Natsu Banzuke – Some more commentary

The results for Haru can be seen here, and the newly-released banzuke here.

The San’yaku and Joi

As said in Bruce’s post, Tochinoshin is looking at the last leg of an Ozeki run (ten wins should be enough), and Takayasu could – in theory – be considered for Yokozuna with a particularly strong Yusho (and would finally have to take a shikona). These two are both very popular wrestlers in the English-speaking sumo community, so I’d expect all eyes to be on them for the first part of the tournament.

Mitakeumi got off very lightly. Not only did he luck out of having to face Yokozuna Kakuryu in March (he got Hokutofuji instead, and pulled out a win where an additional loss would almost certainly have resulted in him being demoted out of San’yaku altogether), the banzuke committee decided to let him keep the East side which gives him an edge in re-promotion.

Whether the torikumi will shake out in his favour is a question of which San’yaku show up. If everyone starts the basho, Mitakeumi gets treated to a day one bout against Hakuho. But if someone (probably Kisenosato) goes kyujo from the beginning, there will be not be enough combinations to have two intra-san’yaku bouts every day, and Mitakeumi’s first match will probably be against M3w Yutakayama. Regardless, his fellow Komusubi (and San’yaku newcomer) Endo gets to start off with the top-ranked Yokozuna. This is a career-high rank for Endo, and I for one wish him the absolute best. He had a difficult year clawing his way back up the banzuke following an ankle injury, and his efforts very much deserve the prestigious rank he now holds.

It’s a good bet that at least one of the Yokozuna will either not start the tournament or will drop out early, so the Joi – the group of upper-Maegashira who have to face San’yaku opponents – goes down to M4w Shodai. Most of these rikishi have been here before and frequently put in strong performances at their rank, but two stand out as likely to have a rough time of it: Daieisho was over-promoted from M8w to M3e with a 9-6 record. His previous visit to upper Maegashira, in Natsu 2017, was a 4-11 catastrophe in which he didn’t manage to beat a single San’yaku opponent. Yutakayama is at a career-high rank of M3w, leaping from M11w with a 10-5 record that would normally only get him to around M6. This is only his fourteenth ever Honbasho, and this time last year, he was getting pasted 4-11 at M16 before regrouping in Juryo. We’re all familiar with seeing a young rikishi go on a tear up the banzuke before hitting the San’yaku and bouncing off, and I fully expect it to happen again here.

Kaisei‘s impressive 12-3 Jun-yusho earned him one of the famously tough M1 spots. After a disastrous late 2016-early 2017 saw him slide back down into Juryo, he seems to have regained what made him great. It would not surprise me to see him regain his career-high Sekiwake rank later this year, but at the moment the top ranks have no shortage of very big and very strong rikishi, and Kaisei has never done well against the contingent of Yokozuna and Ozeki (of his five ever wins over Ozeki, one was against the ghost of Terunofuji and one against a fading Baruto. The other three were all against Goeido, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything but is somewhat amusing).

Abi‘s presence at M2w has been remarked upon. I don’t expect it to go very well for him, personally. The top ranks will know exactly what to look out for and will punish that over-commitment problem of his with a quick hatakikomi, just as they did with Onosho last year.


Kotoshogiku is just outside the likely joi. He may be a long way from his former Ozeki self, but I expect him to put in a good tournament at this rank. He won’t be facing the San’yaku who are familiar with his straightforward but effective sumo, and will instead get to employ the belly-bump on a group of mid-rankers who don’t know how to deal with it.

Also narrowly outside the joi: Ikioi! He put in a stellar effort last basho despite being obviously in considerable discomfort, turning in an 11-4 record, and while his final day loss may have caused him to miss out on a special prize, the nine-rank promotion is probably welcome compensation. Avoiding a battering from the San’yaku might well work out in his favour where a 12-3 would have almost certainly seen him in the joi.

Chiyoshoma really seemed to find his sumo in the second half of Haru, and his 9-6 record has left him at the M6e spot. I’m really hoping he can be just as strong – and as entertaining – at the start of this basho as he was at the end of the last!

Hokutofuji is one of those who hit the Joi and bounced off. Hopefully he’ll be able to arrest his slide down the banzuke at M9e. He has no shortage of talent but he’s had a rough time of it in the last couple of bashos. I’m looking forward to seeing him challenging the upper ranks again.

Takakeisho‘s unfortunate and injury-affected record dropped him to M10w. Takakeisho is far more than a mid-Maegashira talent, and if he is free from injury, there’s a good chance he will simply demolish all around him.

Arawashi‘s shambolic 2-13 record sees him drop to M12e, where I’m actually quite happy to see him. His judo-like throws don’t seem to work too well on the most experienced guys at the top of the banzuke, but in the middle, he’s a very entertaining wildcard.

Aoiyama goes up a slightly silly four ranks from a bare-minimum kachi-koshi, but we’ve already seen he can do just fine at higher ranks.

The Juryo-Makuuchi promotion line

The team noticed that lower Makuuchi had a lot of demotion candidates while upper Juryo was short on people to promote into their vacated spaces. Since the sizes of the upper two divisions are fixed, this led to some tough decisions for the banzuke committee.

Those we thought were likely demotion candidates:

  • Hidenoumi, 3-12 from M16w.
  • Myogiryu, 6-9 from M15w. (Spared at M16w)
  • Sokokurai, 5-7-3 from M15e.
  • Nishikigi, 5-10 from M14w. (Spared at a skin-of-his-teeth M17e)
  • Kotoyuki, 1-13-1 M12w .
  • Onosho, held the respectable rank of M5w but was Kyujo all tournament.

