Haru 2021, Day 5 Highlights

Highlights

Kaisei (4-1) defeated Daiamami (2-3): Kaisei doing Kaisei things. Solid belt grip, leanfest, and when Daiamami relaxed, Kaisei suddenly launched forward, pushing Daiamami over the bales. Yoritaoshi.

Chiyomaru (4-1) vs Tsurugisho (1-4): Chiyomaru drove straight into Tsurugisho and pushed him off the ledge. Tsurugisho is not 100%. He’s not near 100%. Either kyujo is imminent or Juryo beckons. Nice to see that bright green mawashi back in prime time. Tsukidashi.

Hidenoumi (3-2) defeated Kotoeko (3-2): Hidenoumi put up with Kotoeko humping his leg for a little bit longer than I’m comfortable with. Rather than attack or take any offensive, he just absorbed whatever power Kotoeko would put into it, with his left arm wrapped around Kotoeko’s right. As he resisted the urge to lash out at the terrier yapping at his ankles, he’d occasionally try a half-hearted kotenage with that grip he had on Kotoeko’s arm. But all the while he was waiting, biding his time…, there! Hidenoumi found an opening where he could shift and latch on with his left hand onto Kotoeko’s belt and drive him down to the ground with the right. Uwatenage.

Terutsuyoshi (3-2) defeated Yutakayama (1-4): Along with Tsurugisho and Endo, Yutakayama is on my list of imminent kyujo. Terutsuyoshi sidestepped the tachiai but likely didn’t need to. He established a solid grip on Yutakayama’s belt and led him out of the ring. Maybe they need to put some Wheaties in the chanko over there at Tokitsukaze beya. Yorikiri.

Chiyoshoma (3-2) defeated Akiseyama (3-2): Snidely Whiplash may be turning a new leaf. No henka, but we did get some harizashi. After that, though, we got a solid grapple. The wily Chiyoshoma puts his legs to work kicking out at Akiseyama and trying that leg wrap thing…you know…the one that’s in the kama sutra? I think there’s a statue of it on a temple somewhere. Yeah, that. That didn’t work but he kept the pressure on while Akiseyama was definitely in a defensive mode, waiting to counter attack. He didn’t get the chance because Chiyoshoma kicked out again, connecting with Akiseyama’s right leg and pulled him down by the belt to finish him off. Uwatedashinage.

Aoiyama (4-1) defeated Chiyotairyu (2-3): Power sumo from Aoiyama as he forced Chiyotairyu back and out. Oshidashi.

Chiyonokuni (4-1) defeated Ryuden (1-4): Let’s add Ryuden to the list of guys who may need a break. Chiyonokuni drove him backwards to the tawara and his hips kinda gave way there. Whether it was the knees or his hips, his lower body just kinda buckled and he sat on the dohyo. Tsukitaoshi.

Tobizaru (3-2) defeated Midorifuji (2-3): Worth the price of admission. Great bout. Midorifuji started on the offensive but when his initial attack was parried, the two settled into a grapple at the center of the ring with Tobizaru on a right-hand inside and Midorifuji left-hand outside. Tobizaru tried to headbutt Midorifuji but that only seemed to irritate as Midorifuji continued to claw at Tobizaru’s belt with his free right hand. Afraid of that morozashi, Tobizaru grabbed Midorifuji’s right hand and the two continued to tango there in the center of the ring. As both tired of playing defense, they both got hold of each others’ belt. Tobizaru began to push forward and as Midorifuji flailed, Tobizaru spun Midorifuji around and with a brutal nodowa, lifted Midorifuji’s chin skyward until he dropped off the edge of the dohyo. Yorikiri.

Hoshoryu (2-3) defeated Kotonowaka (1-4): Kotonowaka’s size seemed to keep him in this match. He didn’t appear to have any offensive plan at all, instead waiting out whatever Hoshoryu would do. Both locked into a yotsu battle, Kotonowaka with an outside left, Hoshoryu’s inside right. Kotoshoho finally launched an attack, trying to crab-walk Hoshoryu across the ring but Hoshoryu let go with his right, shifted to his left, and forced Kotonowaka down by twisting that right arm back. Ow. That looked uncomfortable. Tsukiotoshi.

