Kimarite Watch

“Kimarite” (決まり手) is the Japanese term for the winning technique used to decide each sumo bout. Those studying Japanese will be able to recognize the kanji as deriving from the verb kimaru (決まる), to decide, and te (手), meaning hand. I wonder if this is the term used for a winning hand in poker?

There are 82 of these winning techniques recognized in professional sumo. Of those, seven are known as the kihonwaza, or fundamental techniques which account for the vast majority of sumo bouts. In the most recent tournament, Aki 2018, more than 70% of wins came from these seven: tsukidashi, tsukiotoshi, oshidashi, oshitaoshi, yorikiri, yoritaoshi, and abisetaoshi. Abisetaoshi occurs much less frequently than the others but those main six comprise the go-to toolkits for many rikishi. In fact, oshidashi and yorikiri accounted for more than half of Aki bouts, and nearly half when just looking at makuuchi bouts.

Kimarite used during Aki basho 2018

During the upcoming tournament, Tachiai will be tracking and reporting on the kimarite used each day. My favorite group of kimarite are the throws, or nagete. Several of those are relatively frequent, like uwatenage and shitatenage. The spectacular ipponzeoi, though, was used only once last tournament, in a Day 1 Jonidan bout between Tatsunoumi and Wakasatake. It was a great way to start the tournament for Wakasatake. He ended up finishing with a 4-3 record while it sent the “victim”, Tatsunoumi, on a three-bout losing skid, ending 2-5.


Jungyo Newsreel – Day 1, Ise Shrine

Preface and apology

Some of the readers may know that I’m currently on vacation in Tokyo. I thought that from Japan, I would be able to post better, high quality matter. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to post anything larger than a tweet when all you have is a tablet and a smartphone. Well, today I finally got myself to Akihabara and got an external keyboard for my tablet, so I’m ready to brave posting again, but I still can’t promise these jungyo posts will be up to par – or even that I’ll be able to post them daily. I’ll do what I can.

The Jungyo actually started on April 1st. So I’m sorry about the delay. Let’s start!

🌐 Location: Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture

The Ise Shrine is Japan’s holiest and most ancient shrine – the main shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. The visit to Ise Shrine was not just your regular jungyo visit, intended to entertain the residents of small towns and let them share in the national sport. It’s a “Honozumo” event – sumo bouts that take place inside the precincts of a shrine. Sumo originated as an entertainment for the gods, and Honozumo events bring it back to its origins.

12 sekitori are absent from the Jungyo. This includes Kisenosato who – unsurprisingly – still has that problem in his left chest. It also includes every sekitori from the Takanohana stable, except for Takagenji. Takanoiwa’s medical certificate indicates mental stress.

That same Takagenji stood a long time at the edge of the dohyo. The sekitori were doing moshi-ai, where the winner of a bout stays on the dohyo and chooses his next opponent. Nobody chose Takagenji and he looked pretty frustrated.

Takagenji is used to having his twin around during jungyo.

While the rest of the rikishi were practicing, the Yokozuna performed a ceremonial dohyo-iri. This is much like the one performed in the beginning of every year at the Meiji shrine, with a few differences. First, at Meiji it is performed right in front of the main Shrine building. At Ise, the grand shrine is actually off-limits to anybody but high priests.

Second point, the Meiji shrine yard is hard cement. Here, the Yokozuna had to do their dance in the sand. Hakuho had a really hard time doing the seriagari (the part where he gradually rises):

Kakuryu managed it slightly better:

As I said on Twitter, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of tsukebito that night who were muttering curses under their breath as they were trying to clean all the sand out of the fringes of the two Yokozuna’s kesho-mawashi.

Ah, you did notice that Hakuho is back and beaming, didn’t you? He was in a very good mood the whole day, and said that he was really eager to get back on the dohyo. When asked about the condition of his big toes, he said “so-so”, but was still wearing that big smile when he did.

The torikumi that day was in the form of an elimination tournament. Here is a demonstration of the kimarite known as “kekaeshi”. It’s a minor trip, usually accompanied by a pull that causes the rival to lose his balance.

Hakuho in a magnanimous mood, helping Chiyotairyu up. The final and deciding bout of the day was this:

That boy in the front row? He is not going to forget this visit to the shrine. And a very genki Hakuho takes the yusho for the day.

