Aki Day 11 Recap – Mayhem At The Top

Here we are, in the last leg of this wonderful basho. The yusho race is getting hot. Tochinoshin’s kadoban is not clear yet. Some rikishi are teetering on the edge of make-koshi. Let’s dive in!

tochinoshin-carrying-kakuryu
What morozashi?

Kotoyuki determined not to roll today. He and Ryuden clash heads at the tachiai, and Kotoyuki continues with some strong tsuppari. It could be that Ryuden is a little dizzy from that clash, but I have a feeling he has his foot slightly off the accelerator now that he is kachi-koshi.

In the match of the dew-gatherers, Kakuryu’s tsuyuharai, Nishikigi, faces Hakuho’s Ishiura, who has seven losses and can’t afford another one. Ishiura has the faster tachiai and slips in his arms. It takes him about a second to secure a grip – but Nishikigi already has him at the edge, and makes sure he is no longer a dew-gatherer as of next basho (only Makuuchi wrestler participate in a Yokozuna dohyo-iri).

Takanosho, the newcomer, faces Okinoumi, with the NHK broadcast team (Japanese) making much of the fact that Okinoumi has sanyaku experience. Takanosho cares about none of that – goes low and upwards at the tachiai, applies “hazu” to Okinoumi’s armpits, and quickly drives him out. Takanosho has a good chance of achieving kachi-koshi in the next few days.

The next bout features the man who would have been the natural replacement for Ishiura in Hakuho’s dohyo-iri. Alas, Kyokutaisei has gone kyujo again. Damage to the meniscus in the right knee. Chiyomaru gets the fusensho, and Kyokutaisei will join Ishiura in Juryo next basho.

Chiyoshoma starts his bout with Sadanoumi with a kachiage, but has no follow-up, and Sadanoumi uses his right elbow to push the Mongolian to the edge rather quickly. Then he slides his arms around Chiyoshoma and drives him out… or so he thinks. Chiyoshoma does some of his acrobatics, and turns the tables with a throw. Pay attention to how Chiyoshoma works to keep his tiptoe planted on the dohyo until the very moment Sadanoumi touches ground. Thus, no monoii, and it’s Chiyoshoma’s win.

Daieisho overwhelmes Yoshikaze with some windmill tsuppari. A few thrusts, then a hazu to direct Yoshikaze around towards the nearest bales, then some more thrusts. Yoshikaze tries to land a grip, but can’t get through the barrage, and ends up landing on Futagoyama oyakata.

Takanoiwa and Kotoshogiku are kenka-yotsu – meaning that they prefer opposite grips. This normally means that whoever manages to land his favorite grip has the advantage. In this bout, it’s Kotoshogiku who gets his hidari-yotsu. But Takanoiwa is unfazed, secures a strong grip on both sides, and pulls Kotoshogiku up, occasionally even lifting him off the ground a bit. This completely neutralizes Kotoshogiku’s ability to chug, because a gaburi-yori is less about the pelvis, and all about the traction your feet have transferring power into aforesaid pelvis. Not touching the ground, he can’t do that, and when he gets a start, Takanoiwa finishes him with a shitatenage. Takanoiwa well deserves the spot in the yusho arasoi where he finds himself at the moment.

Hokutofuji is getting tired of seeing his kachi-koshi slipping away time and time again. This time he sticks to his guns. And although Shohozan throws his own guns and the kitchen sink at him, he just patiently continues with that tsuppari, his right hand forming large circles, each pushing Shohozan further. Oshi-dashi and kachi-koshi.

Aoiyama and Onosho start their match with the expected exchange of thrusts. Aoiyama probably realizes that Onosho plans to pull at some point and let him drop, so he envelopes him in his big arms. Onosho, with his inferior reach, can’t do much against that, and the bout ends with a yori-kiri and a make-koshi for Onosho, who will have to spend some time in the nether regions of Makuuchi before regaining his Prince Tadpole status.

Asanoyama falls for Daishomaru‘s henka, hook, line and sinker. His hand touches the ground before the gyoji even completes his “hakki-yoi”. For some reason, Daishomaru looks disappointed.

Takarafuji can’t recreate his magic from yesterday. He tries to circle around the dohyo until he gets his grip, but Myogiryu makes sure he leaves orbit. Oshidashi. Takarafuji 5-6, Myagiryu nearing his kachi-koshi.

Tochiozan slams into Chiyonokuni. Kuni doesn’t really have much power in him this basho, and soon finds himself outside – and make-koshi.

Endo has a good tachiai vs. Kagayaki, but Kagayaki has the better reach and, really, Endo doesn’t have much power in him. At the edge he tries to sidestep and start his own attack. Kagayaki rallies, and Endo runs out of gas. It seems to me that whatever mystery disease was plaguing Yoshikaze in the previous basho has taken Endo in this one. He simply can’t produce any power. But while everybody was very gentle with Yoshikaze, nobody is giving Endo any breaks. Must be all those kensho envelopes.

