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.

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.