Haru Day 2 – beyond Makuuchi

It was an interesting sumo day at the EDION arena. Bruce has already given you the highlights of Makuuchi. But there is much action to see in the other divisions.

terunofuji-gagamaru

Former Ozeki Terunofuji has broken a 6-month draught, winning his bout vs. Gagamaru by Uwatenage.

Yesterday Terunofuji said that while his knee problems are mostly gone, he has to contend with the diabetes at the moment. He was told that it will take him six months to get his body back in shape, and he is hoping, by working out as much as possible, to shorten that period. He was certainly happy about that long awaited white star, though you can’t see that in the video.

Our favorite Uncle Sumo is not doing as well, though. Yesterday Takekaze has given him a Hatakikomi from his own book. Today, despite much support from the Osaka crowd, he just couldn’t stand his ground vs. Kyokutaisei. He hinted on the Isegahama web site that his injury is not quite healed as yet.

Another crowd favorite who is not doing very well is our muscular pixie, Enho. I believe it’s mostly nerves rather than body size, though. The other shin-Juryo, Takayoshitoshi, has also lost both his bouts so far, and he is most certainly not vertically challenged.

I… wish he didn’t go for the henka. It’s unlike him. His tactic has always been to drive forward. Of course, variety would help. Instead of always going for a mae-mitsu he could try the same barrage of tsuppari Wakaichiro used yesterday. Anyway, don’t pull. Hakuho told him that he looked “lost”.

Not far away from him on the banzuke, is the returning victim of the Harumafuji affair, Takanoiwa. And he looks like he hasn’t been a day away from the dohyo:

Trying to get a mawashi grip, keeping his body low. Shimanoumi finds himself below the dohyo. Takanoiwa is now 2-0. Seriously, somebody should give Hakuho the address of the hospital where Takanoiwa was hospitalized all this time because it seems that their treatment program includes lower body exercise of top quality.

And here is a bout in which I wanted neither rikishi to lose, really, but I wish it was Terutsuyoshi who won at the end.

Note Terutsuyoshi’s coming back up the dohyo. The crowd appreciated that – as well as his usual generous salt throw.

Further down we go. Toyonoshima is still trying to overcome his injuries and return to Sekitori status. He promised the late Tokitenku that he’ll be back. But it is getting more and more difficult as time goes by:

His rival is Rendaiyama. You can see Toyonoshima’s experience – but like Aminishiki, he just can’t withstand strong attacks from younger rivals.

In Sandanme, I’m sorry to report that Shunba lost to Kaonishiki by oshi-dashi, as did Terunohana (kimedashi, to Daishokaku).

Down at Jonidan, after his stablemates appeared on day 1 with mixed results (Oshozan won, Sumidagawa and Honma lost), Torakio opened his Haru basho today. Something in his expression tells me that he finally knows where he has landed, and I’m not sure he likes it too much.

It’s no fun having a heavy supporter on your arm this early in your career. But nevertheless, he uses that very arm to throw Nakao and win by uwatenage.

One of the “ones to watch” – Yoshoyama – also made his first appearance today. His torikumi ended in a couple of seconds. There seems to be an improvement there, but I still see a Shodai-like tachiai there.

No individual video, so here is the time-marked video of the whole set of Jonidan torikumi:

(If the time mark doesn’t work for you, shift to 19m10s manually).

Finally, down at Jonokuchi, both the famous grandson and the famous nephew made their first public appearances (at least, the first on-banzuke). Let’s start with Naya, Taiho’s grandson. He was facing Urutora:

Quite a bit of difference in mass there… Shikihide oyakata certainly doesn’t believe in force-feeding his deshi. Not a real match for the huge Naya who swats him away as if he were a fly.

Hoshoryu – Asashoryu’s nephew – faced Nakanishi, the new Sakaigawa man. This was a totally different match altogether:

Ahhhh…. that’s real sumo. Before the basho, Takanosho decided to practice with Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu is a Jonokuchi newcomer. Takanosho a sekitori. And Takanosho found himself on his back. And seeing today’s bout, we know why. I don’t know if he’ll be a Yokozuna like his uncle, but that boy is certainly not going to be doing laundry and cleaning toilets for long.

