Natsu Day 5 Highlights

The Champions

We closed out the first act of the Natsu basho in fine style, though it is with some disappointment that we recognize that Ozeki Takakeisho has withdrawn from competition after injuring his right knee in the yotsu-zumo win over Mitakeumi. Watching the replays, you can see his right knee buckle slightly as he goes to finish lifting Mitakeumi over the tawara, and that’s likely when the injury happened. The good news is that its probably an over-extension of the tissue, rather than a complete fail like we saw take place with Ura. As of this morning there is no word how long Takakeisho will be sitting out, but the medical guidances states 3 weeks, and Chiganoura Oyakata seems to be the kind to err on the side of caution with the condition of his rikishi.

Exiting act 1, we have 3 rikishi with perfect records. Kakuryu and Tochinoshin are notable, but not unexpected, but Asanoyama is a stand-out. He has shown fairly milling performance during the past 4 tournaments, but looks strong, focused and confident. Furthermore, his sumo is almost textbook perfect in terms of body position, hand position and footwork. This is actually his best start since Hatsu 2018 when he won 6 straight to open the new year. But I would note, he was ranked Maegashira 16 for that tournament.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – If you were looking for lightning fast, high intensity struggle from the start, you got your wish. These two refused to let the other dictate the terms of the match, and it was quite the brawl. Ishiura’s technique is better now than it has been in a while, and it’s a shame he only has 1 win so far.

Kyokushuho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho attacks Terutsuyoshi with great effect, as it almost looks as if Terutsuyoshi changes his intent just after the tachiai. That apparent indecision was all that was needed for Kyokushuho to completely encircle Terutsuyoshi and toss him out.

Enho defeats Chiyoshoma – I assumed going into this match that it was going to be a very busy contest, with lots of fierce action, and both rikishi were up to the task. The Enho tactic of “grab any piece of him you can” was in full effect, with the Pixie making do with whatever appendage belonging to Chiyoshoma was at hand. If Enho can stay healthy, he is going to be trouble.

Yago defeats Tokushoryu – For the second day in a row, we see Tokushoryu decide to go chest to chest, and it’s not really working for him. Given Tokushoryu’s somewhat unique body shape, the task is a tough one for Yago, but that fellow is determined, and may not know any better.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Tochiozan seems to lack a measure of the strength he used to bring to the dohyo, but his skill has done nothing but improve as they years tick by. Chiyomaru keeps trying to circle away, but that gambit is completely ineffective as Tochiozan grabs a hold of Chiyomaru and keeps reeling him in.

Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi picks up a much needed win, as Onosho falls into his old habit of being just a bit too far forward over his toes. Shimanoumi’s footwork is excellent as he delays stepping out until Onosho touches down. Well played by Shimanoumi.

Asanoyama defeats Kagayaki – In addition to remaining undefeated, Asanoyama’s form is absolutely fantastic. In fact I could see him modeling for any wood block print of sumotori from any era. Kagayaki is completely out-classed and has nothing to bring in response to Asanoyama’s near perfect offensive sumo.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – I am still sensing that Yoshikaze is having problems generating forward pressure, and that showed again today as he broke off and re-charged into Shodai a few times. Shodai’s superior lateral mobility carried the match, as he was able to execute a twisting side-step to reverse Yoshikaze into a losing position. Can this guy please fix his tachiai so he can be a big deal?

Takarafuji defeats Kaisei – Big strength yotsu battle between these two, and in spite of Kaisei’s mass advantage, the ever resolute Takarafuji gave no quarter and kept the Brazilian from overpower him.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu decides he wants to meet the windmill-oshi attack from Abi in kind, and finds that there is no way he is going to overpower his opponent. I continue to be amazed that Abi-zumo continues to pay off, with Abi now 4-1.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – At last Okinoumi scores his first win. This was a high-strength, high-skill sumo contest that raged across the dohyo, with advantage changing hands multiple times. But what impressed me is that Okinoumi kept his hips low, his attention focused, and maintained visual contact with his opponent. The kimarite is listed as tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Ryuden lost traction and his knee touched down. Excellent bout, well worth 2 replays.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Genuine Kotoshogiku Kyushu-Bulldozer style sumo today. Not the “Hug-n-Chug”, but the hips low, plowing the other guy off the dohyo kind of sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Hokutofuji – Points to Hokutofuji, as he was able to keep Tochinoshin in a “lead right” position, never allowing him to switch left and engage his primary weapon. But as a measure of how motivated Tochinoshin is right now, he found a way to get the sky crane running and carried the match. 5-0 now, half way to returning to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – It’s easy to spot how this goes wrong for Ichinojo in the footage of this match. Ichinojo continuously focuses on pulling Mitakeumi down by applying force to Mitakeumi’s head. Mitakeumi focuses on Ichinojo’s chest and moves forward. Sumo!

