Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Wrap-up


Above: Enho rounds off his tournament by escorting Akinohana off the dohyo.
Video c/o Asashosakari

Remember way back in September and October when we were shaking our heads in disbelief at “Wacky” Aki? How positively calm those days seem now. We took a week or so to collect ourselves following the conclusion of the unprecedented events of the Kyushu basho, but now it’s time to wrap-up our “Ones to Watch” series for 2017. Thanks to everyone who sent through kind words and their suggestions of future rikishi to follow – I think we’ll have a good list in store for Hatsu.

Results

So, how did our picks do on the whole?

Kachi-koshi: 17
Make-koshi: 3
Yusho: 🏆🏆
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu sealed his promotion to Juryo with a fine 6-1 record, justifying our selection as top pick in the Makushita ranks this time out. He’ll be ineligible for the list next time, but the much-vaunted rikishi will continue to be one to watch as he continues his progression and hopefully consolidates his place among the sekitori.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – I was somewhat hopeful that Hokaho could continue his run, having scored winning records in every other basho in 2017. However the run stops here as he slumped to a 3-4 make-koshi courtesy of a final match loss against…

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – … who sealed his kachi-koshi in the same match. Takagenji’s twin will no doubt be challenged to follow his brother’s (who has managed to hold on to his place in Juryo) progress as he’ll see himself inside the top 10 Makushita ranks for Hatsu. The question is whether he can put together the run of consistency that could see him in promotion contention by mid-2018 – his mental makeup and application have been debated somewhat within the comments section of this site.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – Despite entering the tournament at a similar pedigree (just the odd loss separating them over their careers), the strength of schedule really told here. Wakatakakage was simply out-shoved against a selection of seasoned vets at this level en route to a 3-4 make-koshi, including the eventual yusho winner Tochihiryu. Murata on the other hand was able to bulldoze his way through the middle of the pack to a very strong 6-1 record that will see him promoted above his contemporary next time out and almost certainly into the top 10 Makushita ranks.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – I felt there was a lot of spice in the Makushita 14 pairing as Jokoryu was the very last rikishi before Enho to achieve 3 consecutive 7-0 records to begin his career. With different goals at stake – Jokoryu’s late career fightback to the pro ranks, Enho’s effort to continue a blistering start to his career – both men valiantly achieved 5-2 records which will see them also placed in the Makushita top 10 in January.

It’s worth noting that Enho’s energy is absolutely remarkable, and currently his speed is the main trait that helps him overcome the massive size gaps that exist between him and most competitors. Additionally, he does a good job of keeping his opponents away from the mawashi, as once he’s locked up he’s fairly easy for larger, stronger rikishi to move around (as somewhat evidenced by his loss to the enormous Akiseyama, albeit a match where his arms rather than his belt were locked up). While he displays at times a composure beyond his years in the manner in which he dispatches much larger opponents, he also has suffered a few wild crashes off the dohyo, so we will hope that he stays healthy as he continues his development.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I got this one a bit wrong, as I picked Ichiyamamoto as a bit of a sleeper yusho pick owing to the weak strength of schedule and his absolute tear up the banzuke to this point. He will continue his progression after posting a 4-3 kachi-koshi but we will want to see more next time. He displayed some good poise, despite being smaller than many of his opponents.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – A strong performance in his Makushita debut, putting up a 5-2 kachi-koshi, the odd loss coming to…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … whose victory over Ryuko (in a match that probably could have gone either way, Nishikifuji slapping down Ryuko on the verge of being pushed out at the edge) sealed a 6-1 tournament in which both men coughed up the other losses to the promising Mongolian Kiribayama. Both Ryuko and Nishikifuji are set for strong promotions upward in January and we will continue to monitor their progress. It’s worth noting that Nishikifuji’s performance at Kyushu was a rare bright spot for the otherwise beleaguered Isegahama stable.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve rated Tanabe as the better of these two for a while, having only lost to Enho in his career entering the basho (in fairness to Fukuyama, he’d only lost to Tanabe, but he wasn’t running into Enho). This time, Enho was in another division and Tanabe repaid this faith with a solid 5-2 record that bested Fukuyama’s narrow 4 win kachi-koshi. Tanabe’s showing should be good enough to earn him a promotion, while Fukuyama will likely need to take another crack from the top of Sandanme next time out. As an aside, this is the part of the banzuke where an awful lot of rikishi’s successes are dependent about how they do against the squad from Sadogatake-beya. Both of these guys ended up facing 3 Koto-men – as did Tomokaze and Wakaichiro.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze comes up one loss short of “doing an Enho” from his first three tournaments – he dropped one match in Aki, but stormed back with a zensho (via playoff) here that solidified his credentials as a bona fide prospect. His relatively low ranking in the Sandanme division means he should end up somewhere around the magical Makushita 30 mark at which another unprecedented zensho might clinch another promotion, but it is likely based on past precedent that he’ll fall just short of this mark.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Talking of the myriad prospects of Sadogatake-beya, Kotokumazoe reinforces his credentials after his lengthy absence from the banzuke with a third straight solid tournament. His 5 win record should fire him up another 30-35 positions next time out.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – There’s no getting around that it was a disappointing debut at Sandanme level for the Texan, who has vowed to do better next time out. While his 1 win performance in the final basho of the year was not what he or his fans were hoping for, we are excited to see him continue his progression and hopefully solidify his credentials upon his return to Jonidan where he has already shown solid skill in several previous tournaments this year.

