Takayasu, the Grinder

An Unsteady Start

Unlike many Makuuchi mainstays, Takayasu did not take the express elevator from Jonokuchi to sekitori status. Some men have such physical prowess or talent that after starting from the bottom, they can make it to Juryo in under two years. Goeido climbed to Makushita 2 West in time for his sixth tournament, in January 2006, and joined the salaried ranks by November of that year. Others who had an established and successful college career, like Endo and Ichinojo, get a head start and begin their careers as high as mid-Makushita.

Takayasu’s Career, Visualized

Takayasu, on the other hand, started at the bottom and did not shoot straight up. The graph on the right side of the image above shows how Takayasu was grinding it out in Jonidan for a year and a half, spent another year in Sandanme, and then three in Makushita before earning his silk mawashi. How did he do it? What helped drive him those years, while guys like Aoiyama are in the Makushita joi within a year of their debut?

In July 2005, Takayasu broke out of Jonokuchi, ranked Jonidan 129w. Unlike Shunba, who worked on an oshi-style sumo that year, Takayasu chose a yotsu-style sumo. Neither of them were particularly dominant in their style, however. Shunba won as many bouts to oshidashi as he won, while Takayasu actually lost more to yorikiri than he won. However, of his 38 wins in that division, Takayasu employed 18 different kimarite while continuing to improve his yotsu skills through 2006 and into 2007. He was clearly testing out various throws and trips but was clearly developing his grappling acumen.

Something “Clicks”

In the fall of 2006, it seemed to finally click and he began to win more frequently with yotsu-techniques, especially yorikiri, but with hatakikomi, throws and trips sprinkled in. 2007 was a year of steady improvement in Sandanme with one tournament with a losing record. An interesting thing happened after that setback, though. He began to use oshi techniques and in November he went 5-2 with three wins by oshidashi.

This success brought him to the cusp of makushita but it would be another three years before his Juryo debut in November of 2010. In makushita he further honed his oshi-skills but really the most effective tool ended up being hatakikomi. However, it is very striking to see just how, aside from these old reliable kimarite, he also established a reliable throwing repertoire.

With that impressive bag of tricks, during the tumultuous Spring of 2011, Juryo was a breeze and by July Takayasu made his debut in Makuuchi. Eight years later, and the addition of the third pillar of tsuki- style sumo, Takayasu has become a complete package. If he can stay healthy, he has the skills to beat almost anyone on the dohyo. Will this finally be his basho?

If you want to play around with the Visualizer tool, I’ve finally added the career view on the right-hand side. I tried to make it as helpful as possible so almost all of the charts can act as filters. If you click on a slice of the pie, like for Juryo, the rest of the visualization filters to just Juryo. If you choose a particular tournament, or a few tournaments, you can see the kimarite for just that tournament. Have fun.

The Rise of Oshi

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.

Juryo and Makuuchi divisions only

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.

Jonokuchi, Jonidan, and Sandanme divisions only

Kyushu Day 2 Highlights

Today was Oshidashi Day in Fukuoka. Well, in reality, nearly every day is oshidashi day. But 8 makuuchi bouts, or nearly half of the matchups, were decided by this most basic of the basic kimarite. In my mind, tsukidashi is basically oshidashi with velocity (think Abi’s Superman) while yorikiri is oshidashi with intimacy (think Kotoshogiku and “hug-n-chug”).

So it’s fitting that we start out with Kotoeko’s oshidashi win over a hobbled Arawashi. After a well-met tachiai, Arawashi pulled to his left which may not have been the best idea on that heavily wrapped knee. Kotoeko adjusted and drove through the straw bales. The announcer said yorikiri but that finish really lacked the 四つ身 intimacy one would think of. Kotoeko had Arawashi at arm’s length, like one would hold my son’s socks, rather than in close like Bogart and Bergman. The distinctions I’m drawing here are my own and (as is usual) could be wrong…it’s just the way I think of it and welcome discussion in the comments. Arawashi is 0-2 and looking Juryo bound.

Meisei followed up by showing us what Arawashi likely meant to do. The quick left pivot and firm hold on Chiyomaru’s right arm left Chiyomaru struggling (briefly) to maintain his balance before getting tipped over the side and rolling down the slope of the dohyo. Kotenage, one of two finishing throws in the top division today. Meisei’s off to a great start at 2-0. Chiyomaru is not at 0-2.

