Aki Day 1 Highlights

Welcome all to the start of the fall tournament. The first few days of any tournament will typically feature a few shaky starts by some rikishi, as they work to get into tournament form. Some sumo fans refer to this as “ring rust”, and it can take a few days before some rikishi can shake off its effects.

The Freshmen (Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Abi, Hokutofuji) really had an excellent day today, and I am happy with the future of sumo featuring them in years to come. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tadpoles, who struggled quite a bit today. But one should never count out the tadpoles…

Day 1 featured some solid sumo action, and those of you who were watching NHK World in the middle of the (USA) night time were treated to some solid matches. Let’s get started.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji comes out of the tachiai strong, but I was surprised that Chiyomaru did a much better job than normal keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and used that stability to overpower Takagenji’s vigorous attack. The result was a sort of half throw / half tsukiotoshi that was uncharacteristically agile for Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama continues to battle his way back from injury, and a trip to Juryo, with some solid sumo today. Yutakayama took an inside route at the tachiai, but nearly all of this match was the two of them fighting for grip, while pushing as hard to the front as they could manage. Tochiozan had better footwork, but Yutakayama had more strength. Welcome back Yutakayama, the future has been waiting.

Azumaryu defeats Ishiura – Azumaryu deftly deploys a uwatehineri while the two grappled for position at the center of the dohyo.

Tsurugisho defeats Toyonoshima – Tsurugisho’s early try for a pull down nearly cost him the match, but he was able to rally well as Toyonoshima tried the same thing and blew his early advantage.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Neither man gets a solid tachiai. But Kagayaki inexplicably focuses on some kind of face-hold, leaving Nishikigi a solid path to center-mass. Kagayaki realizes that he’s thrown away an opening, but he found Nishikigi effectively able to turn his hips and deflect Kagayaki’s forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Daishoho – Not the typical Shohozan mobility-based sumo, as Daishoho traps him in a double arm-bar. Shohozan gets stalemated for a while, but keeps raising Daishoho and backing him up until he can finish him with shitatenage (it was 2 for 1 shitatenage day).

Enho defeats Onosho – Big news for me, Onosho has the red mawashi back. Yes, he lost this one to Enho, who uncorked some really gob-smack amazing sumo today, but that red mawashi was (at least at one point) home to a potent kami that powered Onosho’s early rise. To my eye, Onosho had this one boxed up and ready to ship before Enho produced some hard to explain, Ura level space-time distortion and threw Onosho to the clay.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – With that injured right knee, Sadanoumi lacks a good amount of his expected maneuverability, and Meisei expertly stays in motion until he can get Sadanoumi off balance and rolls him to the clay with a katasukashi. Nice kimarite!

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to take a single match from Terutsuyoshi, and we get a showcase of how that works today. Terutsuyoshi used some really fantastic ring sense to continue to give ground, forcing Kotoyuki to stay in motion and keep turning. When you are about as wide as you are tall (as Kotoyuki is), it’s a short amount of time before you find yourself off balance and in the wrong end of town. Terutsuyoshi chose his moment, and made it work. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – As always, journeyman sumo from Takarafuji, who absorbs everything Kotoeko can dish out. Takarafuji as Maegashira 8? Middle of the pack? This is the right spot for Takarafuji, and I am hoping he has a good basho this September.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The fun thing about Kotoshogiku these days is that he is frequently on fire the first week, before the strain on his injuries slows him down. Hugely energetic, high attack value sumo from him today, including an excellent throw at the end. Except that he stepped out quite some time before it got to that point, and the most exciting part of the match (Okinoumi was fighting well, too) was all for naught.

Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – When you watch this one, pay close attention to Myogiryu’s foot placement and stance. This is some class-A attention to detail in the middle of a match trying to constrain and contain a raging youngster who had the edge in speed and agility. Shimanoumi gets the advantage twice, but that fantastic defensive setup that Myogiryu had today carried the match.

Ryuden defeats Chiyotairyu – If Ryuden is genki, Maegashira 5 might be a bit low on the banzuke for him. He gets a left hand on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi, which puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away Chiyotairyu’s primary offensive technique. I was surprised that Chiyotairyu let him grab him and did not stay mobile.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – Shodai looked a mess today, but if you want to see why Shodai can actually keep close to a winning record most basho, look at his multiple well-executed escapes from Tamawashi’s blistering attacks. If we could get that man a tachiai graft from ex-Kisenosato…