Daieisho defeats Goeido – A surprising match as Daieisho is able to beat Goeido at the tachiai, get inside and force the Ozeki high and back. Goeido was never able to set his feet, or generate any forward pressure.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu owned this match from the tachiai, and Takayasu was able to recover by exploiting Chiyotairyu’s tendency to charge forward in hopes his opponent won’t move to the side, which Takayasu executed with great timing to send Chiyotairyu to the clay. Takayasu continues to look very rough.

Kakuryu defeats Aoiyama – To me, I am going to say that it looks almost like Aoiyama was holding back. When we see him power up those big, long arms, we tend to see him focus on blunt force trauma via tsuppari, but instead he seems to keep it only at 70% against Kakuryu. Big K continues in the undefeated column.

Aki Day 1 Comments & Highlights

Aki Day 1 Toys

My thanks to Herouth and Josh for their excellent discussion and commentary overnight for day 1. It was a great day of sumo, that included a lot of intense action, and brilliant moves. I continue to believe that we are in a sumo “golden age” for at least a little bit longer, and I will savor every match that features such long-serving talent and such bright new skill. You can find the full live-blog transcript here.

First and foremost, let’s clear the decks and say that Kisenosato won his first match of Aki. It was fairly straightforward sumo. He landed his left hand and drove forward. Ikioi put up a good fight, and frankly Kisenosato was quite a bit higher than we might expect to see him, but the Yokozuna had enough power to make it work. He did not look good, but he did look good-enough for now. I expect him to have quite a bit of ring rust to blast away before we see anything approaching his prior form.

The Yoshikaze / Chiyoshoma match was a stunner. Chiyoshoma had the upper hand and was driving Yoshikaze back and out, when the Berserker rallied and delivered an unbelievable utchari at the edge. Chiyoshoma was looking for a monoii, as was I, but none was called and the results stood. Look at that left foot as he swings Chiyoshoma up and over. The man has the strength, skill and ring sense to inch it back forward to keep his heel inside until Chiyoshoma becomes a “dead body”. One thing was clear from the HD feed coming from NHK-G, Yoshikaze has a hideous rash all over his body, leading me to wonder if cause of his impairment might be a painful case of adult chickenpox (shingles).

Takanoiwa looked like he completely out-matched Ryuden. Ryuden’s gambit utterly failed, and Takanoiwa took command and disposed of Ryuden like a spent takoyaki tray outside of Lawson’s.

I continue to like what I see from Hokutofuji, watch that tachiai! Notice how he leads with his right hand out from the tachiai. Even if he is a half-step behind for some reason, that right hand is already inside. He has been refining this move for a while, and he’s just getting better and better at it. It also acts as a counterbalance that allows him to get very low off the shikiri-sen.

Kagayaki seems to have tweaked him mawashi color, and it’s almost iridescent now. Kagayaki picked up right where he stopped in Nagoya. He continues to become more calm, refined and operating strongly on fundamentals. Onosho is, in my book, still recovering from surgery, and is looking a bit chaotic. I am chalking it up to ring rust.

Abi seems to have pulled Chiyonokuni down twice, which means that Chiyonokuni bounced off the clay. Abi did a minor variation of his two-hand tachiai. Ok, so he’s getting creative, but I think that’s not quite what is needed. But this was 100% Abi-zumo.

The EndoIchinojo bout is a study in Ichinojo. It gets underway with Endo being very busy, attacking Ichinojo more or less at will. Ichinojo ends up with his heels on the tawara. This is where he usually gives up, but instead something flips in his sumo and he turns into this monster. He had Endo in an off-balance grip and simply flexes his enormous muscles and flings all 150 kg around and then pushes Endo down by the neck. I could see an expression flash across Ichinojo’s face that translates to “Bad Pony!”.

