Today is setsubun, the last for the current Emperor. Herouth’s got some great highlights on her Twitter feed from this year’s mame maki events. Goeido was back home in Osaka with Hakuho, Mitakeumi, and Okinoumi? in Kanto. Hakuho walked rather gingerly down the temple stairs. Great timing for a month break.
I was re-reading my post from last year…are the giant maki rolls still a thing? Also, has anyone seen the stage version of Groundhog Day?
I updated the kimarite visualization with data from Hatsu 2019. I also took one of Herouth’s suggestions from before and tried to add oyakata. Some predate the data I have entirely, others don’t have complete data for what I have but some of the younger cohort, including Kotooshu, are in there. Note that the charts use the shikona, not the oyakata’s current name. (As a usability note, I usually click on the “full screen” view option, available at the bottom right of the visualization, rather than scroll, and I’m not a fan of how it bleeds over the widgets on the right.)
A few other things that I quietly changed before the tournament are the date slider and the use of percentages rather than outright counts of bouts. This will let you see the wrestlers’ kimarite ratios in annual chunks, or for their career (back to 1985 for the older ones). It is interesting to compare Kotooshu to Akebono to see how versatile Akebono was. Kotooshu wasn’t a one-trick-pony as he certainly had a reliable uwatenage there in his back pocket. For sumo wrestlers, perhaps “up their sleeve” is a better phrase since their pockets are in their sleeves?
Act Two opens in dramatic fashion. There are great bouts today but tears will be shed and hopes dashed before the day is out. Let’s just get started.
Yutakayama and Daishomaru get the makuuchi bouts rolling for us. Two oshi wrestlers start things off…by quickly getting a grip? It looked like Yutakayama wanted to grapple since Daishomaru is much worse on the belt, losing almost 4x more often to yorikiri than he wins while Yutakayama is about 50-50 in those belt battles. Daishomaru was having none of it, batted Yutakayama’s arms away and circled in full retreat. This gave Yutakayama a chance for a hatakikomi pull down attempt but Daishomaru plowed through. Yutakayama decided enough is enough, held his ground, and pushed forward, forcing Daishomaru out. Wouldn’t you guess it? Oshidashi. Yutakayama improves to 4-2, Daishomaru still winless.
Ishiura channels Enho for his bout against Chiyoshoma. Ishiura has been regrouping nicely in Juryo, sitting on a 4-1 record to start the day. Rather than having a double henka, both wrestlers get straight to business with Ishiura going low. Chiyoshoma first establishes a two-handed belt grip but then uses his left to grab under Ishiura’s arm, initiating a throw attempt. Ishiura counters by driving into Chiyoshoma as they spin around. It looked for a second like Ishiura reached out to grab his opponent’s left knee which causes Chiyoshoma to stumble. Thus off balance, Ishiura continues to circle into Chiyoshoma whose feet no longer have traction in the clay, falling to shitatehineri. Ishiura improves to 5-1 and takes home some spending money while Chiyoshoma is 3-3.
Yago was just too big for Kotoeko, who’s still trying to find his way in the top division. Nominally, both men are relatively balanced with the belt or in pusher/thruster mode but Yago established a strong belt grip early and forced the much smaller man out. Yago remains in the hunt group at 5-1, looking for a prize and even further advancement, while Kotoeko is even at 3-3.
Chiyonokuni had a plan for Kotoyuki. 1) Stand your ground at the tachiai, 2) Unleash tsuppari to counter The Penguin, 3) Side-step. The critical piece is when to deploy the side step, which he did perfectly as the over-committed Kotoyuki flew off the dohyo and landed in amongst the crowd. Kotoyuki’s lost to hatakikomi nearly 60 times now, so you’d think he’d try to work out a solution. Chiyonokuni’s in the hunt at 5-1, while Kotoyuki’s 3-3.