Tomokaze defeats Abi – Abi launches his traditional Abi-zumo opening, and Tomokaze is having none of it. Attempting a hatakikomi against Abi is a dangerous move, but Tomokaze makes it work. This guy needs to stay un-injured and fighting strong.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I am not quite sure how Takakeisho recovered from that near-face-plant, but he threw everything including the kitchen sink at Daieisho, who was likewise dialed up to 11. The wave-action system does not seem to be quite up to battle-spec just yet, and I am going to assume that our tadpole has a lot of ring rust to overcome. But he’s on his march to 10, and sumo fans around the world are going to be riveted to his journey this September.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – This whole match came down to Asanoyama getting a shallow left hand grip at the tachiai, and never letting go. Mitakeumi then chose to rotate left and attempt a hatakikomi, and in the move to pull down Asanoyama, he more or less conceded the match. Asanoyama was too latched on to Mitakeumi to go down.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – I had a tough time watching both the match and the replays. It’s 100% clear now, from direct observation, that it’s never a good idea to make your crippled strong-man fight a giant. Tochinoshin does not look well enough to compete, and that knee is more or less done for. Grim.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Whatever injuries Goeido is nursing right now, he has contained. His blistering tachiai and all out center-mass attack against Aoiyama left the man-mountain nowhere to go. I recall with hopeful anticipation that for some reason Aki is always the time when we see Goeido shine.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, what have you done? This match had all of Hokutofuji’s best elements stitched together in a lightning fast, seat of the pants battle. Hakuho loves to deliver a face slap at the tachiai, and many times it effectively disrupts an opponents attack. Today if left him wide open for Hokutofuji’s brutal handshake tachiai. Oh, how long have I been waiting to see someone make Hakuho pay for that move. Today was payday on that desire. With the nodowa in place, it forced Hakuho to waste precious time clearing it out before he could start an attack, and just like that Hokutofuji is calling the terms of the match. Hokutofuji lands a mawashi grip, and I think the speed and strength of that move surprised the Yokozuna. Hakuho gives ground and attempts to load a throw, but with absolute perfect timing, Hokutofuji catches the Yokozuna shifting his weight and lunges ahead. That’s all that it took, and The Boss gives up a well earned kinboshi. I am going to be looping through this match all day. Just fantastic. Hokutofuji doesn’t need to win another match this basho to be proud of his efforts.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo is a master technician, and I am sure he had a solid, well constructed attack plan against the Nagoya yusho winner. None of that mattered as Kakuryu did not give him a chance to unpack any of it. A little dodgy winning with a hatakikomi, but he needed to shut Endo down quickly before the man in gold could get started.

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights

Once again, purple rain fell in Nagoya. In the final match of the day, Kotoshogiku managed, against all expectations, to overpower Yokozuna Hakuho. I had to watch it a few times to absorb what happened, but it was in fact glorious. As a result, the yusho race has Yokozuna Kakuryu in front by 1 win, with Hakuho needing to beat him twice on senshuraku to take the cup.

I have been an admirer of the “Kyushu Bulldozer” for a good long time, and it’s true he is fading out due to accumulated injuries, and can no longer fight like he once could. He came into the match with a 6-56 career defect against The Boss, but in true sumo hero fashion, he did not let that worry him much if at all. The crowd lost their mind, and the zabuton took to the skies in celebration.

Body Headline

Toyonoshima defeats Nishikigi – Toyonoshima started the tournament 5-1, then recovered to 6-2, winning the last 3 in a row. Toyonoshima refuses to give up. What else could you expect for a man who go hurt, fell to mid-Makushita, and has battled his way back against all odds to return to the top division. A win on the final day seal his return with a kachi-koshi.

Kagayaki defeats Onosho – (Thanks to Herouth) Wakanohana: “Onosho aims to go forward, but his feet don’t go with him”. I could not have described it any better. Kagayaki still has a chance for his 8th win, while Onosho is make-koshi and need of work.

Enho defeats Myogiryu – After two matta, Enho gets the tachiai right, and immediately tries for a left hand mae-mitzu grip, which he can’t maintain. Now Myogiryu has him in a headlock and is pressing him toward the clay. Taking the bait, Enho now has Myogiryu right where he wants him. With Myogiryu clinging tenaciously to his head, Enho has clean access to Myogiryu’s mawashi. A quick hip pump and Myogiryu is high, with his feet poorly positioned to resist the charge. The crowd loses it, I lose it, it looks like sumo twitter goes bonkers and the guy everyone wanted to get his 8th affirms his position in the top division. I love sumo some days.

Tomokaze defeats Kotoeko – I can hear the grumpy sumo fans calling from September or November, when Tomokaze has a bad tournament and is looking poorly, “See, he’s just a flash in the pan”. Well, future sumo-grumps and negative types, the promising young ones gain consistency. I expect that this is going to be local high performance mark for Tomokaze, but over the next few years, he has the potential to be a big deal.