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – It’s a second straight yusho for Wakaichiro’s stablemate, who will swap places with the Tachiai-favorite in January as he earns an automatic promotion that will see him placed somewhere between Sd20-30. As we noted in our lower division yusho wrap-up, Shoji sealed the deal with a final match win over Torakio with whom he is developing a nice little rivalry.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – Torakio may yet get another chance to avenge his second straight yusho race defeat to Shoji at Hatsu, as his 6 win record will more than likely be enough to get him up to Sandanme (the last time it wasn’t from his level was 1975). So while they’ll likely work from opposite ends of the division, one wouldn’t bet against the big and strong Bulgarian getting matched up with Shoji again should both men dominate in their step up.

For Sumidagawa, Torakio’s massive stablemate, the goal at Hatsu will be consolidation and further progression after he netted a 4-3 kachi-koshi which some Tachiai commenters mentioned might be the height of his ambition with respect to his more esteemed aforementioned colleague.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – 27 year old Amatsu turned in a fine performance on his comeback to the dohyo after nearly 3 years away. He only suffered one blemish, with a 6 win record that will see him comfortably promoted in his effort to make it back to the Makushita ranks. As I remarked last time, it was disappointing not to see him matched up with the yusho winner Kotoseigo given they were only placed 2 spots apart on the banzuke.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Speaking of solid performances, top debutant “Mike” Hayashi turned in a 6-1 record, his sole loss coming to the yusho winner Kotoseigo. He will be promoted at Hatsu and we will continue to monitor his progress. He will likely be replaced as our “top debutant to watch” at Hatsu by much vaunted Mongolian Yoshoyama of Tokitsukaze-beya.

Finally, while we don’t technically list Hattorizakura of Shikihide-beya as “one to watch,” we certainly will continue to look for his results, and unfortunately he put up his ninth straight 0-7 tournament at Kyushu. This tournament saw him do what I guess we can call a reverse Futabayama, as he has passed the legendary Yokozuna’s run of 63 and run his loss streak now to 67 consecutive losses (his second loss this time out, against the debutant Takita, was particularly heartbreaking as it looked like a sure win until he got Aminishiki’d at the edge). Here’s an interesting stat if you’re a Hattorizakura fan: only 16 other rikishi have managed to stay on the banzuke while not winning for seven consecutive tournaments (without going banzuke-gai). All of the other 16 were kyujo at some point, though a few did put up legitimate winless tournaments over that period. The great Yokozuna Takanohana II is a member of that list in the injury-addled latter stages of his career, so I guess Hattorizakura can at least say they have that in common!

Lower Division Yusho Watch


torakio
Torakio: Foiled again

As we head into the final day’s action, here’s a quick update as to where the yusho results in the bottom four divisions sit:

Makushita

30 year old Tochihiryu of Kasugano-beya has clinched his first yusho at this level by way of a 7-0 record that took him past several veteran and upcoming names: a split of 4 former sekitori looking to make their way back and 3 hot shot up and comers (Wakatakakage, Kiribayama and Chiyonoumi). After 2 years in the wilderness from the professional ranks, he will return to Juryo looking for a 2nd kachi-koshi at the 9th attempt.

