Your not-so-humble correspondent cannot process the word practice (or the Japanese word keiko) without thinking of Allen Iverson. In the clip below, I skipped past most of his infamous rant on the topic, which begins around the 7:21 mark. I skipped forward to where he says, “How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?” (Gaa! The embed is not queuing it up the way I want. The quote is at 8:53.)

Enter today’s reporting from Herouth via Twitter. The ban on practice outside the stable will continue until the basho. In between tournaments, and especially in the lead-up to a tournament, top-ranking wrestlers travel to other stables to take on their would-be opponents. I’m taking liberties here with the point behind Iverson’s quote since the issue here is that a wrestler will ONLY be able to wrestle with their stablemates. But I do wonder how effective these degeiko trips are and am very eager to see how the first few days play out.

As she points out, Tamawashi and Ichinojo will not be able to face off against other sekitori until they climb onto the dohyo. I also want to point out that this means no sanyaku will be able to warm up against other sanyaku. While Daieisho has Endo, Takakeisho has Takanosho and Shodai has Yutakayama as peers in the same heya, this restriction against degeiko could mean there will be considerable ring-rust during “Act I” of the Tokyo Basho. To get a quick sense of how this will impact our top wrestlers, I again offer up the Heya visualization I created a few weeks ago (though the ranks have NOT been updated for the new banzuke).

Despite my inability to get the new ranks updated for everyone in time for this article the promotions and demotions will not, for the most part, be of a totally different class. For Arashio stable, Wakatakakage and his brothers will not be able to get pointers from other makuuchi wrestlers. Will this limit his ability to compete with the likes of Takayasu, Terunofuji, and Great Wall of Sadogatake?

In the past, the news that trickled out of these degeiko sessions has not always been a reliable indicator of a top wrestler’s fitness or ability to hold his own for a week of competition, much less two. I’m not looking at you, Tagonoura-beya — or perhaps I am? Takayasu’s top competition, aside from picking on the retired old geezers (I jest), will be Sandanme-ranked Akashifuji. Without the PR trips to take on Sadogatake or Isegahama powerhouses, will we be left with a more realistic picture of his prospects?

So, with much love to The Answer*, I lean toward agreeing with Herouth. Ichinojo’s in much the same boat as Takayasu. I’m not entirely convinced Shodai is going to have a huge advantage, or if Ikioi and Nishikigi will regain their sanyaku form, but it will be very interesting to see if Sadogatake comes out of this without needing an industrial case of Rustoleum.

* The Glove is Gary Payton as Todd pointed out. Allen Iverson was “The Answer.” The Answer to the question of, “Practice?”

Asahiyama-oyakata hosts TV Special on Saturday

For those in Japan, mark your calendars for Saturday at 1:30pm on BSFuji TV. Asahiyama-oyakata will join Karahashi Yumi to discuss sumo. Though there will be no Natsu Basho, there is clearly A LOT to discuss, including the results of Haru, Asanoyama’s Ozeki promotion and the pandemic’s impact.

Sandanme Wrestler, Shobushi, Dies of COVID-19

Shobushi, whose name is Suetake Kiyotaka, has died at the age of 28.

The sumo world mourns his loss and is rocked by the news.

The official statement from the Kyokai was very brief and provided few details. More detail is provided in this Japan Times article, including the detail that he had been the first positive case in sumo, on April 10 and he was sent to the ICU on April 19. Six more men from Takadagawa stable, including its master, later tested positive.

Kyodo News also reports that the Kyokai will begin antibody testing to understand who else may have caught the virus in the past. I hope this is paired with broader testing of active infections, as well. We have seen that people may be asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms.

Tachiai extends our condolences to Shobushi’s family and friends.

Mock Natsu Basho!

The NSK may have cancelled the Natsu basho, but never fear—you do not have to wait until July (or later) for some sumo content. Our friends at Grand Sumo Breakdown will be simulating the tournament based on the recently released banzuke. We here at Tachiai will be joining them in covering the mock basho much like we would the real thing. While we can’t bring you actual bouts, we can write previews, highlights, storyline posts, etc. At the end of the tournament, I will even create a projection for a banzuke based on the mock results. In Bruce’s inimitable words, “It will be odd, it could be cheesy, but I think the readership will love it.” While our efforts cannot make up for the absence of real ozumo, we hope that they will scratch the sumo itch at least a little, and bring some much-needed levity to the sumo fandom community.

The mock Natsu basho kicks off in two weeks, on May 24, just like the real thing was slated to before the cancellation. Let us know any thoughts and suggestions you may have in the comments, and stay tuned for more details.