Genki Report – Yokozuna & Ozeki

tsuna

With the Nagoya basho behind us, we welcome a new Ozeki into the top two ranks of sumo, and reinforcements could not come at a more important moment. In a continuation of a trend Tachiai has been following for some time, the continued weakness within the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks is causing significant distortions in sumo. Thus it is time for another of our periodic genki reports, looking exclusively at the world of the top two ranks.

Yokozuna - Ozeki Participation

From the chart above, we can see that since this time in 2016, the participation rate of the total Yokozuna and Ozeki corps has been on a steady downward trend. This is computed as a percentage of the number Yokozuna & Ozeki that could participate compared to the number who did participate on day 15. Clearly the men in sumo’s top two ranks are finding it difficult to show up and participate in tournaments on a regular basis.

Sumo is a combat sport, and people who reach the top two ranks have had to battle for every promotion, and every kachi-kochi they have ever achieved. Along the way they have accumulated injuries that range from annoying to severe, but still attempt to find some way to show up and compete.

Let’s take a look at the rikishi:

Yokozuna Kakuryu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: After taking almost a year to recover from a suite of injuries, Kakuryu may in fact be the genkiest of the Yokozuna. He exited Natsu with the Emperor’s Cup, and his first back to back yusho in his career. The injuries sustained during Hatsu have either been mitigated, healed or he is just ignoring them. Clearly he is the man to beat for Nagoya, but odds of him taking 3 in a row are rather thin.

Yokozuna Hakuho
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: There were a number of red flags for Hakuho going into Natsu. His father, who was a driving force in his life, had just recently died. He had sat out Osaka due to re-injured big toes. While it may seem a trivial complaint, the big toe of each foot is massively important to both offense and defense. Hakuho’s sumo depends greatly on his mobility and speed, and injured feet rob him of a significant advantage. I think that going to Nagoya we are going to see a greatly improved Hakuho, as long as he can keep those feet healthy.

Yokozuna Kisenosato
Genki: ✭-
Notes: Tachiai has written extensively about the nature and severity of Kisenosato’s injured left pectoral. While we were controversial in our early call that it was surgery or the scissors, the rest of the sumo world seems to have come around to our point of view. The guy’s Yokozuna career is a tragedy worthy of a new Kabuki story. Our opinion is that there is no road back for him, and the only question now is does he just admit defeat, or does he enter one more basho and go out guns blazing?

Ozeki Goeido
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Where to start with this guy. First off, we complain a lot about Goeido and his flaky sumo. We have likened him to a faulty consumer gadget in dire need of software fixes. In truth, he has been hurt quite a bit in the past two years. None of those injuries are necessarily healed properly, and each time he re-injures himself in a basho, his sumo goes into the toilet. It’s actually quite easy to detect. When his ankles are working and not hurting, he is a fast, aggressive Ozeki who will take you down or out before you can finish your tachiai. You never give him an opening or you are on your face in the clay, and the fat stack of kensho is headed towards his bank account. When he’s hurt he’s vague, he pulls, he moves backward, he loses a bit over half the time. Given that a proper repair job would require about a year of healing, it’s unlikely he will take that step while he is still active.

Ozeki Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: This guy is a favorite of mine. But once Kisenosato got hurt, and he earned Ozeki, his sumo took an unfortunate turn. He came to rely on an increasingly chaotic style that places a big bet up front on a massive, brutal forearm or shoulder hit at the tachiai. Now it comes as no surprises he is having upper body problems, especially with his leading shoulder. This man is a powerhouse of sumo, and an excellent rival for Tochinoshin if he is healthy. I wish he could take after his senpai a bit more now. Kisenosato’s Ozeki sumo was frequently low, powerful and relentless. I fear until he fixes his sumo, he will continue to suffer.

Ozeki Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Though I have my concerns about this guy, thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that he has shown up. Though his injuries may come to ruin him at any time, he’s clearly strong, enthusiastic and competing flat out 15 matches each basho. I hope he throttles back on his “lift and shift” kimarite, as it’s rolling the dice on that bandaged knee each time. As mentioned above, a solid Tochinoshin / Takayasu Ozeki rivalry would electrify the sumo world, and might be a catalyst to drive either or both to higher rank. But it requires both of them to find a way to avoid further injuries. No easy task in the current sumo world.

Ozeki Takayasu Kyujo For Natsu, Too!

takayasu-profile

In a one-two blow for Tagonoura beya, Ozeki Takaysu is also listed as Kyujo for the upcoming Natsu basho. It has been clear for the past several days that he was nursing injuries to both arms, and now he has (wisely in my opinion) decided to recover rather than risk a career-limiting injury.

Takayasu represents Japan’s best hope for a native-born Yokozuna should ailing Kisenosato end up retiring later this year. It is a wise move to have him recover his strength and mobility before returning to competition.  With this absence, Takayasu will be kadoban ozeki for the Nagoya tournament in July.

The ranks for Natsu are already down to 2 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki.  Should Hakuho withdraw, as Kintamayama has speculated, it would leave the roster with the bare minimum of 2 Ozeki/Yokozuna needed to conduct Honbasho.

As of late, Takayasu has added a habitual shoulder blast to his tachiai, and it has significantly changed his sumo (in my opinion for the worse). It comes as no surprise to me that he has injured it, and with any luck, he will go back to his low and aggressive sumo. The run-and-gun approach (in some ways copying Goeido) was working for him, but it seems to have torn up his body.

The team at Tachiai wish Takayasu a solid recovery, and hope to see him back in fierce fighting form in July.

Why Am I Dreading the Natsu Basho?

Kisenosato

Like all sumo fans, I am eager for the next honbasho to get underway, yet in many respects I am apprehensive about the upcoming tournament. Many of the trends Tachiai identified early and have been dutifully covering are continuing to unfold, with both positive and negative aspects. Sure, I will be cheering as I watch day 1, but I worry Natsu is a preview for just how ugly things will be in the second half of the year.