Given what was at stake, it was a little disappointing to see his clinching win come by way of a henka against Kiribayama (hat tip once again to Tachiai commenter Asashosakari for the video).

Sandanme

Tachiai “One to Watch” Tomokaze of Oguruma-beya will feature in a playoff against Tsuyukusa of Otake-beya. This will be Tsuyukusa’s second playoff having lost the first in Jonidan earlier this year. Tomokaze, meanwhile, is off to a blistering 20-1 start to his career. He’s one Jonidan loss short of having “done an Enho.”

Jonidan

Shoji of Musashigawa-beya continues his perfect career start by way of another final match victory over the big Bulgarian Torakio (pictured above). Their bout was yet another epic between the two, who are really establishing some rivalry early on. Check it out here (thanks again to Asashosakari!). Unlike the title decider from Makushita, it is a match worthy of deciding the championship, although Torakio’s visibly disappointed demeanor after the match is going to need to improve. But as we saw in the NHK World Preview, he’s putting in the long hours in sumo school.

Happily, both of these men were featured as part of our “Ones to Watch” series and we will continue tracking both of their progress. Also happily, Jonidan is a great division if you’re a fan of awkward sumo hairstyles.

Jonokuchi

23 year old Kotoseigo of Sadogatake-beya smashed the competition en route to a zensho. Admittedly we’re a little disappointed, given that he is another rikishi to have been on and off the dohyo for long stretches over the past few years, that he was not matched up at all with another comeback success story in Amatsu. He did however take on much vaunted new boy Hayashi and blasted him off the dohyo (after a matta).

Hattorizakura did not compete for the yusho this time out, however we will cover his travails further of course in the end of basho “Ones to Watch” roundup.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Midpoint


Enho
What’s cooler than being cool? Enho

Whew! The final honbasho of the year has been extremely exciting so far, with an incredible amount of activity in the makuuchi ranks both on and off the dohyo. We’re at the midway point in the tournament, and that means it’s time to check in on this tournament’s Ones to Watch! Thanks for everyone who’s shared their opinions and thoughts on this feature and the lower division rikishi that they are tracking as well.

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Having dropped his day 7 bout to co-leader Asabenkei, Turbold is going to have to press the Turbo button (… I’ll get my coat) if he wants to make it to Juryo for Hatsu 2018. While his one loss almost certainly rules him out of the yusho race, winning out would leave him with a 6 win record, and the last time a 6-1 result from Ms4 wasn’t good enough for promotion to Juryo was 1962. 5 wins could also be enough, but much less likely, as Takagenji experienced earlier this year, as it only positioned him at Ms1 in the following basho.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – Having put up five straight kachi-kochi winning records, I was intrigued to see whether Hokaho could continue that run and position himself near the top of the Makushita banzuke ahead of January’s Hatsu basho. It’s going to be a tough run as he’s already dropped 3 matches while not looking particularly poised (though his win over Tochimaru, confirmed via monoii, was engaging sumo). He’ll take on the enormous Takaryu on Day 9.

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – Mixed results so far for Takagenji’s “elder” twin, going 2-2. He’s dropped matches to two other “ones to watch” in Enho and Wakatakakage. He’ll be looking for at least two more wins from here to position him inside the top 10 ranks in January.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – These two have more or less mirrored each other’s trajectory and one odd win last time out explains the difference in their ranking. It’s possible Wakatakakage’s 2-2 record reflects the difficulty Murata might have at the same level, but he’s crushed it en route to a 4-0 record so far owing to the less esteemed nature of his competition. He’ll take on the similarly undefeated Chiyonoumi on Day 9 to see if he can enhance his yusho credentials.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – As we’ve mentioned a couple times now, there was some extra spice to this basho for both men – Jokoryu is attempting to fight his way back up to Juryo while undefeated Enho saw his route to continuing his stellar record run through the last man to achieve three consecutive 7-0 basho to start his career. Jokoryu showed Enho who was boss on day 1, ending that 21 win streak, but Enho has bounced back with 3 more wins and finds himself on the cusp of another bump up the rankings, especially if he can finish strongly as he can expect to avoid significant yusho challengers from here as the schedulers start to pit the undefeated rikishi against one another. Jokoryu, meanwhile, has also put up another pair of wins and we can likely expect to see him in the top 10 for Hatsu as well.