Abi and Chiyotairyu start a tsuki-oshi match, which suddenly comes to a halt as Abi holds Chiyotairyu at arms length. Abi, however, shows the same lack of patience he has shown yesterday, miscalculates his footing, and tries to restart the attack, promptly falling on his face. Chiyotairyu doesn’t say no to free gifts.

Takakeisho slams into Ikioi, knocking the air out of him, then sidesteps, and lets the taller man find his way to the opposite side. By the time Ikioi turns back, the tadpole is there to give him that final farewell. Given the joi carnage this basho, Takakeisho is doing rather well with a 5-6. Ikiyoyo is 1-10.

Yutakayama still has nothing to offer having returned from kyujo. He lands a classic tsuppari on Tamawashi‘s chest. Tamawashi, unimpressed, gives him one big shove for his trouble, which seems to land him on Kaisei. See, Tamawashi is very considerate about Yutakayama’s health (less so about Kaisei’s).

I don’t know what posessed Mitakeumi to try that little henka, but Kaisei sees through it. He gets all over Mitakeumi and hands him what must be his most humiliating loss so far. Mitakeumi is 6-5, and kisses his Ozeki run goodbye. Although some media people still hope that he can do something if he wins out (giving him 10-5, thus 32 wins over three basho), Shibatayama oyakata says “not with this sumo”, rather emphatically.

Goeido continues his generally good performance this basho. Slams into Shodai, and starts pushing him. Shodai can only pride himself on surviving more than the one second it usually gets to reach one side, as he causes Goeido’s circle to be larger than usual. That’s all.

And then Kakuryu meets Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin.

Really, Kakuryu has been absolutely wonderful this basho. He went through those wins day after day. Straight forward and with power. But Tochinoshin is both desperate and, apparently, on the mend.

Kakuryu starts with his usual tachiai this basho, which looks like he is dropping head first into his rival’s chest. And he gets not just a grip – he gets a tight morozashi. Now, in that situation, most rikishi start saying their prayers and wondering which shimpan they are about to hit. But not Tochinoshin. His weapon against morozashi is a soto-yotsu grip, which means both arms outside. With the height difference between him and the yokozuna, he gets a very good one. And then it starts to look like a crane game in one of the ubiquitous Japanese arcades. Lift once… drop… lift again… and you got your prize toy. The kadoban is not clear yet – one more win needed – but the Incredible Hulk (red version) is back, and tomorrow’s bout between him and Hakuho is going to be a doozy.

Moving on to the next Yokozuna match, Kisenosato, and his much celebrated kachi-koshi, faces up the near make-koshi Ichinojo. Now, although he lost to Hakuho yesterday (and got that annoying extra push), Ichinojo already looked better in that match than he did most of this basho. So my guess is that his back stopped hurting. Ichinojo has a good-boy tachiai – both fists on the ground waiting for his rival’s initiative – so there is nothing the gyoji can do to help the ailing yokozuna this time. Ichinojo straightens, and hands Kisenosato three servings of kaiju nodowa. The Yokozuna doesn’t get to lift a finger, he is blown away that fast. And he is very very unhappy about that. He has to sit down for the last bout as make-nokori, and his face is more clouded than the Tokyo sky.

Musubi no ichiban. Hakuho faces Takayasu, who is just one behind at this point. Win, and given Kakuryu’s loss, Takayasu would be in the leader group for the yusho. Lose, and he drops behind the chasers.

Takayasu stands up too early. Matta. Bad, bad mistake. This pisses off Hakuho, who reacts by stepping over the shikiri-sen and giving Takayasu a penetrating death stare.

Now, the Yokozuna is trying to get Takayasu to lay both fists on the ground like a good boy. Takayasu lays just one fist down, as does the Yokozuna. Hakuho doesn’t like the fact that Takayasu is not committing himself, and straightens up. It’s a second matta.

Now, the third time that Takayasu tries a tachiai without committing himself, Hakuho  throws hinkaku to the wind. He doesn’t care what they say – he shoots at Takayasu who still doesn’t have his fists on the ground, hands him a slap from the right side, and a kachiage aimed at the nose from the other. Let tongues wag. That… wasn’t really sumo. And yes, there was another dame-oshi there.

hakuho-takayasu-blink-of-an-eye

Mere mortal, don’t try playing mind games with a kitsune. The Dai-yokozuna is now the sole leader of the yusho arasoi – although Tochinoshin may change things come tomorrow.