In Yokozuna land, there is the clear indication that Kisenosato will sit out yet another basho. The man has his pride, and as Herouth mentioned a few weeks ago, there are some indications he may be preparing to announce his retirement from the sport. This is a natural result of his career ending injury sustained at the Osaka basho in 2017. If we consider things with honesty, there was never a very large chance that even with surgery that pectoral muscle would ever again support Yokozuna class sumo. Even the Great Pumpkin seems to be taking it seriously now. Why do I dread this? Once again, a segment of the sumo world (mostly in Japan) will erupt into a festival of complaints about Mongolians and other foreigners in the sport. Having lost their Japanese Yokozuna, some commentators may become insufferable.

But there’s a bright spot, right? Hatsu yusho winner Tochinoshin is moving to make his case to become Ozeki? That’s full of awesome, right? The Tochinoshin story is fantastic from a fan and from a blogger perspective. The man is a walking testament to never giving up and overcoming any obstacle. But he would be yet another foreign born rikishi at the top of the sport, further fueling the tribalist influences that sometimes are on display in sumo-fandom. He is also 30 years old with a bum knee. While It would be awesome to see the man from Georgia achieve the exalted status of “Great Barrier”, I get a sick feeling this is going towards a calamitous end.

Ok, so give the Japanese public a fresh Japanese Yokozuna and all is well, right? Sure, but then Takayasu shows that he’s banged up and probably needs to sit one out. His sumo devolved to where he was using his tachiai to ram one shoulder or upper arm into every opponent, and no one should be surprised that they are now injured. We will find out soon enough how bad it is, but don’t be surprised if Takayasu spends part or all of Natsu on the bench.

Don’t get me wrong, by the time that we are entering the final weekend, the Natsu basho will be a grand and epic arc of fantastic sumo. But as we get towards the middle of this transitional period, it can be a bit tough to watch the carnage.

Onward to Sunday!

Pre Natsu News Round Up – May 7th

Kisenosato-Salt

*Thanks to Herouth for scouting much of this content via twitter.

Across Tokyo, inter-stable training sessions are increasing as the rikishi continue to hone their preparations for Sunday’s start of the Natsu basho. While everyone is training hard and engaging in multiple test matches, it’s the top men who are getting the headlines.

Yokozuna Hakuho participated in the Isegahama Ichimon joint training session, going up against Kaisei, Takarafuji and Kyokutaisei, finishing with a 13-0 record. He is looking strong and confident going into Sunday’s tournament start, and will be a strong contender for the yusho. Observers noted that his tachiai no longer featured his usual face-slap, as requested by the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee.

Injured Yokozuna Kisenosato trained at the Nishonoseki joint training, held today at kaze-land (Oguruma). Kisenosato went against Yoshikaze for 9 bouts and won all of them. It should be noted that something has robbed Yoshikaze of most of his overflowing genki fighting form as of late, and today his right shoulder was heavily taped. One notable from the Nishonoseki rengo keiko was the early departure of Ozeki Takayasu, who complained of pain in his left arm. Previous training sessions featured the big Ozeki suffering pain in his right shoulder in between bouts.

Meanwhile, Yokozuna Kakuryu looked strong and dominant in joint training Monday at Tokitsukaze beya. He faced Endo, Abi, and Yutakayama, finishing 18 and 1. Yokozuna Kakuryu has stated his absolute goal is to score a back-to-back yusho, overcoming everyone including Hakuho to maintain his lock on the top spot in sumo, Yokozuna 1 East. Going into Sunday’s start, he is the man to beat, with his health seeming to be good, and his body in excellent condition, he is possibly in his best form ever.

Natsu Banzuke – Bruce’s Comments

Mole Boss vs Dia Yokozuna

The Tachiai team will gather for their banzuke podcast next weekend, but with the Banzuke just published, it’s time for some comments and remarks. If you are looking for lksumo giving himself a hard time over his estimates, he will likely publish those soon.

Yokozuna / Ozeki – no surprises here, Kakuryu remains at 1 East. Although Kisenosato has been participating in Jungyo, and making competition noises, it’s far from certain that he will actually compete in Natsu. Takayasu is starting to dream of trying for the rope himself, but this basho will likely feature Hakuho in the roster. Not that the dai-yokozuna is unbeatable, but Takayasu needs to dominate across the board to make a play for the yusho.

In the lower San’yaku is where the excitement starts. We have Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin taking the Sekiwake 1 East slot, with our favorite boulder Ichinojo taking West. Tochinoshin continues to look very strong, incredibly focused and driven to excel. With Hakuho back in action, the challenge to reach double digits again will be significantly increased. Mitakeumi drops down to Komusubi East, with Endo making his San’yaku debut at Komusubi West. It’s been a long, hard road for Endo, and I am sure that he is savoring this achievement.

Kaisei rocketed up the banzuke to grab Maegashira 1 West, from 6 East last tournament. There were some who speculated that his impressive 12-3 Jun-Yusho should put him in the San’yaku, but there was a pack of over-achievers in Osaka, and the Brazilian is forced to settle for M1. This is further evidenced by Tamawashi only moving from West to East, even though he produced a 9-6 record.

In the Freshmen, Abi continues to over-accomplish. He is now firmly in the Joi at Maegashira 2, with fellow Freshman Yutakayama taking Maegashira 3. Ryuden rises a respectable 4 slots to 7 East, while Asanoyama is settling for a mild promotion at 12 West, thanks to another cohort of solid performance in the lower end of the banzuke in March.

The Oitekaze brute squad is further represented by Daieisho at 3 East, thanks to his 9-6 in March from 8 West. Can someone please get the Oitekaze chanko recipe? I feel it could have wonderful benefits for the infirm and the aged (starting with me!). Daiamami picks up 11 East after 10-5 from 16 East in March.

