Note on images – yes, I am using images from the Sumo Kyokai’s twitter feed. Apologies to any who may be offended, but given the starkly barren visuals from this basho, none of the imagery from our now vast collection really work.
Am I glad sumo is back? Certainly! But I find the empty arena unsettling. If there were to be a sumo tournament held in conjunction with a funeral, it seems this would be the format, and that casts an omnipresent pall over what is normally a jubilant event. I would guess the rikishi feel it, too. Most unsettling to me? The dohyo-iri. The rikishi step onto the dohyo with no cheers, not shouts of encouragement, just the clack of the hyoushi-gi ringing like shots through the empty hall, the echoes emphasizing the vacancy.
But the show must go on, and go on it did.
Kotonowaka defeats Daiamami – Daiamami got the better of the tachiai, landing a left hand outside grip, but either could not hold it, or changed his mind. Kotonowaka proceeded to take him apart, advancing with strength for the force-out. Kotonowaka picks up his first top division win.
Shimanoumi defeats Meisei – Very balanced attack / defense form from both rikishi, with Meisei getting a marginally inside position at the tachiai. But Shimanoumi came back strong and stopped Meisei’s attack, and kept working to get advantage, and took the win.
Chiyomaru defeats Azumaryu – Chiyomaru continues his winning streak over Azumaryu, as Chiyomaru landed a nodowa at the tachiai, standing Azumaru up. From there Chiyomaru relentlessly focused on a center-mass thrusting attack for the win.
Tsurugisho defeats Nishikigi – Tsurugisho was high at the tachiai, but did manage to get morozashi on Nishikigi, who found Tsurugisho’s belly too round to set up his preferred double arm bar hold. Tsurugisho came to the dohyo with quite a good amount of tape today, including around his hips.
Aoiyama defeats Kaisei – The battle of the mega-fauna was over in a flash. Kaisei found himself turned to the side, and exited with one mighty shove from Aoiyama.
Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi came to the dohyo slightly less hurt than Kotoshogiku. Ikioi’s tachiai was fast and sharp, and he took a left hand inside grip, which Kotoshogiku could not manage. Just really no power left in Kotoshogiku’s knees at all, and he abandoned an attempt to pivot at the bales for a “rescue” throw.
Ishiura defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi came in fast at the tachiai, and a bit too far foward. After receiving the initial contact, Ishiura got a hand behind Terutsuyoshi’s head, and stepped to his left, escorting Terutsuyoshi ahead and out for the win.
Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – After a matta, Tochiozan’s timing was clearly off, and Chiyotairyu stood him up at the tachiai and immediately slapped him down.
Sadanoumi defeats Tochinoshin – I saw a lot more power transmitted to ground through that knee than I expected, so maybe Tochinoshin is not quite as poorly as I had though. But Sadanoumi made sure to keep him from planting his feet for any kind of grip or any attempt at a lift.
Takanosho defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama delivered a strong tachiai, but Kiribayama got him turned to the side, then turned around and pushed him out for the win. A bit of ring rust there.
Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – We expected there would be a lot of brawling in this match, and we got it. Tamawashi timed his opening gambit perfectly, and shut down Shohozan’s attempt to sieze the initiative. But the tachiai drew blood on Shohozan, and this really underscores the danger of this tournament. Sure rikishi bleed in practice and competition all the time. But against the backdrop of an empty venue, we see just how much risk the competitors can face of contracting any virus from a match.
Kagayaki defeats Takarafuji – As expected, both men showed excellent form. I marvel at Takarafuji some times, today he sensed that Kagayaki was just a bit too far forward, and played it for all he could take. It was nearly enough to send Kagayaki out, but he recovered and took a double inside grip, which Takarafuji could not overcome.
Onosho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had a strong start, after Onosho’s matta. But while Myogiryu focused on disrupting Onosho’s balance, Onosho was driving hard against center-mass, and landed a vice-like left hand grip. Myogiryu circled away, but his foot placement was poor and found himself driving forward, but not centered. Onosho read this and was able to fire off a shitatenage before Myogiryu could drive him out of the ring.
Ryuden defeats Abi – Abi completely dominated this match, batting Ryuden around more or less at will. But Ryuden focused on keeping upright and absorbing whatever Abi delivered. He found an opening when he was about to get off-center from Abi’s line of attack. Now too far forward, Ryuden slapped him down for a solid recovery.
Mitakeumi defeats Enho – Enho attempted a side-step and dive tachiai, but Mitakeumi was ready, trapping Enho and shutting down any chance the smaller man had to use speed and agility to his advantage. Great tactics from Mitakeumi today, and really impressive body control.
Yutakayama defeats Hokutofuji – Surprisingly even match, and even more surprisingly to me, Yutakayama was able to overpower Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji tends to go for a big opening gambit, where Yutakayama kept it simple, and took control of the inside position, thrusting against Hokutofuji’s chest.
Shodai defeats Tokushoryu – Ok, that was really very solid sumo from Shodai. If that guy mounts the dohyo for the next 14 days, he’s a contender. He gave Tokushoryu zero chance for that side-step thrust down that won matches for him at Hatsu.
Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – As anticipated, a protracted yotsu battle that showed that Asanoyama still has plenty of room to grow as a rikishi. Yes, he was able to pull out the win, but he gave Okinoumi opening after opening to blunt Asanoyama’s offense.
Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu went high, Takakeisho went center mass, and actually put a couple of tsuppari waves against Takayasu’s chest. When Takakeisho can get the wave-train going, it’s really tough to keep your feet. Thankfully, Takayasu looks a lot closer to healthy than he did in January. I saw power out of that left arm, but Takakeisho did a great job of making sure he could never get connect with his left.
Kakuryu defeats Daieisho – Great reactive sumo from Kakuryu, dare we hope he’s healthy this time? I mean it almost seems that Daieisho knows that Big K is going to find a weakness and take him apart. Look at that tachiai from Kakuryu, very nice form.
Hakuho defeats Endo – Less than what most were hoping for Endo clearly lost his balance and his footing after the tachiai (assisted by a Hakuho blow to the head), and Hakuho covered him like a Marine jumping on a grenade. Did I see Hakuho favoring that left food following the match? Ugh, let’s hope not.