I am delighted to report that Shodai’s tachiai was not a train-wreck on day 1, and had Mitakeumi struggling to recover. But recover he did and sent Shodai packing. Once again it looks like Mitakeumi phones in the practice matches and brings the actual sumo out for honbasho. Mitakeumi stayed glued to Shodai’s center-mass, and that is what won that match.

The ChiyotairyuTochinoshin tachiai registered as a Hokkaido aftershock, as it was loud and painful. Tochinoshin was able to back Chiyotairyu up, and apply a lift-and-shift finish, but it looked like it hurt him to do so. We know Tochinoshin is going to gamberize like mad, so we just hope he can hold it together until he can rack his 8th.

Freshman class leader Yutakayama effectively stalemated Ozeki Takayasu, who once again used that terrible shoulder-blast tachiai. But after going chest to chest, Yutakayama could not keep the Ozeki from advancing and simply plowing Yutakayama out.

Kaisei was not in the least bit intimidated by Goeido, and put his massive body to good use: driving forward with so much force Goeido was powerless to do anything other than lose.

Hakuho’s match? Pure speed. Blink and you miss it.

Takakeisho looked vague and rusty against Kakuryu, who stayed calm and kept the match on his terms.

We end day 1 with all of the Yokozuna and Ozeki winning, except for Goeido. Order and balance is established in the basho, and the young up-and-comers are going to have their hands full this time. With the senior ranks out in full, the score inflation of the Maegashira and lower san’yaku will be curtailed. This will be a great basho to watch as I still think the new forces are continuing to pick apart the old guard.

Haru Day 1 Preview

Wasabi Mawashi

It seems like a long time, waiting for the Osaka basho to get underway. Part of that was due to the Olympic news blackout – the sumo world kept quiet in order to let the Olympics have the stage. Now the snow party in Korea is done, it’s time for the big men of Japan to take to the dohyo and compete. Oh boy, are we ready for some sumo!

If you are just now joining our coverage, a few things to note

  1. Tachiai is not spoiler free – we report things as they happen. If you want to wait until you can watch things on NHK or YouTube, you will want to visit us after you watch the highlights.
  2. We will attempt to live blog tonight, in conjunction with NHK showing the second half of Makuuchi live on NHK World. It may be a spectacular flaming train wreck, but it will be fun read along as we all watch live sumo together
  3. Tachiai is a team effort. There are multiple authors contributing to the content here, and we are greatful for all their efforts. Please be kind to them, or at least respectful. They give up their free time to comment on a sport we all love. Nobody here gets paid, we do it for the love of sumo.

With that down in writing, lets get started!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Aoiyama vs Kyokutaisei – The man-mountain Aoiyama made it back to the top division by the barest of margins, and his first match is against a Juryo rikishi filling a gap brought on by Onosho going kyujo. Aoiyama has been struggling, and frankly his mass has gotten out of control. We will be looking for him to put everything he has to stay in the top division.

Ikioi vs Sokokurai – Ikioi at Maegashira 14? What manner of cataclysm is this? Ikioi has been struggling for the last several basho, and his nursing injuries. With no jungyo tour this February, we all hope that he has gotten himself back together, and is ready to compete. Going against Sokokurai should be a fairly easy win for a healthy Ikioi, so it will be time to guess if he’s genki. Sokokurai holds a 5-1 career advantage

Daishomaru vs Asanoyama – Sumo’s happy boy goes up against Daishomaru, who has never lost to Asanoyama. This is usually a thrusting battle that gets Asanoyama off balance and out. With Asanoyama looking to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing Hatsu, he will need to break with tradition and defeat Daishomaru top one strong.

Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – My compliments to both rikish for surviving Hatsu, both of which have spent a good amount of time slumming in Juryo over the last year. Ishiura is still looking for a way to compete in spite of his small size, and tends to get confounded by larger opponents. Kotoyuki goes all out, and quite possibly Ishiura will use this against him. Even chances of a henka on this one.

Yutakayama vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni’s Grumpy Badger Sumo has not taken him as far as one might imagine, and after a disastrous Hatsu, he’s now down at Maegashira 10. Yutakayama won their only prior match, and his 30 kg mass advantage will likely be the deciding factor.

