The Post Natsu Break


Kisenosato-Injury

What, No Jungyo?

Sumo fans may note that after most basho, there is a tour of regional cities by a cadre of available sumotori. They demonstrate their practice techniques, some of the culture and activities around sumo, and even sing songs! We have written on this in the past, and it’s known as Jungyo, literally “Making the rounds”.

But after Natsu, there is no Jungyo. The rikishi have 6 weeks to train with intensity, to undergo medical care, fly home to wherever that may be, or just take care of business. There are a handful of Makuuchi rikishi I am going to scan the press for daily, in hopes of catching some news:

  • Kisenosato – This guy needs surgical help. If he goes under the knife now, he could be back in fighting form in time for Aki. I really want him to be able to perform, as he would make such an awesome counterbalance to the resurgent Hakuho. The cultural counterpoint between the brash, enthusiastic Mongolian showman vs the quiet, almost bookish, but overflowing with confidence and strength Japanese master craftsman would be such a wonderful story arc.
  • Harumafuji – Not sure there is much that can fix his chronic undercarriage problems. He plays, perhaps, the most critical role in sumo right now. That of “the Hammer”. On any given day he can wipe out even Hakuho. He is explosive, relentless and driven to succeed. No one can advance to or survive San’yaku unless they can face him on the dohyo and put up a decent fight. As such, I hope there is something that can be done to get him well. I don’t see anyone in Makuuchi that might be able to take over this role.
  • Goeido – This guy is still not 100%, and frankly I don’t know if he ever can be once he had his ankle rebuilt out of lego and superglue. I would be delighted if he never went Kadoban again.
  • Terunofuji – The knee-less wonder somehow managed to keep on the offensive during Hatsu, even though it was clear to everyone that each day the pain in his knees became worse. When he is healthy he is an unstoppable beast of an Ozeki, and that’s very good news for sumo. Surgical knee treatment is very much hit or miss, so I don’t blame Terunofuji for seeing if there is some way to avoid it.
  • Okinoumi – This guy has been competing in spite of a very serious personal injury that would require surgery and about 4 weeks hospitalization to resolve. Would he still be able to compete once they are done with him? I don’t know. But it’s brutal to watch him mount the dohyo and get pummeled daily. I can’t imagine how brutal it is for him.
  • Tochinoshin – He’s in the same boat at Terunofuji. That knee has been his bane for a while now. With it working and healthy, he fights at at least upper Maegashira level. Hurt he’s day by day between upper Juryo and mid Maegashira. It would be great to see him return healthy and not face any further leg and foot problems.
  • Osunaarashi – I wish we could pull this guy out of sumo for a few months and let him get healthy. He’s another dauntless competitor whose spirit won’t give up, but his body seems to be failing him. But such a move would likely end his career effectively. But out of everyone on this list, he seems to possibly be the most in need. He has not been healthy for several basho now.

As always, we accept tips in the comments section if you read something that helps us know and share with the world how these or any rikishi are faring over the next 6 weeks before we start Nagoya basho.

Natsu Story 3 – Ozeki / Yokozuna Struggles


Yokozuna-Corps

Everyone Is Walking Wounded

Since the tragic bout in Nagoya where Hakuho broke his toe (which required surgery), the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have suffered an endless cycle of injury. With the secretive nature of injury reporting, it is difficult to tell how damaged these top rikishi are, but we have seen (at a minimum)

  • Hakuho – Left leg damage, surgical repair to toes and knees
  • Harumafuji – Persistent problems with ankles and elbows
  • Kakuryu – Recurring lower back pain and unspecified injury
  • Kiseonsato – Ruptured pectoral muscle
  • Goeido – Shattered ankle requiring reconstructive surgery
  • Terunofuji – Persistent knee problems and pain

Each of these rikishi have been among the elite of a very difficult and competitive sport, but over time injuries only partially healed or completely ignored have degraded their performance to the point that each basho, fans are left to hope that at least two top ranked men survive to battle the final day.

As we have speculated in prior posts, it is clear that some of these stars of sumo will be leaving the dohyo in the near future, barring some significant medical intervention. Each of them (save perhaps Kisenosato) is a shadow of their former self on most days. For example, Terunofuji’s performance in Osaka was thrilling, and fans largely rejoyced to see him execute his amazing sumo once more. But it should be noted that it was an exception to the past few years, where Terunofuji has limped along, usually barely scraping by.

There are some indication coming from pre-basho practice that Hakuho may be in fairly good form, and we may see another basho of the Michael Jordan of sumo. Fans of one of the greatest man to ever step on the dohyo are all praying we can see him in top for at least one more time. But it’s very sad that for all of the top men of sumo, we now expect all of these stars to be in less than peak performance.