Sokokurai and Onosho fell to the J1 spots, which really feels like Sokokurai got off very lightly, and gives me hope to see them both back in Makuuchi sooner rather than later. Sometimes it feels like Nishikigi is attached to the bottom of Makuuchi with duct tape, but it seems very unlikely that the banzuke committee will let him get away with another make-koshi this time.

The hard-working promotees:

  • Kyokutaisei, from J1e to M15w with 8-7, his first time ranked in Makuuchi. Let’s see if he can make it last!
  • Takekaze, from J1w to M14w with 9-6. A long way from his career-high rank of Sekiwake, but at the age of 38 he’s the second-oldest rikishi still competing above sandanme.
  • …and here’s the oldest. Aminishiki, Uncle Sumo, Isegahama-beya’s lone victorious Sekitori, most likely rikishi to be described as “wily”, oldest rikishi ever to return to Makuuchi from Juryo… and now he’s done it a second time. From J2e to M16w with an 8-7 record, and while I don’t exactly expect him to do great things, he should be very happy to be back in the top division.
  • A third veteran, Sadanoumi, took the Juryo Yusho with an 11-4 record from J4e, and has been rewarded with a jump to M14e. He’s a good deal younger than Takekaze and Aminishiki, though, and he may well be hoping to start climbing back towards his career-high M1 rank.

Hatsu Day 4


It wouldn’t be much* of an exaggeration to say that today’s Makuuchi matches consisted entirely of highlights.

Daiamami – Myogiryu. In the initial clash, Daiamami secures a good, strong, overhand left grip, and although the uwatenage attempt doesn’t send Myogiryu over, it does turn him around so Daiamami can easily show him out.

Ishiura – Nishikigi. Ishiura’s tachiai is quite low – not a proper submarine, but enough to get his head planted into Nishikigi’s chest. But Nishikigi gets an arm hooked under Ishiura’s chin to lever him upright, and soon has the smaller rikishi on the bales. Ishiura realizes he can’t win the test of strength, grabs the left arm with both hands and pulls hard (from the position, I’d almost say he was trying for something like an Ipponzeoi shoulder throw). But he can’t manage it – Daiamami’s footing is just too good, and Ishiura tumbles out of the ring.

Abi – Ryuden. This could be the bout of the day! Abi’s go-big-or-go-home tsuppari versus Ryuden’s beltwork. Abi has to give a lot of ground to keep Ryuden off the belt, trying for slap-downs which get Ryuden stumbling but not down. Just as it looks like he’s in real trouble at the bales, he manages to hook the back of Ryuden’s neck and pull him down and forward while sidestepping. That’s enough to get a good overarm mawashi grip and roll him down with an uwatenage.

Asanoyama – Yutakayama. Asanoyama might be Mr Happy, but he’s taking his sumo seriously, battling through some face-rearranging pushes to get a very deep left underarm grip. Yutakayama fights back with a credible attempt at gaburi-yori, but it leaves him off-balance, allowing Asanoyama to swing him around and out. Tomorrow, Asanoyama’s opponent is J1w Kyokutaisei, against whom he has two wins and no losses, so I would not be at all surprised to see him undefeated a third of the way in and competing for the yusho from Maegashira 16. Again.

Takekaze – Daiesho. Daiesho looks eager to start! He opens with a powerful oshi attack, but once he’s chest-to-chest with Takekaze, he doesn’t relent for a moment. This bout is all Daiesho, and he looks great.

Sokokurai – Kagayaki. A short one. Right after the tachi-ai, Sokokurai finds himself unbalanced by a double-handed shove, and the match is over a split second later. Sokokurai may be a victim of over-promotion; the competition in Makuuchi is much stronger than the guys that he minced for the Juryo yusho recently.

Kotoyuki – Daishomaru. From the tachiai, you might be expecting a repeat of Daiesho’s bout. Daishomaru has his hands down well in advance, and launches straight into a thrusting attack – but apparently Kotoyuki had been watching that one too. He turns to the left, putting a hand just below Daishomaru’s left shoulder to help him along, and Daishomaru’s enthusiastic tsuppari just results in him staggering past his opponent. Kotoyuki gives him a finishing shove a moment later.

Shohozan – Aminishiki. I really thought Uncle Sumo had this one for a moment! His slap-down doesn’t work, but he goes straight into a throw attempt, assisting his kotenage by lifting Shohozan’s leg with his foot. Unfortunately for the old man of sumo, Shohozan’s balance is just a bit too good. He gets his leg back down and it’s Aminishiki who goes over. Excellent throw counter from Shohozan.

Chiyomaru – Kaisei. Slow-motion replay not required as two rikishi who really need to lose some weight shove each other glacially around the dohyo. Chiyomaru’s “hikiotoshi” win is really more of a sidestep, Kaisei toppling like a column with very little help.

Chiyoshoma – Tochiozan. Chiyoshoma seems to be going for the rarely-seen kubinage (headlock throw), but he just can’t do anything about Tochiozan’s incredibly deep inside right grip, and is powered out. Their fifth honbasho meeting, and Tochiozan has now won all five.

Chiyonokuni – Ikioi. Ikioi finally picks up a win, surviving first a kotenage and then an uwatenage attempt on the way to forcing Chiyonokuni out.

Okinoumi – Takarafuji. Takarafuji’s seventh straight win against Okinoumi. He quickly gets a good, deep Hidari-yotsu (left hand under, right hand over) grip, and Okinoumi can’t break it, can’t establish a good grip of his own, and can’t keep himself low enough to resist being shoved out.