The tadpoles are licking their wounds to be certain, now. With Mitakeumi out of Sekiwake, Takakeisho down to 10 West, and the fighting red mawashi of Onosho dropped down to Juryo without so much as a “すみません” (Sumimasen). Is Takakeisho a Maegashira 10 rikishi? Ha! No, no and hell no. Is Onosho a Juryo riksihi? Lower division folks, make sure you are taped up when you face the red terror. The tadpoles are down, but not out.

But speaking of large objects, everyone’s favorite spheroid, Chiyomaru, dropped to 7 East while his stable-mate Chiyotairyu took the Koumusubi express back down the banzuke to 4 East.

But let’s not end hungry! Down at the lower rungs of the banzuke, there are some happy faces. Kyokutaisei makes his debut in the top division. He joins returning faces Sadanoumi, Takekaze and… UNCLE SUMO! Yes, Aminishiki returns like that favorite pair of jeans you though were too beat up to wear. Nope, still plenty of life, but enjoy them while you can.

I would be remiss if I did not comment that much farther down the banzuke, our favorite Texan, Wakaichiro, finds himself back in Jonidan at 14 East. This is certainly a disappointment to him, but we encourage him to recall he always fights better in Tokyo. Give ’em hell!

Haru Day 15 Preview

Macaroon
Time To Hoist The Giant Macaron of Victory And Call It a Basho!

And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.

The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.

Haru Leaderboard

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!

What We Are Watching Day 15

Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!

Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?

Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.

Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!

Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.

Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.

Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Goeido - Kakuryu

As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.

But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.

Highlight Matches

Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]

Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.

Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.

Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.

Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Chiyomaru
If I win, yes, that big meaty leg is mine!

It is with great celebration that we welcome the final weekend of the Haru basho. It’s been fun and exciting for fans around the world, and it’s been our pleasure to have been along for the ride. Yokozuna Kakuryu has one job to do – if he wins just one of his two remaining matches, he claims his fourth yusho. But to accomplish that, he needs to beat either Ozeki Goeido or Ozeki Takayasu. Can he do it? I think he will. Kakuryu has looked better this basho than in any I can remember in recent years, and it’s possible that if he has his medical problems solved, he may be the one the Kyokai depends on for a time. I expect that Hakuho is going to pace himself, and Kisenosato may be a lost cause.

What has really surprised me about this tournament is that no rikishi were able to take advantage of the open promotion lane. The expected candidates (Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Tochinoshin) could not muster the endurance and strength to maintain the performance needed over the first 13 days. Should Hakuho return genki and well, it could be months before we see another basho with a single, somewhat damaged Yokozuna holding court.

Even more puzzling is that Ozeki Takayasu did not exploit this opportunity to push for his first Yusho. His sumo has become somewhat chaotic and uncontrolled, and I think it’s really kept him from the next step forward in performance that it would take for him to make a bid to be Yokozuna.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Kaisei, Ikioi

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Ikioi – I am hoping that the slippery Ishiura receives some brawny sumo training from hometown favorite Ikioi on day 14. Ishiura is still pushing for kachi-koshi, but I think a good rough defeat would be instructive. Double points to Ikioi if he catches Ishiura doing a henka and makes him regret it.

Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – As a sumo fan, I wonder what is going on with Kotokuki. The guy has 12 losses going into day 14. I get that he is hurt, but why not go kyujo at that point? You could at least take a chance to heal. But Daiamami has a chance to get 9 or 10 wins, and I don’t think Kotoyuki is going to be taking this one.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Another yama battle, this one between two of the bright and hopeful Freshmen, who are both already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who gets closer to the joi, and chance to be beaten to a pulp during May’s Natsu basho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – As much as Chiyoshoma dearly wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, Aoiyama still seems to have a lot of aggression to work out of that massive body. Where he seems to get into trouble is chasing after his opponents and getting maneuvered into tight spots. Word to the man-mountain, let the little Mongolian fellow come to you!

Chiyonokuni vs Daieisho – Chiyonokuni seems frustrated, as frustrated as only a grumpy badger can ever be. He’s all the way down at Maegashira 10, but he’s still getting used as a washcloth daily. He’s one loss away from make-koshi, but I think with his back against the wall like this, he may find the fortitude to win. Daieisho needs one more win to move to mid-Maegashira for Natsu, so he’s eager to go. Chiyonokuni holds a 4-1 career advantage.

Kotoshogiku vs Abi – Sure, why not? Abi is like some sumo doll with slinkies for joints going against the aging and poorly maintained Kyushu bulldozer. If Kotoshogiku can keep Abi in front of him (no easy task), it’s all bumppity-bumppity bump. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku can be out-maneuvered many times.

Arawashi vs Ryuden – Ryuden needs to win both his remaining bouts to get a kachi-koshi. He is not quite the powerhouse he was at Hatsu, but he has turned in a fairly solid basho. Arawashi has a ton of battle damage and either needs to be dry docked or turned into an artificial reef.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji: The hardest working double-digit-loss rikishi in all of sumo-dom. His case is truly one for the epic bards of Iceland. Kagayaki’s about right at Maegashira 8 for his sumo right now, so he’s not a lock to get his 7th win today.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Future and long anticipated san’yaku rikishi Endo is going to be seeing if he can run up the score. Hokutofuji gave fading Mitakeumi an energetic scrum today, and seems to have recovered some of his sumo. I like the chances for this bout being full of well executed technique, with swooning grandmothers and cheering salarymen.