Kotoyuki defeats Meisei – What the hell happened to the real Kotoyuki? The bumbling fellow who was never too good, who liked to land in the crowd and roll around? That guy is not on the dohyo today, or really any day this basho. Instead we get some kind of hard, focused sumo machine. Nice work Kotoyuki.

Shimanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama tried too many pulling moves this bout, and gave up position too many times. Shimanoumi has his kachi-koshi, and continues to move up the banzuke.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Am I allowed to regain a touch of optimism about Endo? It’s been a fools game thus far, so perhaps not. With two brilliant sumo technicians on the dohyo, you knew it was going to be like a bad episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! with all kinds of of things happening that only the hard core fans would catch. I lost count of how many times the switched up grips, but Endo advances to 9 wins.

Asanoyama defeats Shodai – More sumo grumps were busting on Asanoyama for going make-koshi this tournament after taking the yusho last time. Folks got spoiled with Hakuho and Asashōryū dominating the daylights out of sumo for a long time. Consistency on these young guys is a work in progress, of course. The Asanoyama we enjoy today is a larval form of the Asanoyama we will see next year. He just needs to stay healthy. Oh and he handed Shodai his make-koshi. If you wanted an example of Shodai’s chaos sumo, this was a great match to review.

Abi defeats Ichinojo – Abi keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive by getting Ichinojo into his “give up” mode quickly and not letting the boulder do much except react. That brace on his right arm (his main weapon) is a bit of a worry.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Shin-Ikioi (Ryuden) has had a tough tournament. But Daieisho seems to not only made some solid improvements to his sumo, but his stamina is noteworthy. We are 2 weeks into a sumo tournament, and if anything the energy he is bringing to his matches has gone up. In defeating Ryuden, Daieisho is now kachi-koshi.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – If you can watch this frame by frame, you can see that Kakuryu is literally a half step faster at the tachiai. Mitakeumi goes for center mass to begin thrusting, Kakuryu keeps his hands low and works for a grip, while rotating his right shoulder to deflect Mitakeumi’s force away. Kakuryu’s gambit pays off, and after a single thrusting attack from Mitakeumi, he has a deep right hand grip, and control of the tadpole. Down go the Yokozuna’s hips, and forward for the win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hakuho – At the tachiai, Kotoshogiku bunches his shoulders, and gets his arms inside as Hakuho attacks at the arm-pits. The both land grips as Kotoshogiku turns the Yokozuna to Kotoshogiku’s right. This puts Hakuho slightly off balance, but Kotoshogiku’s hips are square, his feet are bracketing Hakuho’s, and the Kyushu Bulldozer is in business. Kotoshogiku engages the gaburi-yori and wins. Damn that was beautiful.

Nagoya Day 3 Preview

Bruce is working a tough programming gig, far away from home. So some of the reporting this week will be foreshortened, full of typos, and generally as genki as Yoshikaze’s sumo. You have been warned.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Terutsuyoshi vs Kaisei – Kaisei has suddenly been beset by a swarm of tiny, fast moving rikishi. After experiencing first hand Enho’s unique take on the “Death Spin”, he has to be wondering what manner of fresh hell Terutsuyoshi brings to day 3.

Kotoyuki vs Enho – I this “Penguin meets Fire Pixie” story, we will see how far Kotoyuki makes it into the crowd today, after he only made it to the area just beside the dohyo on day 2. Enho is fighting hurt, but he is fighting well. They met twice in Juryo, splitting the pair.

Toyonoshsima vs Yago – Both are solid rikishi who have started 0-2, and now one of them will have started 0-3. Talk about pulling an Ikioi…

Chiyomaru vs Kagayaki – The key to defeating Chiyomaru is lateral motion. Kagayaki likes to move forward at almost all times, so it’s straight into the fire for Mr Fundamentals.

Tochiozan vs Sadanoumi – Two technical rikishi, with 1-1 records, coming in with a 5-5 career record. Could we be any more symmetrical?

Kotoeko vs Takagenji – This is probably the highlight match of the first half, Takagenji has opened strong, and Kotoeko has shown excellent mobility and stability in his first 2 matches. I expect Takagenji to open strong, and Kotoeko to react today.

Nishikigi vs Daishoho – Nishikigi appears as lethargic and uncertain as his bad days of yore, clinging tenaciously to the bottom scrap of the banzuke. This guy kachi-koshied in upper Maegashira. Please the genki version of Nishikigi back!