Endo – Arawashi. Endo does a fantastic job of preventing Arawashi from getting a good mawashi grip while forcing him back. Arawashi’s foot slides wildly on the clay, and his desperation hatakikomi attempt doesn’t work. It seems he realizes he’s done, and steps out.

Chiyotairyu – Shodai. This was the big let-down of the day. Chiyotairyu’s knee buckles less than a second into the bout, without Shodai doing a thing, and he hits the clay. Tsukihiza; take a drink.

Mitakeumi – Takakeisho. Mitakeumi grabs a handful of mawashi on the tachi-ai but can’t keep it, and a strong back-and-forth oshi-zumo battle breaks out. It ends with a perfectly-timed backstep from Mitakeumi, sending Takakeisho pitching forwards to the clay.

Onosho – Tamawashi. Onosho seems to cotton on to what he’s doing wrong, and despite several slap-down attempts from Tamawashi, doesn’t lose his footing. After some vigorous oshi-zumo, it’s Onosho who gets the hatakikomi win!

Goeido – Hokutofuji. The first half of this bout was cringe-worthy as Goeido retreated, looking for hatakikomi and hikiotoshi opportunities, letting Hokutofuji control the pace of the bout and looking like he was heading for an inglorious defeat. Thankfully for him and for all of us who enjoy his sumo, he apparently managed to reboot in the middle of the bout and started moving forward again. He secured an ottsuke to keep Hokutofuji’s right arm off the mawashi, drove him back, and pitched him out.

Tochinoshin – Takayasu. Two of the biggest, strongest rikishi collide with earthquake-like force. Takayasu had to retreat to keep Tochinoshin off the mawashi – including a nail-biting toes-on-the-tawara moment – but the big Georgian resisted the slap-down attempts and eventually caught up to him and got a strong belt grip. Takayasu, of course, is big and strong enough that he can fight Tochinoshin in a yotsu battle (although apparently he’d rather not). Tochinoshin pulls, Takayasu pushes, and the Ozeki runs out of balance a split-second before his opponent runs out of dohyo. A very, very close fourth win for Tochinoshin, and a very impressive bout from both of them.

Kakuryu – Ichinojo. Kakuryu looks awesome so far. And, full credit to Ichinojo, he battled on the tawara for a lot longer than he usually does! He even got the Yokozuna back to the bales early in the match, but he couldn’t finish it, and Kakuryu was able to force him out. No reactive sumo or tricks here, just straightforward yorikiri against the biggest man in the division.

Kotoshogiku – Kisenosato. Oh dear. Kotoshogiku locks up quickly with little resistance from Kisenosato and gets the gaburi-yori rolling. The Yokozuna isn’t so easy to move, though, and even away from the tawara, Kotoshogiku is bouncing away to little visible effect. He changes tactics and goes for a throw – and, amazingly, it works. Kisenosato hits the clay. While I’m happy to see Kotoshogiku earn a win (and a kinboshi), I’m rather worried that this may be Kisenosato’s last basho.

Hakuho – Yoshikaze. Are we sure this is Hakuho? He can’t muster sufficient force to drive Yoshikaze back, and when he goes for the retreating slap-down, it’s Yoshikaze who slaps him down. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a loss like that from the dai-yokozuna.

*Goddamnit Chiyotairyu.

Torikumi predictions

It’s nearly time! The torikumi (match schedule) for days one and two of the next basho will be published soon. Can we predict it in advance, though?

Firstly, we need to know who’s actually participating. If someone announces kyujo before the torikumi is published, they’re not scheduled for any bouts on the first two days. This involves a bit of guesswork: I’m going to assume that Kisenosato will take more time to recover and train – because if he shows up and doesn’t put on a Yokozuna level performance, he’s toast – but that everyone else in Makuuchi will be participating. Kakuryu is under pressure to show up and go the full 15 days. Terunofuji should not participate, but that was true for the last two bashos as well, and we all saw what happened then. Takayasu might take this basho off – since he’s not currently kadoban, he can afford to skip a basho without being demoted straight away, but I don’t think he’ll go kyujo from the start. He’ll turn up for the first day and see how it goes.

Assuming this prediction is correct – and if it’s not, I’ll update this post as and when kyujo announcements happen – we have eight San’yaku from eight different heya. This means they can all fight each other, so that’s 28 possible match-ups. At a wild guess, the San’yaku schedule will be 1 bout per day for the first three days, then two per day for eleven days, then three on senshuraku.

On day one, the musubi-no-ichiban is generally the lowest ranked San’yaku against the highest. We work backwards to fill out the previous seven bouts with upper Maegashira against San’yaku opponents, in order of ranking.

Y1e Hakuho – K1w Onosho: The red mawashi is powerful, but I’m not sure it will be enough.
Y2e Kakuryu – M1e Hokutofuji: Normally I feel sorry for the M1e guy who gets the roughest schedule in the banzuke, but after seeing Hokutofuji’s performance last basho, and knowing he’s probably pissed at missing out on the San’yaku spot, it might by the Yokozuna who needs my sympathy.
O1e Goeido – M1w Ichinojo: If they both want to do good sumo, this could be a great bout. But often, these two don’t really feel like doing good sumo. Goeido is prone to retreating and looking for slap-downs rather than employing his actually very powerful forward-moving sumo, while Ichinojo often gives up the moment his heels touch the tawara (which may be fear of injury; not irrational when you’re the heaviest man in Makuuchi).
M2e Yoshikaze – O1w Takayasu: A real test of the structural integrity of the dohyo as they slam into each other like a pair of angry trains.
S1e Mitakeumi – M2w Kotoshogiku: Mitakeumi has a 6-3 advantage in their history, and is currently on a four-win streak. Kotoshogiku was unconvincing last basho, and if Mitakeumi’s foot has healed, I know who the favourite is.
M3e Chiyotairyu – S1w Tamawashi: Again, there’s a clear advantage in winning history: 6-2 in Chiyotairyu’s favour. That said, Tamawashi did win their last two bouts (and looked like the much stronger rikishi last basho), so maybe he’s figuring it out now.
K1e Takakeisho – M3w Tochinoshin: We’re all eager to see if the big Georgian is healed up enough to cut it in the Joi, but Takakeisho is not what I’d call a typical San’yaku (no disrespect to him intended; just that his bouncy-ball sumo is very different from that of the rikishi around him). I’ll be cheering Takakeisho here, but I know Tochinoshin has a lot of fans.

