“Practice?”

Your not-so-humble correspondent cannot process the word practice (or the Japanese word keiko) without thinking of Allen Iverson. In the clip below, I skipped past most of his infamous rant on the topic, which begins around the 7:21 mark. I skipped forward to where he says, “How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?” (Gaa! The embed is not queuing it up the way I want. The quote is at 8:53.)

Enter today’s reporting from Herouth via Twitter. The ban on practice outside the stable will continue until the basho. In between tournaments, and especially in the lead-up to a tournament, top-ranking wrestlers travel to other stables to take on their would-be opponents. I’m taking liberties here with the point behind Iverson’s quote since the issue here is that a wrestler will ONLY be able to wrestle with their stablemates. But I do wonder how effective these degeiko trips are and am very eager to see how the first few days play out.

As she points out, Tamawashi and Ichinojo will not be able to face off against other sekitori until they climb onto the dohyo. I also want to point out that this means no sanyaku will be able to warm up against other sanyaku. While Daieisho has Endo, Takakeisho has Takanosho and Shodai has Yutakayama as peers in the same heya, this restriction against degeiko could mean there will be considerable ring-rust during “Act I” of the Tokyo Basho. To get a quick sense of how this will impact our top wrestlers, I again offer up the Heya visualization I created a few weeks ago (though the ranks have NOT been updated for the new banzuke).

Despite my inability to get the new ranks updated for everyone in time for this article the promotions and demotions will not, for the most part, be of a totally different class. For Arashio stable, Wakatakakage and his brothers will not be able to get pointers from other makuuchi wrestlers. Will this limit his ability to compete with the likes of Takayasu, Terunofuji, and Great Wall of Sadogatake?

In the past, the news that trickled out of these degeiko sessions has not always been a reliable indicator of a top wrestler’s fitness or ability to hold his own for a week of competition, much less two. I’m not looking at you, Tagonoura-beya — or perhaps I am? Takayasu’s top competition, aside from picking on the retired old geezers (I jest), will be Sandanme-ranked Akashifuji. Without the PR trips to take on Sadogatake or Isegahama powerhouses, will we be left with a more realistic picture of his prospects?

So, with much love to The Answer*, I lean toward agreeing with Herouth. Ichinojo’s in much the same boat as Takayasu. I’m not entirely convinced Shodai is going to have a huge advantage, or if Ikioi and Nishikigi will regain their sanyaku form, but it will be very interesting to see if Sadogatake comes out of this without needing an industrial case of Rustoleum.

* The Glove is Gary Payton as Todd pointed out. Allen Iverson was “The Answer.” The Answer to the question of, “Practice?”

Shiko [四股]

Shiko is one of the fundamental exercises in sumo. During this break in action, the Sumo Kyokai (Japanese Sumo Association) has been posting demonstrations of shiko from many top wrestlers. It is exercise #3 in the Kyokai’s list of “sumo taiso” exercises, and during the pandemic it is also an attempt to help people find exercises they can do at home. Yesterday’s post was of Kotonowaka.

My son has gone a bit soccer mad so we play in the backyard just about every day. My shooting has improved dramatically as this shot went around a tree and just caught the top corner. He thought it was going wide but just curved in. Despite my son’s protests, VAR upheld this goal.

updated with better quality

Every few days I would tweak this one quad muscle that runs down the front of my thigh, and sometimes my groin. So I started doing shiko in the mornings and it actually seems to help stretch that rectus femoris muscle that I think had been giving me so many issues. I also think it helps to stretch my IT band because that does not hurt anymore when I run. The video below was the only one I could find that tried to mention the muscle groups involved. There’s also this entertaining post from the sumo forum. (From 2004! Pre-Abi, Pre-Endo.)

Sumo Stables For Beginners

If you’re like me, the sumo stables (heya) are a rather daunting mystery. There are so many of them that even after all of these years, beyond a few famous ones, I still can’t tell my Futagoyama from my Nishikido. After all, there are 45 active stables and there have been significant changes in the past couple of years. There are also many former and a few active wrestlers, ready to spread their wings and set up their own new stables.

There are great resources online to help out. First, the Sumo Kyokai’s website has the Sumo Beya Guide with a list of the wrestlers and staff. In a pinch, it’s a great, current roster. Then, of course, the SumoDB has a ton of information on the stables of each wrestler and does a great job tracking the history of changes; wrestlers do move from one heya to another — usually because a stable closes and its wrestlers are absorbed by a second stable, or a new stable opens and rikishi follow their recruiter to his new home.

Excellent Heya Roster and Sumo Reference

Hat-tip to Bruce for this excellent reference book. It has a complete roster with mugshots of all the wrestlers at the time of printing, grouped with their heya. It also has the staff, including coaches, hair dressers, gyoji, and support staff…my go-to reference, especially when watching those lower division matches because it includes the all-important furigana to help me penetrate some of the more bewildering shikona.

To add to these resources, I put together a little dashboard that I hope you will find as helpful as I do. This helps me get even more of a sense of not only which wrestlers are in which stable but also where the stables draw their wrestlers from. I can also drill into the kimarite (or winning techniques) the rikishi prefer, as well as what they fall victim to.

Feel free to click around. You can select a heya from the radio buttons on the right on either tab and the banzuke will filter to only those wrestlers from your selected heya. On the first tab, you can also click on a shusshin to have the banzuke filter to the wrestlers from that shusshin and on the second tab, click on the individual wrestler’s name to filter the kimarite chart. The kimarite includes each wrestlers’ career record — not just Osaka.

Oitekaze: A Southern Stable

As an example, let’s take a look at Oitekaze-beya, home of Endo, Daieisho, and just about everyone else named Dai~~ and Tsurugisho. Curiously, Oitekaze oyakata seems to recruit exclusively from the southern half of Japan. Tatsunami-beya, on the other hand, picks guys from the far north, the far south, and around Kanto…skipping over much in between.

Daiei-oshi

On the second tab, you can see how well each wrestler did in Osaka in the top graph. In the bottom chart, you can discern his strengths and weaknesses. For Endo, we’ve got a clear preference for yotsu techniques while Daieisho prefers an oshi-battle, win or lose. You can get a sense that he will force the issue and not allow anyone near his belt while Endo is not quite as able to assert his preference.

I’m eager to hear what you discover about your favorite stables…or if it helps you find a stable to investigate further. I’ll update this with the current banzuke as we get closer to Nagoya Tokyo.

Asahiyama-oyakata hosts TV Special on Saturday

For those in Japan, mark your calendars for Saturday at 1:30pm on BSFuji TV. Asahiyama-oyakata will join Karahashi Yumi to discuss sumo. Though there will be no Natsu Basho, there is clearly A LOT to discuss, including the results of Haru, Asanoyama’s Ozeki promotion and the pandemic’s impact.