After an initial yotsu tussle, Chiyoshoma seemed to realize that would not be wise paired with someone 50 kilos larger. So he disengaged but tried to keep hold of Daiamami’s mawashi. That wasn’t working so he backed away altogether, skirting the tawara when, Bam!. Landing the slap to the giant’s face turned the retreating Chiyoshoma back into the aggressor. He dove for Daiamami’s belt and as the larger man attempted to circle, a quick kick out brought Daiamami earthward. Clever kekaeshi to go to 2-0. I like those. Herouth’s post from yesterday has another great example from the flying monkey. Daiamami is level, 1-1.

Daishomaru had a plan. And thinking back on it, this approach may have served Arawashi well earlier. At the tachiai, Daishomaru’s paw found its way to the back of Takanosho’s neck. Backing away to the left, as Arawashi had tried before, along with the addition of downward force of the right hand dispatched Takanosho. Hatakikomi under duress (distinct from henka-ki-komi). Daishomaru improved to 1-1 while Takanosho is still looking for his first win, 0-2.

Onosho is looking good early in this tournament. It’s too soon to start handing out special prizes but he’s in a position to clean up. Aoiyama, on the other hand, is looking shaky. This starts off with a brief slapping tussle that ends when Aoiyama gets his hand behind Onosho’s head and retreats, attempting another hatakikomi. However, Onosho was far too high and well balanced for this to be effective. Onosho countered quickly by driving forward and sending Aoiyama over the edge, stumbling into the spectators, nearly squashing Endo. Lacking intimacy, and lacking the force required to turn a mountain into a projectile, we have an oshidashi #2. Onosho is rocking to a 2-0 start; Aoiyama heading in the opposite direction, falls to 0-2.

Endo proved unfazed by his near-death experience and quickly beat Okinoumi. A motivated Endo is great to see. Strong tachiai, driving forward, Okinoumi could only hope for a last minute change of direction. But Endo locked on, engaged, and Okinoumi had nowhere to go but out. Oshidashi #3. Both wrestlers are 1-1.

Sadanoumi copied Endo’s lead against Chiyonokuni. Lock on, engage, drive forward. The difference, this time, was rather than having his arms extended, Sadanoumi immediately gripped Chiyonokuni’s mawashi before getting into gear. Chiyonokuni ended up in a painful-looking heap at the base of the dohyo. The intimacy gives us “yori-” and Chiyonokuni couldn’t keep his feet, we get -taoshi. The yoritaoshi win means Sadanoumi is off to a great 2-0 start. Chiyonokuni is 1-1.

Yutakayama squared up against Daieisho for a great, thrusting slapfest. Both wrestlers committed early to pushing/thrusting attacks. After taking a battering, Daieisho yielded in retreat and Yutakayama followed in hot pursuit. Yutakayama may have been a bit overeager to end things as a subtle shift redirected the mountain over the cliff-face…with a little help…dropping like a boulder to 0-2. Daieisho improves to 1-1. Tsukiotoshi is one of the hinerite, twisting kimarite, not one of the similarly named tsukidashi/tsukitaoshi “basic” kihonwaza.

Next, Kotoshogiku was able to lock in his patented hug-n-chug against Ikioi. Yorikiri. Ikioi falls to 0-2 on a shaky looking ankle. Kotoshogiku’s off to a great 2-0 start. Next, Shohozan seemed determined to prove Takarafuji has a neck. He nearly decapitated Isegahama’s senior sekitori at the tachiai and kept pressing, eventually convincing Takarafuji to yield, as he stepped out for oshidashi #4. Takarafuji is starting off winless while a confident Shohozan is 2-0.

Abi’s next against Takanoiwa. Hmmm…belt battle? No, silly question. Abi charged forward, fighting to his strength. Takanoiwa retreated quickly, falling to oshidashi #5 and 0-2 while Abi gets his first win his way.

Kagayaki and Asanoyama locked in quickly for a belt battle. Kagayaki’s left arm wrapped around Asanoyama’s right, but while he was seeking a good belt grip with the left, Asanoyama dropped his shoulder, working his arm free, and planted his hand firmly behind Kagayaki’s head. With a firm left-handed belt grip, he pivoted, throwing Kagayaki to the clay. Uwatenage. Asanoyama improved to 2-0 and Kagayaki fell to 1-1.