Below that, everyone just faces their partner at the same rank:

M4e Shodai – M4w Arawashi
M5e Okinoumi – M5w Endo: The “startling recovery” squad match up. I’m really looking forward to this one, they were both great last basho.
M6e Takarafuji – M6w Ikioi
M7e Chiyoshoma – M8e Tochiozan: Little swap because Chiyoshoma and Chiyonokuni are from the same heya.
M7w Chiyonokuni – M8w Kaisei
M9e Shohozan – M9w Chiyomaru
M10e Terunofuji – M11e Kotoyuki: And another.
M10w Aminishiki – M11w Daishomaru
M12e Sokokurai – M12w Kagayaki
M13e Takekaze – M13w Daieisho
M14e Abi – M14w Yutakayama
M15e Ishiura – M15w Nishikigi
M16e Ryuden – M16w Asanoyama
M17e Daiamami – J1e Myogiryu


The day two torikumi is, as always, less predictable. Onosho got a San’yaku opponent on day one, so it’s Takakeisho’s turn. Assuming I’m correct about absences, he’ll face Kakuryu. Also, the rikishi within each San’yaku rank “cycle” in the torikumi order, to give everyone a slot in the more prestigious matches later in the day.

I’m not sure it’s always possible to predict with certainty which upper-Maegashira get matched against which San’yaku on day two.

Y2e Kakuryu – K1e Takakeisho
Y1e Hakuho – M1e Hokutofuji
M1w Ichinojo – O1w Takayasu
O1e Goeido – M2e Yoshikaze
M2w Kotoshogiku – S1w Tamawashi
S1e Mitakeumi – M3e Chiyotairyu
M3w Tochinoshin – K1w Onosho

Then everyone in lower Maegashira faces the nearest person that they haven’t fought yet, but today, the west rikishi get the later matches. Many thanks to Sakura for pointing this out in the comments.

M5e Okinoumi – M4w Arawashi
M4e Shodai – M5w Endo
M7e Chiyoshoma – M6w Ikioi
M6e Takarafuji – M7w Chiyonokuni
M8e Tochiozan – M8w Kaisei: This pairing didn’t happen on day one because of the need to avoid matching Chiyoshoma against Chiyonokuni.
M10e Terunofuji – M9w Chiyomaru
M9e Shohozan – M10w Aminishiki
M11e Kotoyuki – M11w Daishomaru
M13e Takekaze – M12w Kagayaki
M12e Sokokurai – M13w Daieisho
M15e Ishiura – M14w Yutakayama
M14e Abi – M15w Nishikigi
M17e Daiamami – M16w Asanoyama
M16e Ryuden – J1w Kyokutaisei


Day 5 – The Mighty Uncle

As the fifth day of the Kyushu basho concludes, the torikumi that Leonid was so excited about turned out to be just as excellent as predicted, although not necessarily for the expected reasons.

Uncle Sumo
No knees? No problem.

Tokoshoryu – Myogiryu. Lots of pre-tachiai sizing up, but when the bout starts, Tokoshoryu looks totally outmatched. Myogiryu wraps his arms around high up his opponent’s torso in a double-underarm grip, and simply walks him out.

Kotoyuki – Nishikigi. Matta from Kotoyuki – there seems to be a lot of it going around this basho. The actual bout starts well, but Kotoyuki honestly just looks like his heart isn’t in it. He gets a solid tachiai, but he attempts to maneuver around to Nishikigi’s left and just ends up losing ground in an oshi-zumo battle. He’s driven back easily, and just sort of steps out. Maybe he lost track of his position on the dohyo and tripped on the bales?

Daiamami – Aminishiki. Aminishiki raring to go, Daiamami looks like he’d much rather be eating chanko and watching Takekaze and Ikioi go at it. The bout starts with what I was sure was going to be a matta…

Then the match of the day happens. I am frankly blown away at Aminishiki’s performance here. First he gets a solid left-hand grip on the mawashi right off the tachi-ai, swings Daiamami around, and goes for a knee pick. Daiamami narrowly avoids it by getting his right leg back under him in time, turns head-on to the older rikishi, and forces him back to the bales – but not out. Aminishiki is leaning way forwards, but his grip (right underarm, left overarm) is too strong for Daiamami to just slap him down, and it seems Daiamami doesn’t want to risk back-pedalling.

Daiamami keeps Aminishiki on the bales, slowly levering him upright, dragging both arms up hard, but can’t break his left overarm mawashi grip. Then Aminishiki kicks him in the left shin and forces him to step backwards, taking the opportunity to get off the bales and around to the left. Daiamami drives forward again, but Aminishiki has room to maneuver now, and he backs up fast, overbalancing Daiamami forwards, and executes a sukuinage that I kind of want to print out and frame. Then he saunters back to the west, checking his nails.

