As much as I wrote about the transition to a post-Hakuho era that I wrote or contributed to on Tachiai over the past few years, I may not have appreciated the mental change his retirement would bring to sumo. I have noticed important changes in some rikishi’s sumo, and much of it is for the better. Is it the case that some of the higher ranked folks sense an easier route to higher rank now, and have allowed themselves to try variations on their technique? We will never know. But if you think about Takakeisho, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Takayasu – their sumo is in fact different this November than it was in September. One or two of them trying something new or showing a noticeable improvement would be natural, but all of them? To me that seems more like some manner of mental process that has given them new motivation. Maybe it was Hakuho’s retirement. Maybe its something else.
No matter what the cause, I am becoming hopeful we are going to see some of these guys shine for the next several tournaments.
Akua defeats Shohozan – We only saw a little offense at the beginning from Shohozan, and then it was all Akua. He set up a right hand outside mawashi grip, backed Shohozan up, and threw him down at the edge. I think Shohozan was unable to do anything with his own right hand as Akua had it tangled up, eliminating Shohozan’s primary weapon. Akua improves to 2-2.
Sadanoumi defeats Daiamami – Daiamami going to 0-4 is not a huge surprise, but it’s damn impressive that Sadanoumi is now 4-0. He’s never had a top division tournament start with 4 straight wins, and I have to guess he’s headed for double digits if he can maintain. He gave Daiamami the inside route at the tachiai, but it turned out to be no disadvantage, as Sadanoumi had much more power and quickly took him to the clay.
Abi defeats Kaisei – That one looked rough, Abi grabbed Kaisei’s throat at the tachiai, and rode that nodowa all the way home. That had to have hurt. Abi is also in the undefeated crowd at 4-0, and Kaisei is looking for a chiropractor.
Kagayaki defeats Chiyomaru – That’s the kind of sumo I want to see more of from Kagayaki. He took the inside lane away from Chiyomaru after the tachiai, and just poured on the pressure. If you want a replay, notice where Kagayaki is looking, directly at center mass. It’s natural for humans to look each other in the face, and I give points to Kagayaki to have the training and discipline to watch Chiyomaru like that. It kept him positioned correctly when Chiyomaru tried to escape, and ensured that he continued to land his thrusting attack where they did the most good. Kagayaki improves to 2-2.
Yutakayama defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni opened strong, with a left hand pushing against Yutakayama’s neck. But he was clearly off balance at the moment of maximum force, opening the door for Yutakayama to step aside, swatting him to the clay as he fell. Yutakayama improves to 2-2.
Ishiura defeats Kotonowaka – Nice display of a simple attack plan done well today from Ishiura. He was able to get inside at the tachiai, and worked his left hand in, and then into a grip on Kotonowaka’s mawashi. He tried a leg trip, which did not quite work, but ruined Kotonowaka’s defensive foot placement, opening the door for Ishiura’s yorikiri. Ishiura improves to 2-2.
Hokutofuji defeats Terutsuyoshi – This match shows the versatility that Hokutofuji can bring to a match. Most rikishi will use their lower body for defense – a stable stance to blunt any attempt to put them off balance. But here, the risk is that Terutsuyoshi will use his size and speed to get underneath or to the side. So Hokutofuji appears to use his upper body for defense, and his lower body is on offense. He blocks and contains every attack from Terutsuyoshi, all the while inching forward. This match took a while, as Hokutofuji was in no rush, but it was great tactical sumo. Hokutofuji improves to 4-0.
Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – Well, kind of surprised and more than a bit delighted that Chiyotairyu picked up his second win today. He used his traditional “stand him up, then slap him down” technique, which is also a favorite of Aoiyama. Why Big Day ran blindly into that, we will never now. Chiyotairyu improves to 2-2.
Hidenoumi defeats Kotoeko – Its getting frustrating to watch Kotoeko. He is winning for 90% of this match, but crumples when Hidenoumi counter attacks. Maybe that reveals whats going on, some sort of injury to Kotoeko’s undercarriage. Hidenoumi improves to 2-2, and Kotoeko stays winless at 0-4.