Onosho vs Okinoumi – I am going to dare to say that maybe Onosho is getting some of his sumo back. We will know more following day 3 when he faces Okinoumi, who has yet to score his first white star.

Shohozan vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze has actually won both of their prior matches, and I have to wonder just how well Oguruma’s new top rikishi is going to do in July. Shohozan should be almost done removing his ring rust.

Chiyotairyu vs Shimanoumi – I don’t know what Shimanoumi is going to do about the cannon ball charge. Shimanoumi is not large, though he is fairly stable. If ever there was a time for a Henka or near-Henka, this might be it.

Myogiryu vs Takarafuji – Both of these guys are in the middle of the banzuke, and need to really crank it up. Both are capable of great sumo, but seem to have fallen into a middling rut.

Meisei vs Ichinojo – Fans are still wondering which version of Ichinojo is active right now. We want the powerful giant who tosses 150kg people around like straw. This is the first time Meisei has faced, “The Boulder”.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – I expect that Kotoshogiku’s stamina is going to give out some time in week 2, but until then I am enjoying the genki, bouncing, throwing version of the Kyusho Bulldozer.

Abi vs Shodai – Someone probably said, “Let’s give Abi a bit of a break. I know… Shodai!”. But as we all know, once Shodai gets besieged by an oshi practitioner, random things tend to happen, and usually to Shodai’s advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Maybe a bit early for the traditional Sekiwake brawl, but we will take it. This should be a big running battle if Tamawashi does not blow Mitakeumi up at the tachiai.

Endo vs Takayasu – Takayasu dropped a match in week 1, and everyone who hopes he will one day actually win a yusho has to just shake their head and hope for “next time”. As a life long Cubs / Bears fan, I know how this works. Now he has Endo, and Endo is full on heck’n an bam-boozl’n these days.

Goeido vs Aoiyama – When I see the 21-3 career advantage Goeido has over the Man-Mountain, I have hope that we will see some real sumo from the Ozeki today. I know Aoiyama would love to start Nagoya 3-0, but he will have to survive Goeido’s all out offensive.

Ryuden vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is doing so poorly right now, that I am sort of worried to even watch this match. Ryuden already has one Ozeki scalp, and if he can shut down Tochinoshin’s battle for that left hand outside grip, he may get another.

Hokutofuji vs Hakuho – We know what is going to happen here. We love you Hokutofuji, please don’t get discouraged.

Kakuryu vs Asanoyama – Last chance for an Asanoyama kinboshi, so lets see what Kakuryu will do against the Natsu yusho winner. This is their first ever match.

Natsu Day 9 Highlights

Go Ahead Myogiryu, Pull My Finger…

Shin-Ozeki Takakeisho did in fact decide to return to kyujo status on Monday morning, Tokyo time. He continues to struggle with his right knee. While the Tachiai circle of friends seem to agree it’s for the best, there are a few critics in the Japanese press. This little glimpse into that thanks to Herouth

Word is that Takakeisho (or at least Chiganoura oyakata) are taking this seriously, and Takakeisho went to the hospital Monday morning for further diagnostic work to pin down the nature and severity of the injury. Having once been young myself – and living in a cloistered all male combat oriented society (Marines), I can attest to the fact that moderate injuries are brushed aside as “nothing” by your brain. Even though you are more or less among friends, something deep in your primitive brain urges you to show no weakness.

But Takakeisho is a young, dynamic new Ozeki. He’s the kind of figure that will help continue the popularity of the sport for years to come. After the collapse of the Kisenosato franchise, it’s good to see that they are going to try to at least keep Takakeisho going strong.

Highlight Matches

Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Chances are good that Toyonoshima will be back in the top division for July, but he got shown the door today against power-pixie Enho. Toyonoshima had the initiative following a strong tachiai, but Enho used his lighter body and superior maneuverability to get out of Toyonoshima’s way as he was charging forward towards the tawara. Later big stuff, see you in Nagoya.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – It seems to me that about day 5, Sadanoumi decided he was exiting Natsu with a winning record, no matter what. Since then the intensity of his sumo is up nicely. He gave Chiyoshoma zero chance to do much more than hold on and enjoy the ride today.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyomaru – To his credit, Chiyomaru gets some of his thrusting attack in, but Terutsuyoshi resets his game and dives for the mawashi, finding his mark and relegating Chiyomaru to reacting. When your opponent can disappear from view, obscured by that big belly, it’s tough to counter the fact that this little guy is grabbing your crotch and hoisting you, literally, with your own petard.

