Osaka Day 4 Highlights

The basho turned ugly today. And with the empty hall echoing the pained crys of a former champion, the brutal nature of sumo was on full display – video and audio. If you are a highly empathetic person, you may want to be careful watching today’s video on YouTube. I have no idea if NHK World will edit that down, or not. I am forced to remind myself that sumo is a Japanese sport made by Japanese people for Japanese people living in Japan. So my western perspective is not the mainstream. But I have to wonder if this kind of spectacle is ok in Japanese culture. I am aware from the time I lived in Japan that what constitutes cruel or gratuitous is profoundly different between Japan and the Anglosphere. But I have a hunch that today’s final match may have crossed a line.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Meisei – Meisei had the better position at the tachiai, but looks to have rushed ahead at Azumaryu after the two broke contact. This set him up for an easy hatakikomi, and an Azumaryu win. Meisei really struggling now at 1-3 to start Haru.

Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – Nice versatility from Kotonowaka today, but we should keep in mind that Tsurugisho’s left side is mostly held together with tape and courage. After a good tachiai, Tsurugisho let Kotonowaka change his grip, and really take over the match.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru was totally dedicated to pulling Shimanoumi down, to the point of throwing this match out the window. Shimanoumi’s no slouch, and this kind of sumo, coming from Chiyomaru, is easy to predict. Chiyomaru picks up his first loss.

Kaisei defeats Daiamami – Kaisei picks up his first win, and breaks out of the quarantine club. Most times in sumo, being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy. But Kaisei makes amble use of his enormity today to leave Daiamami no option beside a hasty retreat.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Not sure what happened to Aoiyama, but he will get a couple of basho per year where he looks like an unstoppable sumo machine. He completely dominated Nishikigi today, and my sole worry was that both of them had set up arm-breaker holds on the other. Nishikigi remains winless as Aoiyama has yet to lose a match.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – I have to say, there are days (like today) where Ishiura’s slightly bulkier frame and higher strength allows him to do small man sumo better than Enho. We are only 4 days into this basho, but I am really impressed with Ishiura’s sumo right now. He threw blisteringly fast combo attacks at Chiyotairyu, who had no chance to even respond. Sadly it looks like Chiyotairyu may have been injured in the match. The giant wheelchair makes its first appearance.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ah, poor Kotoshogiku cannot generate much forward pressure at all any more against those knees. Terutsuyoshi kept Kotoshogiku from really pushing forward in any meaningful way, although Kotoshogiku’s defensive foot placement was excellent. Terutsuyoshi’s make-kai was the key to this win, and it left the former Ozeki struggling to respond.

Ikioi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan remains in the winless self-isolation group, and I can only assume that some injury has completely robbed him of his sumo. Today’s effort was an attempt to pull Ikioi, who was quite prepare for it. Ikioi starts March with a solid 3-1 score.

Takanosho defeats Tochinoshin – Also solidly in the “injured veteran” cohort is dear former Ozeki Tochinoshin, who is visibly struggling with that right knee. Takanosho improves to 4-0 with solid, straight ahead sumo.

Kiribayama defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi had the early advantage, but Kiribayama hit a very well timed shitatenage at the bales to rescue the win. Sadly, Sadanoumi, who is fighting well, drops to 1-3 now, and really needs to peel off a few more wins in the first week.

Takarafuji defeats Tamawashi – Once again Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo pays off. Tamawashi had a solid armpit attack running, but rather than try to fight to break Tamawashi’s grip, Takarafuji decided to work with it, and put all of his focus on keeping Tamawashi turning to his right, and moving forward in reaction to Takarafuji’s retreat. It was a struggle, but Takarafuji got his opening when Tamawashi missed a step, and down to the clay he went. This match is a great example of the form, worth study.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Shohozan went for a deep right hand mawashi grip at the tachiai, but missed. He was able to convert it to an inside position, and began to put the pressure on Kagayaki. But look at Kagayaki’s foot placement. His feet are wide and at a 45° angle, his hips are low and he’s ready to repulse the attack. Kagayaki engages forward engines and just pushes ahead for a win. Mr Fundamentals strikes again.

Onosho defeats Ryuden – I know Ryuden was working to stay mobile, and to encourage Onosho to over-extend, and fall on his face. But Ryuden let himself get bracketed by Onosho’s oshi attack, and provided an effective balance point / counter weight for Onosho’s forward rush. Onosho improves to 3-1.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu just cant seem to make it out of the quarantine group, as he succumbs to an enormous load of Abi-zumo applied to his face. Remember to wash your hands, gents, at least 20 seconds, after any match with Abi.

