A flurry of make-koshi and kachi-koshi decisions today, as we grind our way into the final weekend of the Hatsu basho. Was it just me, or did we see a lot of rikishi revert to their best sumo form today? Maybe they are now, almost 2 weeks in, hitting their stride.
I spent some time wondering what a post COVID sumo world might be like. So many elements are long gone now. Jungyo, senshuraku heya parties, heya trips to onsen and the like. Can you imagine going from the cloistered, sequestered mode all of the athletes are in today, back to the way sumo worked in 2019? That day is coming, and I think it’s going to usher in a golden age of sumo in Japan.
There is talk today in the press that Japan may be forced to cancel their summer olympic games entirely. This would be a massive blow to Japan, after they have focused for years getting ready. It would also remove a career goal for Yokozuna Hakuho’s reasons for remaining active in the sport. It’s worth considering, but another one is what his COVID-19 infection has done to his body. While thus far it seems I have been spared the ravages of the pandemic, my friends who contracted it tell me they continue to feel diminished. A lot of it seems to do with problems keeping their blood oxygen levels up. For an athlete like Hakuho, it would be an enormous impediment. We should know by March, and we all hope we can see “The Boss” dominate the dohyo at least one more time before his years to come as an oyakata.
Akiseyama defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama was too eager moving forward following the tachiai, setting up an Akiseyama tsukiotoshi. As Yutakayama tumbles off the West side of the dohyo, Akiseyama is kachi-koshi.
Ichinojo defeats Sadanoumi – Today Ichinojo went back to being patient, strong and huge. A winning combo against most opponents. In doing that he completely robbed Sadanoumi of his sumo, and sent him to make-koshi. Ichinojo advances to 9-4.
Kotonowaka defeats Aoiyama – Points to Aoiyama who looked to put all he could muster into today’s sumo. For a majority of the match, Aoiyama was in control and fighting well. His drive to send Kotonowaka out ended with Kotonowaka slapping him down at the bales, giving Aoiyama his 8th loss, and he is make-koshi for January. Kotonowaka advances to 9-4.
Hoshoryu defeats Shimanoumi – Another fine “kitchen sink” match, where both contestants threw most known forms of sumo at each other. The match changed form a couple of times, and finished with a splendid Hoshoryu leg trip that took 4 attempts to work. That’s his 8th win after starting the basho with 5 consecutive losses; kachi-koshi for January.
Midorifuji defeats Myogiryu – Midorifuji shifted to the side at the tachiai, and Myogiryu covered his move and pressed the attack. With Myogiryu pushing him to the bales, Midorifuji got his hands around Myogiryu’s chest, rotated and put him on the clay. Kachi-koshi for Midorifuji in his top division debut.
Kiribayama defeats Terutsuyoshi – Injured Terutsuyoshi picks up his 8th loss, and is make-koshi for Hatsu. Someone thought there may have been a Kiribayama in Terutsuyoshi hair, so in come the Shimpan to take a look. It was ruled a clean hatakikomi, and Kiribayama advances to 7-6.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotoeko – Impressive that Tochinoshin was able to shut down Kotoeko’s offense and dictate the match form. With his right hand inside, Tochinoshin only had half of his favorite grip but went to work anyhow. Kotoeko flopped and flipped trying to break Tochinoshin’s grip, to no avail. Tochinoshin improves to 4-9.
Onosho defeats Meisei – Onosho kept his balance tighter than day 12, and kept Meisei centered to improve to 8-5 and reach kachi-koshi. When Onosho is able to execute that form, he’s tough to stop.
Akua defeats Kotoshoho – I watch this match and wonder. These two have a grand total of 5 wins between them, and 21 losses. The wins they gave up between them probably made half a dozen rikishi kachi-koshi, and here they are to see who is the least banged up and damaged of the two. The answer is Akua, but not by much.
Takarafuji defeats Tobizaru – I really enjoyed this match. Tobizaru pushes for all he is worth, and Takarafuji just keeps deflecting Tobizaru’s power away. Tobizaru starts to get tired, and they have some kind of odd hand contest. In desperation, Tobizaru tries to attack Takarafuji’s… neck? Seriously sir? As the second tick by, you can just see Tobizaru getting tired. Takarafuji? he can and will do this all day. I am quite impressed by just how much energy Tobizaru can muster. He must excel at butsugari. Completely spent, Tobizaru gets tossed out by Takarafuji for kachi-koshi as Takarafuji advances to 8-5.
Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Daieisho completely overpowers Ryuden. 11-2, maintains his share of the lead. Ryuden drops to 4-9.
Hokutofuji defeats Tokushoryu – that’s 3 wins in a row for Hokutofuji, who seems to have re-connected with his sumo once he hit the safety of make-koshi. That early Hokutofuji right hand to the shoulder is an indication that he’s running “his brand of sumo”. He improves to 5-8.
Mitakeumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki has gotten some fetish about attacking people’s faces and necks. Today he tries it against Mitakeumi, leaving his chest wide open. Mitakeumi responds “Don’t mind if I do!” and puts the pressure in. I counted 4 steps to the tawara and make-koshi for Mr. Fundamentals, with a matching kachi-koshi for the Mitakeumi. The Original Tadpole looked shaky in week 1, but managed to regroup in week 2. But with all of the san’yaku (save Takanosho) kachi-koshi, there is no chance for any of them to move up.
Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Readers know I am not a big fan of Takayasu’s oshi-zumo, but he gets points for focusing center mass today. Tamawashi looked to me to be trying to set up a pull down with his face / neck attacks, and it went nowhere. Takayasu kachi-koshi today at 8-5, Tamawashi make-koshi at 5-8. He gets Daieisho on day 14.
Terunofuji defeats Endo – Endo can’t get any kind of body position to start his offense, and yet again Terunofuji stays solid, stays strong and waits for his opportunity. What a contrast from “generation 1” Terunofuji who would have resorted to a pulling attempt. He improves to 9-4, and that Ozeki bid is still very much alive for March.
Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – Asanoyama, you puss bucket, where was that sumo on day 12? When Asanoyama can get the stance and grip he wants, this is what happens. The guy needs a solid plan B and C, and he’s a Yokozuna. He improves to 9-4.
Shodai defeats Takanosho – Shodai almost put his yusho bid squarely in the dumpster with that ill-conceived pull attempt as he had Takanosho moving back. I talk a lot about Kakuryu’s influence on Shodai, and mostly in glowing terms. But here he show’s us that the “Reactive Yokozuna” has imparted a bad trait as well. Takanosho charges ahead to cash the terrible bet Shodai placed, and it’s only another moment of cartoon sumo that saves the day for the Ozeki in blue. He improves to 11-2 and maintains par with Daieisho.