Tobizaru defeats Ura – How low can you go? These two are not tall to begin with, and the spent the whole match fighting nearly bent double at the waist. Tobizaru coaxed Ura into upping forward pressure, until the moment he was ready. Stepping to the side, Ura came rushing forward off balance, and Tobizaru expertly shoved him from the side, sending Ura rolling across the dohyo. Tobizaru improves to 2-2.
Tamawashi defeats Chiyoshoma – Solid opening combo from Chiyoshoma, but Tamawashi is a master at this form of sumo, countering with speed and strength, and relegating Chiyoshoma to a blocking defense. Tamawashi raised him up, and with a double hand push, sent him over the west side. Both end the day at 3-1.
Takayasu defeats Shimanoumi – Another 3 minute plus grind from Takayasu, and I have to guess this is what he is going to use as much as he can this basho. Yes please, bring it on! Takayasu nearly took Shimanoumi out immediately after the tachiai, but may have decided to wait and avoid any kind of throw from Shimanoumi at the bales, an so they went into endurance mode. I think everyone is going to figure this out, and do anything they can to keep Takayasu from these marathon grapples. Honestly, I love them. Takayasu improves to 3-1.
Endo defeats Hoshoryu – Firstly, great body position from Hoshoryu for 95% of this match. It’s one of the sharpest components of his sumo, and he needed it against Endo. Hoshoryu was able to block Endo’s opening move, and continue to shut down every attack route Endo tried. But when Hoshoryu switched to attack and loaded up a throw, Endo had his opening to get a left hand inside, and he put Hoshoryu down before he could complete the nage. Endo advances to 2-2.
Takarafuji defeats Okinoumi – Very smooth and patient match today from Takarafuji, and rather than defend and extend, Takarafuji went for a left hand inside grip, and straight into offense. It payed off as he walked Okinoumi back to the bales, stood him up, and moved him out. Takarafuji improves to 2-2.
Takanosho defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama loses again, and is 0-4 to start November. I worried that he would struggle in his first posting to Komusubi, but not quiet to this degree. He had a strong enough open, but tried a pull in the first 10 seconds, handing Takanosho a free moment of undefended offense, and Takanosho did not refuse. A quick double arm thrust, and Kiribayama was out. Takanosho improves to 2-2.
Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Great opening combo from Ichinojo moved Mitakeumi back, and seemed to give The Boulder a clear route to a win. But Mitakeumi is surprisingly nimble, and was able to escape and circle to the side. I like how Ichinojo maintained control of the center of the dohyo, and made Mitakeumi come to him. But he did go soft once Mitakeumi had hazuoshi, and that was the match. Mitakeumi remains flawless at 4-0.
Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei had the advantage at the tachiai, and timed his slap down perfectly to the moment when Myogiryu attempted to rally. Both end the day at 2-2.
Shodai defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage was lower, with his hands inside at the tachiai. But immediately we saw Shodai start his “wall of daikon” attack. It’s simple, does not look like much, but its proven amazingly effective thus far. Block your opponent’s hands from any offensive placement, and just bodily shove them back with your massive frame. It was good enough today to chase Wakatakakage off the clay, and give Shodai a 3-1 score at the end of day 4. If this is what becomes his signature Ozeki style, I think that’s good and proper. He can ride this one a long long way.
Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I was delighted that Daieisho was able to stay in the match as long as he did. It gave us a chance to see Takakeisho crank it up a bit more than we have seen in a while, and he really got into attack form well. Not quite “wave action” yet, but the push-push-slap combo cycled a few times, and eventually brought Daieisho down. Takakeisho remains perfect at 4-0.
Terunofuji defeats Onosho – Well now. Onosho attacked well, and Terunofuji even gave him a moment for his perfect attack. The shoulders and hips square mega-thrust. It did move the Yokozuna back just a bit, but somehow it did not deliver nearly enough force to make a dent in Terunofuji’s defense. Sadly Onosho is having one of his cold basho, and Terunofuji is looking excellent, and is now at 4-0.