JOINT PRACTICE!

“No Kensho…no Jungyo…no degeiko…no…”

This song has been playing on a loop inside my head since March, as events and gatherings that I had taken for granted were ripped away.

 

Slowly, activities are coming back in our own lives. And today, the sumo world took another step back to normalizing as several heavyweights gathered for the first joint practice session in half a year. No name is bigger than Hakuho, obviously. Kakuryu was not there, but stablemate Kiribayama was, along with Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, and yusho holder, Shodai.

Hakuho didn’t just sit on the sidelines, hamming for the camera, either. He got in a little action, here doing butsukari with Shodai and practicing his tachiai with Ikioi. It’s great to see the Boss back in a mawashi, offering his chest and a few pointers to up-and-comers. But now that he’s gotten a few pictures in it, hopefully he folded it neatly and left it in a corner to gather dust for a few more weeks. There’s no need to push it.

“Practice?”

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?”

Asanoyama Keiko With Araiso-oyakata

As Herouth noted yesterday, Asanoyama was not exactly thrilled to receive an invitation to join Tagonoura-beya for degeiko (出稽古) or keiko outside of one’s own heya. Perhaps the risk of kawaigari with the former yokozuna was a bit less scary than the idea of kawaigari with the current dai-yokozuna, so Asanoyama did make the trip.

Welcome to Tagonoura-beya!

I digress, but for those going to Tokyo or in Tokyo, Asanoyama’s stable, Takasago, is in a great location for a visit. I LOVE THIS PLACE. I could just walk around these areas for days. Oh, wait, I actually do that whenever I’m there. It is a bit of a hike from Ryogoku station, between Ryogoku and Kinshicho of the Sobu Line and the Asakusa Line’s Honjo-Azumabashi station. Ryogoku is the station that is home to Kokugikan. Honjo-Azumabashi is in between Sky Tree (Oshiage) and Asakusa (home of the Kaminarimon Gate). Honjo-Azumabashi is on the side of the river with the big unchi, otherwise known as the headquarters of Asahi beer.

Maybe Asanoyama went with the longer trip?

So in his case it may have made more sense for Asanoyama and his entourage to go from Kinshicho, and take the Sobu line up to Koiwa…or get someone to drive them. I favor the idea of a bunch of sumo wrestlers on the train, especially if Asanoyama wanted to delay his punishment.

At least Araiso seems to have had fun, judging by the maniacal laughter while Asanoyama lies, defeated, on the dohyo behind him. The former Yokozuna took 16 of their 17 bouts. While Takayasu was available, the opposing sekiwake opted for butsukari with Asanoyama rather than doing any bouts. This worries me because if Takayasu isn’t ready for keiko bouts against a sekiwake — a week before the honbasho — he won’t be ready to win 10 of 15 real bouts against 1) a pair of Yokozuna with something to prove, 2) two desperate ozeki hoping to maintain their status, and, 3) a half-dozen up-and-comers gunning for his place.