After his great start yesterday, Shodai somehow went back into “sleep” mode. You can’t just absorb Chiyotairyu’s tachiai at full force and expect to stay at the top of the dohyo. Ryuden chugged forward into an overwhelmed Yoshikaze. And Mitakeumi followed up fiercely driving through Tamawashi. Oshidashi #6, #7, and #8 and all six men are 1-1.

Tochiozan is looking chuffed. I’ve got my eye on this confident veteran. Today he battled Ichinojo. He wasn’t going to be able to drive through the much larger Mongolian but he stood his ground pretty well and when the opportunity presented itself, he quickly twisted left and let gravity do its thing, as Ichinojo dropped to 1-1 and Tochiozan stays undefeated early.

Takakei-yusho? It’s still far two early, obviously, but after two days Takakeisho has now dispatched two of his toughest competitors. There’s really not much to say about this one but a real disappointing loss from Goeido. There was no plan but to slap a few times and fight Takakeisho’s fight? He telegraphed his second shoulder charge giving Takakeisho enough time to slip outside and have a smoke. Takakeisho 2-0, Goeido 1-1.

Nishikigi’s plan going into the Tochinoshin bout was likely, “keep him off your belt.” Job done. However, he didn’t seem ready for Tochinoshin to pivot and shift direction. After taking a Georgian forearm to the chin at the tachiai, Nishikigi seemed out of sorts as Tochinoshin was in front…and then not. Tochinoshin pivoted, and charged in from the side, keeping Nishikigi on the defensive and turning until he charged him out over the side.

Not to disrespect Takakeisho’s upsets but Takayasu must be the yusho favorite now, though. His bout today against Hokutofuji is my bout of the day. This was a great oshi brawl. After a good while trading thrusts, Hokutofuji got Takayasu spun around and saw his chance! But as an Ozeki should, Takayasu recovered quickly, maintained his balance, read Hokutofuji’s final charge, and timed his hatakikomi beautifully. Takayasu escapes and stays undefeated and while Hokutofuji’s 0-2, he’s looking strong.

After an embarrassingly quick loss to Takayasu yesterday, Myogiryu was looking for redemption…and a kinboshi. He’s not had many chances lately and unless he pulls off something unexpected and near kachi-koshi, today would likely be his only chance with Kisenosato as the lone Yokozuna. Boy did he buckle down. After an initial tussle, Myogiryu must have been stunned to find himself with morozashi and superior position as the Yokozuna was far too upright. He charged forward and importantly kept his balance as Kisenosato tried to twist out of the way, before tumbling into the head shimpan.

Kimarite Watch

“Kimarite” (決まり手) is the Japanese term for the winning technique used to decide each sumo bout. Those studying Japanese will be able to recognize the kanji as deriving from the verb kimaru (決まる), to decide, and te (手), meaning hand. I wonder if this is the term used for a winning hand in poker?

There are 82 of these winning techniques recognized in professional sumo. Of those, seven are known as the kihonwaza, or fundamental techniques which account for the vast majority of sumo bouts. In the most recent tournament, Aki 2018, more than 70% of wins came from these seven: tsukidashi, tsukiotoshi, oshidashi, oshitaoshi, yorikiri, yoritaoshi, and abisetaoshi. Abisetaoshi occurs much less frequently than the others but those main six comprise the go-to toolkits for many rikishi. In fact, oshidashi and yorikiri accounted for more than half of Aki bouts, and nearly half when just looking at makuuchi bouts.

Kimarite used during Aki basho 2018

During the upcoming tournament, Tachiai will be tracking and reporting on the kimarite used each day. My favorite group of kimarite are the throws, or nagete. Several of those are relatively frequent, like uwatenage and shitatenage. The spectacular ipponzeoi, though, was used only once last tournament, in a Day 1 Jonidan bout between Tatsunoumi and Wakasatake. It was a great way to start the tournament for Wakasatake. He ended up finishing with a 4-3 record while it sent the “victim”, Tatsunoumi, on a three-bout losing skid, ending 2-5.

はっきよい!

Kimarite, part one: Force-out techniques

Introduction

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

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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.

shimpan
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.

Torikumi Forecast & Notes On The Kyujo Wave

Yoshikaze-Cartoon

Some fans may be wondering why Yokozuna Kisenosato and Kakuryu announced they were going kyujo Thursday morning Japan time. The fact of the matter is the NSK is building the torikumi (order of battle) for the start of Aki, and it was time for the walking wounded to decide if they wanted to give it a try, or sit out from the start.