Yusho arasoi Day 11

11-0Y1WHakuho
10-1Y2EKakuryu
9-2O1EGoeido
O2ETakayasu
M13WTakanoiwa

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Day 6 – Tanabata Wish Fulfilled

chiyotairyu-got-money
Remember Chiyotairyu’s “I need money” Tanabata wish?

Day 6 of the Aki basho, opening the second act, continued the excellent action we had in the first five days. We start the day with seven rikishi at 5-0. How many will finish it with 6-0?

Ishiura attempts to do straight sumo vs. Takanosho, the newcomer, but he can’t get inside for a grip on the front of his mawashi. He tries to pull back for a hatakikomi, but Takanosho is stable enough, and the pull puts Ishiura at a disadvantage, which Takanosho is quick to exploit. Yorikiri, and unless Ishiura seriously upgrades his sumo, Hakuho will need to look for a new dew-gatherer for Kyushu.

In the matta parade that this basho is turning out to be, Ryuden‘s premature slam into Yoshikaze must be one of the most eye-popping ones. Although Yoshikaze seems to maintain his cool, and starts a tsuppari attack after the real tachiai, he is quickly swept off with a hatakikomi. There goes the first perfect record. Yoshikaze 5-1 (and somewhat surprisingly, so is Ryuden).

Kotoyuki seemed to do much better in his pale cyan mawashi, but today he faced Takanoiwa, who seems to have gotten over his little lapse of sumo from days 3 and 4. Takanoiwa unfazed by the Kotoyuki’s thrusts, circles a bit and lets the man do his usual Neymar roll into the suna-kaburi (the rows of spectators right next to the dohyo).

Chiyoshoma tries a henka against Nishikigi. Against Nishikigi? You need a henka against Nishikigi, Mr. Wile. E. Throwing-Technician? Nishikigi doesn’t have patience for nonesense this basho. He sees through that henka even without his glasses, and chases Chiyoshoma out of the dohyo. Oshidashi.

Chiyomaru starts his bout with a morotezuki straight to Sadanoumi‘s throat. He follows that with a couple more thrusts, then stops and pulls, causing Sadanoumi to lose his balance. Tsukidashi, and Chiyomaru secures his second win this basho.

Okinoumi launches quickly into the tachiai vs. Daishomaru. He is all over the Oitekaze man and dispatches him within seconds.

The other Oitekaze man, Daieisho, faces Takarafuji. The latter tries again and again to land his favorite grip but his injured left elbow seems to be a serious hindrance. He circles around again and again as Daieisho leads him to the tawara, and eventually manages a kotenage and sends Daieisho out.

Aoiyama finally starts a match with his signature rain of fierce tsuppari. Kotoshogiku, who had a good first few days, is overwhelmed. He never gets even close to landing his own signature attack or even laying hands on Aoiyama. Tsukidashi and first win for the Bulgarian, and Kotoshogiku drops to 3-3.

Hokutofuji, when he waited for his bout in the shitaku-beya, heard of Yoshikaze’s first loss. Being the only other rank-and-filer with a perfect record, he said he ascended the dohyo today rather nervous. Yet another matta ensued. In the actual bout, he leads once again with his right hand, a couple of thrusts, and grabs Tochiozan‘s mawashi momentarily. Tochiozan shakes him off. Hokutofuji fends off Tochiozan’s own attempts to get at his mawashi, and as they go back and forth, Tochiozan loses his balance and Hokutofuji follows up. Hatakikomi, and Hokutofuji stays perfect.

As Shohozan and Asanoyama clash, it’s Shohozan who gets his right hand inside first. However, Asanoyama bars it on the left, applies an ottsuke on the right and promptly forces the muscular Nishonoseki man out with a kimedashi. This was a fine display of technique despite its short duration.

What is up with Onosho? His tachiai vs. Chiyonokuni seems to be rather weak, and the Kokonoe man blasts him out of the ring in no time. A very frustrated Onosho mounts the dohyo again to give his bow. Onosho merely 2-4 so far.

Abi faces a very tall rikishi today – Kagayaki. He knows that his reach is no greater than his opponent. So his game plan today is not his windmill tsuppari, but rather – after the obligatory morotezuki – he takes a step to the right, grabs Kagayaki’s belt and neck and throws him smartly outside. Abi may look like a gangly, happy-go-lucky boy who just happened to find himself in a silk mawashi by sheer accident, but those arms are really strong and the skill is there. All he needs is to balance his tsuki-oshi “one weird trick” (OK, two weird tricks, because that throw is also something he uses from time to time) with some belt work, and he will really be a pleasure to behold (though I’m sure the NSK officials will cringe when he finishes his Ozeki acceptance speech with a “wara!” [“LOL!”]).