Daiamami came in to this bout with Meisei wanting to grapple. Meisei was having none of it, however, and fought to keep Daiamami’s mitts off his belt while trying to establish his own belt grip. The fatal mistake for Daiamami appears to be when he gave up the belt and tried to go for a hatakikomi attempt. Meisei used the momentum shift to blast Daiamami into the crowd. Meisei’s 4-2 and may be hitting his stride and establishing himself as a makuuchi regular, while Daiamami’s 2-4 with a precarious hold on his position.
Kagayaki started out with his usual head-down pushing attack but Takarafuji got an early left-handed grip of his gold mawashi. A belt battle seems to favor the trapezius muscles of Takarafuji, who circled and executed an over-arm throw before both men tumbled out in a heap. Uwatenage. Takarafuji is 3-3 while Kagayaki’s 1-5.
Ikioi showed Kagayaki how to make the Pamplona bull thing work. Use it against a belt guy and drive with the shoulder. Ikioi is a balanced wrestler while Endo is much more comfortable with a grapple than slap fest. Today, Ikioi followed Kagayaki’s lead – stitches be damned – and led with the ole noggin…though that shoulder was there not just for backup but as the real driving force. Endo had no time to regroup as he found himself on his butt, at the base of the dohyo. Both are 3-3.
Sadanoumi got the jump on Kaisei. The much quicker tachiai helped establish a firm, two-handed belt grip put Kaisei on the retreat. However, he appeared to be hopping, favoring that left leg as if he couldn’t really put much weight on the right. Sadanoumi let him pogo himself out. Kaisei falls off the lead and into the hunt group at 5-1. Sadanoumi is 3-3. Kaisei appeared to walk back as if he was unhindered so hopefully the pogo-ing was more of a balance thing than a “my knee hurts” thing.
The next bout gave us a real clash of styles as a solid belt man Asanoyama takes on the long arms of Abi. Abi seemed to be the driving force here, keeping Asanoyama off his belt from the tachiai. He went into full retreat looking for a hatakikomi slapdown win but Asanoyama kept his balance while moving forward. Oshidashi win goes to Asanoyama who picks up his first of the tournament while Abi falls to 3-3.
If Abi wants to be a hatakikomi master, he needs to watch Aoiyama. The Bulgarian took on solid oshi battler, Daieisho. That nodowa on the tachiai nearly snapped Daieisho in two but Daieisho weathered the storm and evaded to the left. The damage was done, though, as Aoiyama had the clear initiative. Effective tsuppari let him try one hatakikomi pull which failed but he cycled around with more slaps to Daieisho’s face. This time, as Daieisho’s resistance brought his momentum forward, Aoiyama pulled and Daieisho went down. Hatakikomi. Personally, I think the difference is Aoiyama’s tsuppari works his opponent back to the opposite edge, giving him adequate space for the pull. Abi, on the other hand, seems to fly off the dohyo a lot. Aoiyama stays in the hunt at 5-1 while Daieisho falls to 2-4
Yoshikaze picked up his first win today against Ryuden. Ryuden had tried to get a good early tachiai but was thrown off by the gyoji who called him for two false starts. Yoshikaze followed through on the third tachiai putting his head right into Ryuden’s chin, driving him back and out. This means Daishomaru is left as the last makuuchi wrestler still in the tournament with 0 wins. Ryuden is 2-4.
Kotoshogiku drove Chiyotairyu straight back like a blocking sled and used that hip action to push Elvis out. Kotoshogiku is 4-2 while Chiyotairyu is 2-4. Onosho made quick work of Okinoumi, who prefers a belt battle, by staying low and fighting this bout his way, as a pushing-thrusting match. Onosho stays in the lead, 6-0, while Okinoumi falls to 3-3.
Now, for the bad news. Mitakeumi injured his left knee or ankle against Myogiryu. He could not make it back up to the dohyo and was carted out and taken to the hospital. It’s an innocuous injury. I thought it may have come when he tried to brace his weight against the tawara but now I think he rolled his ankle when he stepped off the dohyo. Both men prefer an oshi bout, so they came out guns blazing. Mitakeumi pulled but ran out of real estate and Myogiryu kept his balance, forcing Mitakeumi out. If it’s a sprain, we may see Mitakeumi again before the end of the tournament. Mitakeumi falls to 5-1 and Myogiryu climbs to 2-4. A bitter, disappointing day for Mitakeumi fans.
