has the academy system in football which brings players through from a very young age. It’s obviously very boom and bust and if players don’t get given a professional contract at the end of their progression through the academy, it can leave them in a tough spot regarding career options and without always having the necessary skills to work out where to go next. In Japan there is obviously a surplus of work but I can see the US struggling to pull off a similar “academy” system for its major sports.

    One can probably make the argument that the major sports leagues are happy to have the NCAA in place so that they don’t have to spend money developing youngsters, since they are notoriously thrifty as it comes to spending on players outside the major leagues (baseball especially).

    • Options for those going into professional sports are hugely limited. How many spots are open in Japanese sumo? How many will ever be? It’s absolutely not a “viable lifestyle for Japanese boys,” anymore than becoming a pro football player, the odds being astronomically low that one will make it happen. Sure, go for it if ya feel it, but it certainly is not a thing to suggest to countless youth looking for advice on their future. And one can always wait until after high school to join or even go to a sumo university. Trade schools abound in Europe and are becoming an option in America, btw.

      • One word: Hattorizakura. It’s not a tryout thing for Japanese boys like it is for foreign kids. If a boy wants to be a wrestler (yobidashi or gyoji), he can join a stable. He doesn’t have to be the next Hakuho.

        • But somebody like Hattorizakura might well get rejected by every stable not named Shikihide-beya. They don’t have much in the way of standards anymore with today’s recruiting numbers, but I wouldn’t suggest that they have none at all.

          • I wouldn’t suggest it, either because the burnout rate would be nuts. Obviously age is one, or 40 year old me would join in a heartbeat.

  6. Hmmmm…oshi or yotsu? Will choosing a particular fighting style help a young, developing rikishi in injury prevention? GOOD question. As noted, choosing a prefer style of sumo, along with physiology, conditioning and talent, can all be factors in serious injury prevention…and I’m going as far to say to sprinkle in a bit of LUCK for good measure. Can’t hurt, right?

    It can’t be an easy decision. The young rikishi who knows his body and who has his idea on how he’s wants to fight, and then the oyakata is going to have his idea of how his young charge SHOULD fight. But perhaps we all agree that there has been an abundance of physically ailing sumotori…and does fighting a certain way, in the end, really matter? Hmmmm…to throw or not? As Bruce says often it is a brutal sport.

    And let me piggy-back off of Andy last paragraph: could we (here in the States) developed a sumo (heya?) system for young boys and girls to be a viable lifestyle? I find the idea FASCINATING, and I have thought about this quite often. To develop a strong roots sumo training system would be incredible. Discipline, flexibility, strength conditioning, & camaraderie are all good aspects that sumo teaches. A good dream, eh?

  7. I’ve been a big sumo fan for many years, but I could not suppress a feeling of sadness when reading about a young man who is about to skip high school to join the heya life. I spent some time in Japan, and I know that there are tremendous opportunities for young people who have some talent and drive. This youngster surely has both. Despite my love for the sport, my advice to him would be: do something else, kid.

    • This is the thing. I had to sit in a high school classroom, same as you…then apply for college, because that’s what was expected. I had no clue what the world was like or what I would need to live on my own in it. I’d have jumped at a chance like this.

      • I hear you. And I agree that most of us bumble blindly through the first part of our lives (in my case, all the way through grad school). Then we lift our heads up and look seriously at the road ahead. All I’m saying is that if someone was to try to change that by sitting the young man down and going through the options and their implications, well, then that person would do well by steering the youth elsewhere. But it hardly ever happens to anyone. In any case, I wish the young lad well.

    • You do know that joining ozumo out of middle school at 15 years old was still by far the most common way to do it as little as 20 years ago, right? Even now it’s not particularly rare; of last year’s 70 rookies, 27 were 15/16 years old.

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