Take Myogiryu, for example. He is famous enough for his tsuki-oshi sumo, that the illustration under the definition of “oshi-zumo” in my sumo dictionary is a drawing of Myogiryu. But today he launches himself at Endo, and goes chest to chest for a lightning fast yoritaoshi. Keep your skill set wide, and your rivals will never know what’s coming.

And today Ichinojo definitely woke up with his back acting up again. He simply let Takakeisho attack. Didn’t try anything, and as soon as he got to the bales, just went obediently outside. Lose that extra weight, sekiwake. It’s painful to watch you when you are like that.

Takayasu delivers his usual kachiage, but the hefty Kaisei is rather unimpressed by it. But the Ozeki adds a half-hearted harizashi – half-hearted in that the harite was very weak, and the grip itself is not very strong. He then proceeds to propel Kaisei towards the edge, and loses the grip. Kaisei tries a desperate kotenage. The Ozeki stays on his feet, and soon finishes the Brazilian off. Kaisei is only 2-4, but that’s still a good record for this basho’s Maegashira 1-3 wrestlers.

The next bout is the highlight of the day. The unbeaten Mitakeumi in his second Ozeki bout, this time against a healthy Goeido. Goeido starts with a harizashi. Although it’s not exactly a harizashi as his left hand did not go inside (“harizashi” is a combination of “harite” – a slap – and “sashi” – an insertion of the hand under the opponent’s arm) but rather outside. So I guess the expression “slap and grab” works better here. So Mitakeumi has his right hand inside, and strives to “sashi” the other one as well for a morozashi (that’s the same “sashi” – a double-sided insertion of hands). But Goeido is not easily pierced. He locks his right armpit and moves forward with that unstoppable force that we wish he would show more consistently. By the time Mitakeumi has both arms inside, it does him no good whatsoever – he is already stepping on straw. Yet another one of the perfect records broken, and the Sekiwake misses an opportunity for a “quality win” for his Ozeki run. The King of Practice beats the King of Why-Practice.

Ikioi goes through his pre-bout routine with precision. Actually, it’s not his. He mimics Hakuho’s pre-bout routine to the last detail. The crouch with hands open palms up on his knees, the trot towards the towel. Every single point. And this is why it seems comical to me to see Tochinoshin – whose eye looks like a train wreck – flatten Ikioi on his face within half a second – which is mostly the time it took for them to complete the tachiai, rather than the time it took him to perform the tsukiotoshi. You can copy Hakuho’s external mannerisms all the way to the supporter on his right elbow, but once it comes down to Sumo, Ikioi is Ikioi (or as Bruce coined him, Ikiyoyo, because once again he is going to drop in rank after a barren visit to the joi), and Hakuho is… Hakuho.

However, today Hakuho seemed to be a bit of Ikioi instead of Hakuho. Hakuho knows he should make use of his much superior tachiai when faced with Shodai, and he does slam very quickly into the rank-and-filer. He tries to get a grip on Shodai’s mawashi with his left, but instead, it’s Shodai who gets a firm hold on the Yokozuna’s mawashi. Furthermore, Shodai manages a quick makikae with his left arm and gets a morozashi on Hakuho. Of course, at this point he is at the edge of the dohyo, but he knows how to use a morozashi, and attempts a throw which sees the Yokozuna flying in the air. Not something he would expect from anybody who is still an active rikishi.

Both men fall out. The gyoji points towards Shodai. Hakuho looks shocked. But a monoii is called. There is a question about Shodai’s heel – did it touch outside? And if not, who is the winner and who is the loser? After the conference, the shimpan reverse the gyoji’s decision – it’s Hakuho’s win. “正代のかかとが先に出ており” – “Shodai’s heel went out first”.

If you watch the replay, take a look at how Hakuho strives to keep the tip of his toe touching inside the dohyo, like a snooker player. As long as that toe is inside, it’s his win. He knew the toe was lost at some point there, and if it wasn’t for Shodai’s heel, which went out while Hakuho’s toe was still in, it would have been the same situation as Chiyonokuni vs. Asanoyama the day before.

Hakuho picks the prize money, but looks far from happy. He is still 6-0, but… right?

Kakuryu clashes heads with Tamawashi (why are you wrecking that fine brain, Yokozuna?), then proceeds with a tsuki-oshi attack – Tamawashi’s own weapon. Kakuryu simply looks great this basho. His only slightly icky bout was that little pull – day 2, was it? – but since then he has been formidable. If he keeps that up, we are going to have an awesome senshuraku.

Chiyotairyu, who so far didn’t look too good against any of the upper ranks, and went into this bout 0-5, faced Kisenosato in the musubi-no-ichiban. Rows on rows of flags pass by. Tachiai. Great clash. I think again their heads met. Chiyotairyu lands a couple of tsuppari, then pulls and lets the Yokozuna’s mass do the rest. In all the bouts so far, Kisenosato had an opportunity to come up with plans B and C. But Chiyotairyu leaves him no time to do anything before he gives him that last little push over the edge. First gold star of the tournament, and the Kokonoe man, whose Tanabata wish was “I need money”, not only got a hefty stack of kensho envelopes, but a nice extra income every basho from now until he drops below Juryo or retires.