This is why we love Uncle Sumo. Even Daiamami looks kind of star-struck.

Takekaze – Ikioi. After the last bout, anything would be a bit of a disappointment. This was a perfectly solid performance, but nothing outstanding.

Kaisei – Kagayaki. Kagayaki opens well, turning Kaisei to the left on the tachiai and moving around to his side, looking for the okuridashi. Kaisei recovers with a deftness and speed that we definitely weren’t seeing from him a couple of tournaments ago, gets back into a more comfortable migi-yotsu, and uses his superior strength to drive Kagayaki out.

Okinoumi – Daieisho. Okinoumi is able to keep Daiesho at bay with slaps and nodowa, but when Daiesho gets closer he’s forced to retreat, with one hand hooked around the back of Daiesho’s neck. As Daiesho leans in harder, Okinoumi shifts his grip, grabs his opponent by the upper arms, and drags him down, denying him anything to hold on to.

Endo – Asanoyama. An excellent yotsu-zumo match, with lots of fighting for a favourable grip. Eventually, Endo gets what he wants, swings Asanoyama around, and forces him out. If you’re a fan of yotsu-zumo, watch this one several times, and find a recording that lets you see it from different angles. You can really see how the rikishi will sacrifice positioning on the dohyo while they struggle to obtain or keep the grip that they want. In the end, despite being driven way back, Endo wins because of that grip.

Chiyomaru – Tochinoshin. Clash of styles here; Chiyomaru is very oshi-zumo focussed while Tochinoshin is a pure yotsu guy. If you look at Chiyomaru’s profile, the vast majority of his losses come from yorikiri – and that’s what happens here. The tsuppari barrage can’t force Tochinoshin back or even keep him at bay, and he soon has a left overarm, right underarm grip, and begins to drive the eternally round one back. When on the tawara, Chiyomaru pulls his right arm out, although I’m not sure what he expected it to achieve at this stage, and he’s out a moment later.

Shodai – Arawashi. I love the sumo that these two put on. Shodai’s tachi-ai looks a bit more committed than usual, but Arawashi absorbs it and starts into the throw attempts straight away. He starts out pinning both Shodai’s arms from the outside, preventing the morozashi, then tries for a kotenage, doesn’t land it, and finds himself being controlled and driven back by Shodai. After three or four attempts, Arawashi finally makes the kotenage work, dragging Shodai over his extended right leg and sending him tumbling.

Takarafuji – Daishomaru. This one was just really unexciting compared to the last few, I’m sorry to say. They both looked so hesitant! Takarafuji wins by yorikiri, but honestly, it’s more like Daishomaru lost by poorly-timed sidestep.

Chiyoshoma – Ichinojo. Chiyoshoma opens with tsuppari, forcing Ichinojo to lean into him, and tries for the slap-down but the mountainous rikishi stays on his feet (though not going anywhere fast). Chiyoshoma changes tactics, moving in and securing a right overarm grip, then turns almost completely around for a high-power uwatenage attempt. It’s not enough to send Ichinojo over, but it unbalances him, turns him sideways, and puts him between Chiyoshoma and the edge of the dohyo. Then it’s just an easy push-out, and Ichinojo’s first loss.

Chiyonokuni – Hokutofuji. If Endo – Asanoyama and Shodai – Arawashi were excellent technical yotsu bouts, this is the other end of the yotsu spectrum: A display of bulging muscles and exhausting effort. No grip change attempts, but Hokutofuji does pull back for a moment to drop his head and plant it against Chiyonokuni’s chest. He drives, Chiyonokuni tries for an uwatenage that doesn’t end the match but does offbalance Hokutofuji enough to fight back away from the bales. Chiyonokuni can’t restore his right inside grip, goes for a kotenage instead, and Hokutofuji pulls away entirely then re-attacks from the side and easily shoves Chiyonokuni out. Well, maybe “easily” is putting it a bit lightly, nothing about this match looked easy.

Kotoshogiku – Chiyotairyu. We enter the San’yaku bouts with a kind of sad trombone sound. Chiyotairyu can’t even get the tsuppari barrage started. Kotoshogiku is inside, gaburi-ing away, and the bout is over like that. ‘Giku needed the win; Chiyotairyu is not having a good basho. It’s his first time in the joi, so not really surprising that the first week would be a bit nasty. He gets Goeido tomorrow.

Mitakeumi gets the fusensho win since Terunofuji has finally accepted the complete futility of trying to do San’yaku-level sumo in his current state. I will never understand why he thought participating in the jungyo was a good idea.

Takakeisho – Yoshikaze. This wasn’t the highlight bout I was expecting, but it’s a good reminder that Takakeisho is improving rapidly. They bounce off each other at the tachiai, Takakeisho thrusts Yoshikaze away to the right when he tries to rush back in, then takes advantage of Yoshikaze’s poor positioning to oshidashi him out.

Tamawashi – Takayasu. Takayasu’s slaps and thrusts aren’t enough to keep Tamawashi at bay. He gets in close right off the tachiai, secures an actual left ottsuke (as opposed to whatever Kisenosato had the other day), and manages to drive Takayasu backwards the length of the dohyo as if doing butsukari. The big guy gets turned around at the end and shown out – Takayasu’s first loss of the basho. Will Takakeisho hand him another one tomorrow? The run of four wins was a good start, but Takayasu is under-trained, is kadoban, and I worry for my favourite rikishi.