Isn’t sumo great?

Video credits: One and Only, Miselet.

 

A Little About Georgia

Welcome to Georgia, shusshin (birthplace) of Tochinoshin, Gagamaru, and wine. Yes, that bacchanalian beverage, perfected in the hills of France, was domesticated in the Caucasus. Georgian wines are a favorite among my Russian and Eastern European friends. I believe that is why it is such a prize for Vladimir Putin (as well as the resorts Crimea). The Russian Olympic venue at Sochi was a stone’s throw from Georgia. A quick visit to the website for the National Tourism Administration shows several pictures of cultural treasures and amazing vistas.

Mtskheta, Georgia

Tochinoshin is from Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site was put on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 but removed from that list in 2016, noting work done and the commitment by the State Party to the preservation of the site. This month, a UNESCO monitoring mission is headed to Mtskheta to “assess current conditins at the property.” Tachiai will report on findings.

I must admit, the description from the tourism company, VisitGeorgia.GE is enticing: “Situated at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers, Mtskheta has been a site of human settlement since at least the second millennium BC. The town is named after Mtskhetos, son of Kartlos – the legendary progenitor of the Georgian people. Already a town of some significance in pagan times, it gained importance as the site of the first Christian church in Georgia. Today it is no longer the capital of the country, but it is still the spiritual capital and home to two of Georgia’s greatest churches – Svetitskhoveli and Jvari.

While I was growing up, Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union. When the Communist block dissolved, Georgia declared independence. However, that independence has been fraught with conflict as Russian loyalists, primarily in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, continue to try to break away with Russian help. The breakout of heavy fighting and war in 2008 has yielded to an uneasy peace as Western war correspondents have embedded themselves in other Russian proxy battles from Crimea to Syria. It’s difficult to get a sense of the status quo in Tblisi. The most recent article I could find was this from Politico: “Vladimir Putin’s mysterious moving border.”

Jungyo Newsreel – December 8th

🌐 Location: Miyazaki, Miyazaki

Today the Jungyo landed at Miyazaki city, where 3000 spectators thronged the entrances.

ichinojo-kiddies
Planet Ichinojo attracts two new satellites to its orbit

Hakuho participated in morning practice for the first time. On previous days, he settled for stretches and workouts below the dohyo. Today he named Shodai – ever popular with top-rankers – for sanban. This involved 8 bouts, all of which Hakuho won.

hakuho-shodai

These bouts involved various throws and force-outs. “I was testing my dohyo sense”, commented the Dai-Yokozuna to the press.

Today I have lots of bouts for you. But as a warm up, first enjoy Abi’s shiko, which is considered one of the best ones. Up and straight. Even Hakuho can’t do that…

OK, so let’s start with Gagamaru vs. Yago. Here is a loooooong nodowa. Oshidashi.

And here is Terutsuyoshi in a tsuri-dashi. Too bad he is going to drop to Makushita at Hatsu.

Amakaze invents a new style of gaburi-yori. More like kangaroo-yori.

Aminishiki vs. Kaisei. Aminishiki gets a lot of support, and gambarizes.

And the musubi-no-ichiban. Note how the crowd applauds as Satonofuji bows in from the hana-michi.

Hakuho 3 – Kakuryu 2.

So, speaking about Satonofuji, here is one of your last chances to see his yumi-tori shiki:

Jungyo Newsreel – December 7th

🌐 Location: Usa, Oita

Today the Jungyo arrived at the city of Usa, which happens to be the birth place of the one Yokozuna Hakuho is still looking up to – Futabayama Sadaji.

This, of course, meant that many rikishi were fiercely working their smartphones to get a pic with the most awesome Yokozuna in the world:

gaga-sokokurai-futabayama
One awesome Yokozuna, one Georgian patriot, and one Juryo Yusho winner

2300 spectators flocked to the venue despite the cold weather. Once again, Harumafuji goods were sold out as soon as they were offered.