Tamawashi (3-2) defeated Kagayaki (3-2): Kagayaki backed Tamawashi to the bales but that’s when Tamawashi unleashed those brutal nodowa. He shoved Kagayaki back across the ring. When the soles of Kagayaki’s feet reached the tawara, his fire safety training suddenly kicked in and he stopped, dropped and rolled away. Seriously. There’s video. I’m not joking. Oshitaoshi.

Tochinoshin (3-2) defeated Okinoumi (1-4): Didn’t I just say that it was great that Tochinoshin was branching out and using new toolsets? Well, back to skycrane, power sumo mode today. Okinoumi did all he could to resist but Tochinoshin powered Okinoumi over the bales for his third win. Yorikiri.

Myogiryu (5-0) defeated Ichinojo (3-2): Ichinojo did not capitulate in this bout but he did get out-played. Ichinojo wanted to pull and perform a hatakikomi but Myogiryu was wise to it, maintained his balance, and enjoyed the fact that Ichinojo’s tactic had put the giant’s back to the bales. To escape, Ichinojo slapped Myogiryu’s hands away and bulled forward, a bit off-balance. Myogiryu came back behind and when Ichinojo turned back around, he was again right at the tawara – just on the opposite side. From there, Myogiryu gave the weary boulder a gentle prod to push him out of the ring. Yorikiri.

Endo (2-3) defeated Shimanoumi (1-4): Shimanoumi’s plan seemed to be, “let Endo push to the bales with me as deadweight, butsukari-style, then I’ll twist and push him down.” Endo didn’t go down. Yorikiri.

Takayasu (4-1) defeated Kiribayama (2-3): Takayasu pressed forward, cut off any hope of escape for Kiribayama. Oshidashi.

Daieisho (1-4) defeated Mitakeumi (3-2): ********! Blistering Blue Barnacles! At a “meh” tachiai, winless Daieisho hit Mitakeumi a few times about the shoulders with some tsuppari so Mitakeumi decides to pull and gets pushed out instead. So much for any Ozeki run or yusho talk. I mean seriously, what the heck kind of capitulation was that? Oshidashi.

Takanosho (4-1) defeated Takarafuji (0-5): Takanosho launched like a missile into Takarafuji and drove him back. Takarafuji tried to resist at the tawara but Takanosho prevailed. Oshidashi.

Onosho (2-3) defeated Terunofuji (4-1): This bout ended the way I thought yesterday’s bout would. Terunofuji with both of his opponent’s arms wrapped up like he’s going to perform a kimedashi…but the strong opponent makes good use of better body position to force Terunofuji backwards and out.

Yesterday, when Terunofuji was backed to the bales, he was able to pivot. That had forced Meisei to have to push the Kaiju all the way back across the dohyo. But on the way, Terunofuji wrenched Meisei’s left arm for a kotenage. Today was much the same deal but Onosho did not let Terunofuji pivot and was not going to be easily tipped over the bales. Instead, he successfully corralled Terunofuji, cut off the dohyo and forced him over the bales.

Wakatakakage (2-3) defeated Shodai (2-3): Shodai absorbed Wakatakakage’s initial charge and worked him over to the bales. But rather than cutting off his escape or getting low and just forcing him over, Shodai backs up, brings his right arm down with a weak hatakikomi attempt that missed. Since Shodai was too damn high, Wakatakakage’s forward and upward pressure accelerated Shodai back and over the bales. Damn pulls. Forward, Shodai! You had him! Arg! Yori-freaking-kiri.

Hokutofuji (3-2) defeated Takakeisho (3-2): This bout began like any other Takakeisho win. Solid tachiai, Takakeisho drives his opponent back to the bales with forceful thrusts. But at the bales, Hokutofuji escaped to his right with T-Rex in pursuit. While retreating, Hokutofuji alternately launches into the Ozeki and then falls back. But then, suddenly, something weird happened. Hokutofuji stopped going backwards and moved forward, driving into Takakeisho.

Takakeisho simply could not stop Hokutofuji when Hokutofuji switched “on.” He almost toyed with the Ozeki. Afterwards, as Asanoyama climbed to the dohyo, the camera panned over to the Ozeki, seating ringside. Panting in defeat, he seemed to be going over the bout in his mind, “how did that happen?”