Goeido – Onosho. After a solid tachiai, Goeido hops backwards and drags Onosho down. Not much to say about the match itself, but I hope this use of retreating sumo was just a one-off to defeat Onosho (who has a serious overcommitment problem), rather than a return to the overly-reactive style that we’d all rather he stay away from. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with reactive sumo – it’s just that Goeido is so much better when he’s on the attack! And since he faces Chiyotairyu tomorrow, the attack is where he wants to be; backing away from Chiyotairyu just means you spend longer getting pummelled by tsuppari.

Tochiozan – Hakuho… What? That wasn’t just a matta, even the Gyoji wasn’t in position yet! Did Hakuho lose track of what point in the pre-bout ritual they were at?

Hakuho easily wins the actual bout, holding Tochiozan at bay with one hand then quickly pulls him forward, sidesteps, and easily pushes him out the rest of the way – adding an extra little unnecessary shove off the dohyo. Boo, hiss.

Tochiozan is now the only non-kyujo rikishi in the division with no wins. Tomorrow, he gets to try to change that against Kisenosato.

Kisenosato – Shohozan. Yep, Shohozan was watching yesterday’s bout. He attacks the left side relentlessly, controlling Kisenosato’s weak left arm, trying throws and force-out techniques until he finally gets the yokozuna to the bales. Kisenosato isn’t finished, though, and pulls off an amazing last-moment throw, landing on top of Shohozan for the win. But it’s not the sort of win that a Yokozuna should be proud of.

I’ve got to say, I’m unhappy with the state of affairs at the Yokozuna ranks. Kisenosato is not putting on yokozuna-like sumo. Hakuho is not showing yokozuna-like conduct. Kakuryu has been kyujo for six of the last ten basho. And Harumafuji, well, I don’t really want to talk about that. But that’s a sour note, and the vast majority of today has been cracking good fun.

Kimarite, part one: Force-out techniques


I thought it would be interesting to write a post detailing the most common kimarite, and how to distinguish between ones that look quite similar. There are plenty of glossaries out there, but the brief descriptions don’t make it easy to visualize what’s going on, and they rarely take the time to elaborate on the differences between related techniques.

Then I realized that it was going to be an intimidating text wall, and it was probably best to break it up into a series of posts.

What exactly are kimarite?

When a sumo bout is over, a referee (gyoji) will declare the technique that was used to win. There is an official list of eighty-two of these winning techniques, ranging from the extremely common (such as simply pushing the opponent out of the ring) to the extremely rare (such as Shumokuzori, the bell hammer back body drop, on the official record as having been used exactly once in a basho).

But translating kimarite as “technique” gives the wrong impression. There are many techniques practiced extensively by rikishi and employed in the course of winning a sumo bout that are not kimarite, and there are kimarite that are not practiced and are not an important part of sumo skill – and even some that are not intentionally used to win a bout. Skill at sumo is far more than an extensive list of kimarite, and while a profile of a rikishi will sometimes mention how many different kimarite they have performed, this should not necessarily be taken as an indication of expertise. Similarly, commentators like to make a big thing out of rare kimarite, and it certainly is cool to see something unusual – but don’t read too much into it.

Force-out techniques


There are two main ways to lose a sumo bout: Touch the ground outside the tawara, or touch the ground with a part of the body other than the sole of the foot. For many rikishi, forcing the opponent out of the dohyo is Plan A, and these are some of the most common kimarite on record.

Tsukidashi: Forcing the opponent out with palm thrusts (tsuppari), without maintaining contact. Despite the prevalence of tsuppari in yotsu-zumo, this kimarite isn’t as frequent as you might think. Usually, the tsuppari barrage is enough to drive the opponent back to the edge, but because the tawara are a raised ridge to brace against, it’s difficult to push them over that way (unless they are already retreating, or you have a serious size/strength advantage, or they try to sidestep and mess it up). It’s approximately the tenth most common kimarite overall, and in my experience, is often indicative of a fairly one-sided match.

Oshidashi: Forcing the opponent out while maintaining contact, but not holding the mawashi. There is overlap between Oshidashi and Tsukidashi. In an ‘ideal’ Oshidashi, the victorious rikishi stays in contact, and does not fully extend their arms to push the opponent out. But what about occasions when the winner keeps bent arms but does not maintain contact, or when contact is maintained but the arms are mostly straight? From reviewing past bouts, the most important aspect of Tsukidashi seems to be the alternating left-right pushes, while a double-handed push – even fully extending the arms and not maintaining contact – is usually ruled as Oshidashi. For this reason, Oshidashi is much more common: The tsuppari barrage gets the opponent to the tawara, but it takes a double-handed shove to get them over.

Yorikiri:I have to admit to something – I was wrong about the definition of this kimarite previously. I was under the impression that it required forcing the opponent out while holding the mawashi, on one or both sides – but there are examples of bouts won by yorikiri where the victorious rikishi did NOT appear to have any kind of a mawashi grip. I am not, in fact, completely certain where Yorikiri ends and other techniques begin. It seems that if there is a mawashi grip, it’s Yorikiri, but if there isn’t, it might be Yorikiri if the two rikishi are chest-to-chest and the winner is essentially using their whole body to conduct the force-out.

Yorikiri is by far the most common kimarite on record, occurring approximately twice as often as the second most common, Oshidashi, and nearly ten times as often as Tsukidashi. In fact, Yorikiri and the similar technique Yoritaoshi were the kimarite of record in over a third of recorded bouts (although you should note that these are the all-time records, and in recent years, Yorikiri and Oshidashi are approximately equally common).

This is a situation where the translation of kimarite as “technique” is misleading. Just as yotsu-zumo is a field with a great variety of different styles and techniques within it, there are many styles of Yorikiri. Kotoshogiku’s is one of the more recognisable, putting that belly to good use. Terunofuji’s is more of a lift-and-carry.