Yoshikaze was the main man of the day, hailing from close-by Saiki. He entertained the crowd in the kiddie sumo:

girl-sumo

Yes, from time to time you’ll see a girl sumo enthusiast. They get to wear something modest in addition to the mawashi. Alas, they cannot dream of growing up to be rikishi.

But although Yoshikaze drew a lot of spectator attention, when Hakuho decided to step up the dohyo and do some kiddie sumo, the crowd blew up.

hakuho-kiddie

Yokozuna and Ozeki don’t normally do the kiddie sumo duty. In the previous Jungyo, Goeido chose to participate when the Jungyo passed through his home territory. Hakuho also chose one stop to play with the kids. So the crowd was delighted that the Yokozuna chose their town this time.

Back to Yoshikaze, when time came for the torikumi, the warm local support caused him to go for spectacular sumo, and he ended up with a tsuri-dashi win over Mitakeumi. Shohozan, who studied in a local high school, won against Takakeisho by okuridashi. Hakuho was less fortunate today, and got yori-kiried by Kakuryu. 2:2.

As you can see in that video, there is a new Shokkiri team. I feel a bit sorry for Baraki for losing his Shokkiri status so quickly. He seems to be the perfect fit for the job. I guess with Akua being promoted to sekitori, it couldn’t be helped.

Here is the full Shokkiri performance by the new duo:

Did someone from the crowd throw back some salt to the dohyo?

 

41st One Day Tournament Results

41st-one-day-tournament

Thanks to the kind folks at sumoforum.net, Tachiai has been able to create a graphical chart showing all of the competitors and rounds of this past weekend’s 41st single day sumo tournament.

Some interesting notes from the event, Harumafuji, Goeido and Tochinoshin were absent. As stated earlier, there is some worry that these three have sustained serious injuries. Of course, as we all know, Kisenosato won and looked fairly good doing it.  There was some great effort put fort by Gagamaru, Shohozan, Takanoiwa and Tochiozan.

This is a fun / for charity event that does not effect standings, and many of the rikishi are not putting in an overwhelming effort, in part because no one wants to get hurt during this tournament.

For a more detailed PDF, click on the image above or you can find it here.

Kyushu Day 12 Preview

soken-kise

You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain
Book of Five Rings

The Kyushu basho has been a mixed bag, much more so than the other sumo tournaments this year. With day 11, the head has been turned to boil, and 5 rikishi all have solid chances of contending for the championship. Strangest among them is newcomer Ishiura, who has an impressive 10-1 record heading into day 12. His matches are likely to get progressively tougher for the final 4 days of Kyushu, as the Sumo Kyokai test his skill and resilience. At the bottom of Makuuchi, he faced some decent opponents, but he will be tested against upper level wrestlers. It’s quite important they not promote him too quickly, and risk injury, when much of Japan is going Ishiura crazy.

That leaves us with 4 – All 3 Yokozuna and the real wildcard this basho, Kisenosato. I have no idea how much more amazing sumo Kisenosato can produce this tournament. Frankly he has already exceeded expectations. Everything from here on out is just gravy.

Hakuho is still very good, but I continue to think he is nursing his injuries, and we won’t see him at full strength until January in Tokyo. But he is one of the most inventive, wily sumotori in recent history. If given the opportunity, he will find a way to win.

Kakuryu is about to face the real test of his fitness to win the yusho – the other Yokozuna. He has been largely defensive this basho, even against much lower ranked opponents. But up until yesterday, it has worked for him.

Which brings us to Harumafuji. He only has 1 loss, and frankly I think he has been the best of the three Yokozuna this basho, and I like his chances of once again walking away the Emperor’s Cup.

While the yusho race is the headline grabber, most of the rikishi are pushing to try and secure a winning record and stave off demotion. Right now its all about kachi-koshi further down the banzuke.