How did it happen? I’ll tell you. He pounced when T-Rex turned his back to the tawara. For the few seconds before, while chasing, it was either Hokutofuji’s back to the tawara, or both were sideways going around the ring. Hokutofuji turned back into the ring and Takakeisho followed and turned his back to the tawara. That’s when he immediately stopped retreating, summoned all of his strength, and moved forward. He cut off Takakeisho’s outlet for escape and I think T had tired from his initial strong charge and didn’t have enough in the tank to overcome Hokutofuji’s sudden attack. Oshitaoshi.

Hokutofuji, please don’t take these big wins and then coast to a 6-9 or 7-8 record. I want to see this desire and force for the full 15 days. You could be an Ozeki with this fighting spirit.

Asanoyama (4-1) defeated Meisei (2-3): Meisei seemed worn out. He met Asanoyama solidly at the tachiai, secured a decent belt grip with the right hand but could not make forward progress. Asanoyama drove him back to the bales where Meisei tried to escape to the right. But the Ozeki got the job done and escorted Meisei over the bales.

Final Take

The Kaiju fell, two Ozeki lost, and Myogiryu leads, alone. What more is there to say, other than Juryo is looking exciting?

20 thoughts on “Haru 2021, Day 5 Highlights

  1. I always feel like Ichinojo fights on a dohyo with the bales one foot inside of what they actually are. May be not capitulation today , but usually as soon as he feels the bales with his heels, he stops. I don’t know if he had a scary fall one day, or if he saw to many replays of Tomokaze, but I feel like he’s doing this very very often. And If I remember correctly, that was the reason for hakuho bitch-slap dame oshi to him when he was a promising new sekitori.

    • His back is destroyed, so going backwards is very painful. If he gets pushed back as far as the tawara, he’ll often step out to avoid being thrown down or pushed off the edge.

  2. Takakeisho seems to have lost twice when opponents moved off to the side, avoiding being destroyed head on.

    He doesn’t seem to be able to turn to face an opponent and reset quickly.

    Maybe a chink that others can exploit?

  3. I am honestly surprised that people are saying that the top division has “terrible sumo” or “isn’t exciting”. There’s a sole leader for the basho and seven others who are currently chasing the leader after 5 days of competition. I’m at the point where I firmly believe that we have been so spoiled over the past couple of years by talented rikishi who either have retired or who will be retiring soon that our opinions about “good sumo” are really skewed. There have been, and will always be, times in sumo where there will not be a dominant rikishi and/or a Yokozuna. They’re called “transition periods” for a reason and we’ve been saying that’s what we’re in for at least a year if not longer. If people are grumbling about that already, then they’re going to be grumbling for a decent amount of time in the future. There’s no way to determine who will rise through the ranks to dominate the sport and hanging that expectation on every rikishi who succeeds at the lower levels seems foolhardy and unfair to the rikishi in my opinion.

    I completely agree that it can be frustrating watching rikishi we want to succeed make mistakes and cost themselves victories. However, I participated in a conversation on Twitter yesterday where the difference in Asanoyama’s attitude is obvious this basho and how he seems less motivated and much more negative these days. I am convinced that at least some part of the problem is the weight of other people’s expectations for him to go on a rope run and the shift from positive support for his previous performances to him “not being good enough” and doing “bad sumo” now.

    It is also not lost on me that if the rikishi had a way to take better care of themselves, and were encouraged to do so, then not only would Terunofuji and Takakeisho be more functional, more powerful versions of themselves, but also perhaps Kisenosato would still be performing on the dohyo. It is important to also lay responsibility at the feet of the people who run sumo in Japan instead of just blaming everything on the rikishi themselves.

    • I think there are a lot of things wrapped up there.

      Some people like bouts like Midorifuji/Tobizaru’s today. Yotsu fans are probably looking at the fact that there was no yorikiri on Day 1 as confirmation that the sumo world is at a nadir regarding quality. I could not find a day where makuuchi had no yorikiri but didn’t publish because I haven’t been able to confirm. But it is clear that yotsu-zumo has been in decline relative to oshi-tsuki. Not a good or bad thing in my eyes…but for some.