Though we saw a new Yokozuna crowned in January, the team at Tachiai still think we are on the cusp of a “changing of the guard” in Sumo.

Kisenosato Struggles To Prepare For Natsu


Kisenosato Natsu Banzuke

Yokozuna Works To Recover From Major Injury

Japan has been over the top obsessed with Kisenosato since he won the New Years tournament in Tokyo, and finally was promoted to Yokozuna. His performance in Osaka was stellar, and he managed to win over a resurgent Ozeki Terunofuji in spite of a major injury to his left upper body. Information about the injury sustained on day 13 against Yokozuna Harmufuji was hard to come by, but it was later learned that he had torn his left pectoral muscle, and would take at least a month to recover.

The month passed and the spring Jungyo public exhibitions were going at full pace. Other injured rikishi joined the tour, including Yokozunas Hakuho and Harumafuji – both of which were recovering from their own injuries. But still no sign of Kisenosato.

His stablemaster, Tagonoura Oyakata, stated his primary focus was to return Japan’s favorite Yokozuna to full health and fighting form. But it has been clear to sumo fans that Kisenosato’s injury may have been more severe than was originally reported.

Earlier this week, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council held one of their periodic training and evaluation sessions, referred to as a Soken, where all of the leading Sekitori are present, fighting practice matches. This time it was held at the Kokugikan, and the public was invited to watch.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Kisenosato was a no-show. The Japan Sumo Association was furious that their tops star and number 1 ratings machine had skipped the first big PR event for the upcoming Natsu Basho, and had failed to even tell anyone he was not coming.

Stable master Tagonoura Oyakata quickly took blame for the failure of communication for the Yokozuna, but it was a spectacular and unforced embarrassment. Kisenosato further stated “Since I can’t do any sumo against sekitori, I was allowed to rest. I could have gone and done the basic shiko and stuff, but I preferred to try and do sumo against the lower rankers at home. This is unforgivable..”

Forward to today, where the practices between stables is in full swing, as the sumotori ready themselves for a sold out Natsu basho. But Kisenosato is still at home at Tagonoura, practicing against lower-level rakishi.

As of today, it would be prudent to mark Kisenosato as questionable for Natsu. It’s clear that he is still not fully recovered, and that he is guarding his condition in hopes of dramatic improvement over the next 8 days, and that somehow allows him to make a good showing for the first week of Natsu.

Kisenosato Restarts Training with Pectoral Injury


There’s more bad news on Kisenosato. His stable revealed new details of the extent of his injuries which include a previously undisclosed injury to his left major pectoral muscle. He also restarted training on April 3. We can only wonder why he’s begun training again but I hope his injury is allowed to heal completely. Maybe he’s being allowed to throw a ball against the wall to stave off boredom?

This news comes via Nikkei. The headline we’ll discuss today is below:

稀勢の里、新たに左大胸筋損傷が判明 非公開で稽古再開

By now, we know the kanji for Kisenosato’s shikona, so we all know who we’re talking about. So let’s move on and parse the six kanji characters in the middle, right before the hiragana “GA.” This is usually the subject. These six go together as, “left (左) major (大) pectoral (胸) muscle (筋) injury (損傷).”

Going back to the kanji and two hiragana characters after the comma, we’ve also previously seen the kanji for “new”. With the hiragana -tani, we get the adverbial form, so this yields, “newly.” Japanese usually puts the verb at the end of the phrase. In this case we get, hanmei, or reveal (判明) right before the break in the headline. So, we basically have “a newly revealed left pectoral muscle injury.”

非公開で稽古再開

It’s this last bit which is the startling revelation, in my book. Let’s start at the end. The last two characters (再開) mean restart. Immediately before that, we see what he restarted. Keiko (稽古) means “training.” Hikōkai (非公開) means “private,” and with the hiragana -de, we can take that as “privately.” So, all together, Kisenosato has privately restarted training with a previously undisclosed left pectoral injury. Surely the big guy was not going to sit on the couch watching Cowboy Bebop all day. And he has pulled out of the Spring Jungyo exhibition tour. They are taking his injury seriously and I hope he will be healed and ready in May.

Lastly, I thought I’d show the translations we get from our three translation engines. Google didn’t do too poorly but the use of the word “unpublished” rather than “private” does change the meaning of the headline pretty significantly. Rather than saying he has already restarted, that would seem to imply it may start again at a future date. Excite takes the other tack of making it explicit that “practice resumes.” Yahoo’s regurgitated brekkie sausage (wonderful term, Dana!) brings to mind those fancy restaurants that smear sugar, cocoa and honey on a plate, calling it a “deconstructed S’more.” Completely unintelligible.

