Yokozuna Kisenosato Kyujo


The injured Yokozuna declared today that he would not be competing in the Haru basho, due to ongoing complications related to his un-treated left pectoral injury sustained at the end of last year’s Haru basho. Kisenosato previously had declared an ultimatum for himself that he would either compete at a Yokozuna level in the next basho he entered, or he would retire. Given this condition, he was not ever a real candidate for entry.

Fans want to see Kisenosato healthy again, and worry that he is not on a path to recovery given his current level of activity. We wish him the best and urge him to seek out the best sports medicine doctors and trainers to assist his recovery.

Tochinoshin Injured In Practice

Tochinoshin Hatsu Day 12

During morning practice, January’s yusho winner Tochinoshin injured his left thigh, and was taken back to Tokyo for medical treatment. He is now doubtful to participate in the Osaka tournament.

Courtesy of Herouth’s constant twitter sleuthing.

Apparently, he hurt that thigh some time during the Hatsu basho and was nursing that injury since. During practice he suddenly let out a yelp and limped out of the dohyo, having aggravated that injury. [Added by Herouth]

Update: his stablemaster declared that he is fine and ready for the basho. He is back in Osaka, but has not done keiko today – March 7th. [-Herouth]

Haru Story 3 – The Advancers


The 2018 Hatsu basho included some solid performance from rikishi who have struggled in the last year. Above all, three rikishi who have worked hard to overcome injury stand out above the rest, and for each man, may mark a turn around in their career. For Haru, they are ranked at the upper end of Makuuchi, most of them for the first time in more than a year.

Tochinoshin – The Hatsu basho winner battled back from a series of injuries, the most critical to his right knee. IN 2013, he dropped out of the Nagoya tournament and spent the following 8 months recovering and re-training after surgery to rebuild his right knee. He re-entered professional sumo ranked near the middle of Makushita, and proceeded to tear up every competitor in Makushita and Juryo. Though he battled back to Sekiwake, he could not maintain the rank, most likely due to continued pain and discomfort in his knee. Now at Sekiwake for the second time in his career, fans are hoping that he can return strong and continue his dominance from Hatsu. Whatever may come, it will all depend on him keeping his knees stable and healthy. With his knees healthy, he is tough to beat.

Ichinojo – There are many superlatives that can and should be applied to the Mongolian giant Ichinojo. His tall and massive body is nearly impossible for smaller men to move. When he first arrived in professional sumo, he was unstoppable. In his first basho in Makuuchi, he took Jun-Yusho with a 13-2 record, along with 2 special prizes. But like Tochinoshin, injuries put a halt to his meteoric rise. Since then he has struggled and frequently seemed to be going through the motions, unsure of his sumo, and unable to dominate in the ring. Something changed in November. For the last two tournaments, he turned in 10-5 records and has generally seemed to have regained mastery of his sumo.

Endo – Although you may not know it watching the NHK highlight shows, but Endo has a huge following the show-up day after day to cheer him on. It’s not just ladies swooning over his looks, serious sumo fans always keep their eye on Endo. Like the other two rikishi, he rose fast through the ranks at the start of his career but ran into troubles with nagging, chronic injuries. Last summer, he dropped out of Nagoya and underwent surgery to repair his damaged ankle. Since returning, he has been fighting well, and seems to have resolved his chronic problems. Endo is an excellent technical fighter, he has fantastic moves and very good balance between offense and defense. He struggled post-surgery mostly due to de-conditioning of his body, but that has been improving over time. Now back at Maegashira 1 East, a winning record here might put him in the San’yaku for the first time ever.


Onosho Unlikely For Haru


A story today in the Japanese press reports that rising star and member of the tadpole army, Onosho, will most likely not compete in March’s tournament in Osaka. During January’s Hatsu basho in Tokyo, Onosho withdrew from the competition following day 9, reporting an injury to his right knee. Now reports cite that the injury is not healed and that Onosho is only about 50% of his normal strength.

With many years ahead of him in his sumo career, pressing for a full recovery is a wise option. Should he sit out Haru, he will likely be demoted to Juryo for the Natsu tournament in May. Given his strength, power and sheer will to win, he won’t be down there for very long.


Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes

So let’s start at the very bottom.

Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.


Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.


So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)

Kisenosato – A Kyujo Ultimatum?


At last poor Kisenosato went kyujo.  His injury was reported to Sumo Kyokai as a strain to the lumbar region of his back, along with more damage to his left foot. As Kisenosato is left-hand (and foot) dominant, all of the accumulated damage to his left side, coupled with his light training program have left him well below even San’yaku level condition. Since injuring his pectoral muscle in the spring, he has not (as far as we can tell) sought out surgery to repair the damage. In all probability, there would be little use for surgery now, as the tear has healed to scar tissue, leaving his pectoral muscle permanently degraded.

It was clear from day 4 that he was in no condition to compete. Takakeisho described the Yokozuna as “surprisingly light” in his post-kinboshi interview. Some readers and others remarked that it was a strange thing to say about a man who weighs 177kg (390 pounds). What you were seeing instead was young Takakeisho noting that Kisenosato made himself easy to move around and off the dohyo.