Shohozan vs Tamawashi – Winner kachi-koshi. Both of them like to beat victory out of their opponents, with Shohozan being more of a “low-rider” model. Tamawashi looked lost in his day 13 match against a degraded Yoshikaze. Hopefully Tamawashi is not injured.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – I would love to tell you that our Boulder is going to pick up the soft and squishy Shodai like a plush toy, stick his enormous thumb in his mouth and waddle back to the shitaku-beya for a long cuddle and some ice cream with his favorite pony. But someone turned Shodai from stink bug to holy hell. God only knows how this one is going to turn out, as Shodai wants one more shiroboshi.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – Did I see a flash of the Berserker day 13? Was that the spirit of some blazing warrior of old that overwhelmed Tamawashi “the Jackhammer”? Dare I hope that he is getting over whatever problems plagued his first week? Or will the kami-infused sideburns of might power Chiyotairyu to victory in the name of a dozen empty, stacked soba bowls left on the counter of Ryogoku Bandai at midnight?

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Ever since he was accused of cooking and eating Ura in a quest for more calories, Chiyomaru has had his eye on Tochinoshin’s uninjured leg. At long last the hungry man will face the Hatsu Yusho winner in single combat, winner eat all. Sadly for Chiyomaru, he’s never beaten Tochinoshin, so his only hope is to show up hungry.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – Hey, Takayasu Pooh-Bear. Your senpai was a fan of jun-yushos, and it was kind of sad. I know you think the sun shines out of his mawashi’s rear flap, but it’s no way to go through life, son. This was your chance to hoist the hardware and rack a portrait. Mitakeumi, time for you to regroup and think about why you want to be Sekiwake. Sure, the chicks dig a san’yaku man, but either get to some double digits like your opponent did, or go practice you Chanko recipe for later.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Easily today’s most calamitous bout, no one at Tachiai central is certain who is going pull whom down how many times. There is a non-zero chance that we may see a startup fault in GoeiDOS and he ends up in “Bouncy Castle” mode again. Meanwhile Kakuryu needs to avoid both the henka and the cannonball charge from Goeido. Big K is convinced he is Mr. Genki now, but Goeido can not only win this one, but the risk of injury to the lone surviving Yokozuna is very real. Loss + Kyujo would cause a ruckus in the sumo world unlike any seen in many years.

Haru Day 13 Preview

Takayasu-Shrugs

You can’t count on good fortune, but today sumo fans got a gift. In defeating Yokozuna Kakuryu, Tochinoshin opened up the yusho race once more. But who could imagine that all of the other leaders would lose as well? With just 3 matches left, a loss tomorrow against Kaisei puts the yusho up for grabs. While that would be very exciting, there is almost no chance that this will come to pass. Kakuryu made a huge mistake in going chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and the Hatsu yusho winner made him pay. I am going to guess the Yokozuna will not be so cavalier on Friday.

One item of note for sumo conspiracy theorists, Chiyotairyu has won 2 of his last 3 matches, after a disastrous start to Haru. Look closely at his image on the NHK video, and we can all see why he is returning to genki status.  That’s right! He is regrowing his sideburns.  We heartily welcome the return of Sumo Elvis, and hope that he will never remove his sideburns again.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Kaisei
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Daishomaru, Ikioi

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daiamami – Apologies to the purists, but I am very frustrated with Ishura and his continuous henka deployment. The winner of this match gets kachi-koshi, and I think I am rooting for anyone but Ishiura at this point. He won their only prior match.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – Battle of the Yama’s, this one is big against bigger. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is mostly for rank velocity. I would guess Aoiyama wants to repair his pride following his day 12 match with Ishiura.

Ikioi vs Chiyonokuni – Do you think Ikioi is going to slow down now that he is kachi-koshi? Hell no! Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins, and I am going to guess he will need to look elsewhere. I wish this version of Ikioi came to every basho, he’s pretty nifty.

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama has been fighting well against his own cohort lower down the banzuke, but today he’s going a bit higher against Okinoumi. Jason’s favorite rikishi (from Shimane-ken) has been lukewarm this tournament, but he can still get his 8 wins if he presses ahead.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Daieisho looking to get his kachi-koshi against an already make-koshi remnant of Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Daieisho is doing surprisingly well at Maegashira 8 this time, but Kotoshogiku is ranked Maegashira 3, and despite age and injuries is quite dangerous if you let him go chest to chest.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – As a true-green Yoshikaze fan, I can only watch with increasing sadness as the Berserker struggles daily with his torikumi. Tamawashi is likely to pick up his kachi-koshi today, and move to return to a san’yaku rank for May.

Endo vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru shocked Ozeki Takayasu on day 12, and now he is going to try his sumo against Endo. Endo dearly wants to make a bid for san’yaku himself, and needs to keep winning. Time will tell if Chiyomaru is having one good basho, of if this is a step change in the power of his sumo.

Abi vs Chiyotairyu – Sure, let’s put a Maegashira 7 up against a Komusubi. Slender Abi goes against the massive dreadnought-class Chiyotairyu. Both of them are going to unleash oshi-war on each other, but Abi is out-massed, and likely out-gunned. Nevertheless, this is going to be an interesting match! Oh, and Abi still needs 1 more win to secure promotion.

Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Big mass vs big guns, here we go! Their career record is 3-3, so I am expecting a battle here. It’s unlikely that Shohozan is going to be able to shove Ichinojo around easily, so his one hope is to grab a handful of fabric and maybe a roll of flesh, and push.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – Somehow, it seems that Shodai was able to find his sumo, and make friends with it once more. But the chances of Shodai being able to take down the Hatsu yusho winner is, at least in my guess, very slim. I predict a quick belt grab by Tochinoshin off the tachiai, and a few steps to the tawara.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – If the Yoshikaze situation were not enough for me to swear off having favorites, it’s these two guys. Both of them have huge potential. Both of them seem to be completely out of sorts, run amok, possibly hurt and in no condition to strive for higher rank.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Ozeki fight! I think Takayasu has this one by a wide margin unless we get a Goeido henka, which is actually not very far fetched. I did like that Chiyomaru leveraged Takayasu’s cannonball tachiai on day 12. Serves him right. Serves him right again if he deploys it against Goeido and he makes him eat it.