Notable Matches

Chiyoshoma vs Gagamaru – Chiyoshoma could pick up his kachi-koshi today. Gagamaru is really hit or miss, and slightly more miss than hit. These two have only met twice, with Chiyoshoma winning both times.

Sokokurai vs Arawashi – Sokokurai also striving to overcome the blazing offense of Arawashi to reach his kachi-koshi. Sokokurai has been doing very well this basho, and if he does not overcome Arawashi, I have great confidence that Sokokurai will get this done. On top of that, Sokokurai has won their prior matches 7-4

Ishiura vs Ikioi – First of the headline matches of the day. After day 11, I am sure he is ready for another match. This time its against the new start of sumo, Ishiura. Ishiura has been employing a mini-henka at the tachiai. I am hoping that Ikioi recognizes this is coming, stands his ground and delivers him a solid match. This is the first time these two rikishi have met.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – I am looking for the big Georgian to send the giant sumo robot (Ichinojo) into reboot mode. His next win will put him in positive territory with a kachi-koshi. His record against Inchinojo is 7-2, so Tochinoshin has the leading edge in their series.

Takayasu vs Yoshikaze – Both of these sumotori are really struggling this basho. Both of them are among my favorites. I have tegata from both men on my wall. Takayasu took a nasty header into the tawara on day 10, and I wonder if he was seriously hurt. Yoshikaze’s sumo is all about move and strike, as we saw against Endo. Takayasu is all about strength and power, which he was not able to deploy against Hakuho. Takayasu leads their career match ups 8-6

Goeido vs Endo – This should be an easy pick up for Goeido. The past two days he has reverted back to his “good” mode and has been a real joy to watch. Endo is in danger of going make-koshi if he is not careful, but he won’t likely pick up a win today.

Kotoshogiku vs Kakuryu – Kotoshogiku is already back to kadoban status, and I doubt he will do much to Kakuryu, as Kotoshogiku has been injured the entire tournament. I would really rather that Kotoshogiku just declare himself kyujo, and start recovering now. But I think the Ozeki’s pride won’t allow that, and he will face a formidable Kakuryu.

Harumafuji vs Kisenosato – Most likely the match of the day. Kisenosato has been 2 Yokozuna in the past two days, and he faces Harumafuji on day 12. While I have confidence that Kisenosato is really in fine form this tournament, Harumafuji tends to win their match ups. Harumafuji deployed minimal effort in the first week, but has shown his fantastic Yokozuna chops in the past few days. I expect that it will be a short bout with Harumafuji the winner.

Hakuho vs Terunofuji – Terunofuji needs one more win for kachi-koshi, and to clear his kadoban status. I don’t think he will get it from Hakuho, who while not at full capability, is probably more than enough to defeat Terunofuji. Terunofuji has been fighting well in spite of ongoing knee problems.

Hakuho, Kaisei lead; A 3rd Kinboshi from Harumafuji!

The leadership ranks continue to narrow as Kyokushuho loses to Takayasu, handing Takayasu his kachi-koshi. Now, only Hakuho and Kaisei remain in the lead with one loss. Hakuho has not lost since the opening day shocker against Ichinojo.

Kisenosato and Terunofuji remain in contention, tied at 8-2 with rank-and-filers Takayasu, Kyokushuho, and Okinoumi. Kaisei’s victory over Amuru means the Russian needs to try again tomorrow for his all important 8th win. It won’t be easy as he’ll face Takayasu.

After yesterday’s careless kinboshi loss to Tamawashi, Harumafuji gives up another one and falls further off the yusho pace. This time Gagamaru benefits from Harumafuji’s generosity. In 8 bouts against maegashira wrestlers, this is now the third kinboshi. Tomorrow, Harumafuji faces Goeido.

I’ve updated my post about the kinboshi rates to account for the 3 new ones (so far) this tournament.
Let’s hope this is the last update of that page for a while. I like Harumafuji and I want him to be in contention for yusho but it won’t happen if he keeps bleeding gold stars.