Video thanks to Jason’s All Sumo Channel

In his pre-injury days, Kisenosato was tough to defeat in part because he would always keep himself very low to the ground. Furthermore, if you watch his old, pre-injury matches, his movement was almost always forward, and the soles of his feet barely cleared the surface of the dohyo when he was moving strongly forward on offense. This allows a rikishi to answer any offense from his opponent by locking his feet to the earth and applying force. By contrast, watch Kisenosato’s feet in this basho. He steps high and with a lot of vertical leg motion. With that 177kg balanced on one foot, he is easy to move. He becomes “light”, in that little force is required to push him around.

Today, there is news in the Japanese press (thanks, Herouth) that Kisenosato has run out of excuses. His next basho he is in fighting form, and finishes all 15 days, or resigns from sumo’s highest rank.

The Kisenosato Dilemma


No Easy Way Out

With Kisenosato out for kyujo for a second straight basho, there is a growing concern among the men who run sumo. Kisenosato’s elevation to Yokozuna has been a huge boon for the sport, raising it’s profile among the broader Japanese public, and driving huge ratings for the daily broadcasts. But as it becomes clear that Kisenosato cannot “heal naturally”, the sumo world faces a set of tough choices.

Fans who have come to sumo recently may not know how far out of the public’s minds sumo had wandered earlier this decade. The Japanese are proud people, and rightfully so. The nation of Japan and Japanese culture wield an oversized influence across the globe. They consider sumo to be their national sport, and it is in fact a sacred ritual. When it became clear that the top men of sumo were Mongolian for the foreseeable future, a section of the population lost interest. Sumo still had it’s fans, but it had become a sport dominated by outsiders, making it more like football (soccer) or any other imported event.

At the new years basho in 2017, this dynamic changed. For some time, the sumo association had wanted to promote Kisenosato, but lacked the final ingredient: a Yusho. In January, there was a confluence of events that gave Kisenosato his best chance ever at a tournament championship, and he took it. With his promotion secure, suddenly sumo had a Japanese born man at the highest rank. The public went absolutely insane for sumo and all things Kisenosato. He was Babe Ruth and John Glenn rolled into one. He had broken the lock Mongolia had on sumo.

March 2017 in Osaka, and Kisenosato is a freshly minted Yokozuna. The Japanese public is glued to their televisions, as the Osaka arena sold out all 15 days in mere minutes. In his day 13 match against Yokozuna Harumafuji, Kisenosato takes a hard fall off the dohyo and ruptures his left pectoral. Kisenosato is left handed by birth, and this injury robs him of his massive strength. Like every other sumo injury, nobody wants to talk about it. But the Japanese public (even if you are not a sumo fan) knows that the hero of Sumo is wounded. Somehow, he takes the yusho by defeating Ozeki Terunofuji not just once but twice on the final day. Again Japan erupts in jubilation as not only has their champion won his first tournament as Yokozuna, he overcame a grievous injury and prevailed against all odds.

After the party that follows a yusho, there were serious decisions to be made. Kisenosato had an injury that always requires surgery to heal. This would mean that the hero of sumo would be out of commission for at least 6 months, and even then might not ever return. This would remove the key figure that was driving interest in the sport back to where it belonged from the stage, possibly forever.

For whatever reason, the decision was made to try and “heal naturally”. This mean Kisenosato was to spend weeks resting his left upper body. He did not train much, and he was to do everything he could to not use that muscle group. Anyone who has trained athletically can tell you, over a period of weeks of non use, the related and supporting muscle groups de-condition, and lose their power. By resting, Kisenosato was losing the strength and stamina that had made him Yokozuna.

For the past two basho, he has tried to compete, but he is completely out of shape now, and most likely that pectoral muscle is still damaged and generating a faction of its former power. Kisenosato cannot compete in his present physical form, and that form cannot change without medical intervention.

So the question is – what do to? All of the answers have huge down side. Here are a few

  • Continue to wait and hope – So continue to “heal naturally” knowing that every day that goes by without intense strain on the left upper body diminishes your strength. Medically, there is no way to naturally heal a pectoral tear. So Kisenosato never regains left side upper body strength. We get a sub-standard Yokozuna lingering in the shadows (like Kakuryu) but instead it’s your Japanese born hero rikishi. Eventually (probably later this year) he is pushed to retire due to lack of performance.
  • Medical intervention – You take your prize Yokozuna to the best sports medicine doctors in the world, and just tell the fans he’s gone for 6 months. Surgical repair of the pectoral and any other nagging bits that were plaguing him. Hakuho did this for the big toe on his right foot, and he had to train like a madman for months just to step on the dohyo and not embarrass himself. It took him a year to return to 90% of his former glory. For Kisenosato this would likely mean intense physical therapy and endless workouts with Takayasu to try to get back to the form that won Hatsu 2017.
  • Admit you are done – Ugly solution, but if you are not going to try surgery to fix your left upper body, may as well go intai now and save yourself further damage or the fans any further disappointment. This would be a nightmare scenario of the sumo association, as it would return them to the days of being considered a foreign dominated sport.
  • Hold the fort – The most cruel of the outcomes, Kisenosato can continue to compete as best he can until another Japanese rikishi is ready for promotion. The most likely candidate would be Takayasu, although Goeido 2.0 could get it done sooner. This would allow the sumo association to shift everyone’s affections to a new hero, and Kisenosato could quietly bow out and retire.