I am delighted to say that the first two days of November have been a real treat to this sumo fan. Some times these basho start and everyone looks pretty fuzzy and not quite ready to compete. For the most part all of the rikishi are delivering quality sumo, and the matches have featured a lot of power, fighting spirit and vigor.
But I think a special mention today must go to Terunofuji. How humbling must it be to go from sumo’s second highest rank to as close to the bottom of the banzuke as anyone would ever care to fall? It takes a special kind of focus to say to yourself, “Nah, I can make it back.” and then do it. Today we got to see an example of his former self, from the days around his yusho, when he was unstoppable. I wish him good health and continued success. He is a marvel to watch fight when he is no his sumo.
Chiyoshoma defeats Akiseyama – Please, nobody be surprised that Chiyoshoma resorted to a henka – it’s what he does. It won’t be the last one he uses this tournament.
Shimanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu put all of his effort into Shimanoumi’s face, while Shimanoumi endured the pain and discomfort to focus center-mass. I can only guess that Chiyotairyu was looking for a quick slap down, but instead found himself without any defense. Shimanoumi improves to 2-0.
Chiyonokuni defeats Akua – Akua is off to a rough start. He charged straight into Chiyonokuni’s soft tachiai, extending his body to make chest to chest contact when Chiyonokuni was not as far forward as anticipated. This left Akua terribly off balance, and Chiyonokuni simply helped him continue the motion down to the clay. Chiyonokuni with a solid 2-0 start.
Kotonowaka defeats Ichinojo – I could see Ichinojo’s frustration as he switched from thrusting to pulling. Kotonowaka was ready for that, he drove forward and took Ichinojo out. 2-0 start for Kotonowaka, in a match that Ichinojo dominated early.
Hoshoryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama looked better today than he has in a while, but it was not enough to overcome an impressively patient Hoshoryu. I have to compliment Hoshoryu on his excellent foot placement, which gave him the stability to shut down Yutakayama’s initial offensive gambit. With Yutakayama stalemated at the center of the dohyo, Hoshoryu employed a leg trip to win the match. 2-0 start for Hoshoryu.
Kaisei defeats Enho – I cannot describe what Enho attempted – I saw references to the Kama Sutra on Twitter, and maybe that’s close enough. It failed in spectacular fashion, leaving Enho frustrated at his 0-2 start, and Kaisei puzzled and slightly anxious.
Ryuden defeats Sadanoumi – I had mused in the preview that these two might deliver quite the battle, and I have to say they did! It was chest to chest from the start, and neither man could find an advantage. With the mawashi battle continuing to swing back and forth, it was seasoned with tripping attempts, throw set ups and a final mutual launch over the edge of the dohyo.
Kotoeko defeats Meisei – Meisei had quite the energetic shove in the opening moments of the match, which sent Kotoeko back. But he rallied, got his right arm underneath Meisei and went to work. When Kotoeko is at this rank, and is feeling genki, he has some really great power sumo, which we got to see today. 2-0 start for Kotoeko.
Tokushoryu defeats Aoiyama – That may have been a revenge henka for September. But it was one of the slowest side steps I have ever seen, both with Tokushoryu move to the left, and Aoiyama’s blundering fowrard.
Endo defeats Terutsuyoshi – I think Terutsuyoshi has become too predictable. Endo seems well prepared and does not suffer Terutsuyoshi’s lateral attack, even for a moment. Endo starts November 2-0.
Takarafuji defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin put all of his effort into getting a left hand grip at the tachiai, but that was easy to anticipate. Takarafuji countered by circling away and worked into a double inside grip. With Tochinoshin’s bum knee, there was no chance for him to set his feet and unleash the sky-crane. Takarafuji starts 2-0.
Kotoshoho defeats Tamawashi – I had expected this match to heavily favor Tamawashi, but Kotoshoho was able to give a measure more than he received. For a brief moment, Tamawashi grabbed for Kotoshoho’s neck to attempt a pull / slap down. That was all of the opening that Kotoshoho needed to shift the balance of the match.
Hokutofuji defeats Tobizaru – You can almost smell Tobizaru’s frustration from here. He’s in a completely new league of opponents now, and he is just 15% below where he needs to be in order to win. I hope he does not get discouraged, because he does in fact have what it takes to be a part of this cohort. He just needs to elevate his sumo a little bit. I do admit that I liked Hokutofuji’s sumo today. He is the opposite of “efficient” sumo, but he sure can crank it up some days. A 2-0 start for Hokutofuji.
Okinoumi defeats Myogiryu – Wow, quite a lot of shoulder power on display today from Okinoumi. He left Myogiryu no route to get his hands placed, and by the time that Myogiryu realized it was not going to work, Okinoumi stepped him over the tawara. 2-0 start for Okinoumi.
Takayasu defeats Kagayaki – Takayasu works out his frustrations over his day 1 loss on Kagayaki, who does a masterful job setting up for a proper fight, but suddenly finds a giant, hairy monster roaring at him and heaving him out of the ring. A great way to tell if Takayasu is likely to win? Watch his feet. In his bad-form Ozeki days, he would lift his feet almost as high as his knees at times. This signals poor balance and over-exertion. Today? He’s Kisenosato style – the soles of his feet are never more than an inch or two above the clay. When that happens – its Takayasu’s match.
Daieisho defeats Mitakeumi – These two must have had a wave of embarrassment when they show up to the basho wearing the same outfit. What better way to resolve things than a total battle that leaves both rolling in the dirt? Daieisho was clearly the aggressor today, and his pull attempt seems to have just been enough to get Mitakeumi off balance for a loss.
Takanosho defeats Onosho – Onosho got one good combo in at the tachiai before Takanosho locked him up and escorted him to the bales. Hopefully that day 1 loss was enough to focus Takanosho and put him back in touch with his sumo.
Takakeisho defeats Wakatakakage – A valiant try by Wakatakakage, but he was up against Takakeisho’s double hand thrusts today. Takakeisho may have gotten his arms / shoulders back in good form, as he is using this thrusts better than he has in the better part of a year. Takakeisho starts 2-0, and Wakatakakage is still looking for his first win.
Shodai defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama put a lot of energy into his match against Shodai, but the shin-Ozeki stayed calm, focused and firmly planted on the clay. I have to wonder if Shodai is going to be able to keep this kind of sumo up, because it’s quite solid now. He starts November in the 2-0 club.
Terunofuji defeats Asanoyama – Terunofuji dominance over Asanoyama continues. This was a good match for Asanoyama, who frequently gets a strong hold on the mawashi in the first few seconds and takes a moment to set up an offense. Instead, he finds that Terunofuji has studied Asanoyama’s grip, lands a better grip first and hurls the Ozeki down. For fans who just picked up the wonderful sport of sumo, you just saw Ozeki Terunofuji. That’s what fighting him was like a few years ago. Bring your best sumo, but bring your humility, because he’s going to throw you around. Terunofuji joins the 2-0 club.