Georgian Battle 2015

The build-up during the tachiai was certainly more dramatic than the actual bout. Tochinoshin dominated early, going for a quick throw which was rebuffed. But the momentum was clearly against Gagamaru. Once Tochinoshin had Gagamaru on the edge, he displayed his prodigious strength by lifting his 200 kilo compatriot over the straw bales. It’s always painful to watch him do this against Ichinojo but he’s certainly capable with those massive thighs. With this critical win securing a winning record he’ll probably jump a spot or two to M1 or M2 next tournament. Much hay was made of Robert Myers’ massive quads during the NFL combine but those writers have never seen the likes of Tochinoshin or Kotoshogiku.

Tochinoshin Gives Me a 2nd-Hand Hernia
Tochinoshin Gives Me a 2nd-Hand Hernia

This loss for Gagamaru ended a four-bout winning streak which began with an impressive win over Osunaarashi and continued through Ikioi, Kaisei, and Kyokutenho – certainly not cream puffs. I’m glad to see Gagamaru back and on form. He’ll be back in the mid-maegashira next tournament. As he’ll be battling more upper-maegashira and even sanyaku wrestlers, he’ll likely not get double-digit wins but he’s back where he belongs. In the meantime, he’ll be joined by Osunaarashi and Chiyootori who also had excellent tournaments…but will face stark reality in May.

March Tournament 2015: Day 13 – Terunofuji Beats Hakuho

Terunofuji beat Hakuho in a pretty evenly contested bout. If anything, Terunofuji was the dominant wrestler, able to control position and pace. Each had a one-handed belt grip but in the end, he was able to use his size advantage to force out the yokozuna. The crowd erupted, and Hak just looked stunned.

Hakuho returns to the dohyo among flying zabuton
Hakuho returns to the dohyo among flying zabuton

Terunofuji came to ball. He still needs help though, to compete for the yusho as Hakuho sits on a one-win lead going into Day 14. Also, if he wins, I think there will be an asterisk next to the yusho as he does not compete against Harumafuji and other wrestlers from his heya and Kakuryu is out. However, in the head-to-head match, there’s no denying his strong victory.

The leaderboard:
Hakuho: 12-1
Terunofuji: 11-2
Harumafuji: 10-3
Gagamaru: 10-3

Yes, that’s Gagamaru tied with Harumafuji, 2 wins off pace. He’s been able to use his girth to dominate the lower ranks of the maegashira. It will be great to see him get a special prize after having been in Juryo for much of the last year.

Thanks to Kintamayama for the videos!

March Tournament 2015: Day 8 – Hakuho leads alone

Gold Star for Tochinoshin! Harumafuji has now given up two this tournament…granted they’re to LEGIT wrestlers, Ichinojo and Tochinoshin…but he still needs to get these wins if he’s to get another yusho. He’s a yokozuna so he doesn’t get the luxury of Stay-Puft marshmallow pushovers.

Tochinoshin (Harumafuji)

Hakuho stands alone at the top of the leaderboard. He’s plainly invincible. A few days ago, against Takayasu, he seemed bored – basically inviting the hapless maegashira to try something, anything to take him down. Perhaps afraid of making Hakuho angry, Takayasu just landed a couple limp-wristed slaps to his face before Hakuho finally pulled him down. The next day, against Tamawashi, Hakuho was able to quickly get a right-handed belt grip and he threw the komusubi across the ring. Today, more of the same. He met Toyonoshima with a strong tachiai and then quickly forced him out behind what must be a killer nodo-wa throat grab. Tomorrow, he faces Aoiyama. Someone he’s never lost to in 10 bouts. Also someone who’s looked out-of-sorts for most of this tournament….seems perfect (almost poetic) setup for an upset.

