On the 26th (Tuesday that is), Kisenosato took up some basic practice routines at the Tagonoura temporary base camp in Nagoya. He only did basic exercises and acted as the dead weight for butsukari. The article mentions that he hopes to start training matches on Wednesday the 27th against lower ranked opponents. Fans everywhere are wondering what Kisenosato’s end-game could be, and how long he will prolong his quite possibly tragic return to the dohyo.
Sumo commentator, sports photographer and friend of Tachiai John Gunning has put together another excellent piece for The Japan Times. This article explores keiko; the intense, exhausting and repetitive regimen of sumo training.
A choice section of the article:
After each group has finished their bouts, they do a pushing practice with another wrestler acting as deadweight. This is known as butsukari-geiko and is the toughest part of training.
Already exhausted, you can be forced to push someone over and back until you collapse. This is called kawaigari — literally tender loving care — and even the name alone is enough to send chills down a wrestler’s spine.
Yokozuna Harumafuji once compared it to the verge of death, and having been on the receiving end I fully agree.
As always, head to The Japan Times and read the whole thing.
We interrupt today’s scheduled programming to inform you that the rikishi had a bit of a rest today at Okayama, where they will resume their activities tomorrow.
Unfortunately, tomorrow I won’t be able to cover the events, with both work and a Euroleague basketball game to attend.
So I’ll try to give you a double helping on Wednesday. And in the meantime, here is some interesting footage that turned up from yesterday at Osaka:
The difference between butsukari and reverse butsukari
So, those who followed this program in the past few days should already know what a butsukari geiko is: Up-ranker exposes his chest. Down-ranker needs to throw himself at that chest and push the up-ranker all the way to the edge. Done? Good. Squat at the edge, and give the up-ranker a nice bow. Not done? Up-ranker will usually throw you to the ground. Occasionally, he’ll take you for a monkey-walk around the dohyo.
So here is Hakuho giving Takakeisho TLC from yesterday:
The ceremony usually ends with an “itten” (一転), where the low ranker symbolically knocks on the chest of the up-ranker, and gets thrown one last time. Here Hakuho seems to go for a “san-ten” (三転) – three final throws? Hmm…
A reverse butsukari (not an official name) is when an up-ranker wants to practice pushing. So he asks a low-ranker to do the honors. The rules are supposed to be the same. In the previous Jungyo, Kisenosato did one of those – I think it was with Kagayaki. Kisenosato is a conservative… so he kind of insisted on the itten: knocked on his opponent’s chest, and immediately threw himself to the ground. :-)
(Those throws are not actually like the ones in an actual bout. The ukemi knows he is supposed to be thrown, and usually performs a korogari as soon as the up-ranker touches him. Kisenosato simply did one without his opponent laying more than one finger on him).
So usually a reverse butsukari looks quite different than the “normal” one, which is a show of authority. How different? Take a look at Harumafuji who was doing that yesterday, (and three days in a row, apparently):
So… no actual rolls. And the squats don’t end with much of a bow.
So, if you only ever watch the Kintamayama shorts or the NHK highlights, you probably haven’t seen many chikara-mizu (power-water) ceremonies. Before each bout, one rikishi who has not been tainted with a loss takes a ladle of water from the yobidashi and hands it to the next rikishi who goes up to wrestle. That rikishi accepts it, rinses his mouth with it, and then accepts a piece of paper which is usually used to cover the mouth while spitting the water down into a spittoon at the side of the dohyo. The rikishi who hands the water is the one who won the last bout, and on the other side of the dohyo, where the previous wrestler lost, the rikishi of the next bout, one who has not fought yet, will do the honors. On the musubi-no-ichiban, the last bout of the day, the role will be left to the last winner on that side, who has to stay there for this purpose.
So, during honbasho, this is all done quite seriously (though I find the constant spitting kind of yucky, especially for the yobidashi who has to clean up the spittoon from time to time). But during the Jungyo, rikishi like to play around. One of the common jokes is to add some of the dohyo salt to the ladle. The yobidashi usually keep silent, though this is done right in front of their eyes.
But this is not the only possible prank.
Here are the bouts of the Juryo division from yesterday (yes! Aminishiki can win by yori-kiri!) for your enjoyment. And pay attention to Osunaarashi handing the chikara-mizu to Amakaze. Ahem.
It’s good to be the king!
When a Yokozuna makes an appearance, the other sekitori greet him with a bow. When it’s Hakuho, that includes Harumafuji as well. Hakuho returns a nod.
I watched a similar video the other day, in which Harumafuji arrived at the dohyo, and everybody was bowing to him, but he and Kakuryu just exchanged nods and a friendly pat. Hakuho has a special status. In fact, apparently Kakuryu, Harumafuji and Kisenosato, when they mention each other, use their respective shikona. But when they refer to Hakuho, it’s “Yokozuna”, whether he’s present or not. As in Kakuryu saying to Harumafuji “We need to wait for Kisenosato and the Yokozuna”. That kind of thing.
You’ll notice that the Yokozuna himself bows. That is directed at Tamanoi oyakata. When Takanohana is present, a bow will be directed at him as well.
Note another interesting form of expressing respect: mizu-tsuke. This is similar to the chikara-mizu explained above, only without the paper to hide the spits and without a yobidashi on hand. And look how many of those there are.
Found in the depths of YouTube, some kindly fan shot a rather excellent butsukari session during the jungyo sumo PR tour last week. It appears to show Yokozuna Hakuho in an extended butsukari session with rising star Onosho.
Onosho has turned in back to back 10-5 records in his first two tournaments in Makuuchi, and it’s clear he is a young man driven to succeed. If you have the patience to watch the whole thing, Hakuho is really working him to exhaustion (the point of butsukari). At the end, its awesome to see Onosho rally and really push with renewed vigor.
Note as Onosho reaches exhaustion and wants to give up, Hakuho first taunts him, then gets the crowd to cheer him on.
For those not used to sumo training, this interaction may seem odd or even somewhat like hazing, which it is not. I also note that Hakuho really seeks out the hard-charging young rikishi who are working to make the best of their sumo career, and works them hard.