Leaders (6-0): Kakuryu, Hakuho, Takayasu, Hokutofuji. (5-1): Kisenosato, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Ryuden, Yoshikaze.

yokozunameter-2018-aki-day-6

Aki Day 3 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakiesho Aki 2018

For anyone who has been a sumo fan for the last couple of years, Aki 2018 is a welcome departure from the normal. It has been along time since this many of sumo’s top competitors were all present at the start of a tournament. Given that some of them are in less than perfect health, we may not see them at the end of act 3, but this is a great and exciting way to start a basho. The Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have not only shown up, they are competing with vigor, energy and skill. Sadly for the Komusubi and Sekiwake (as well as Maegashira 1-3), this means that they take the full brunt of being warm up cannon fodder for the Yokozuna and Ozeki. Excellent rikishi like Takakeisho and Tamawashi will find it hard to reach kachi-koshi, let alone some of the 10 win figures seen earlier this year. That spells trouble for Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid, as we will likely see him face all 6 of the Yokozuna and Ozeki starting soon.

The other thing that has caught my eye is just how well the “Freshmen” are fighting this tournament. This is the cohort that includes Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Kagayaki and Abi. Sure, Yutakayama is winless so far because he is a Yokozuna chew-toy. But he is moving well, putting together excellent matches and generally showing some solid sumo. It’s going to be a while before we see these rikishi make their way to being headliners, but it’s great to see them showing a lot of promise early on.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Kotoyuki vs Yoshikaze – Kotoyuki has looked a half step behind both days, and we can’t help but wonder if he is going to snap out of it and present a credible challenge in any of his matches. Yoshikaze, however, seems to have recovered a great deal of his genki, and has been back to his old power levels thus far. Kotoyuki holds a 6-3 career advantage over Yoshikaze, so maybe today is the day “Mr 5×5” recovers.

Takanoiwa vs Nishikigi – If you did not see Nishikigi’s day 2 match, go watch it now. Nishikigi is the poster boy of calm and polite. But on day 2 he was positively aggressive – kind of a shock, but a welcome one. But speaking of aggressive, lets see what he does with Takanoiwa! Both men come into the match with 2-0, and tied career wise at 2-2.

Kyokutaisei vs Daieisho – Kyokutaisei seems to be stuck right now, and he has nothing but kuroboshi to show right now. Fans will recall he started Nagoya the same way, taking it to 5 straight losses. He holds a career 4-2 lead over Daieisho, so maybe today is the day he gets into the win column. It could also be the case that he has family in Hokkaido, and the disaster there may be occupying his thoughts.

Aoiyama vs Sadanoumi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama is also in the winless column, and I think he may be feeling the pain of injuries. We have yet to see him unleash his overwhelming upper body strength, and he has been even slower than normal moving around the dohyo. Sadanoumi comes in straight from giving Okinoumi a good fight.

Daishomaru vs Kotoshogiku – One of the strange results of Kotoshogiku being this far down the banzuke is that he is fighting some familiar rikishi for the first time. Today it’s Daishomaru. Thus far Kotoshogiku has been moving well, and seems to not be in pain. His motions are smooth and efficient, and he would seem to be locked in to his sumo.

Takarafuji vs Hokutofuji – Today’s fight of the fujis, what I am going to look for is Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai”, and Takarafuji to take it chest to chest. Takarafuji is a great technical wrestler, and seems to always have a careful plan of how to win. Hokutofuji seems to be more of a “hold my beer” kind of rikishi, who decides he is going to try something fast and violet and work with whatever emerges.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Both of these guys are zero wins? Strangely enough, yes. Onosho especially has looked to be only about 80% thus far. I am going to assume that at some point his sumo will click and he will pick up a good number of wins, enough to remain in the top division anyhow. Tochiozan’s matches have boiled down to a few choices that did not break his way, so I am expecting him to leverage his 3-1 career advantage and possibly rack his first win.

Kagayaki vs Shohozan – Big Guns will take his daily brawl to Kagayaki’s school of sumo. Both of them come in 1-1, but out of their 8 prior matches, Kagayaki has won 6 of them. I am going to be watching to see if Kagayaki can set up his preferred thrusting position center mass, inside of Shohozan’s wood-chipper style tsuppari.

Asanoyama vs Abi – Both men with 2 wins, career series tied at 1-1. What’s going to be the edge here? Lord knows. First off Abi is tough to handicap. As Herouth pointed out, everyone knows about his “One Weird Trick”, but he is still getting away with it. Asanoyama has brought a lot more speed to his sumo this year, but it’s nothing compared to Abi’s stick-insect inspired sumo.