      I have been wondering for a while if Kisenosato elevated our standard for Ozeki and if Hakuho (who came in quick succession with Asashoryu) elevated our standard of Yokozuna to a level that needs some serious adjustment.

      Some frustration may just be from the lack of consistency. I have so many wrestlers to cheer for, it’s been great to see guys succeed who don’t usually. I was thrilled when Takarafuji was in a yusho race. The fact that Myogiryu is leading is awesome. But it seems like every hot shot who comes up faces a set back immediately. We were wondering about whether Daieisho would be on an Ozeki run. I think we are casting about for who’s next and it is not apparent.

      If you look at other sports, there’s always a Patriots, a Yankees, a Bayern Munich. It’s like some people need a bandwagon — either in favor of the team, or opposed to it. And there’s very little wagon to jump onto now. Kaiju’s a sympathetic character but how long does he have left? We now know that it’s likely more time than Hakuho…but faced with the retirement backlog, which happens first, Terunofuji’s retirement or Hakuho’s haircut? The odds there may be much closer.

      Injuries seem to claim our favorites as soon as they come up. That’s a big issue but it will never be “resolved”. Injuries happen in all sports and are often much more horrific in more popular sports (Alex Smith, UFC, boxing, even soccer). I agree, I think there’s a lot of great sumo. But I also think the competition is different, always changing, and is going through some major challenges. But it’s still awesome.

      I think I would love to see an ozeki in the yusho race each tournament. Is my bar too high, or too low?

      • I think there’s two main problems currently with discussions about sumo:

        There are a lot of different bars that people are measuring with for different things in sumo.
        People say “This is disappointing sumo” and they aren’t always specific about which bar they’re using to make that statement.

        I do think it’s important to expect certain behavior, and results, from both Ozeki and Yokozuna. Their ranks give them specific privileges and stature in the sport which means we should expect more from them. Does that mean that 1 loss is “awful” for them? Perhaps. We celebrate kinboshi when they happen, for example, but they shouldn’t be given out like candy. There are complex layers to all of these discussions and it’s important to point that out.

        I think our definition of “consistency” is also wonky to a degree. A 4-1 record after 5 days is half a kachi-koshi. Most rikishi would be 100% okay with that result. Again, for the Ozeki it is different and more complex than that, but we’re also looking at the current rikishi as a “weakened field” because the Yokozuna aren’t competing. But, when we make that comparison, we’re measuring everyone else against Hakuho and Kakuryu when they’re fully healthy. Which they haven’t been for a while. Yet, people will still say, “But, Hakuho…” and make him the standard for everyone else. That is incredibly problematic for obvious, to me at least, reasons.

        I completely agree that there are “bandwagons” or “themes” that people follow in sports. But, the problem with your “bandwagon” analogy, in my opinion, is that every representative you picked for your example is a team. Those teams remain dominant because the team as a whole either has a lot of money and/or is able to bring in talented players to maintain their dominance. On the other hand, fighting sports are an individual effort. It is impossible for a rotating group of individuals to maintain a “standard level of dominance” because each of them is unique. There can be standards for performance (which is why the 33 wins is a “rule of thumb” for Ozeki promotion, for example), but Hakuho, Kisenosato, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, or other well-known, highly skilled fighters are examples of individuals who dominate a fighting sport at a higher level. They’re obviously above-average. They’re the outliers. We’re convinced someone “should” fill that slot for sumo because that’s what happens in other sports. But, sumo isn’t as popular as other sports. There is a massive pool of worldwide participants in boxing or mixed martial arts which is why dominant fighters continually rise to the top of those sports. It is possible that Hakuho, Kisenosato, and other retired rikishi will be able to increase the number of recruits for sumo in the future, but that remains to be seen. Less participants means less chances for those “dominant outliers” to participate in the sport.

        • I’m thoroughly enjoying the very competitive bouts in the top division. I’m much less concerned about who is the next Yokozuna or Ozeki than I am with seeing close, hard-fought bouts. And we are seeing lots of them, with terrific displays of assorted skills, this basho. Call me a happy sumo camper.