Tochiozan neutralized the Takakeisho thrusting from the word, “Go,” quickly establishing a grip of Takakeisho’s grey mawashi. Takakeisho’s fingers struggled to find purchase on Tochiozan’s belt so he had to satisfy himself with a hold of the Kochi native’s arm. It would have been a rather spectacular ipponzeoi but Takakeisho lacked the strength and leverage to pull Tochiozan over his back. The position gave Tochiozan a decisive advantage with Takakeisho’s back to him, so he pushed through, driving Takakeisho forward over the edge. Takakeisho falls out of the hunt group to 4-2 while Tochiozan improves to 2-4.
Tamawashi’s not pulling in enough kensho for Ichinojo bother with beast mode, instead reverting to boulder mode on the tachiai. Tamawashi blasts the boulder off with a few strong shoulder thrusts. Both men are 4-2.
Goeido pissed of Shohozan with his slow-roll tachiai. Shohozan wasn’t having any of it, so he blasted off in his face like, “Let’s go already!” Goeido commits a bit quicker this time and bulls forward like a battleship under full steam. Shohozan slips to the side a beat early as Goeido had room to plot a course correction. Goeido adjusts, homes in on Shohozan, and picks up the yorikiri win. Both are 2-4.
With Kakuryu kyujo, and now Mitakeumi likely following him to the couch, Hokutofuji may now pick up a couple of fusen wins, today’s moves him to 4-2. Nishikigi hoped to regroup after yesterday’s dramatic but disappointing loss to The Boss. Takayasu’s a tough one to regroup against, though. And today, Takayasu did not want Nishikigi anywhere near his belt. With Nishikigi’s right arm containing the Ozeki’s left, Nishikigi’s fingers sought out a left-hand grip of the mawashi but Takayasu wasn’t having any of it. With Takayasu’s attention diverted, Nishikigi thought it would be a good time to try a pull but Takayasu read it and drove through the maegashira, ushering him out for the yorikiri win. Takayasu improves to 3-3 while Nishikigi slips out of the hunt to 4-2.
Hakuho closed things out today with Shodai at the musubi-no-ichiban. At the tachiai, both men seek out and quickly get one-handed belt grips. When things settle in the middle of the ring, Shodai tries to adjust his grip but Hakuho uses that time to strike, grabs the other side of Shodai’s mawashi and walks him back and out. Yorikiri. Hakuho remains tied for the lead with Onosho while Shodai slips to 2-4.
After these first few days of Hatsu 2019, it seemed like a lot of bouts were being decided as oshidashi, so I thought I’d take a look at how the tournament fits in with the narrative around the declining use of yorikiri/ yoritaoshi to win tournaments and the rising use of oshidashi/oshitaoshi.
I am very tempted to lump the Top 5 throws category in with yorikiri since throws seem, to me, an extension of “belt work”. Similarly, hatakikomi could be a “pusher/thruster” tactic? Anyway, some of the 72 others could also be lumped in with one or the other but decided to just take any kimarite of less than 1% and lump them all into “other”.
It’s clearly too early to say anything about whether 2019 will see this trend continue or anything, but it was very interesting to see just how much things have changed over the past 30 years. It’s also interesting to look at just the sekitori bouts because the data for that in the SumoDB goes back a little further.
I just wanted to look back to 1985 because that’s the year Back to the Future takes place and it’s a great movie. My theory is, the fall of Communism lead to the collapse of Yorikiri. Then the real estate bubble and Global Financial Crisis lead to a brief bounce in its popularity as Socialist forces mobilized and governments moved again to the Left. After a brief correction due to Angelina Jolie’s leg in 2012, the Yorikiri leftists were on the march again, until 2016 when the world just went ape shit and the oshidashists took over.
Just kidding. It is interesting to see that yorikiri has had a couple of boomlets in these two divisions over the past twenty years. When I looked at just Jonokuchi through Sandanme, however, it looks like yorikiri is coming back in a big way. Again, it’s way to early to really tell…I’m just having a laugh while looking at pretty graphs.