Thanks to frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari for posting the video of Enho displaying some amazing resilience in his bout against the much larger Takayoshitoshi:

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He entered this tournament having started his career 25-3 and has continued in much the same vein, starting 3-1, having only dropped a match to the undefeated aforementioned Chiyonoumi. He has continued his impressive and composed brand of oshi-zumo, and his Day 2 win against Gochozan was a great come-from-behind win.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another to start 3-1, it seems we’ve picked a lot of “nearly men” this time out. His sole loss also came to an undefeated rikishi in the Mongolian Kiribayama to start the tournament, but he has come back strong and takes on Isegahama’s Midorifuji on Day 9, another rikishi who has started his career strongly and who will be a good challenge.

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – It’s another 3-1 start and another man who Kiribayama knocked out of meaningful contention. He takes on Shosei on Day 9 as both men go for their kachi-koshi – an interesting challenger for a young rikishi in so much as he is very experienced at the level and is a year removed from fighting at the top end of the division.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve taken a bit of flak on the comment threads here for calling these guys out as having a bit of false rankings, on the back of the fact that Fukuyama simply started in Jonokuchi from a higher position and they’ve had identical records since, albeit with Tanabe beating Fukuyama each time. This time that has borne out – while both men have run into a glut of Sadogatake rikishi who have flooded this level of the banzuke, Fukuyama has stuttered to a 1-3 start while Tanabe is perfect, fighting for the first time without Enho in his way. Fukuyama takes on Sd18 Inoue on Day 9 while Tanabe will see his title credentials tested against Sd14 Kotomisen.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – The impressive young rikishi has started life in Sandanme with a perfect score, and comes up against yet another Sadogatake rikishi in the 4-0 Kotohayato on Day 9. Should both he and Tanabe prevail it’s possible we’ll see them against each other in the final days of the tournament.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Back in action in his third basho after a year out, Kotokumazoe has started very strong here with a 3-1 record that takes his career tally to 21-4.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – The man from Texas has had a tougher time of it in his debut at Sandanme level and is another man whose fixture list has been flooded by torikumi against Sadogatake rikishi – having faced three men from the same stable to start the basho! His Day 9 opponent is the equally 1-3 Kaiseijo, a 19 year old who has spent most of his time fighting at Jonidan level over the past few years and is also experiencing his highest ranking (Sandanme 91) in this basho – it should be an interesting bellwether matchup for our man at this level, at this point in his career.

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – Wakaichiro’s stablemate continues his strong career start with a 4-0 record, and will start to face yusho competitors from here on out. The first such man will be Tokiryu on Day 9, though Shoji should have too much for him if this goes according to the form book.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – If you’re curious as to whether the big Bulgarian Torakio is fighting a bit below his true talent level, have a peek at this video – again with thanks to Asashosakari:

That’s an okuritsuriotoshi or “rear lifting body slam.”

Torakio is 4-0 to start the tournament and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a rematch with Shoji for all the marbles, either on the final day or in a playoff. He takes on the light, 19 year old Suzuki on Day 9, who is probably not relishing the matchup if he’s seen that. Meanwhile, his stablemate Sumidagawa has recovered from a bonkers day 1 loss to post 3 straight wins and takes on Hamamiryu on Day 9, who’s about 11 years older and half his weight.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The 27 year old comeback candidate has started well at 3-1, dropping his only loss to our featured Jonokuchi debutant Hayashi. He could well stay in the yusho race with one loss as there are only three undefeated rikishi left at the level and two of them fight each other on day 9. Amatsu meanwhile will deploy his years of experience against the 23 year old Mienomaru on day 9.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Our top debutant for Kyushu has made a real good go of it so far, just dropping one match in a bout that started with a matta and may well have thrown him off. We’ll keep watching to see if he’s able to finish strong and compete for the title.

And as for Hattorizakura, well, he actually had what could be described as a strong tachiai against a similarly challenged rikishi in the debutant Takita on day 4, driving his opponent back to the edge of the rice bales (this may be difficult to believe, so here’s video again care of Asashosakari), however he was then dumped unceremoniously over the edge and he continues to search for an elusive win.