Chiyonokuni vs Myogiryu – Another fun match for day 3, two very high intensity rikishi are going to try to move up from their 1-1 records. I am going to look for Chiyonokuni to surge early, and try to close the match before Myogiryu can set up his offense. Chiyonokuni will want to stay mobile and use his superior reach. Should be a slap fest worthy of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Shodai vs Endo – Another great enigma, at least we know that one of these two deserving rikishi will exit the match with a win. Both of them are fighting well, but have lost their first two. Shodai may have been robbed on day 2 when the fact that his tachiai has improved resulted in a matta. I want to see Shodai do it again, be fast and low. Don’t worry about your score today, get the mechanics right.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Tamawashi will try a kotenage. The big question being, will Mitakeumi fall for it? Career advantage is 12-2 in Mitakeumi’s favor, but to me his sumo has looked a bit tentative thus far. We are still in act 1, so there is plenty of time for him to dial it up.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – This will likely be a very sloppy battle of the bellies, starting with an earth-shattering tachiai. In spite of the pain and injuries, Takayasu is managing to rack the shiroboshi so far. His sumo is still wild and chaotic, which is just begging for another mechanical injury. Chiyotairyu struggles this high up in the banzuke, where it’s tougher to win matches just by being enormous and smashing into people at the tachiai. Takayasu leads their career series 8-3.

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Well, Ichinojo tried the “Bad Pony” technique again on day 2, but it fell flat. Goeido managed to win one, but he still looked a half step behind. It will be easy to get the jump on Ichinojo, but I like how he is not giving up at the tawara right now. They are more or less tied over their career.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Takakeisho was fired up day 2, and nearly overwhelmed Kisenosato. He is a terrifying ball of energy in a compact spherical package, which may be trouble for Tochinoshin. Thus far the injured kadoban Ozeki has been fighting well, and has been very careful with his overwhelming strength; enough to win, but just enough. Interestingly enough, Takakeisho leads their career matches 3-1.

Kaisei vs Hakuho – Day 2 Kaisei took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, and Kakuryu showed him how well tended the east side hanamichi is. He has never defeated Hakuho, who is hiding whatever pain and stiffness he might have well. I am predicting a return voyage to the lap of someone in the front row.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi is strong, and seems to be willing to sacrifice his body to do what it takes to win. But Yokozuna Kakuryu is the master of reactive sumo, so he will play with Ikioi, stalemating him until he makes a mistake. Kakuryu may be the one to beat this tournament.

Kisenosato vs Yutakayama – Last match of the day features Kisenosato taking on the head of the Freshman class. Each basho Yutakayama shows up bigger, stronger, and with improvements in his sumo. He is winless right now, but I view him as a formidable opponent. This is their first match, and I am (as always) just hoping no one gets hurt.

Haru Day 6 Highlights

bow twirling

The second act gets off on the right foot, with several of the undefeated picking up their first loss, but not (so far) Yokozuna Kakuryu and Kaisei. Both men remain unbeaten, with a growing crowd at one loss.

Point two – Who turned up the sumo to awesome mode today? Lots and lots of good matches from Osaka, so you may want to consider watching Jason’s channel and Kintamayama to get a broader look at all of the excellent sumo action that I am sure won’t fit into NHK’s highlight reel.

Highlight Matches

Sokokurai defeats Meisei – Meisei is in his first ever Makuuchi bout, and he puts up a valiant effort against Sokokurai, who manages to pick up his second win. This ends up a yotsu-zumo match, with both men working hard for a winning grip on the other’s mawashi.

Daiamami defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu looking like he has run low on fuel (quick, someone go to Hiroshima and get some okonomiyaki!), while Daiamami turns this into another yotsu-zumo match. Daiamami shows off some truly classic sumo form delivering a yorikiri.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Keep in mind, Ikioi is fighting hurt. Yes, he went on a 4-0 tear to start the basho, but it seems his pain is taking over. Daishomaru, with only a single loss, continues to look strong. I am going to watch for his upcoming match against Aoiyama.

Aoiyama defeats Asanoyama – Unlike some of his prior opponents this tournament, Asanoyama gave the man-mountain from Bulgaria a good fight. But let’s keep in mind that Aoiyama, in spite of his 5-1 record, is, in fact, undefeated so far this basho. He’s like some overflowing dollop of belligerent sour cream out there.

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Are you sitting down? Ishiura brought his real sumo today, and it was awesome. Chiyoshoma may have been expecting a henka, and when none appeared, he unleashed a frenzied series of blows on Ishiura’s shoulders and head. Then… what’s this? Ishiura initiates yotsu-zumo? Why yes he does! The two men go chest to chest, and Ishiura is getting the job done. The crowd loves it, and so do I! More of this please, Ishiura.