Kimedashi: Forcing the opponent out while holding and immobilizing the arms. Substantially less common than the above kimarite, and not considered a basic technique, this sometimes shows up as the counter to a moro-zashi (an inside grip with both hands on the back of the opponent’s mawashi). The idea is to wrap your arms around the outside of the opponent’s arms from above, clasp your hands together, and lift and pull in tightly, applying pressure to the elbows, locking their arms straight and minimizing their ability to apply leverage effectively. You can then use this double-armbar to walk them backwards out of the dohyo. You can see it perfectly here. It doesn’t always involve that double-overarm grip, though: In this bout, Komanokuni (not Komanoumi; the video title is wrong) pushes Sotairyu out with one arm lock and a throat push (nodawa), and the kimarite was ruled as Kimedashi.

Related techniques

If the opponent falls due to one of these techniques, striking the ground with a part of the body other than the foot, the kimarite name changes, becoming Tsukitaoshi, Oshitaoshi, Yoritaoshi, or Kimetaoshi. Generally, one doesn’t try to perform these kimarite – they’re often the result of the opponent slipping or catching a heel on the tawara while being driven backwards, or resisting until the last possible moment until they can’t step out without falling. Very heroic, but not necessarily good for one’s health.

As an aside, the rules for these seem to be a little confusing. It appears that Yoritaoshi specifically refers to falling out of the dohyo while being held by the mawashi (falling inside the dohyo in this way is Abisetaoshi), but it’s easy to find examples of Oshitaoshi and Kimetaoshi that take place comfortably inside the ring.

One wonders how they cope.

Tsuridashi: Picking the opponent up by the mawashi and lifting him out of the dohyo entirely. Not considered a basic technique, and only really seen in the Makuuchi and Juryo divisions thanks to the strength required. Here we have an ample demonstration of why a moro-zashi grip is so strong – it gives you leverage that you can use to lift a much heavier rikishi (if you’re really strong, you can do this without the moro-zashi grip, like Chiyootori does to the colossal Gagamaru here). The defining feature of Tsuridashi is that the opponent is lifted entirely off the ground, and then lands with one or both feet outside the tawara. Terunofuji and Mitakeumi have been trading these on the Jungyo recently.

Okuridashi: Pushing the opponent out from behind. The trick is getting there! There are several other techniques with the “Okuri” prefix, and they’re all moves performed from behind the other rikishi. Once this happens, the match will usually be over quite quickly. Although there are exceptions, and sometimes a rikishi will even be able to drive out an opponent behind them by aggressively walking backwards (Ushiromotare, an essential inclusion in any basho drinking game).

In conclusion

That’s all I have time for in this initial post. There will be more later, covering other types of kimarite, to hopefully make the gyoji decisions a little less opaque, and to make it easier for you to search for videos of the most exciting victories. Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions in the comments, or correct me if I got something wrong. I am bound to have got at least one thing wrong.

Well, that was unexpected

A little introduction…

Hello! You might have seen me posting on here as “Fluffiest” or on reddit as “acheiropoieton”, but I’ll stick to “pinkmawashi” for the sumo commentary (yes, I am an Ura fan, but mostly I’m just very fond of the colour pink).

As a relative newcomer to sumo, I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the Tachiai blog. I don’t intend to post a great deal – I’m mostly here to proof-read and to chip in when another perspective is wanted. Now, on to what this post is about:

A retrospective on the Wacky Aki

From a certain perspective, there was nothing wacky about it. We started out with “anyone can win this basho” and ended up with the yusho going to the one Yokozuna and the jun-yusho to the one Ozeki. But the road we took to get there was a rollercoaster.

There were worries from the very start. It transpired early on that Kakuryu would not be competing, and shortly afterwards that first Kisenosato and then Hakuho were out as well; and everybody knew that Harumafuji would be struggling with persistent injuries. Further down the banzuke, Aoiyama – the previous year’s jun-yusho winner – dropped out, as did Sadanoumi. With crowd favourites Endo and Ura also both recovering slowly from past damage but competing anyway, injuries were on everyone’s mind.

Day five

A third of the way in, and the injuries had become a plague, the win-loss pattern appeared totally unpredictable, and the “wacky Aki” nickname seemed very apt. Two of the Ozeki corps who were expected to do the heavy lifting in the absence of three Yokozuna – Takayasu and Terunofuji – had dropped out due to injury, as had Ura who should really not have been competing in the first place. Ozeki Goeido lost his first bout to a henka, then won two more matches with henkas of his own, earning the disapproval of the crowd. Harumafuji seemed to be in a bit of a poor state, looking dreadfully nervous before his match with Tochiozan, only 2-3 at this early stage and looking more tired by the day (at around this point, talk of intai bubbled up from the internet like gas from a swamp). The lower San’yaku were doing no better, with Yoshikaze and Tochiozan only able to pick up their first wins on day five, and Mitakeumi suffering lightning-fast slap-downs on the first two days and struggling to reach 2-3 by way of an injured Tochinoshin. Tamawashi was also on 2-3 but at least looking like he was putting in the effort (having suffered one loss due to a slip, one to his nemesis Shohozan aganst whom he has a dismal 1-12 record, and another due largely to a nagging twisted ankle after the previous day’s victory over Takayasu). Meanwhile, the unlikeliest of candidates were doing splendidly: Onosho, ranked high enough to face San’yaku competition for the first time, was undefeated (something of a rarity – a new rikishi’s first encounter with the San’yaku is usually a series of demoralizing defeats and a trip back down the banzuke to regroup). Chiyotairyu found his relatively simple and direct style served him nicely, delivering four quick, decisive wins. Kotoshogiku had apparently decided to prove he’s not ready to retire yet and also picked up four wins (admittedly, one from a henka and one from Harumafuji thinking the bout was a matta). Will we see a yusho from an unexpected quarter? Will the San’yaku ranks be thrown into complete disarray? Will Harumafuji even make it to the end of the tournament? Perhaps more to the point, will the field thin even further from injuries?