Mitakeumi defeats Yutakayama – This match just showcased how well Mitakeumi is fighting week 1 this March. I point out week 1 because sometimes the “Original Tadpole” fades into week 2, so lets savor his excellent, heavy sumo while it lasts. Freeze frame on that tachiai if you can. Both rikishi are in excellent form. But Mitakeumi was just a half step ahead, and Yutatakayma ended up with poor foot placement. Unable to generate enough forward pressure against Mitakeumi, he was forced out.

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – We still love Tokushoryu, but he is completely outclassed at this rank. We did see another of his rescue moves at the tawara, but like the prior 3 days, it was fruitless.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – As much as I like Asanoyama, he operates in a fairly narrow range of sumo outcomes. The reason why we are talking about his as an ozeki is he is very good at that narrow range, and he is an expert at guiding a match into that narrow range where he excels. Today’s match against Hokutofuji is a first class example. Hokutofuji will look to pin his opponent with a nodowa and call the cadence for the match. His right hand failed to find its mark, and suddenly its in Asanoyama’s power range. To his credit Hokutofuji realizes this within the first 3 seconds, but his go-to move, a pull on the back of the neck, only gives further advantage to Asanoyama. Now off balance and far too high, Hokutofuji is an easy mark for Asanoyama’s sukuinage.

Shodai defeats Enho – Shodai has an excellent recipe for shutting down Enho’s sumo, and turning him into a light weight practice target. That slow, high tachiai that Shodai seems to execute instinctively is actually an excellent first line of defense against Enho, as it leaves Shodai with an easy reach to grab a deep grip on Enho’s mawashi. From there its Shodai who drops his hips, widens his stance and shuts down any chance Enho might have had to convert to a throw.

Daieisho defeats Takakeisho – Daieisho escapes the quarantine group by capitalizing on Takakeisho’s blunder of trying to pull Daieisho down moments into the fight. This move by Takakeisho was so monumentally bad, that its worth watching in slow motion on replay. With any luck we won’t see that one again this basho.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi is a high-skill yotsu-zumo practicioner. Hakuho took his time and worked his way to get that left hand outside grip. Once he had a handful of black silk, it was a fast route to a win. The Boss remains at 4-0, and looked more solid today than the prior two.

Kakuryu defeats Takayasu – It was clear that Takayasu was in trouble early in this match. He put himself in a bad position with Kakuryu controlling Takayasu’s body quite effectively. But the former Ozeki’s mass and strength left the match stalemated for a time. As sometimes happen when two high-strength rikishi grapple, they loaded simultaneous throws. When this happens, it is a battle over power and body control to see who throws whom. Today, sadly, it was resolved not when Takayasu’s mighty strength overwhelmed the Yokozuna, or when Kakuryu’s superior body mechanics overcame Takayasu’s power, but when Takayasu’s knee bent outward, and the 175kg Tagonoura lead rikishi hit the clay, moaning in pain.

33 thoughts on “Osaka Day 4 Highlights

  1. Does anyone know what the Japanese newspapers/press/letters-to-the-editor (if they still have such forums) are saying about the appalling lack of top quality, appropriate on-site medical equipment/staff? I didn’t see how they managed to get Takayasu down off the ring (it switched to an interview of Daieisho and I turned it off) but the last I saw he was being forced to stand up on his own with support from one of his underlings. I cringe at the thought of watching him try to navigate off of the dohyo.

    I’ll write another post on the day’s sumo itself.

  2. The Japan Sumo Association has a lot to answer for and watching the astonishing lack of medical response to Takayasu’s (and don’t forget Chiyotairyu) injury has left me feeling disgusted at that organisation.

    • What do you propose they do? They have to remove him from the dohyo for the event to continue. They can’t carry him on a stretcher since he’s so big and because of the dohyo’s elevation. They didn;t move him right away, which was the right thing to do, and they eventually helped him off the dohy. I’m pretty sure he got first aid behind the scenes, just like members of the audience who sit in the front row get free first aid when a wrestler falls on them. If you need advanced medical attention however you need to go to the emergency room. This information is clearly expressed when you buy a ticket. Anyway, as bad as I feel for Takayasu, I’m happy that Kakuryu finally put a stop to his string of defeats against him. It had started to come off as bullying. Some Yokozuna dignity restored.

