(横綱稀勢の里初巡業) Kisenosato’s Return: Light Training, Unsure of September

According to this article from the Spo-Nichi (via Mainichi), Kisenosato’s jungyo debut was met with an enthusiastic crowd. However, his activity was limited and fellow-Yokozuna, Hakuho, expressed his concern, wondering whether the junior-zuna was okay. Kisenosato responded that he was okay but admitted later in an interview that his condition was “mada, mada” which I roughly translate as still healing. Definitely not anywhere near 100%. He also evaded answering whether he was going to participate in the Aki tournament, saying that he needs to train.

Kisenosato Restarts Training with Pectoral Injury

There’s more bad news on Kisenosato. His stable revealed new details of the extent of his injuries which include a previously undisclosed injury to his left major pectoral muscle. He also restarted training on April 3. We can only wonder why he’s begun training again but I hope his injury is allowed to heal completely. Maybe he’s being allowed to throw a ball against the wall to stave off boredom?

This news comes via Nikkei. The headline we’ll discuss today is below:

稀勢の里、新たに左大胸筋損傷が判明 非公開で稽古再開

By now, we know the kanji for Kisenosato’s shikona, so we all know who we’re talking about. So let’s move on and parse the six kanji characters in the middle, right before the hiragana “GA.” This is usually the subject. These six go together as, “left (左) major (大) pectoral (胸) muscle (筋) injury (損傷).”

Going back to the kanji and two hiragana characters after the comma, we’ve also previously seen the kanji for “new”. With the hiragana -tani, we get the adverbial form, so this yields, “newly.” Japanese usually puts the verb at the end of the phrase. In this case we get, hanmei, or reveal (判明) right before the break in the headline. So, we basically have “a newly revealed left pectoral muscle injury.”


It’s this last bit which is the startling revelation, in my book. Let’s start at the end. The last two characters (再開) mean restart. Immediately before that, we see what he restarted. Keiko (稽古) means “training.” Hikōkai (非公開) means “private,” and with the hiragana -de, we can take that as “privately.” So, all together, Kisenosato has privately restarted training with a previously undisclosed left pectoral injury. Surely the big guy was not going to sit on the couch watching Cowboy Bebop all day. And he has pulled out of the Spring Jungyo exhibition tour. They are taking his injury seriously and I hope he will be healed and ready in May.

Lastly, I thought I’d show the translations we get from our three translation engines. Google didn’t do too poorly but the use of the word “unpublished” rather than “private” does change the meaning of the headline pretty significantly. Rather than saying he has already restarted, that would seem to imply it may start again at a future date. Excite takes the other tack of making it explicit that “practice resumes.” Yahoo’s regurgitated brekkie sausage (wonderful term, Dana!) brings to mind those fancy restaurants that smear sugar, cocoa and honey on a plate, calling it a “deconstructed S’more.” Completely unintelligible.

According to Google Translate: “Rare village, newly revealed left major pectoral muscle damage Unpublished training restart”
According to Yahoo! Japan: “Revelation is closed and takes a lesson, and, Kisenosato, the left pectoralis major muscle damage reopens newly”
According to Excite: “The left greater pectoral muscle damage is revealing closure again, and a practice resumes Sato of rare momentum.”

Kyushu Storyline #7 – Takayasu’s Drive For Ozeki


Kisenosato’s Protege Trains For Victory

Second only to Goeido’s push to challenge for Yokozuna is Takayasu’s drive to sumo’s second highest rank – Ozeki. For several tournaments, the Tsuchiura native has been a steadfast of the sanyaku, continuing to score winning records in sumo’s toughest ranks.

His performance during the Aki basho was nothing short of spectacular, including some of the more thrilling bouts of the tournament. Highlights include his day 11 match against Harumafuji, where he went blow for blow with the Yokozuna, and in his typical style, waited for Harumafuji to make a mistake and exploited it. Did we see a look of congratulatory respect at the end of that match?

But there was also a marathon match against Okinoumi on day 10, and then what I think was his best example of Aki, his day 9 match with Terunofuji. Here, Takayasu battles back from an almost impossible hold, re-establishes his grip, and forces Terunofuji out.

So, given that, you could think Takayasu is the end-all, be-all up and coming rikishi, but he finished Aki with 3 losses to rank-and-file Maegashira.


So if you are Takayasu, and you are very credibly on a push for Ozeki, what do you do? TRAIN. You train hard, you train daily. Takayasu is a member of the Tagonoura Beya, that means he trains with Kisenosato. In fact it seems that Kisenosato has made Takayasu’s promotion somewhat of a project. While Kisenosato spectacularly discarded a Yokozuna drive, he is a high skill force of sumo, and daily bouts have honed Takayasu’s sumo.