Kakuryu vs Kaisei – The big match of the day. If Kakuryu loses this, the last two days will be a barnyard brawl for the hardware. But I am going to suggest that Kaisei won’t represent an impossible challenge for the Yokozuna: he has never managed to beat Kakuryu in any prior match.

Haru Day 8 Highlights

Kaisei Salt

The second week is underway now for Haru. Act two is working as expected, as the number of rikishi who can contend for the cup keeps narrowing.  At this point, the contest is centered on Yokozuna Kakuryu. He has performed masterfully thus far and has certainly shown his detractors as fools.

That said, the dark horse contender, Maegashira 6 Kaisei, is a storied veteran who has held San’yaku rank in the past. At some point in the next week, it’s likely we will see Kakuyru and Kaisei meet on the dohyo.

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Kyokutaisei – The gyoji originally awards the match to Kyokutaisei, but the Monoii reversed that. An eagle-eyed judge caught Kyokutaisei’s right hand touch the dohyo as he was chasing down Ikioi to finish pushing him out. The crowd goes wild as local man Ikioi racks another win.

Daiamami defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi put up an excellent fight, but Daiamami wins again to remain only one win behind the leaders. After going chest to chest, the two stalemated in the center of the dohyo for a considerable period of time, but Daiamami rallied and finished Nishikigi by yorikiri. As Maegashira 16, there are many higher-ranked opponents he might face as a “test” of how firm his score is.

Aoiyama defeats Daishomaru – The Bulgarian pulls down Daishomaru with his enormous reach to remove Daishomaru from the group 1 behind the leaders. Quick, effective and uncompromising.

Sokokurai defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama took control of the match early, and they went chest to chest. Asanoyama began moving forward, but Sokokurai unloaded a fluid uwatenage against Asanoyama. Nice win for Sokokurai.

Ishiura defeats Hidenoumi – Dare I say it? Ishiura seems to be gaining confidence, and his sumo is looking better day by day. He dominated today’s match, and Hidenoumi was always a half step behind.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to pick up a single win and is now make-koshi. It’s been a disastrous basho for Mr 5×5.

Yutakayama defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki seems to always put up a good match, but today Yutakayama proved the stronger in this shoving battle.

Abi defeats Chiyonokuni – Excellent sumo from Abi today, he did not get too far forward, and he kept Chiyonokuni reacting to his sumo. His initial attempt to pull Chiyonokuni down failed, but he recovered to land a right-hand grip, which he then used to throw Chiyonokuni. I love the fact that on his way to the clay, Chiyonokuni tried one last attack – a foot grab, that nearly paid off.

Kaisei defeats Okinoumi – Kaisei picks up his kachi-koshi on day 8 and is a legitimate contender for the Emperor’s cup. His match against Okinoumi had more in common with the day to day functions of earth moving equipment than it did with sumo. Kaisei lowered the blade, engaged the treads, and cleared the dohyo.

Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – Readers, know I am a sucker for a strength battle between two rikishi, and these two put on quite a show. They went chest to chest early and battled with vigor for any advantage. Unlike some matches that turn into a leaning contest, Ryuden kept pushing for a superior grip, and Hokutofuji kept blocking and breaking. Ryuden, unable to achieve any mawashi grip with his left hand, resorts to a boob-grab, much to the discomfort of Hokutofuji. This turned out to be the winning move, and he was able to keep Hokutofuji high and move him back and out. Although listed as yorikiri, I wonder if a new, breast specific, kimarite should be coined. We saw Harumafuji use this technique in the past against rikishi.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyomaru – Thank goodness Takarafuji finally wins one. I will be so glad if he can rally now, and actually achieve kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru was slapping him relentlessly, but as Takarafuji tends to do, he just kept working to get his position, which he achieved. From there it was a quick set of steps to heave Chiyomaru out.

Shodai vs Tamawashi – Ok, are we back go the “good” version of Shodai now? I would like this one to stay. The discouraged, ready to quit one should go on vacation, and maybe never come back. Shodai was still too high at the tachiai, but Tamawashi could not move forward, and ended up with his heel on the tawara. Anticipating his counter-advance, Shodai used Tamawashi’s forward push to swing him down.

Ichinojo defeats Arawashi – Arawashi injured and make-koshi. Ichinojo absorbed Arawashi’s initial vigorous attack, and then calmly took him outside the ring.

Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Endo’s head snapped back from the force of Chiyotairyu’s tachiai, but his right hand latched shallow on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi. This probably saved him from being down and out immediately. It also seems to have really fired Endo up, as he came back strong, and in a blink of an eye he pushed Chiyotairyu out. Good work from Endo to even up to 4-4. Worth a re-watch on slow motion, that right hand grab was only active for a moment, but it was the key to his win.

Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi – The big Georgian forcibly removes Mitakeumi from the hunt group. Mitakeumi shifted at the tachiai, attempted a tottari, then came on strong. Tochinoshin gave ground, but quickly ran out of room. But he had enough of a grip to swing down the King of the Tadpoles for his 6th victory. [Mitakeumi looked to be limping after this bout; we all hope he’s ok. –PinkMawashi]

Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – Blink and you will miss this one. Takakeisho reaches for a left hand grip, but before he is set, he tries to pull the Ozeki down. Takayasu is ready, shifts to his right and pushes with considerable force. Takakeisho is out in a blink of an eye.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku gave him a very good match, but could not set up his hip thrusting attack. Goeido was off balance a few times, but manage to stay stable, and control the match. Both Ozeki are at a respectable 6-2 starting the second week.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – This was always going to be a tough match for the Yokozuna. Shohozan is a tough, brutal and fast rikishi. He prefers to pummel his opponents on the way to winning. Kakuryu started strong, looking to finish him early before anyone got hurt, but Shohozan rallied and began the pursuit. Kakuryu is incredibly mobile, and kept shifting, robbing Shohozan of each opportunity to rain blows down on the Yokozuna. As he moved, he kept striking Shohozan on the head, disorienting him. This worked, and he was able to slap down Shohozan for the win. Kachi-koshi for Big K, and he is the man to beat for the cup.