Here at the close of Act One, the competitors begin to fall into three groups: those hungry for a title or special prize or big promotion, those in over their heads, and those in the middle who will likely be happy with a kachi-koshi winning record. We’ll deal with those over their heads first.
Though it’s too early to start thinking yusho, Hakuho has a shaky hold on the lead with several up-starts like Mitakeumi and Kaisei. Notably the biggest surprise of the first few days, though, must be Nishikigi. Speaking of shaky starts, Onosho was the benefactor of a technical disqualification yesterday, so his hold on the lead is tenuous. And we’ll want to see if Aoiyama can recover from that disappointing loss. (Rules are rules). His sleeper status may benefit him deeper in the yusho race. And finally, Ichinojo has been on fire against the top crop. Will he keep it going?
Obviously, the biggest clutch of wrestlers have 2 or 3 wins and I’m not going to go through every one but I do want to highlight a few, starting from the top. Kakuryu and Takayasu are in a spot of bother and will want to close Act One with one more win. Hokutofuji and Kotoshogiku have also been showing us some of their best sumo. Further down the banzuke, it’s been great to see light from stars Endo and Abi.
Enough with the intro, let’s get to the action.
Day 5 Results
Makuuchi action begins with no visitors from Juryo as Kisenosato’s absence from the torikumi temporarily evens things out. So from the bottom rungs of the division we have Daiamami taking on Kotoeko. Kotoeko starts with a half-hearted henka, easily countered by the larger Daiamami who wastes little time taking charge, wrapping up the lavender mawashi and throwing Kotoeko to the dohyo. A much needed win for Daiamami who moves to 2-3 while Kotoeko falls to 3-2.
Next up, Yutakayama faced off against Chiyoshouma, who quickly got a left hand grip of the larger man’s mawashi. With that, he reached up with the right to the back of Yutakayama’s head, stepped back and pulled. Despite Yutakayama’s desperate attempt to maintain balance, Chiyoshouma kept the pressure on his opponent’s back and prone arm, expertly executing a quick katasukashi win. Both men close Act One at 3-2.
Kotoyuki took advantage of Daishomaru’s poor form and did what he does best: oshidashi. Daishomaru is winless and staring Juryo demotion in the face, while Kotoyuki improves to 3-2.
Next, Yago faced off against Chiyonokuni in our first bout featuring two wrestlers from the leadership peloton. Yago was a bit too eager, causing a false start. From the tachiai, though, he seemed to have control. Chiyonokuni’s tsuppari was enthusiastic and forceful, driving Yago backwards. The big man seemed to take it in stride and when he established a firm, two-handed grip on his opponent’s belt, the tide shifted. Yago drove Chiyonokuni across the dohyo. Chiyonokuni slid to the side, desperate to escape the bullfrog’s clutches and even managed to twist away from Yago’s left hand and had Yago teetering on the brink. But with a resolute right-hand grip (thankfully the right arm acting in stead of a spring-loaded tongue, which would be gross) Yago said, “Not so fast,” dragging Chiyonokuni to the ground. Great bout from two great wrestlers, both on 4-1 records and looking for advancement.
Kagayaki, now on full time Pamplona bull duty, faced Meisei. Predictably, Kagayaki charged, leading with his head. Meisei met him with full force at the tachiai but shifted left and grabbed Kagayaki by the right arm, forcing him down to the clay. Kagayaki falls to 1-4 and Meisei improves to 3-2. How is Ikioi even here? Always eager, the heavily bandaged karaoke champion squared off against Takarafuji. The solid tachiai drove Takarafuji back and out for his second win. Both are 2-3.
Endo started off quickly with a morozashi, two-handed grip, against Sadanoumi but Sadanoumi was able to get a solid grip of Endo’s mawashi as well. Endo recovered from an attempted throw on the edge as both tussled for control of this back-and-forth bout. Each man took turns with their backs against the tawara before action would settle, and return to the middle. Endo worked up a final charge and flattened Sadanoumi at the corner of the dohyo. Endo improves to 3-2, Sadanoumi falls to 2-3.