A week prior the Kyushu, Takayasu expressed some concern that he had gained additional weight during the fall Jungyo tour, and declared an “weight loss emergency”.  We note with some interest the emerging trend among the sumotori to back away from ever increasing mass.

The Ozeki title is within reach for Takayasu, his goal is 12 wins in Kyushu, which will be quite an accomplishment with Hakuho back in the rotation, Goeido looking (perhaps) even sharper than he did in Tokyo, and Terunofuji fighting to keep his rank.

Reports from pre-tournament inter-beya practice sessions describe Takayasu as struggling, losing against the current Ozeki repeatedly.

Tachiai wishes him the best of fortune in his matches.

Why Kisenosato Shouldn’t Worry

Bruce’s article from the other day got me thinking about Goeido’s title and possible Yokozuna promotion as well as Kisenosato’s Ozeki career. I put together a chart of the several indicators of ozeki performance for a select group of rikishi to act as a bit of a baseline.

Obviously, titles are the key statistic. In the words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.” Of the ozeki careers I’ve selected, something should stand out. Most of these ozeki won titles, multiple titles, before promotion. I don’t understand why everyone is so eager to see a promotion, whether Goeido or Kisenosato. Our ozeki need to be doing a better job of pulling their weight.

Kaio and Chiyotaikai were great, recent ozeki. Each had a career spanning at least 50 healthy tournaments at the rank of ozeki. 50. Kaio won 5 titles over that span, Chiyotaikai won 2. Compared with those careers, Kisenosato’s a pup. He’s been ozeki for a mere 28 tournaments. Konishiki was ozeki for 35 tournaments and won 3 yusho. These guys never made and are remembered for being great ozeki. There’s no shame in that.

There is shame, however, in a promotion that comes too early. The poster child for this would have to be Futahaguro, a yokozuna with the distinction of never having held the Emperor’s Cup. In a short, four tournaments at the rank of ozeki, he did average 11.5 wins per basho. However, he was promoted after securing two consecutive second-place jun-yusho. His career as yokozuna was winless and cut short when he punched the wife of his oyakata.

We expect a certain level of play from our ozeki. We expect better than 8 wins per tournament, consistently. Actually, I should say we demand 8 wins per tournament. If they don’t get it, they go kadoban – as Terunofuji is now and both Goeido and Kisenosato were at the start of the last basho. We get our 8 wins from Kisenosato. He has actually averaged a cool 10.68 wins which is certainly not too shabby and a far sight better than Goeido’s 8.33.

The thing is, a yokozuna needs titles. And to get those, he needs even more wins. Musashimaru had 5 titles as ozeki over 32 tournaments with an average of 11.03 wins per basho. Clearly both Kisenosato and Goeido can and should perform better if they want to be promoted. It’s a lot better to look back on a great ozeki career than an underperforming yokozuna career. But it’s even better to look back on an ozeki career WITH CHAMPIONSHIPS, like Kaio, Baruto, Kotooshu…even Goeido. Chances are, these guys would have been underperforming yokozuna. Kaio had many injuries. Kisenosato’s been very healthy. Hopefully his time will come but he needs to earn it.

Selected Ozeki Careers (some went on to be Yokozuna)
Rikishi Avg Wins (Ozeki) Ozeki Term (healthy basho) Yusho
Musashimaru* 11.03 32 5
Kaio 9.72 50 5
Harumafuji* 10.19 21 4
Hakuho* 12.17 6 3
Konishiki 9.77 35 3
Asashoryu* 12.67 3 2
Chiyotaikai 9.37 51 2
Chiyonofuji* 12.67 3 1
Hokutoumi* 11.2 5 1
Kakuryu* 9.92 12 1
Goeido 8.33 12 1
Futahaguro* 11.5 4 0
Kisenosato 10.68 28 0

Aki Basho Day 12 Highlights


Goeido Defeats Yokozuna Kakuryu, Contenders All Stay 2 Behind

Very few surprises, but some great sumo today on day 12 from the Kokugikan in Tokyo. At this point, the math behind Goeido’s tournament win (Yusho) is almost insurmountable. The final chance may be a match on day 13 against Harumafuji. With he closest contender 2 wins behind, it would take 2 losses by Goeido (12-0) over the next 3 days ( a tall order) to make contenders Harumafuji, Takayasu and Endo (all 10-2) viable.

The standing questions in the upper ranks:

  • Will Goeido go undefeated? A Goeido yusho would leave eternal Yokozuna bridesmaid Kisenosato the only Ozeki never to have won a championship
  • How hurt is Terunofuji? He is clearly under-performing and is in danger of returning to kadoban
  • Can Kotoshogiku win one more and remove kadoban? He fights the hapless Terunofuji on day 13, so probably yes
  • How far into double-digits can Takayasu’s run go? He fights Mitakeumi day 13, so maybe 11.
  • What happened to Okinoumi? A strong and bold start, now he struggles to find his kachi-koshi win.
  • Kakuryu ?