Much to my surprise, Hakuho has not declared one way or the other yet. Just to be clear, I do not expect him to be present on day 1 of Aki, but I think that he may be struggling with that decision. He did in fact declare to his fans at Natsu “I am back!”.

I believe the Torikumi for days 1 and 2 are being published in the next 8 hours or so. Some of the matches we can expect in the first two days (my guess)

  • Hakuho vs. Tamawashi – If Hakuho starts Aki, we can see how banged up the dai-Yokozuna is early.
  • Tochiozan vs. Harumafuji – You might be tempted to assume that Harumafuji will fold and spindle Tochiozan, but Tochiozan has made some useful adjustments to his sumo.
  • Takayasu vs. Tochinoshin – Big and strong vs strong and big. This could be a sumo battle for the ages as these two love to use brute strength.
  • Goeido vs. Kotoshogiku – Goeido has been looking dailed-in back to his 2.0 setting, and a likely match against Kotoshogiku will be speed vs strength.
  • Terunofuji vs. Aoiyama – Terunofuji is a far cry from the light schedule Aoiyama enjoyed in Nagoya. This match will sort reality from fiction in about 5 seconds.
  • Mitakeumi vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyo who you say? Believe it! I expect Mitakeumi to pick up where he left off in Nagoya.
  • Shohozan vs. Yoshikaze – Big guns vs the Berserker. Yoshikaze has been opening very strong in recent basho, before he gets banged up by the end of the first week. We might see some exotic kimarite.
  • Shodai vs. Ura – I am going to assume that Ura is in rough shape, and I am just going to hope that Shodai fixed has tachiai.
  • Ichinojo vs. Takakeisho – Ok Takakeisho fans, his road back can start with the huge Mongolian.

Please feel free to add your day 1 / 2 torikumi guesses in the comments.

Aki Basho Genki Report

Genki-Report

The Injury Count Increases

Once again, we are on the cusp of a basho that is marred by injuries and likely outages for Sumo’s star attractions. Tachiai readers will note that this is part of the longer overall trend, where the men who have dominated sumo for years are reaching the end of their completive period, and the cumulative damage done to their bodies now comes due.

The aggressive rise of a new crop of riskishi, that I sometimes jokingly call the “Angry Tadpoles” can be thought of as the result of two forces. The push factor of their individual training, work, dedication and flat-out skill that propels them to higher ranks. There is also a pull factor of the men who have occupied these positions increasingly being less healthy and able to defend their ranks.

To be clear, I am expecting Yokozunae Hakuho, Kisenosato and Kakuryu to not participate in the Aki basho. I also think it is strongly possible that both Endo and Ura may announce they will not be competing either.

Just from injuries alone, I expect Aki to be a basho that may be dominated by a rikishi who has never before won a basho, and it may be a glorious run.

Rikishi: Hakuho
Genki: ✭
Notes: Last year, the dai-Yokozuna skipped Aki in order to undergo surgery to repair his left knee, and remove a painful bone chip from his right big toe. He drove himself relentlessly to recover to excellent fighting form, and took the May and July tournament championships. But now that left knee is causing him constant pain, and he is likely unable to execute effective sumo.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Harumafuji
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: Do I think Harumafuji is healthy? No indeed. But he is tough and he is going to will himself to compete at Aki, no matter what the pain or discomfort. He has injuries to both knees, both elbows and lord knows what else. But it’s clear he is only going to leave the dohyo when he is too injured to walk.
Forecast: Yusho contender

Rikishi: Kisenosato
Genki: ✭
Notes: Kisenosato has not been training. His body is still weak, and we still have to wonder if his torn pectoral muscle will ever be useful again. Granted he did some training with shin-juryo Yago, but this level of combat is a ridiculously light compared to what he would face in Makuuchi. The YDC has urge Kisenosato not to return to the dohyo until he is fit and ready to compete. We will know he is ready when he resumes training with his stablemate Takayasu.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Kakuryu
Genki: ✭
Notes: Kakuryu is in a weak and perilous position. He has been so wracked with injuries since withdrawing from Nagoya that he has not been training (see a theme here?), and he is in no condition to compete. Furthermore, it has been made clear his next basho really needs to be a strong performance, or he will be asked to retire.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Terunofuji
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: He had to withdraw from Nagoya, as his June knee repair surgery was not healed enough for effective sumo. He took the entire summer off to rest and recover, and seems to be somewhat improved. He has been active in pre-basho training matches, and he even looks to be fairly strong. If he is mended, he is a yusho candidate. But he is one bad fall away from retirement now. Keep in mind, he is kadoban and must have 8 wins to hold on to his Ozeki rank.
Forecast: Double digit wins