Haru Day 8 Preview

monoii

Please note – all articles written by Bruce H, IE Bruce Henderson formerly of San Diego, are in fact his opinion alone, and represent only his twisted outlook on the world of sumo. The very young, the very old and the easily outraged may find challenges ahead. [Occasionally there are comments from the proofreader, too. Those are objective fact. –PinkMawashi]

Day 7 was brutal for the chase group, with four contenders picking up losses and being demoted to the hunt group. While at the moment it looks like the zero loss crew can run away with it, keep in mind that the scheduling team is just starting to work their voodoo on the torikumi. The front-runners still face many challenges, and we may yet see both Kaisei and Kakuryu taste clay before we hit day 10.

As mentioned in the day 7 highlights, I am looking for Oitekaze-beya to get a strong showing in the post-basho power rankings. All of the Dai* crew are fighting well, and looking like they are moving towards a lift in basic rank, based on the steady improvements of their sumo. It will be interesting to watch them compete against the likes of Takakeisho and Onosho for lead tadpole.

I will say it again, I am damn impressed with Ikioi this basho. The last few tournaments, he seemed to be really struggling physically, but he put in his days on the dohyo with focus and workmanlike determination. This time (possibly due to his lower rank), he is finding ways to win. I am glad he is not yet ready for the downdraft into Juryo, but at his age his injuries may be slowly overtaking him.

Then there is the depressing case of Yoshikaze. Injuries are not widely publicized in sumo, even less so for rank and file rikishi, but there is no way that a warrior like Yoshikaze goes passive like this. The good news is that he can retire at any time, he has a kabu, he has a huge following, he has a passion for youth sumo, and as long as he has his health, he is going to be a big deal in the sumo world.

It would be remiss of me to go without stating that Kaisei also remains unbeaten at the start of the second week. He has done remarkably well, and I salute his effort and his skill. He has been hit or miss in the past, but this is great to see.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Daishomaru, Daiamami
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Shohozan, Chiyonokuni, Okinoumi, Ikioi, Aoiyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Ikioi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei comes up from Juryo for the day and draws the injured but fierce Ikioi. I predict an Ikioi win, and then he’s 2 away from his kachi-koshi, and likely kyujo.

Daiamami vs Nishikigi – Team Oitekaze starts early on day 8, and the rikishi who never gives up is going to take on a member of the chase group. I predict a Daiamami win, with some good form. This is in spite of the fact that he has never taken a match from Nishikigi (0-3).

Daishomaru vs Aoiyama – Back to back bouts for team Oitekaze, this time the fierce Daishomaru goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama has won both of their prior matches, and this may be a tall order for Daishomaru. But a win against the Bulgarian would likely result in a tough match further up the banzuke for Monday. [The Monday torikumi will be set before Aoiyama’s match, so if the torikumi committee decide to start giving him tougher opposition, they’ll have to wait until Tuesday. –PinkMawashi, with thanks to Sakura]

Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – The Freshmen are having a painful basho, and that’s part of them settling into Makuuchi. Asanoyama has a 4-3 winning record, and he has never lost a match to Sokokurai, so I am hoping his sunny outlook will carry the day on Sunday.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – An all Freshman battle, Yutakayama has won their only prior match, but I think there is a slight advantage to Kagayaki for today’s match. Kagayaki is slowly improving, and I think his sumo is stronger than Yutakayama’s right now.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – The highest ranked rikishi for Team Oitekaze takes on veteran Tochiozan. Tochiozan has been a half-step slow this basho, but his form is still very good. I think this comes down to Daieisho being about 2x as genki as Tochiozan, so advantage to Daieisho.

Abi vs Chiyonokuni – Massive ultra-mega oshi-battle here, and folks take note! Both of these young men could work a speed bag like a hungry man taking down the buffet at the Tropicana so this will be one for the slow-motion cameras. Abi will get too far forward, and Chiyonokuni’s tendency to go for haymakers will be the perils. I give an advantage to Chiyonokuni in this first-time match up.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – I don’t even want to know. I am tempted to get on a plane and just hand Yoshikaze a bottle of scotch as some shallow form of comfort.

Kaisei vs Okinoumi – Their history shows this to be an even match up, but I am going to guess Kaisei has the advantage going into this. The thing about Okinoumi is that he has the experience and skill to dismantle Kaisei, but will the Brazilian give him an opening?

Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Ryuden is getting his “welcome to mid-Maegashira” beating, while Hokutofuji is having a bad basho in a string of bad basho. The frustration for both men is palpable, and there may be some extreme effort as a result. This is their first meeting, but I am giving a slight edge to Hokutofuji because he looks a bit like Kaio.

Chiyomaru vs Takarafuji – The best 0-7 rikishi in the basho goes against the spherical man from Kokonoe. Given their upper bodies, there should be few if any neck attacks deployed today. Chiyomaru has yet to win one from Takarafuji, so maybe Takarafuji gets his first white star today. I promise to drink a generous shot of whisky if he does!

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I know Shodai is feeling genki now after his last two matches. But Tamawashi practices his sumo by driving nails into planks by hitting them with his thumb. The man has so much pectoral strength that he shoved Ichinojo around with ease. So I am guessing Shodai goes high at the tachiai, and Tamawashi helps to keep him moving up, up and away.

Ichinojo vs Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a win. Ichinojo needs to regroup. Someone get him some ice cream before its too late!