      • Braces, ice packs, specially designed stretchers and medivans, to say nothing of even having a person ringside to coordinate all of this might, be a good start…

      • A young boy in Jonidan got injured as well today. Nobody saw that in prime time. He was left in the empty seats. Only the old wakamonogashira next to him, urging him to get up. He couldn’t. He was writhing in pain. Nobody was coming for him. Not the big chair, nothing. And I assure you he weighed a lot less than Takayasu. It’s not really that much of a problem. There are other sports in which guys weighing over 100kg and whose size is not standard (basketball, heavy weights in all sorts of combat sports and weight lifting). The mechanics are not a problem. It’s entirely a matter of attitude.

  3. Endo vs Tokushoryu: Tokushoryu seems to be executing well but just not winning. If that makes any sense. Endo just is better.

    Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji: I always have torn feelings when I like both rikishi. But Asanoyama is my main guy so I’m happy with the results. I do think Asanoyama made an early mistake but he’s been able to quickly adjust…and win. I can smell the Ozeki aura already!

    Shodai knows how to dominate Enho. No question.

    Man, did Daieisho look good. A powerhouse.

    Okinoumi looked too high, too upright, right from the get-go. I was surprised it took as long as it did for Hakuho to win.

    Kakuryu and Takayasu both fought well, a real battle.

  4. Two injuries today. That sucks!

    Takayasu gave the fiercest demonstration of pain I’ve seen in Sumo. Not that I’ve seen it all, but I did see Ura and Kisenosato go down, and they weren’t exactly sanguine about it. The way Kakuryu took the envelopes and walked away seemed cold.

    I think Bruce may overreact in the sense that presumably K didn’t go into the match hoping to injure Takayasu. It was just a fight gone terribly wrong, as could happen in any contact sport. It’s not like Sumo fans live for moments like these.

    I think Kakuryu would have hung around, except the gyoji urged him to take the cash and leave. Cold! Now I’d hope at the very least, a couple of the big, strong rikishi would help lift Takayasu into the big wheelchair. It’s puzzling seeing that left to the yobidashi. I mean, the Kokugikan is crawling with big, burly men…

    • I don’t agree with your criticism of Kakuryu. You say yourself you think he would have hung around but was shooed off by the gyoji. So why go on to call him cold? On the contrary, he looked deeply concerned. And what we want is adequate sports medical attention, not other rikishi lifting people up and possibly making injuries worse.

      • I agree with you regarding Kakuryu’s very evident concern for Takayasu and medical equipment. Something custom-made for the narrow corridor, huge bodies, heavy weight and the elevated height of the dohyo. What are they going to do if there’s a spinal injury etc.? When a body shouldn’t be moved without professional care and perhaps should remain prone?

      • I agree with redfearn. Kakuryu was obviously concerned; I find it very strange that he should be perceived as cold.

      • My impression of Kakuryu is that he always lends a hand to the guy on the ground and seems a decent sort. I have a hard time picturing him as cold. I haven not seen it as yet though.

  5. Bruce, you wrote: “But I have to wonder if this kind of spectacle is ok in Japanese culture.” I’m not sure what you mean. What kind of spectacle? I’m old enough to recall seeing Pete Rose ruin Ray Fosse in an All Star Game, Joe Theisman have his knee hideously wrecked on a clean play, Bo Jackson have his hip destroyed by a routine tackle, and countless basketball players severely damage knees and ankles by landing on another player’s foot. In hard-fought sports, these gruesome injuries aren’t unusual. And yet I continue to watch baseball, football, and basketball. And I’ll continue to watch sumo after these very unfortunate injuries to Chiyotairyu and Takayasu. By the way, I thought that Takayasu likely suffered a torn hamstring or, worst case, hip dislocation.

      • That kind of stuff might be visually reassuring, but it would not have made much difference for either Chiyotairyu or Takayasu. More troubling to me is that Tsurugisho is permitted to fight on that obviously injured knee.

        • Would probably make it somewhat less painful. Though perhaps it’s not a concern for the modern day samurai.

        • It’s more than being a matter of being visually reassuring. It’s what is needed to properly care for an injured athlete. I can’t even think of another sport that doesn’t have this aspect (injuries) covered. Having a rickety wheelchair that dates from the mid-Showa era doesn’t exactly cut the mustard.

        • It makes plenty of difference. Fundamental sports science, first aid and rehabilitation. The earlier you can get ice packs on, braces etc the better the chances for decent recovery and rehabilitation. It’s not even rocket-science anymore.