Rikishi: Goeido
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Last year Goeido surprised the sumo world by coming into Aki kadoban, and leaving with his first yusho. Furthermore, he was undefeated at Aki, making his victory all the more impressive. Goeido is very hit-or-miss, but his pre-basho training seems to indicate that he is mostly in “Goeido 2.0 Mode”, and could in fact be a contender.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: His conditioning has deteriorated because for several months he has not been able to hone his sumo in daily scrimmage against Kisenosato. As a result, I suspect he is not nearly as ready as he was a year ago, and in fact we may see him kadoban for the first time. His practice matches during jungyo and his inter-basho warm ups have been good but not great. Furthermore, Takayasu has had a bad habit in the past of letting himself worry and over-think his sumo.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Mitakeumi
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Mitakeumi is the chieftain of the Angry Tadpoles, a rank he should wear with pride. He has shown remarkable strength, talent and adaptability in his climb to Sekiwake 1E, and he is now in a spot where he can try to assemble 33 wins. Furthermore, it’s quite clear that like the great Hakuho, he is having the time of his life, and every day on the dohyo is joy to him.
Forecast: Double digit wins, Possible Yusho contender.

Rikishi: Yoshikaze
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Scarred by years of battle, and once again at Sekiwake (though as the oldest one in the modern era), Yoshikaze is never one to ignore. He can and will beat any rikishi on any given day. In recent tournaments he has shown a fantastic breadth of sumo skills, and never surrenders. There has been some speculation in the Japanese sumo press that he might become the oldest Ozeki ever, but frankly I think “The Berserker” just wants to get the job done.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Tamawashi
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: He has been dethroned from his long term posting to Sekiwake, and it’s now time for him to either fade lower in the banzuke, or battle back to the top. His fans know he has more than enough sumo to re-take his rank from Mitakeumi, but it remains to be seen if he can muster the energy to win.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: The big Georgian suffers from injuries that have held him back, but in Nagoya he turned in a strong kachi-koshi to follow up from his Jun-Yusho in May. Many fans expected him to be posted to a San’yaku rank, but he should feel no shame for being the top Maegashira. His enormous strength and nearly boundless endurance means that anyone who dares him to a yotsu-zumō battle will be in trouble.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Kotoshogiku
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Sorry Ojisan, but your time has passed. Listen to your body and retire soon. We all still love you, and your back bends and pelvic thrust sumo will never be forgotten.
Forecast: Maki-koshi

Rikishi: Hokutofuji
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: I am very excited that Hokutofuji is solidly in the upper Maegashira ranks for his second basho. Few rikishi can survive at this level, and this is why you see some favorites yo-yo up and down the banzuke. Hokutofuji, if he can remain healthy, is likely to be a big deal once the current crop of leading sumotori take their bows and retire.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Aoiyama
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: For whatever ridiculous reason, this guy got played up as a spoiler to Hakuho’s yusho in Nagoya. Frankly, his sumo was never up to the task of combating even the lower half of Hakuho, let alone the entire Yokozuna. Now he finds himself squarely in the joi, and he has a difficult schedule ahead. He has a very limited range of kimarite, but with few Yokozuna competing, he may not face the pounding he would with a healthy roster.
Forecast: Make-koshi

Rikishi: Onosho
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Onosho faces his first time in the upper part of Makuuchi. As with Aoiyama, the expected Yokozuna recuperation basho will likely give him an easier time than he might have had otherwise. He is strong, he is skilled and like Hokutofuji, he is going to be a big deal if he can stay healthy. Still, I expect he is going to find him self out-matched for now, but he will improve.
Forecast: Make-koshi

Rikishi: Ura
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Ura left Nagoya injured. He was injured to the extent that he did not even participate in any sumo activities over the summer break. Like far too many rikishi, he now faces the prospects of nursing a damaged knee back to usefulness. Prior to the banzuke, many fans (myself included) hoped for a stiff demotion, to allow him time to work in the lower ranks to maintain his sumo while his body healed. Sadly he is once again in danger of being an opponent for the Ozeki and San’yaku battle fleet. At this point his goal must include survival.
Forecast: Make-koshi