A Collection Of Matches Below Makuuchi


I was looking for Torakio’s match from today (that Naruto beya obsession I have), and stumbled upon a collection of interesting low-rank bouts I thought would be worth sharing. First, here’s the one I was looking for, Torakio (left) vs Kotosato:

Now, we all know Orora, right? The man who recently broke the NSK all-time record for body weight. So what is his sumo like?

Here he is today, wrestling with Furanshisu, who is a Philipino wrestler, and that’s the Japanese rendition of his real name (Francis). The weight difference between them is about a whole Kisenosato. I mean, Orora is 288kg, and Furanshisu is 103kg.

What do you know, a monoii!

Now, remember the princess of the Jungyo, Hikarugenji? He’s quite the opposite of Orora as far as size goes. Here we have him against Kasugakuni.

Apparently, mattas are not reserved to Makuuchi. And weight is an important thing in Sumo.

Looking for someone older than Aminishiki? Here is Hanakaze, who is almost my age… He’s 47 years old, and barely has any hair for a chon-mage. Of course, he’s only in Jonidan. Still better than Hattorizakura… Here vs. Wada:

This time, not just a monoii, but also a torinaoshi. And that man has some Aminishikiness in him.

Now, here is Tokuda, who was mentioned in Tachiai in the past, and he’s back in Sandanme at the age of 17. He’s 190cm, 123kg, and looks promising:

And now, for the followers of the Taka twins, here is Takayoshitoshi from yesterday:

And here is his little brother, yesterday and today:

Yago? Next basho he’s in Makushita for sure.

This also gives you a glimpse into Takanosho, the shin-Juryo, who is not half bad. It’s a different “Taka”, by the way.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17


enho_21
The real test awaits

We debuted the “ones to watch” feature at Aki, and I’m going to attempt to make this a regular feature before, during and after each basho. Again, I’ve picked out 20 rikishi from the bottom four divisions that I think I have interesting story lines going into the upcoming tournament. You may have other rikishi who you might think are also interesting, and I encourage you to share their stories in the comments!

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – The Mongolian delivered the huge basho everyone had been anticipating at the third time of asking at Aki, posting 6 wins and coming a final bout loss short of a yusho. He now finds himself 10 places higher, and despite the incredible amount of traffic and talent at the top of the Makushita ranks, a similar run of results this time out combined with favourable results elsewhere might just give him a kesho-mawashi in January.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – This might seem like an odd choice given that most of the rest of this list is going to consist of young up-and-comers, but as we’ve speculated quite a bit on the future power of Miyagino-beya on these pages, I think Hokaho will have an interesting tournament to follow. At the age of 28 he’s fighting at his joint-highest ever rank and while all of the attention has been on his exciting young stablemate (more of whom in a minute), he’s quietly racked up 5 straight kachi-koshi. Could it be not 4 but 5 sekitori from this stable by the middle of next year?

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – The wonderfully named 20 year old is another rikishi fighting at his joint-highest ranking and will be hoping for better after suffering 5 losses at Makushita 11 earlier in the year. With his twin brother Takagenji having been promoted back up to Juryo, he will no doubt be determined to prove he too can fight at a higher level.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – These two had identical records and were ranked opposite each other coming into Aki, and a win for Wakatakakage over Murata ended up being the difference maker in their records last time out. The two former university men have moved quickly and we will continue to track their progress this time out.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – Enho is of course worth tracking in his own right (as we have been doing and continue to do somewhat comprehensively and breathlessly), but his bow at Makushita level is given a bit of extra spice by the fact that his route to further advancement runs right through the last man to accomplish the three consecutive 7-0 records he has put up to start his career.