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki returns after taking a day off to nurse injuries suffered from (surprise surprise) falling off the dohyo into the random “lap of the day”. So Chiyonokuni does his best grumpy badger, flailing away at Mr 5×5, who withers under the attack. Chiyonokuni turns him around, and into today’s lap in the front row, which may or may not have been a stable master. Okinoumi is inches away from the impact zone, but looks completely un-phased, as it’s just another day at the office. Someone get Kotoyuki a towel and a coke.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to be getting tired of losing, as we have yet another yotsu-zumo match break out, with Yutakayama clearly dominating. Ryuden battles strongly, and flatly refuses to be pushed over the bales. Yutakayama tries twice for a leg trip, ultimately succeeding, and has the presence of mind to make sure he falls on top of Ryuden. I like the “help the man up” we see from Yutakayama following. This group I am calling “The Freshmen” really are a breath of fresh air into the top division.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – An odd little match, the kimarite is listed as oshidashi, but really Daieisho falls over at the edge while Kaisei is about 3m away.

Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match, notable because Hokutofuji actually won.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I don’t know what is plaguing Yoshikaze, but it’s sad to watch. Yoshikaze was in charge at the start, but Chiyomaru got him off balance and out. Yoshikaze looked a bit hurt getting up. Ugh.

Shodai defeats Abi – Abi loves to start a match by leaning forward and smacking the dickens out of his opponent’s upper body. Shodai, being Shodai, absorbs a bit of it, seemingly waiting for inspiration. Abi is relentless, backing Shodai up. Then, much like his match against Hokutofuji, he decides he has had enough and hurls Abi to the clay. Ok, win #3 for Shodai!

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis blasts out of the tachiai and delivers a tsuppari salad to Ichinojo. Ichinojo laughs to himself, “Silly pony! I don’t like salad…” And puts his arms around Chiyotairyu, whose arms continue to work by their own purpose to continue the slap-fest. Now flailing like a trout, but completely ineffective, Chiyotairyu can do nothing but obey as the giant marches forward and delivers him to the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – In this basho’s ultimate tadpole throw-down, it’s Takakeisho who comes out on top. Mitakeumi never really got his offense started, and could not counter Takakeisho’s attack. This is one of the reasons you see Takakeisho competing near the top: His sumo technique enables him to usually get the first hit in, and from that moment, his opponent is reacting.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – Good golly miss Molly! What a bout! Endo sacrifices his face to Tochinoshin’s shoulder blast to land a morozashi double inside grip from the tachiai. While the Hatsu yusho winner continues to work on his head, Endo is getting ready to deliver some doom. Tochinoshin realizes he’s been had as Endo rotates him, threatening to send him out. In a hurry, Tochinoshin lands his lethal left, but Endo is not going anywhere. Tochinoshin cocks a throw as Endo rotates to take him to the clay. Tochinoshin’s superior strength carries the day, but it was a clear display of how far Endo has come from being injured and weak. Damn, that man has some sumo moves.

Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – It is at this point I feel really bad for Takarafuji. He’s given each opponent a solid match, and he is just always an inch short of the win. His match against Takayasu devolves into a chest-to-chest contest of strength and endurance, and he gives the Ozeki a run for his money. There was a moment early in the match where Takayasu attempted a pull-down. More rikishi should be looking for that, and make him eat it.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Hometown Ozeki Goeido hands Kyushu’s Shohozan his first loss of the basho. As always, Goeido’s sumo is wild, chaotic and prone to pulling, but Shohozan fell for it… literally.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kakuryu has managed to keep his sumo rolling for 6 days so far, and it’s great to see him win. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest early and launched him hip-pump attack. Kakuryu times it beautifully, waiting for a forward thrust from his opponent and converts that push into a flying trip to the clay.

Haru Day 5 Highlights

Makuuchi Dohyo iri

Act one comes to a close, and we had a number of undefeated rikishi pick up their first black stars. As guarded as everyone was about how the lone Yokozuna would do, Kakuryu is thus far warming up nicely against lower ranked rikishi.  I am even starting to have hope he may deliver some good sumo in the second week when he faces higher ranked rikishi.

Act two starts tomorrow, and this is where we separate the good from the great for Haru. Even the rikishi who have one loss may hold their ground in the second act, and we will be hard-pressed to see anyone exit act two undefeated with the current banzuke.

But day 5 was a great day of sumo, and as expected we had some great matches from Kagayaki, Shohozan, and Ichinojo.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Aoiyama – I completely do not agree with this call. All the replays show Myogiryu down before Aoiyama stepped out. So one undefeated rikishi gets his first black star…

Sokokurai defeats Hidenoumi – Sokokurai gets his first win of Haru, and actually looked fairly good doing it. I guess going chest to chest with someone roughly his own size was the key to getting his sumo running.