Okinoumi vs Ryuden – The perpetually injured veteran Okinoumi faces off against rising start Ryuden. One has to wonder how much longer Okinoumi will stick with professional sumo, where Ryuden has caught quite a bit of attention with double digit wins during his first Makuuchi tournament. This is their first match.

Abi vs Yoshikaze – I hope and pray that the NHK live stream starts here. This is possibly the highlight match of the day. Yoshikaze was a fraction of his normal level of genki during Hatsu, and I expect him to be fully recovered from the flu or cold or whatever plagued him. He faces off for the first time against leading man of the Freshman class, Abi. This will either be Yoshikaze dispatching the youngster with a deft and rapid kimarite, or it could be a great battle that rotates between oshi and yotsu-zumō in the blink of an eye. This is their first career match.

Kaisei vs Hokutofuji – Kaisei is near the top of his effective rank these days, given his weight and the limitations it places on his sumo. For a time Hokutofuji was a force of nature, but a series of small, but performance limiting, injuries kept him from living up to his awesome potential. With the Hatsu-Haru break, we can only hope that he returns to the dohyo healthy and ready to advance once more. These two have split their prior 2 matches.

Chiyomaru vs Shodai – The crew are all waiting for the day that Shodai fixes his tachiai and becomes a contender. Could Haru be the time we see him snap off shikiri-sen, catching the bulbous Chiyomaru by surprise? More likely, Chiyomaru will use his enormous belly to keep Shodai away from his mawashi, and dominate the match. Chiyomaru has won their only prior match.

Shohozan vs Takakeisho – Oh goodie! “Big Guns” Shohozan goes against Takakeisho’s “Wave Action Tsuppari!” In their prior two matches, Takakeisho has carried the day. But Shohozan is a street brawler with the strength to overwhelm the tadpole. This is likely to be fast and brutal, and we can watch it live!

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – Ichinojo’s back in San’yaku, and he’s put on a vast amount of additional weight. This guy is so seriously huge that an awkward fall is an instant mechanical injury and possibly a ride in the oversized wheelchair. Day one he faces fading former Ozeki, the much loved Kotoshogiku. We all know that Kotoshogiku’s going to try for his hug-n-chug, and will likely get it. But will Ichinojo’s ridiculous bulk be too much for Kotoshogiku’s damaged knees?

Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – January’s yusho winner goes up against Takarafuji the neck-less wonder. There have been reports that Tochinoshin may have injured himself in training, and this will be our first peek at if the party circuit post-Hatsu took its toll. Their match in January was some solid sumo, with Takarafuji able to block and counter Tochinoshin’s left hand with impressive skill. They are evenly matched with the 8-7 career score slightly favoring Tochinoshin.

Mitakeumi vs Arawashi – The Mitakeumi faithful are hoping that he will finally elevate his sumo and be able to turn in double digit wins at Sekiwake. With a likely cull in the Yokozuna ranks coming in the next 12 months, there is no better time to start driving for higher rank. But Arawashi is not going to be an accomplice to that plan. Though Mitakeumi leads their career bouts 3-1, Arawashi is fast, flexible and not afraid to deliver a henka.

Tamawashi vs Goeido – Tamawashi is frustrated. After losing his coveted Sekiwake slot, he has been a man on the outside looking in. He starts Haru by facing home town favorite Goeido, who may be the key man in this basho. If he delivers his “good” sumo style, he could be unstoppable. Tamawashi is a powerful oshi practitioner, and Goeido will need to get inside fast, and then endure punishing blows to win.

Takayasu vs Endo – Since his thigh injury, Ozeki Takayasu’s sumo has gotten sloppy. He tends to bounce around, not minding his hips or his center of gravity. He relies on a shoulder blast at the tachiai to put him in control of the match. Endo is my sleeper favorite going into Haru, and I would delight to see him counter the Ozeki’s predictable opening move. They are evenly matched at 6-6 for the career, so this is no easy walk over win for Takayasu.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Though he is missing his side burns, Chiyotairyu will always be sumo-Elvis to me. We know he’s facing an injured and diminished Kakuryu, who’s main right hand weapon is not working well at all after a bad fall on the final day of Hatsu. So fans should restrain their reactions if Kakuryu uses a lot of pulls and “reverse sumo” this tournament. I give him huge credit for showing up and giving it his all.