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis takes on the man in gold. Endo also needs to re-group, and this might be his time to get his sumo back together. One thing is clear now on day 8, Chiyotairyu’s might was all in his sideburns. He’s been soft and ineffective without them.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Highlight bout #1. Anyone who tells you how this is going to end is guessing. I predict it’s going to be fast and brutal. Both are 5-2, and both want to stay in contention with the leaders. Loser goes to the back of the bus.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – I know Takayasu triumphed in a protracted battle with Shohozan on day 7, but let’s be clear here. Pooh-bear tried three times to set the tempo of the match, and each time he had to follow Shohozan’s lead. His sumo was chaotic but powerful. Now he faces the man who I am pretty sure beat Kakuryu on day 7. This could be a great battle, as Takayasu is going to try to overpower Takakeisho, and Takakeisho’s proportions make him sumo’s greatest weeble. Dear Takayasu, make sure you have a really good plan B and don’t get too far forward or you are going down.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Long and storied history between these two. They have turned in some great matches in the past. It’s not a given that the Ozeki is going to win this one, as Kotoshogiku may find a way to wrap up Goeido and drive him out. Slight advantage to Goeido, as he seems to be fighting well this tournament, and he wants to stay in contention for the cup.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Just to be clear, even though Shohozan wants to stay in the hunt group, this match is a challenge for Kakuryu. Shohozan is big, fast and incredibly aggressive. Kakuryu tends to face these matches with a defensive strategy, buying time until his opponent makes a mistake, and then he attacks. But Shohozan is so amped up this basho, Kakuryu may need to be brutal, fast and direct to prevent Shohozan from setting the pace and tone of the match like he did to Takayasu.

Haru Day 7 Highlights

Kakuryu Day 7 Dohyo Iri

All hail the wisdom of the scheduling team – tasked to begin to separate the good from the great, their will was enacted with great effect during day 7. There is some fantastic sumo action to enjoy today, so it’s another day to find Kintamayama or Jason’s sumo channels and soak in the excellence on display during the Haru basho.

It should be noted, the Oitekaze Makuuchi guys [That’s Endo, Daiesho, Daishomaru, and Daiamami –PinkMawashi] are on fire right now. They have, during past basho, had nicely above average records, but they seem to be on the march this time. I am looking towards them for some future sumo leadership, and I am seeing reasons to hope.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Hidenoumi – I am a sucker for a strength and endurance match, and these two lower end Maegashira men provided a great example of the type. Really good form from both, and it was a pleasure to watch.

Ikioi defeats Aoiyama – Oh yes he did indeed! In spite of the pain and injuries, Ikioi explodes out of the tachiai, leaving Aoiyama on the defensive and moving backward. He tried to grab Ikioi’s head, while Ikioi dropped his hips, spread his feet and hugged the man-mountain. Aoiyama now realizes he’s in deep deep trouble, he’s high, and his heels are on the tawara. A strong and smooth shove by Ikioi and the Bulgarian is out. What a great win for a rikishi who is giving it everything in spite of his problems.

Daishomaru defeats Sokokurai – Daishomaru stays with the chasers in a really strong win over Sokokurai. Daishomaru may be one to watch, as he seems to be coming into his own, and showing some very strong sumo in the first half of Haru.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Try as he might, Tochiozan could not disrupt Asanoyama’s offense today. Asanoyama’s form was excellent today, hips low, feet wide and at 45° to the front, moving low and strongly. This is why I am sure that in a year or so, we are going to be looking at Asanoyama as a mainstay of mid to upper Makuuchi. Tochiozan fought well, but his injuries leave him at only 70% of full power.

Daiamami defeats Chiyonokuni – Both Oitekaze rikishi stay in the chase group, one off the leaders. Chiyonokuni gave Daiamami a rough ride, but Daiamami absorbed it all and worked to get into an attack position. After Chiyonokuni’s failed throw attempt, Daiamami rallied and took the Grumpy Badger to his chest. The closing uwatenage seemed to have an extra kick to it, as if Daiamami were disposing of an unpleasant burden. Excellent sumo.

Ryuden defeats Ishiura – For the second straight day, Ishiura tries doing some battle sumo. He’s not winning, but he looks to be doing better. Ryuden is getting dangerously close to the make-koshi line, and its increasing his drive to win.

Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – As anticipated, strength and experience overcame youthful vigor to carry the day. Okinoumi is at a welcome 5-2 record at the end of the first week of sumo.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Yet another Oitekaze win. Daieisho kept in motion, with Hokutofuji pursuing. This has been a key to defeating him, as he does not move with superior stability. The throw at the tawara is a great example of Daieisho’s ability to keep himself planted to the clay, even in awkward moves.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Kaisei stays in the leader group today. It was an easy bout, Kaisei moved forward, and Kagayaki stepped out and collapsed.

Chiyomaru defeats Abi – Chiyomaru’s mighty chin-bag kept Abi confused and off rhythm, never getting his thrusting attack started. As fans have noted, Abi tends to lean in quite a bit on offense, so Chiyomaru simply stepped aside and let Issac Newton do the rest.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Congrats to Shodai, but what on earth happened to Yoshikaze? This is killing me, folks.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Endo made the mistake of letting the Kyushu Bulldozer start the bump and grind. In his heyday, there were few who could withstand this attack, and Endo should have gone into the match with a means to prevent it. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest immediately, got his grip, and started his motor.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Big surprise for day 7. Ichinojo withered under Tamawashi’s powerful oshi-zumo. Ichinojo seems to have tried for a pull-down, but Tamawashi kept up the pressure and had the giant backward and out before he could mount a counterattack. Good work Tamawashi!

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is really in rough shape physically and provided no actual challenge to Tochinoshin. As soon as the Hatsu Yusho Winner landed his left hand, it was just a matter of when not if.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I do believe Mitakeumi smells the winds of change blowing, and he knows it may be “now or never” for him to elevate his sumo. Chiyotairyu opened strong, but Mitakeumi found an opening and counter-attacked. Due to poor camera work, it’s tough to tell how the match ended, but I think Chiyotairyu touched out first.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji can’t buy a win, and the much feared “Bouncy Castle Mode” did not activate today for Goeido. Takarafuji battled strongly, but each time it seemed he would put the Ozeki to the clay, Goeido rallied. If any man deserves recognition for fighting spirit this basho, it’s Takarafuji.

