Do you speak Shodai ?

There’s obviously been a lot of talks about Shodai’s well deserved promotion to sumo’s second highest rank. Why not taking profit of the occasion to take time rediscovering the shin-ozeki ?

Let’s see whether what one might believe is true or not.

1. Shodai entered the banzuke as a makushita tsukedashi.

False. Shodai has been given the opportunity to enter the banzuke avoiding mae zumo, but wished to finish his university graduation. He became a university yokozuna, but failed to attain the amateur yokozuna rank, after a defeat against Endo. By that time, the opportunity to benefit from the makushita tsukedashi system had vanished.

2. He rose quickly through the lower divisions.

Absolutely. Before reaching a then career best maegashira 2, Shodai hadn’t suffered a single make koshi !

3. He was touted as the next big thing and has a bright future ahead of him.

Shodai has surely brought a lot of hope to his fans, after his makuuchi debut in January 2016. Though, he’ll turn 29 next month. True, it’s not that old. However, both other ozeki are quite younger : Asanoyama is 26, Takakeisho is only 24.

4. Shodai seems to have lost his way at some point.

It’s true, isn’t it ? Shodai reached the rank of sekiwake in January 2017, after just six basho in makuuchi, and without having been a komusubi before. For a san’yaku debut, Shodai fared reasonably well with a tight 7-8 make koshi – having beaten Kotoshogiku and Terunofuji, both then ozeki, in the process.

As cool as you can be: Shodai Naoya

The following basho, ranked komusubi, was disastrous, as Shodai managed to grab just four wins.

From there, Shodai spent seventeen straight tournaments down the maegashira ranks – from May 2017 to January 2020. He collected double digit wins twice (both times 10-5), and had another terrible basho, a 3-12 just one year ago ! From there, his sumo improved drastically : 11-4, 13-2, 8-7, 11-4 and 13-2.

5. He is known to be a giant-killer.

False. Shodai has earned just one kinboshi, during that long seventeen basho spent in a row down the maegashira ranks. He got that gold star against former yokozuna Harumafuji, in July of 2017.

His record against Hakuho isn’t so bad : three wins, including a fusensho and no kinboshi involved, and nine defeats.

Overall, Shodai has however struggled against the yokozuna: 1-7 against Kisenosato – he defeated him just once, before Kisenosato’s yokozuna promotion ; 1-6 against Harumafuji, and 0-13 against Kakuryu !

He fared sensibly better against the numerous ozeki he has faced – many of them, though, were far from their best physical condition. Indeed, if he struggled against Goeido (5-13), and trails against Takayasu (4-6), he has a positive balance against Tochinoshin (4-2, one fusen win), Terunofuji (5-4, two fusen win !), and holds 1-2 records against both Kotoshogiku and Asanoyama. All numbers exclude results obtained when his opponents had lost their ozeki rank.

And finally, Shodai is incredibly undefeated against ozeki Takakeisho (3-0) !

6. He’s known for his incredibly slow tachi-ai’s

Of course he is ! It looks like he’s getting blown away at every start, but he eventually absorbs his opponent’s collision, and just produces his sumo. Much to my delight, he’s a yotsu wrestler, by the way.

7. He’ll be the next yokozuna.

Good question. Time will tell…

4 thoughts on “Do you speak Shodai ?

  1. In his yusho basho he reminded me a bit of Goeido, finishing his bouts quickly with strong, relentless forward movement.
    He is not the most technical but well-rounded and very strong. Yutakayama said it in an interview that he is astonished of Shodai’s strength.
    He can be a great ozeki for years to come or maybe even aim higher. I wish him the best of luck.

  2. I don’t want to jinx him, but one of his greatest strengths is that he doesn’t get injured. It could be down to good training, genetic luck or a careful style but whatever the reason, it’s a great asset.

    Shodai has the face and demeanour of a well-fed tiger: he isn’t going to go madly aggressive on you, but he will bite your head off if you get careless.

    • Yes, at the moment I’d be happy with an Ozeki that is consistent and doesn’t get injured. The corps of former Ozeki is full of “oh, what could have been if they hadn’t gotten injured.” I’m thinking of Takayasu, Terunofuji and Tochinoshin here. We’ll see with Takakeisho. He looked good last basho but I’m always worried because of his injury-prone past. I suppose durability is a main difference between Ozeki who became Yokozuna and those who didn’t. If the likes of Goeido and Tochiazuma (from what I hear) had stayed healthier they could have been wearing the rope.


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