Ishiura defeats Yago – Team Pixie is on fire right now, and everyone is loving it. Even Ishiura has decided it’s time to execute some aggressive, combat sumo. Yago gets the better of the tachiai, and Ishiura can’t get inside, and goes defensive. But rather than just giving up, he defects and circles multiple times. The 3rd time, Yago leaves his chest open, and in goes Ishiura. Yago tries to load a throw, but Ishiura owns the pivot point and gives Yago a face full of Tokyo clay.

Daishoho defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi owns the early part of this match, until Daishoho attempt a throw (which fails), but leaves Shimanoumi off balance and vulnerable. Daishoho attacks and takes the match. Good recovery by Daishoho.

Kotoeko defeats Tochiozan – As we had guessed, Kotoeko’s superior intensity carried the match over Tochiozan’s superior guile and cunning. Tochiozan twice went to start a pull / slap down, and each time he gave up ground to Kotoeko, who had superior foot placement, possibly in anticipation of Tochiozan’s desire to pull.

Shohozan defeats Tokushoryu – Kind of a simple match, Shohozan stands Tokushoryu at the tachiai, and plants his feet. In response, Tokushoryu dials up the forward pressure. Given Tokushoryu’s “cab-forward” design, it’s hard for him to slow down once he starts forward. Shohozan releases the breaks, and Tokushoryu does the rest.

Meisei defeats Tomokaze – Very balanced start to this match, but Tomokaze got off balance and Meisei exploded his opponent’s awkward body position for the win.

Shodai defeats Kagayaki – If readers why I sometimes call Shodai’s matches “cartoon sumo”, today is a great example. If anyone is going to benefit from their opponent losing traction, it’s probably going to be Shodai. It’s as if some off screen animator pauses things and draws an anvil teetering on the edge of the tsuriyane, that falls at just the right moment and takes out whomever Shodai is fighting. Today Kagayaki is still trying to work out what to do when the demon “slippiotoshi” grabs a hold of him and pulls him to the clay. Don’t get me wrong, Shodai does all the right things to make this kind of win possible, but its fun to see how many times his opponents just defeat themselves.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – After a couple of Onosho matta, Yoshikaze is getting a bit irate, and brings a fraction of his former fire into the match, but he slips more or less in the same spot that Kagayaki did, and ends up with a knee on the clay.

Takarafuji defeats Nishikigi – Takarafuji gets his right hand outside grip and Nishikigi can’t counter his opponents strength. We love Nishikigi, but he needs to regroup.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama takes one from Ryuden for the first time in the last 6 attempt. Ryuden is actually fighting well this basho, and this may be a further indication that Asanoyama is working at a higher level of sumo now. We can hope, right? Asanoyama gets his kachi-koshi, and remains in the yusho leader group.

Tamawashi defeats Daieisho – Wham-bam! Back him up and send him home! Send a tsukibeto around later with some cookies to make sure he’s ok. This seems to be the tried and true Tamawashi formula, and I think we may see a Tamawashi and Mitakeumi Sekiwake posting for July. It will be like a comfortable old shirt that you are happy to see after losing some time around last year.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – No hope for Endo today as he eats the full power of the Chiyotairyu canon-ball tachiai.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s nodowa produces nothing, and he quickly tries to slap / pull Mitakeumi down. Of course everyone and their uncle expect this noise, and Mitakeumi reads the shift in Hokutofuji’s balance with expert timing and surges forward. Hokutofuji can’t recover the initiative and takes a trip to the east side zabuton.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – I had been hoping to see a Kotoshogiku return to san’yaku, but the poor old guy seems to be fading into week 2. Ah well, I am admittedly sentimental. Aoiyama focused center-mass and just pushed with those giant beef towers he calls arms.

Goeido defeats Abi – I exploded in laughter at this match, and had to re-wind about 4 times to watch it over and over. As expected, we saw an Abi matta in an attempt to throw off Goeido’s timing. This is not a bad idea, but the Ozeki was looking for it, and it only seems to motivate him. Tachiai – stand Abi up, wait for forward pressure, and let him fall. Flawless counter-Abi strategy here.

Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – I though that everyone in sumo knew to never ever challenge Takayasu to an endurance battle. I swear the guy takes naps holding up 150 kg weights, and wakes up completely rested. So points to Myogiryu for putting the Ozeki in some odd postures and body contortions, but that was the extent of it. Myogiryu expertly kept Takayasu from getting his right hand into any kind of grip, but then Takayasu just waited him out. Myogiryu, of course, tires and Takayasu shows him the exit.

Kakuryu defeats Okinoumi – No reactive sumo today, it was a power tachiai from the Yokozuna, and no hope for the man from the island domain of Shimane-ken. Kakuryu remains with the yusho leaders.