According to Google Translate: “Rare village, newly revealed left major pectoral muscle damage Unpublished training restart”
According to Yahoo! Japan: “Revelation is closed and takes a lesson, and, Kisenosato, the left pectoralis major muscle damage reopens newly”
According to Excite: “The left greater pectoral muscle damage is revealing closure again, and a practice resumes Sato of rare momentum.”

Kisenosato’s Left Shoulder / Arm Injury


Kise-Arm

Recovery Time: 1 Month

One of the biggest elements to the grand story of the Haru basho was Yokozuna Kisenosato’s unlikely and, to some, unbelievable win following a significant injury on day 13 in his match against Yokozuna Harumafuji. Harumafuji has a couple of very fierce match templates. One of them is to pack overwhelming force into a huge tachiai, blasting his opponent at least off balance and possibly clean off the dohyo.

Harumafuji has been nursing injuries himself for the past year, and decided “Atomic Tachiai” would be his approach to Kisenosato. It worked, and in a tragic misfortune, Kisenosato fell badly and damaged his left upper body. The sumo press, his coach, his stable and everyone were very tight lipped about the nature of his injury, and the severity. Speculation was amplified by the silence, and there was serious talk of his withdrawing from the basho. However he found the tenacity to appear for his day 14 match against Yokozuna Kakuryu. It was clear that he had no strength, and was in a great deal of pain.

Now word comes that Kisenosato will require at least one month to recover from damage to the muscles in his left upper arm and chest. It should be noted that reports still don’t discuss the nature or extent of his injury, only that he will be recovering for month, and will not participate in the spring sumo PR tour know as Jungyo.

The Osaka tournament champion was quoted as saying: “I’m not really in any pain now, so I think I should be able to join the tour (Jungyo) as soon as my doctor allows it”. His stable master was also quoted as saying “It’s important for him to rest now. The Yokozuna (Kisenosato) wants to go on the tour, but his injury must be completely healed. I won’t give permission without an exam to confirm it”.

Haru Day 14 Preview


Kise-kak-14

Kisenosato Will Compete Day 14

The results from day 13 were catastrophic for the Japanese sumo industry. Their home-grown Yokozuna was hurt in a bout, many would say needlessly. Some my wonder why I label this a catastrophe, it’s because Kisenosato’s ascension led to a huge uptick in sumo’s popularity and cultural prominence. Any long term injury could lead to some very hard feelings between the Japanese public and some of sumo’s top performers. This would be an utter disaster for the sport.

As of the moment this is being written (and one of the reasons it’s so late), Kisenosato has decided he is going to show up and face Kakuryu on day 14. I fear that he is not at 100%, and may in fact risk a grave injury. But Kisenosato is so proud to be a Yokozuna now, he wants to show Japan that he is going to be there, no matter how much it hurts.

In other news from day 13 (most of you will have watched video by now). Terunofuji defeated Kakuryu in a fairly amazing bout. I am not sure what happened to bring “classic” kaiju mode Terunofuji back, but I think everyone (including myself) figured he was gone for good. Now he is back, and he is tied for the lead in the yusho race with an injured Kisenosato.

Takayasu continued his typical out of gas / collapse on day 13, losing to Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze is now kachi-koshi, which delights me, but I was hoping to see Takayasu set his defeat aside and charge ahead. Kotoshogiku also managed a win over Shodai, a convincing one, to keep his return to Ozeki status alive by the narrowest of margins.

Yusho Race – It’s either Terunofuji or Kisenosato. God help us, but they will face off on day 15.

Key Matches Day 14

Kisenosato vs Kakuryu – How injured is the Shin-Yokozuna? Time to find out. I doubt Kakuryu is going to give him any quarter. Kisenosato tends to beat Kakuryu, their career record is Kisenosato 31, Kakuryu 17. But this is going to be a tough match with Kisenosato’s left arm hurt. It’s also a must-win for Kakuryu, who only has 8 wins so far.

Kotoshogiku vs Terunofuji – Well, it’s been nice knowing you Kotoshogiku. Terunofuji seems only to be increasing in strength and intensity, where it’s clear the past few days the Kotoshogiku is on fumes. Terunofuji has gladly granted his opponents a double-inside “death grip” the past few days, and then proceeded to make them suffer. Given that Kotoshogiku will try for that same grip to start his hug-n-chug, the results could be ugly. Kotoshogiku must win all remaining bouts to return to his Ozeki rank.

Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu may be convincing himself that things are tougher than they should be. He needs to break above 10 to help his Ozeki push, and he needs to be able to recover from a disappointing loss like day 11 if he is to excel at sumo’s higher ranks. Takarafuji is fighting well this basho, so this is not an easy match.

Expected Day 15 Matches

  • Kakuryu vs Harumafuji
  • Kisenosato vs Terunofuji
  • Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze
  • Takayasu vs Tamawashi