Harumafuji’s loss to Tochinoshin effectively takes him out of contention. After each of his last two bouts, he’s been flexing his right arm in pain. Seems his elbow may be giving him issues and I won’t be surprised if he goes kyujo tomorrow. Meanwhile, the ozeki have been worthless. Goeido went down again today against Aoiyama. I was very disappointed with Kotoshogiku the other day, not being able to just push Ichinojo over the bales. It seemed the Mongolian was inviting him to try a yorikiri win but just leaned on him and then walked him out the other side. Ozeki need to be able to contend for championships. It looks like at this point next year, certainly by summer 2016, there will be a raft of new Ozeki.

Terunofuji (potentially one of the ozeki-in-waiting) and Aminishiki have been providing great story lines with their undefeated runs. Unfortunately, both lost today, several days before we could really start talking about yusho contention. Meanwhile, Osunaarashi and Gagamaru have been looking great among the lower maegashira. Osunaarashi’s been finding different ways to win, mostly on the belt instead of his forceful slaps. It’s been refreshing.

Hatsubasho 2015: Day 14

Marking Position for Water Break
Marking Position for Water Break

I’ve never seen a water break in the middle of a match. Today, Ichinojo and Terunofuji’s marathon bout was a long stalemate for most of the match. It was really interesting to see how at 4 minutes in, they stopped the match and then the gyoji marked each wrestler’s position and allowed the combatants to get some water. After the break, they started back where they left off but it wasn’t long before Ichinojo finally overpowered Terunofuji, dragging him over the straw bales.

In the yokozuna bouts, Kisenosato assured himself of jun yusho hy beating Kakuryu. He was very aggressive and just too powerful today for the yokozuna, who fell to 10-4. Harumafuji also fell to 10-4, as he had nothing to counter Hakuho. He basically held on for dear life as Hak dragged him around the ring, and forced him out. Tomorrow, Kisenosato takes on Harumafuji with a share of the jun yusho on the line while Hakuho faces Kakuryu with a chance at sealing this tournament with a dominant undefeated zensho yusho.

Endo picked up an impressive quick win against Kotoshogiku while Goeido gave himself a chance to save his ozeki ranking with a nice throw victory over Aoiyama. Oosunaarashi and Okinoumi both picked up their all-important 8th wins. Down in Juryo, Kitataiki has the yusho wrapped up while Gagamaru’s 10 wins will hopefully be enough to ensure both wrestlers make it back to makuuchi.

Welcome to Tachiai

My goals with this blog are to help promote the sport, particularly professional sumo, as well as help other fans find more resources out there.

Today is Day 9 of the Fall tournament. Hakuho leads with a dominant perfect 9-0 record. Kakuryu is one loss back from today’s defeat to Yoshikaze. Harumafuji withdrew earlier last week with an injury to his eye. I have yet to hear whether he has opted for surgery or if he will just rest it. Surgery means a 3 month recovery.

Ichinojo is also one loss back and faces Yoshikaze, who’d be fresh off his Gold Star performance from today.  Ichinojo’s first real test in the Makuuchi came against Ikioi on Friday. Ikioi’s bloody throw-down victory made it to the Wall Street Journal’s blog this morning. For some context, the last time the WSJ covered sumo was when a picture of a bunch of wrestlers on a plane went viral in July. Kind of like, “how many clowns can we fit in a tiny car?”

Ichinojo has certainly been impressive against the lower ranks of the maegashira so I look forward to more challenging matches with the Sanyaku. I imagine that if he wins, he’ll find himself up against Kisenosato, Kakuryu, and maybe Hakuho.

The schedule also has Hakuho facing Osunaarashi tomorrow. Osunaarashi’s not had a great tournament but is always capable of getting a win. Aoiyama was strong against Goeido the other day so he could give Ikioi a challenge. Goeido’s going to have a difficult day tomorrow against Kotoshogiku. Both Ozeki really need to rack up more wins. Kotoshogiku was just under threat of kadoban last tournament but pulled through with a great July…

Elsewhere, in Juryo, Ga-ga-ga-ga-gagamaru needs a strong showing this week. He’s standing on 4-5.