Abi came out with strong tsuppari against Kaisei but this is where he does need to learn to use the belt. His slaps had no effect on the big Brazilian, who effortlessly shoved Abi out. The secret to Abi is, avoid hatakikomi. Kaisei has learned and never over-committed. Kaisei stays tied for the lead with five wins while Abi falls to 3-2.
Asanoyama is out of sorts and in trouble. Daieisho absorbed the brunt of his tachiai but a simple left-ward shift and pull was enough to drop Asanoyama to his fifth loss. Daieisho stays hopeful at 2-3. Onosho battered Yoshikaze to grab an easy fifth win. Yoshikaze joins Asanoyama in the likely injured 0-5 crowd. Ryuden gave Aoiyama a bit more of a challenge than thought but never really got his own attack going, trying to avoid tsuppari but eventually falling to a hatakikomi loss. Aoiyama improves to 4-1, staying in the hunt, while Ryuden slips to 2-3.
Okinoumi’s been showing some strong sumo of late. Today, he took on Chiyotairyu. After playing, “Who Wants to Go First,” the game that always works to annoy the gyoji, Okinoumi took the initiative and got a solid grip on Chiyotairyu, winning with a throw. Okinoumi improves to 3-2 while Chiyotairyu slips to 2-3.
Hokutofuji had a plan against Kotoshogiku…don’t let him start the hug-n-chug. Keep him off the belt. He succeeded in that, but he never really got a counter attack going. Kotoshogiku kept up the pressure and actually won by oshidashi. Imagine that. Both men are 3-2.
Mitakeumi faced off against Tamawashi in the first sanyaku bout of the day. This was a straight forward oshi-slap fest but Mitakeumi’s tsuppari was a bit too strong as he backed Tamawashi out. Mitakeumi stays tied for the lead with his fifth win while Tamawashi drops to 3-2. Similarly, Takakeisho came out ready against Myogiryu, fought his fight, and won by quick oshidashi. Takakeisho stays in the hunt at 4-1 while Myogiryu falls to 1-4.
Takayasu was definitely the aggressor in todays bout with Shodai. However, his nodowa and oshi-attempts were not enough to keep Shodai off the belt. As Takayasu tried to escape and initiate his own throw, Shodai bullied through, forcing Takayasu off the dohyo. The Ozeki appeared to injure his arm while going down. Both men are 2-3. With Tochinoshin kyujo, Shohozan picked up the freebie win, and is also 2-3.
Goeido met Tochiozan with a forceful tachiai, and blasted him backwards. Remember what I was saying the other day about putting certain things to bed? Maybe that was a little hasty. Both men are 1-4.
Kakuryu needed to win a quick one against Ichinojo but had no answer for the big man today. Once Ichinojo got a belt grip, he took his time to wear down the injured Yokozuna. After a few minutes rebuffing Kakuryu’s attempts to throw, Ichinojo ended things by gently walking Kakuryu out the back of the dohyo. There may be several kyujo announcements to come.
Hakuho, were you nervous any? Two mattas to start this match. Clearly the Yokozuna felt the pressure of the unknown Nishikigi. This is their first bout and Nishikigi was the calm one. After a solid tachiai to finally get things going, Hakuho attempted to go into hip-pumping mode. But Nishikigi neutralized the attack by leaning into the Dai-Yokozuna. Working up another charge, Hakuho drove Nishikigi backwards but the maegashira showed some moxie, pivoting at the edge and throwing Hakuho to the dohyo while going out. The gyoji’s gunbai to Nishikigi…and I start the wasabi marinade.
しかし! The Shinpan ascend and a mono-ii review finds the bout to close to call! Torinaoshi redo! The boss’s condition looks shaky but he still has hope. This time, rather than attack, Hakuho retreats and awaits Nishikigi’s charge. Three times the young upstart tries to force Hakuho off the dohyo but on the third attempt, Hakuho grabs Nishikigi’s mawashi and throws him out. Uwatenage.