          • Totally agree with lushi888.
            Of course worrying about the ups and downs of the rankings is an essential part of being a sumo fan, so we all kind of just want the issue of ‘who is the next top dog gonna be?’ to get resolved. But an era of hierarchical uncertainty also brings its own pleasures! And there is plenty of beauty and courage and skill on display in recent tournaments even though at the very highest ranks we no longer have peak Hakuho or prime Asashoryu. That level of skill and ability will probably not come again in our lifetimes – two of the greatest of all time regularly facing off against each other. Even when a new Yokozuna eventually appears, it is unlikely they will usher in a new era of stable dominance to compare with Hakuho or Chiyonofuji. So we should all just get comfortable enjoying each bout and each basho as it comes without worrying about ‘who will step up and fill the gap left by Hakuho?’
            Or so it seems to me…

      • So in addition to yotsu-zumo and tsuki-oshi is there a particular name for sumo that involves lots of nifty lesser seen throws etc? That’s what I really enjoy.

        • Excellent question. I think most throws are a part of yotsu-zumo. I’ll dig out my kimarite book this afternoon because I want to get it right but I think there’s a term that sums up tripping moves.

  4. Today was a great explanation for why forcing Hakuho or Kakuryu to retire doesn’t do anything for the sport. There’s no one ready or seemingly willing to make the leap up to Yokozuna. All it does it remove two names from the listing. It’s not like them being “active” is keeping anyone under a glass ceiling here. Everyone else just aren’t good enough to reach that level. The closest two are Asanoyama and Terunofuji but Asanoyama suffers from confidence issues and Terunofujji still has to get up to Ozeki first, then win two tournaments and his entire body is a ticking time bomb.

    If Asanoyama can work out his mental issues he 100% has the skills to reach Yokozuna but that’s a big ask. Shodai’s proving he’s kind of hit his wall at Ozeki and Takakeisho is fundamentally too one sided as a fighter to make it. If the initial charge doesn’t work for Takakeisho he’s sunk nine times out of ten, he hasn’t developed other skills because his one skill is so strong. And he has body condition issues as well.

    Everyone in the top division (and atleast 1/3rd of Juryo) are remarkably similar in their “levels” comparatively. There isn’t a gigantic leap anymore, that’s why we keep seeing all these seemingly random tournament runs from lower or middle of the road guys. Aside from Shodai’s run to Ozeki there hasn’t been anyone making any significant progress up the rankings.

    • That raises an interesting question. When it comes to sumo, is parity a good thing, or a bad thing?

      My answer, Yes.

    • If Hakuho and Kakuryu are never competing anymore, there’s zero reason to keep listing them on the ranking. The banzuke is not a hall of fame, and having been better in the (distant) past than other guys are in the present is no justification at all. That aside, every basho that they keep getting dragged along, two juryo rikishi are unfairly kept out of the top division and, even more importantly, two makushita rikishi are unfairly kept out of the paid ranks. That’s the glass ceiling that matters, not one between yokozuna and ozeki.

  5. We are in a transition period that has been extended by Covid. We know it has been interfering with training, especially across heya, and many rikishi had to miss the previous basho, so it seems a bit mean-spirited to be complaining about the quality of the sumo. Considering that the individual rikishi and the sport itself have been in a struggle for survival, I for one, am just happy with what we have.

  6. I have such an irrational hatred for Onosho. I don’t actually know anything about his personality but he seems so cocky/arrogant after his victories. Which is kind of hilarious from someone who was a good candidate for a zenpai(?) basho a few months back. The fact that he keeps beating Terunofuji doesn’t help.

  7. Chiyomaru looking like a total boss at the moment – Love It!!
    Aoiyama’s new racing green look seems to have tuned up his V-Twin engine like a vintage E-type Jaguar (complete with generous amounts of off-white calfskin leather upholstery!)
    For a moment when Ichi lost balance and started stumbling forwards, it seemed like Myogiryu might just get crushed beneath the onrushing avalanche. But the wily veteran has accumulated more than enough sumo wisdom to not panic and turned it to his advantage.
    Like everyone else, I really want Terunofuji to make Ozeki. But one has to give Onosho due credit. And a head-to-head record of 4-1 is starting to look statistically significant – especially since 3 of those 4 wins came within the last 6 months and with Onosho as the lower-ranked rikishi each time.

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