Note that dohyo, by the way. It’s not your regular beer-crate jungyo dohyo. It’s an old permanent dohyo. Many of those are scattered around Japan, in school yards and shrines. Not as pretty or straight as the one in the honbasho venues, but one where you really feel the Earth under your feet.

The Grudge Match And The Beautiful Kimarite

Terutsuyoshi, 22 years old, 168cm, 115kg, is Isegahama’s lowest-ranked sekitori at Juryo #9. With his small stature and his bad knees, he has a hard time securing kachi-koshi ever since he reached Juryo, with three 7-8 records and two 9-6.


He started this basho with five straight losses, but already provided us with great entertainment on day 7, which nearly ended with him fainting with the chikara mizu ladle in his hands.

Today he faced Takagenji, who regained sekitori status this basho. Takagenji is Juryo #14, 20 years old, 191cm and 160kg. He is very ambitious. And he is from Takanohana beya.

So the sekitori from Harumafuji’s heya was facing a sekitori from Takanoiwa’s heya. And it seems that emotions were running high.

So let’s watch a little sumo:

Tachiai. Takagenji attempts a face slap. Terutsuyoshi evades it, and being of small stature, plants his head in Takagenji’s stomach and looks for a grip. Takagenji literally has the upper hand – gets a grip from above on the little man’s mawashi, catches him under his armpit with his other hand, and turns him around.

Then, suddenly, the spirit of the absent Ura mounts the dohyo and possesses Terutsuyoshi. He grabs onto the same arm that was used to twist him around, bends down, and the surprised Takanohana wrestler finds himself in a heap below the dohyo.

But look at the face of Terutsuyoshi. The man is clearly very angry. And Takagenji is no less. He gets back up to the dohyo, but does not bow, not even a nod, and leaves it immediately. The gyoji calls him back to properly bow – not something you see every day.

And while the young Isegahama man cools down, ladle in hand, we hear the call of the kimarite: Koshinage. This is only the 23rd time this kimarite has been performed since the beginning of the 20th century.

This leaves the announcer and the commentator arguing: was it a koshinage, or was it an ipponzeoi, as the commentator called it at first?

The main difference between these two kimarite is that in koshinage, the throw’s axis is the thrower’s hip, while in ipponzeoi, the less rare one, the axis is the thrower’s shoulder. I leave it to the reader’s judgement. (Well, mostly because I’m really bad at kimarite). Whichever it was, it an awesome come-from-behind throw.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that Terutsuyoshi suffers from tonsilitis and that his throat was killing him today. I’d get a sick day for that, but rikishi can’t.

Terutsuyoshi doesn’t say why he was so angry, other than “Takagenji was staring at me, so I stared back”. Takagenji just says something like “emotions ran high”. I call it a grudge match.

Terunofuji Contains And Defeats Endo


Breathing Down Kisenosato’s Neck

Sumo fans have been pleasantly surprised to see an old friend return to the dohyo in Osaka. None other than a ferocious competitor of massive strength and stature, Ozeki Terunofuji.

Terunofuji is not a newcomer to the sport, but what has been missing is the form, power, strength and sheer offensive focus that propelled him from rank-and-file into an Ozeki slot in mid 2015. This has been due to a series of injuries to his legs and his back, that had left him a ridiculous shell of his former self. For a time during his meteoric ascent in rank, some rikishi were actually worried about facing him, as he had a habit of mangling his opponents (Terunofuji’s Kaiju-Mode).

All of that seems to be back, at least for one basho. Looking back from day 12, it’s clear that Terunofuji was being groomed this entire basho as the spoiler, the sharp tool that could be used to derail upper ranked rikishi marching towards yusho. Today, it was Endo’s turn to face the Kaiju, and while Endo put up a glorious effort, Terunofuji has his mind fixed at bypassing Kisenosato, and once again hosting the Emperor’s Cup in victory.

Endo quickly established advantage in the match, and early had Terunofuji’s heels on the tawara, hip pumping to force to big Ozeki out. But Terunofuji rallied, picked up Endo and marched him to the center of the dohyo. Having rendered his opponent helpless, Terunofuji belly flopped onto a supine Endo, crushing him. The kimarite is recorded as Abisetaoshi (backward force down).

The final three days will Terunofuji fight 2 Yokozuna: Kisenosato and Kakuryu, and it would be my guess that Kisenosato will come day 15. At this point, the only rikishi who has a chance of derailing a Kisenosato yusho is Terunofuji, and the NSK will likely play this for all it’s worth.