Daiamami defeats Ikioi – Ikioi also picked up his first loss for Haru. Daiamami chose a hit-and shift tactic from the tachiai, and it worked against Ikioi. This is the danger of a shoulder-blast tachiai. It leaves you off balance and committed to a direction, which leaves you open for an immediate slap / thrust down from the side.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a “hit and shift” from the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni recovers and launches his frantic thrusting attack. In an instant, he is behind Ishiura and pushing him out.

Tochiozan defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looking surprisingly lost this basho, with only a single win. Tochiozan is competing hurt, but I marvel at the efficiency the veteran brings to this match. Every move has a purpose and a flow to it. Great sumo from Tochiozan.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to be slowly, day by day, regaining his fierce energy. Today’s match against Daieisho began with high-velocity oshi, but quickly went to Yoshikaze grabbing a thigh for a leg trip. Daieisho had the presence of mind to keep moving backward while Yoshikaze held his leg, bringing him to the clay.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – As anticipated last night, this turned out to be a great contest of clashing sumo styles. Abi tried for a henka, but there was no way Kagayaki was fast enough into the tachiai for that. Kagayaki seems to have styled himself on Kisenosato’s younger days. He is careful, deliberate and moves with purpose. So he turns and persues Abi, who is now retreating and using his superior reach to land blows to Kagayaki’s neck and head. Kagayaki gives ground and endures Abi’s attacks. But of course, Abi over-commits, and Kagayaki throws him to the clay. Nice sumo here.

Kaisei defeats Chiyomaru – Chest to chest from the start, Kaisei’s long arms are enough to go around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly. Kaisei lowers his hips and advances, but Chiyomaru shuts him down. Kaisei’s strength seems to be back, and he digs to find the energy to back Chiyomaru up and then lifts him over the tawara. That’s 5-0 for the Brazilian.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – A battle of the “Should have been” rikishi, Hokutofuji unleashes a fierce tachiai, which Shodai absorbs. Pushing Hokutofuji back, Shodai then turns his opponent, who rockets out and over the edge of the dohyo. It’s over in a flash.

Shohozan defeats Arawashi – Excellent opening from Arawashi, who nearly gets Shohozan out immediately after the tachiai with an armbar throw. But “Big Guns” is not to be denied today, and pivots to return the attack. He grabs a handful of Arawashi’s belt and marches forward, tossing him aside at the tawara. 5-0 for Shohozan, 0-5 for Arawashi.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – Ichinojo decides to unleash his battle-cuddle for a second day, this time tasking Endo to support his quarter-ton bulk until he gets tired. After an initial drive by Ichinojo that almost takes Endo out, the two lock up in the center of the dohyo, chest to chest. There they stay for a minute or more, Ichinojo calmly resting, and daydreaming of eating ice-cream with his favorite pony, while Endo is losing stamina. Endo rallies first and digs deep to raise the Mongolian giant up and start moving him back. But there’s just too much Ichinojo to move. Sensing Endo had reached the end of his endurance, Ichinojo returns the favor and finds Endo light enough to lift and push. Yorikiri. I firmly think Endo is going to be a san’yaku regular before long. He will need to find a way to deal with Ichinojo’s mass.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Quick bout, after the tachiai, Tochinoshin circles around Chiyotairyu in a blink of an eye, and pushes him out from behind. Done and done.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi’s tachiai delivered his skull squarely into Mitakeumi’s face with a wet sounding crunch. I am going to guess that hurt. The match goes oshi-pushy, but Mitakeumi is able to give as well as he gets from Tamawashi. Already close to the edge of the ring, a well-placed shove at center-mass moves Tamawashi back over the bales for Mitakeumi’s 4th win.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Quite straight forward Goeido 2.0 bout. He stays stable, and apply wax on / wax off thrusts to keep Takakeisho moving backward and off balance. Still no “wave action” from Takakeisho? Nicely done Goeido.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to be hurt, drained and on his last legs. We love the guy, but enough already.

Kakuryu defeats Takarafuji – I like how low Kakuryu was at the tachiai, and he moved forward strongly. His nodowa keeps Takarafuji high and moving backward. With his heels on the tawara, Takarafuji mounts his counter-attack, thrusting Kakuryu to the side. Takarafuji lunges and drives Kakuryu backward towards a loss. With his heels on the bales, the Yokozuna pivots and brings Takarafuji down. But a monoii declares the touched down at the same time, it’s a rematch!

The second bout started the same as the first, Kakuryu low and strong at the tachiai, into a nodowa. But this time he kept driving Takarafuji back and out.