There are three days left to watch this unfold, with most rikishi still below the kachi-koshi threshold, but a growing number now confirmed to have losing records (make-kochi), the struggle for the high performers is the real contest.

  • Leader (12-0): Goeido
  • Hunt Group (10-2): Harumafuji, Takayasu, Endo
  • 3 Days Remain

Notable highlights

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – The good Endo returns to give risking star Mitakeumi a lesson in yorikiri. Endo was confident, strong and wasted no time escorting Mitakeumi out of the ring. End remains tied with the chase group at 10-2.

Shodai defeats Takanoiwa – Teetering at the edge of make-kochi, Shodai has regained his sumo skill. Really an excellent match that started out as a chest to chest grapple, and devolved into a rather brutal slapping festival. This seemed to really motivate Shodai, who masterfully took hold of Takanoiwa and sent him on the sukuinage express into the seats.

Tochiozan defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi seems to be struggling now, after a powerful start to the basho. One more win Oki, that’s all your fans need to see. I have to wonder if he re-injured himself.

Kisenosato defeats Kaisei – Textbook yotsu-zumō here. Two large and powerful men locked chest to chest in a contest of strength, endurance and guile. Kaisei put up a huge fight, and looked more like the Kaisei of old rather than the lackluster performance we have seen this tournament. Kisenosato had to earn this win.

Harumafuji defeats Kotoshogiku – It was fast, direct and brutal. What you expect from Harumafuji. Is it possible that Kotoshogiku won’t clear kadoban?

Goeido defeats Kakuryu – Maybe someone can stop Goeido, but it Kakuryu is not capable. A push / thrust match, it was really all Goeido

Ura Weathers The Great Sandstorm

screenshot-211Yes, there were some big moves in the makuuchi and some huge upsets in sanyaku…but I’m going to start with the match up I was most looking forward to, Ura vs Osunaarashi. My big questions coming into this were, 1) How well healed is the Egyptian? and 2) How would Ura handle his opponent’s aggressiveness? I consider this Ura’s first makuuchi bout.

Ura wisely avoided a strong, head-on tachiai. As we’ve seen before, Ura backed up a good 3 feet off the usual starting point, forcing the opponent to travel a greater distance. screenshot-212He ducked and deflected Osunaarashi, staying low and keeping him at arms length. Osunaarashi made a charge but Ura was able to counter, pivot, and drive Osunaarashi off the dohyo and into the crowd.

Kotoshogiku shook off his first challenge in Shodai while Goeido got a strong win against Tochinoshin. Both ozeki look to head off demotion. Inexplicably, Terunofuji showed up today and looked to be at maybe 70-80% healthy. Yoshikaze was not going to take it easy on him and tried a quick hatakikomi but the ozeki didn’t fall for it. However, Yoshikaze went on the attack and picked up a yorikiri win as Terunofuji had no strength to counter. TERUNOFUJI NEEDS TO GO KYUJO AND HEAL!! When he is this banged up, it damages the sport as everyone wonders how does he manage to get a winning record in the final days against strong opponents?

I don’t even know what happened with Kisenosato against Okinoumi. I keep watching the replays and the Maegashira somehow got him turned around and pushed out. He didn’t have a particularly strong grip or position but…come on. Anyway, I’d draw a great big BATSU over any chance he had to win this tournament now.

Well, maybe half-batsu as Kakuryu got shoved out by Tochiozan. Regardless, I have been quite disappointed with Kakuryu’s performances at yokozuna. If he’s still injured, he needs to sit out. He won’t face demotion but he faces humiliation if he loses like today, jut a straight forward oshidashi push out?  Tochi-from-Kochi didn’t even need to wrangle him to the edge. It just took one strong shove from the middle of the dohyo.

Harumafuji was having none of these upsets. From the outset, he went at Kaisei’s throat with a forceful nodowa and he did not let up. Kaisei tried what he could to pull Harumafuji’s hand from his neck but the stranglehold was too much. That’s got to be an unpleasant feeling.

Hakuho Out For September Tournament?


Rumors are bubbling that the most dominant wrestler in recorded Sumo history may sit out the September Tokyo tournament. It was fairly clear from Nagoya that he had hurt more than his big toe (which we covered here), but that one of his knees was injured as well. For reference this bout against Ikioi on day 9, where I think the knee injury occurred.

Hakuho is pressing the attack against Ikioi, when he suddenly collapses, much to everyone’s surprise (most especially Ikioi)

Followed by what happened when he faced tournament winner Harumafuji

Clearly, Hakuho is quite banged up (so is Harumafuji at this point), but it’s his knee which gives out first.

If Hakuho does sit out September, it changes the math for Kisenosato to finally win a tournament and earn his Yokozuna rope.