Takayasu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan was never going to go down easy, and he opened with a blistering oshi-attack. Takayasu realized he was getting moved, and went chest to chest. Pinning Shohozan’s left arm, the Ozeki worked to contain his opponent and wear him down. A failed attempt to throw Shohozan resulted in an escape and Shohozan delivering a brutal nodowa, moving Takayasu back. Back to tsuppari, then once again chest to chest. Shohozan was going to find a way to win, no matter what! Shohozan had a right-hand shallow grip, with Takayasu pinning his left arm high and straight. They broke their grips, and the oshi-battle resumed! Both were clearly tired, and the match ended with Shohozan losing his footing, and hitting the clay. Fantastic effort from both men.

Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – Kakuryu was in real danger two times, as Takakeisho was able to unleash his “Wave Action Tsuppari”, the force and aggression of which moved the Yokozuna back to the bales. He rallied, but Takakeisho once again attacked. The close was a chaotic tumble for Takakeisho from the west side of the dohyo. A monoii is called, as there is some question who stepped out first. Replays showed that as Takakeisho was airborne, Kakuryu’s big toe of his left foot touched the sand outside the ring. The shimpan upheld the gyoji’s decision, and even though I think it should have been a kinboshi, the result was a spotless record for the Yokozuna.

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.

Haru Day 5 Preview

Tochinoshin Flying Lesson

We come to the end of the first act, and it’s clear that there are a few “sleepers” in the ranks. Rikishi who have been ranked higher who have returned to their previous, genki ways. They are now ripping their opponents apart and having marvelous runs. The pace and rhythm of a basho takes this into account. The first act is all about seeing who is hot, and who is not. Starting on Friday, act two will take the hot, feed them into increasingly difficult bouts, seeking to winnow the great from the good. This should include Aoiyama, Kaisei, Shohozan and oddly enough, an injured Ikioi.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – The big Bulgarian will likely continue to act as a massive, flabby wrecking ball at the bottom end of the banzuke. Myogiryu has split their career record 9-9, but right now Aoiyama seems to be a man possessed, and he is giving everyone black stars as prizes.

Ikioi vs Daiamami – How long can Ikioi keep winning? He has only faced Daiamami once, and he won that match. So far the Osaka native has had a very good run, and he is halfway to a kachi-koshi. His key to winning has been moving fast and low out of the tachiai and for most of his opponents that has left them reacting, usually poorly, to his authoritative opening moves.

Nishikigi vs Asanoyama – Both men are fairly safe in Makuuchi if they can get at least 6 wins, but both are struggling to get past two. Asanoyama showed a lot of potential during his debut tournament, Aki 2017, but seems to have lost the throttle on his sumo. He faces off against Nishikigi who is working hard to keep himself at or above 50%.

Ishiura vs Chiyonokuni – In his 5 prior matches against Chiyonokuni, Ishiura has not found a way to beat the Grumpy Badger. Like many of the younger rikishi, they seem to have hit some kind of wall and are struggling to move to higher levels of performance. Ishiura at 2-2 could get his “go ahead” win on day 5 if he can stand up to Chiyonokuni’s typically frantic attacks.

Tochiozan vs Ryuden – The first match between the two, and Tochiozan is looking questionable already. I would give a definite advantage to Ryuden.

Daieisho vs Yoshikaze – Also a first-time match, we saw some small amount of fire from Yoshikaze on day 4, and fans can begin to hope that he will return to his high-energy sumo. But then again, he does turn 36 next week. Sumo life likely takes a heavy toll on his body.

Abi vs Kagayaki – Both are tall, Abi is lanky, Kagayaki is deliberate. Abi seems to jump about and attack with rapid blows, Kagayaki plans and moves with care and power. Could be a good match, or a complete snore fest.

Chiyomaru vs Kaisei – I love me some Chiyomaru, but I am not sure if anyone is going to slow down Kaisei during week one.

Arawashi vs Shohozan – Arawashi holds a 5-3 career advantage over Shohozan, but right now “Big Guns” is on a tear, and I don’t think the winless Arawashi will have any mojo to slow him down.

Ichinojo vs Endo – Oh you wonderful schedulers. It’s time to take a couple of hard-charging, genki guys from the joi, and face them off. I could say Ichinojo holds a slight 3-2 career advantage, but that’s not going to matter this time. The Boulder has outrageous mass, love of ice cream and no fear of wolves on his side. Endo has his enchanted golden mawashi, a legion of swooning little old ladies and some kind of bionic foot it seems. Who’s going to win? Maybe Endo shows up Thursday leading a horse to the dohyo. Ichinojo loses focus and it’s easy from there. I am hoping Endo is watching Mitakeumi’s day 4 bout.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Sumo Elvis against the Yusho Man. I am going with Tochinoshin, as I think day 4’s loss really motivated him.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – The thing to note, Mitakeumi leads their career series 9-2, so in this case, that’s a clear advantage. Tamawashi is looking “good enough” to handle Mitakeumi this time around. I would be interested to see if we get a Henka here, it is almost begging for Mitakeumi’s cannonball tachiai to meet thin air.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – Takakeisho steps onto the dohyo with a plan to dismantle nearly everyone he might face. You can see it in the way he conducts himself, and how he fights. Goeido, sadly, is riddled with doubts and worries. I think Takakeisho will psych out the Ozeki, and that we are going to see a fast match, one way or the other. Slight edge to Goeido here, as he is in his hometown, and he’s not happy about his loss to Endo.

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – the match of great sadness, We have an Ozeki who discarded his excellent sumo form to become a street fighter, facing off against a broken wreck of a former Ozeki who’s body can no longer support his favorite technique. Someone please just let them toss a coin and go drinking.

Kakuryu vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji has only won a single time in 13 matches against Kakuryu. So my hope is that their match does not result in further injury to the surviving Yokozuna relic.