The former Komusubi Jokoryu has been making a comeback attempt after an injury-inspired tumble from the top division and has been entrenched in Makushita with varying results for much of the past year. While the goal for Enho is simply to see how many more wins he can continue to rack up from day 1 to continue his climb, Jokoryu will be looking to re-establish himself – there is so much good young talent rising up the banzuke right now that he’s in danger of running out of time to make it back to the professional ranks.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He has continued to torch the competition, running his impressive career start now to 25-3. The part of the banzuke he now finds himself at consists of many more experienced names and a few ex-sekitori who just kind of hanging on. Just like Kagamio last time out, the oshi-specialist could be a sleeper yusho candidate owing to a weaker strength of schedule.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another pick from last time that we will continue to follow, Ryuko (his given name) has racked up four straight strong tournaments to start his career and will likely now receive his first stern test, along with…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … the Isegahama man whose bright star has dimmed somewhat following back to back yusho to open his career, but who nevertheless has made quick work of the bottom three tiers to progress up to a Makushita debut.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I really love following these guys as their battles have all been quite good, and all won by Tanabe. And Tanabe has only suffered three defeats in his career, all coming at the hands of Enho. Of the two, Tanabe has shown himself to be more of an oshi-specialist to open his career while Fukuyama has shown somewhat of a diversity of throwing techniques (in a small sample size, admittedly). It will be interesting to see if the two rivals can continue their rise.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – He couldn’t grab a second consecutive yusho last time out, but nevertheless finds himself as the highest placed debutant at this level and we’ll want to see if he can keep moving quickly.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Having spent a year out of action, Kotokumazoe came back with back to back 6-1 records to take his career tally to 18-3 and force a promotion to Sandanme. The impressive Tomokaze is one of the only men to take him down so far.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Wakaichiro continues his progression to make his Sandanme debut in Kyushu and the whole Tachiai team will be cheering him on and covering his matches!

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – I accurately predicted Wakaichiro’s stablemate for the Jonokuchi yusho last time out, and now he’ll try and make it two out of two.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – These men won’t face each other, but have one thing in common which is that they’ve both only been beaten twice and on all four of those occasions it was by Shoji. Now that they should be clear of him (barring a playoff or final day matchup), we may get to see if these guys can make a run at the yusho with an easier schedule.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – A 27 year old in Jonokuchi really shouldn’t be that interesting, but it is when he was last seen in competitive action over two and a half years ago in the middle of the Makushita rankings. Add into the mix that this is a man who’s put dirt on makuuchi regulars Chiyoshoma, Chiyomaru and Takanoiwa, and you’d expect that he’d not only make quick work of the bottom divisions but also challenge for the yusho.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – With only one spot left, it’s got to go to the bespectacled 19 year old Mike Hayashi who’s apparently been called the “next Takayasu” owing to his Filipino heritage. He’s going to get the nod over Chiganoura’s Hakuho-approved Yuriki owing to having beaten him in maezumo and starting as the top debutant. Both of their matches against Amatsu should be interesting.

Obviously, we will always monitor the progress and pour out a sake for Hattorizakura, whose run at avoiding historic futility continues from Jk24 where he will attempt to dodge a 9th consecutive 0-7 record and score a second career win in 80+ attempts against the new batch of recruits. You have to feel for the two guys ranked below him.

Enho & The 21 Club


enho_21
A man with more than an ace up his mawashi

Promise is addictive. People who cover and expose audiences to any subject – especially sports – are always searching for the next new big thing. It’s exciting, it gives you something to follow, and to cheer for. As a fan or a follower, getting in early might provide a sense of ownership, and the satisfaction of seeing a real true talent develop all the way from the beginning. As the person or publication covering the subject, being right about the next new thing might lend an air of credibility (along with the pressure of then finding the next new thing!).

While we weren’t the only ones to mark out Miyagino-beya’s Enho as “one to watch,” we’ve definitely spent most of the year on the Enho train and we’ve been rewarded in watching him rack up a remarkable three consecutive championships in his first three tournaments, as he’s rocketed his way through the divisions and into the third, Makushita, tier of the banzuke ahead of the upcoming Kyushu honbasho.

While there are indicators of future success, and those indicators were present for Enho (age relative to division, experience, university pedigree, stablemate of one of the all time greats, good looks), indicators are not guarantees in-and-of themselves. By winning his first three basho without a blemish on his record, Enho has done something remarkable. How remarkable? Well, since the tournament format changed to its current iteration, Enho is just the fourth rikishi to win his first three tournaments unbeaten, the fifth rikishi to finish his first three tournaments with a 7-0 record, and the sixth to open 21-0. And that’s a period spanning over 40 years.

So, while the past is no predictor of the future, let’s take a look at the other five members of the 21 club:

Itai (Kyushu 78-Haru 79)

Itai, of Onaruto-beya, became the first man to open with 21 after the format change, and picked up yusho from the Jonokuchi, Jonidan and Sandanme divisions. He took the fast track to sekitori status and stayed in the top two divisions for most of his 13 year career. He topped out as a Komusubi and plucked two special prizes and three kinboshi, all of which were given to him by the Yokozuna Onokuni.