Day ten

Fast-forward another five days, and the picture is quite different. Goeido leads in the yusho race (with only him and Chiyotairyu having managed their kachi-koshi!), and despite employing very reactive, backward-moving sumo in the tournament’s first half – to much disapproval – he seems to have gotten into the swing of things and become the unstoppable force who we love to watch. And yet, the spectre of those two henkas hangs in the air, and a yusho victory would feel tainted by a performance that many say is unbecoming of an Ozeki. And what about the triumphant young ‘tadpoles’? Well, Chiyotairyu looks dominant at this point. That simple and direct style has won bouts against rikishi with far more apparent versatility, just because Chiyotairyu executes it with such speed, power, and instinct. It even flattened Onosho in a very one-sided bout, the first of a series of three losses that would see the enthusiastic red-mawashi-clad youngster drop from contention in the yusho race. Aside from these two, the rest of the Yusho chase group consists of M8 and lower wrestlers (who, while well on the way to a satisfying and rewarding kachi-koshi, seem unlikely to claim the Emperor’s Cup as they are sure to be matched up against tougher and tougher opposition if they keep winning). The yusho is Goeido’s to lose – although everyone knows he’ll face Harumafuji on the last day, and Onosho and Chiyotairyu continue to look like convincing competition. Harumafuji has picked up a little after a rocky start, Mitakeumi is in peril since he needs three more wins and hasn’t faced anyone above Komusubi yet, and Yoshikaze has had a startling return to form and not dropped a single bout since his initial run of four losses. But for now, the spotlight is on Goeido.

On a more subdued note, Aoiyama and Sadanoumi have returned to the competition, although by this stage both are make-koshi, with Aoiyama managing a single win and Sadanoumi none. Aoiyama might have done better if he hadn’t been fed to Harumafuji and Goeido straight off the bat, but he is in the Joi according to his ranking and would be expected to face them both at some point.

The conclusion

By day twelve, the banzuke looks… well, rather odd. In the lead: Goeido. In pursuit: Ten other rikishi. Three days to go, and either you do not have your kachi-koshi yet, or you are in contention for the yusho. Amongst that hallowed chase group: Kotoshogiku, who many people said should retire last basho. Harumafuji, who some people said should retire last week. Endo, proud owner of one working ankle. Onosho, newcomer to the Joi. Asanoyama, newcomer to Maegashira 16. I start to wonder what kind of parallel sumo world I’m looking at. It’s a far cry from Nagoya, that’s for sure.

Something astonishing happens on day thirteen. Every single person in the chase group, except Harumafuji and Asanoyama, loses their bout. And since their opponents (Yoshikaze and Daiesho respectively) were also in the chase group, there could be no worse outcome. Luckily for keeping things interesting, Goeido blew it too. This match is one to remember – for a while, it seemed Goeido had left the early basho’s reactive, retreating sumo behind, but here he seems unwilling to charge into Takakeisho, preferring to circle around with deft sidesteps. And then he slips on the clay. It’s not an unforced error, and Takakeisho absolutely deserves credit for pushing the Ozeki onto the defensive (he got that credit in the form of the shukun-sho), but that slip changed the course of the basho. And after that rocky start, the lone Yokozuna is suddenly back in the spotlight.

On day fourteen, there are – technically – sixteen rikishi with a chance of winning the Yusho in a kind of absurd thirteen-way playoff, although that would require Goeido to lose to Takanoiwa and Harumafuji to lose to Mitakeumi. Lovers of chaos cross their fingers.

You know how this ends (and if you don’t, go and watch the matches rather than reading about them). On day 14, Asanoyama finds that he simply can’t deal with Onosho’s onslaught. Goeido stays cool and collected through two mattas, goes on the attack for the whole bout against a Takanoiwa who seems determined to play the dodging, retreating, pull-down defensive role that Goeido himself took earlier in the tournament, and scores a win despite teetering on the edge of a fall several times. Mitakeumi and Harumafuji meet in a cracking tachi-ai, Mitakeumi gets both his hands to a powerful inside grip and converts it into a perfect moro-zashi. The crowd’s intake of breath is audible to the cameras. They lock up for a while, Mitakeumi seemingly wondering just what to do now that he has such a commanding grip… and then Harumafuji somehow borrows the strength of the three absent Yokozuna and carries him out of the ring.

On the final day, it comes down to those two. I, personally, would not begrudge Goeido the yusho, despite those henkas on days three and four. He has exhibited excellent sumo and been a joy to watch at other times. His losses came from one henka, one slip, and Shohozan (who is a force of nature at times). But Harumafuji has without question been the more aggressive rikishi, and between that and little moments of grace – like catching Tochiozan’s head for safety at the conclusion of their first bout, or ensuring Shohozan didn’t fall from the edge of the dohyo – have me (and probably everyone else) cheering for the Yokozuna. He’s clearly not at 100% – there was a very real chance he’d skip the basho entirely, were it not for the absence of the other three Yokozuna – and he’s already shown he can make mistakes. He needs to win twice, while Goeido only needs to win once. And he only goes and does it.

So, yes, in the end, the only Yokozuna in the competition took the yusho, and the only Ozeki took the jun-yusho. But what a road we took to get there!