        • I agree about Takayasu. No amount of qualified medical professionals ringside could fix his leg after that knee gave out. Whether he was lifted by the belt and assisted to the wheelchair, or airlifted to a custom stretcher under medical supervision, his knee is still busted and his intai still imminent. I think some people can’t accept that some injury is not preventable in osumo, and that, even with the best care and a proper recovery, regaining full strength, speed, and range of motion is an unlikely proposition. When two men pushing the limits of human strength and size meet on the clay in a contest of power it is inevitable that one’s fighting spirit occasionally drives one beyond one’s physical limitations.

          • I’m sorry but you may have missed the point here.

            Injury management isn’t limited to returning to peak performance or even returning to competition. It’s about actually ‘managing the injury’. In 2020, you simply do not do nothing for minutes on end while a person is writhing in agony after breaking bones, or tearing ligaments, tendons and muscles.

            Again, this is not rocket-science but basic first aid and medical care. To have nobody ringside to deal with these issues is shockingly irresponsible and the Japan Sumo Association needs to do better for its athletes and the sport.

            • I don’t disagree that injuries could and should be handled better. Neverthless, I stand by my statement, concurring with lushi888, that such medical attendants would likely not have made a difference regarding Takayasu’s prospects. And I suppose I was also contending that more adequate injury management would not eliminate the occurence of injuries like this. An element of danger is inherent to sumo and, in some respects, unavoidable. I agree there is a lot of room for improvement respecting sports medicine in the NSK. And it would no doubt increase rikishi longevity and benefit the organization in the long term. But the goal cannot be an attempt to remove injury from sumo altogether, only to better manage what does happen. Once people get to saying things like: lower the dohyo, move the spectators and shimpan back, put mats on the ground, add weight classes, etc., in the name of reducing injuries, then we have lost touch with what sumo is.

              • Sorry nomino but the discussion was never about removing injuries from sumo or lowering the dohyo or anything like that. It’s simply about injury management and the non-existent management surrounding Takayasu’s injury was simply appalling by modern standards.

  6. Takayasu has always been for me the beau ideal of the sumo wrestler. Huge, powerful, stoic, dignified, skilful, courageous; gracious in defeat, magnanimous in victory. To see him face down on the clay, unable to move and screaming in pain was one of the most disturbing and upsetting things I’ve ever seen in sumo.

  7. I am having an emotional reaction to all this, but would it be lame or inappropriate to send him a card to wish him well? If not, how would this be done?

  8. I thought today’s was Hakuho’s most decent match for a long, long, time. For one, he started with neither a kachiage nor a harite. He got a proper migi-sashi. And then it was a matter of Okinoumi bending his body to prevent Hakuho from getting an outside grip, and Hakuho twisting to try to overcome that on the one hand, and prevent a makikae on the other hand. He managed to manipulate Okinoumi into thinking he lost his stamina, going forward, and then he closed the gap to the mawashi and still had enough realestate for that throw. Good sumo on his 35th birthday.

    As for Kakuryu/Takayasu, ignoring the horrible outcome, the broadcaster at NHK saw that as Kakuryu being in trouble most of the match.

    I was actually happy to see Daieisho winning today. I got the feeling that since he and Takakeisho are such best buddies, he might be less inclined to win their matches. After all, it’s no shame to lose to an Ozeki. And I didn’t like that too much, because on the one hand I want Takakeisho to have a best buddy he can relax around, but on the other hand, I want sumo to be straight on and competitive. So I was kind of happy to see that Daieisho can leave the relationship off the dohyo for a change.

  9. I was really devastated yesterday after seeing Takayasu in such pain. He is my long time favorite carrying on the torch from Kisenosato. I felt that this was the first bout this basho, were he was fighting really well. Even if he ost in the end, he was giving Kakuryu a really hard time and Kakuryu has been fighting well this basho. I honestly don’t remember much of the other bouts.
    It’s only day 4, but it already seems clear that Takakeisho won’t start a Yokozuna run (and actually doesn’t look like he could in the near future either) and Hokutofuji probably won’t make any progress towards ozeki. Looks like one of those tournaments for him, were he puts up a valiant effort in any match, but comes up short very often. I don’t see him hitting double digits, but he should be able to efend his rank.
    Asanoyama and Mitakeumi look really strong. Same can’t be said about Hakuho, but he is winning. If I had to pick a Yokozuna to take the basho, it would be Kakuryu though. He had this lapse in judgement, but otherwise he looks good. Hakuho wins, but seems only at 80%.
    Fingers crossed for Takayasu.


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