Immediately after his 21 run, he scored a 6-1 record and it only took him 2 tournaments to reach the professional ranks. His unbeaten run was snapped at 26 by former Komusubi Onishiki – a somewhat unfortunate turn of events, as Onishiki was visiting the amateur ranks for the only time in the middle of an astonishing 15 year period as sekitori.

Kototenzan (Hatsu-Natsu 86)

An incredible story if ever there was one, the Sadogatake-beya’s Canadian rikishi racked up his 21 wins over the first three tournaments of the 1986 and then never mounted the dohyo again. The controversial and tattooed John Tenta eventually went on to take the ring name Earthquake in the WWF. If you’re not familiar with his fascinating story, you should give his Wikipedia page a read.

Unfortunately we will never know what he might have accomplished at the higher levels of the sport, since he walked away having struggled with the physical and cultural demands of the sport and with his unbeaten record still intact.

Tochiazuma (Hatsu-Nagoya 95)

It would be nearly a decade before the next member of the 21 club signed up, as Tochiazuma (then known by his real name Shiga) joined the ranks in 1995. His route to 21 actually took 4 basho, after a bit of a false start – he opened his debut basho kyujo and joined midway through, posting 4 wins before going on to collect the silverware in his next three tournaments (2 of which came via additional wins in 3 playoff matches).

Like Itai, his official win streak would be snapped at 26, as he slipped to his first make-koshi with 3 wins in his debut Makushita tournament. It was to be future Maegashira Dewaarashi who first put dirt on him. But never mind, as he bounced back and collected another zensho yusho in the following tournament, one of 4 that it took him to reach Juryo.

Tochiazuma has had a long and storied career – he spent 13 years as an active rikishi, the last five of which were spent at his peak level of Ozeki (save for two successful Ozekiwake recovery basho). He was decorated with 3 yusho at the highest level, 12 special prizes and 4 kinboshi plucked from household names Akebono, Takanohana (twice) and Musashimaru. He now runs a very large (and less successful) stable as Tamanoi oyakata.

Tokitenku (Aki 02-Hatsu 03)

The Mongolian of Tokitsukaze-beya was the first to collect his 21 this century, and his run culminated with a Sandanme playoff victory over the future Sekiwake and still active Toyonoshima. However, his run was not to last much longer – it stopped at 22 before he ran into former Juryo rikishi Furuichi en route to a 5-2 record in his Makushita bow.

He would need 6 tournaments in all to make it to Juryo, but he never fought below the second tier again. He went on to rank as high as Komusubi, collecting one special prize along the way. After his career he took up coaching as Magaki oyakata, and sadly passed away earlier this year.

Jokoryu (Nagoya-Kyushu 11)

A familiar name with recent sumo fans, Kise-beya’s Jokoryu (then Sakumayama) was the last man to join this club before Enho. He actually didn’t win all three yusho however, as he coughed up the Jonidan championship to the future Takamai (then Watanabe). However, he would atone for that by grabbing the Makushita yusho in his first tournament at that level by way of a playoff win over current sekitori Chiyootori.

He finished that first basho in Makushita at 6-1, one of 2 tournaments he needed at the level to make it to Juryo. His official win streak was snapped at 27 by journeyman and future Juryo rikishi Sensho – a loss which prevented him from opening his career with an unprecedented four straight zensho.

Jokoryu is still only 29 and has made it as far as Komusubi so far in his career, and he is still dining out on kinboshi money from a victory over the generous Harumafuji. He is currently making a valiant attempt to come back to the professional ranks. It is poetic in some respects that he and Enho will play some part in each other’s attempts to make it to that next level: Enho now finds himself ranked opposite the very last man to accomplish what he has achieved, at Makushita 14.

In summary…

None of the above men managed to make it a fourth straight zensho, but they all achieved some manner of success in their career: of the four rikishi who carried on, all of them reached san’yaku with one going as far as to become Ozeki. Enho will need to overcome many challenges (including most pressingly, a crunchy ankle) to reach that level. But if he is fit, we should expect his momentum to carry him at least to a kachi-koshi this time out, and if history is any indicator then by the middle of next year he should be wearing a kesho mawashi.

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 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: Forcing the opponent out while holding the mawashi, on one or both sides. This 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. 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.

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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.