The basho turned ugly today. And with the empty hall echoing the pained crys of a former champion, the brutal nature of sumo was on full display – video and audio. If you are a highly empathetic person, you may want to be careful watching today’s video on YouTube. I have no idea if NHK World will edit that down, or not. I am forced to remind myself that sumo is a Japanese sport made by Japanese people for Japanese people living in Japan. So my western perspective is not the mainstream. But I have to wonder if this kind of spectacle is ok in Japanese culture. I am aware from the time I lived in Japan that what constitutes cruel or gratuitous is profoundly different between Japan and the Anglosphere. But I have a hunch that today’s final match may have crossed a line.
Azumaryu defeats Meisei – Meisei had the better position at the tachiai, but looks to have rushed ahead at Azumaryu after the two broke contact. This set him up for an easy hatakikomi, and an Azumaryu win. Meisei really struggling now at 1-3 to start Haru.
Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – Nice versatility from Kotonowaka today, but we should keep in mind that Tsurugisho’s left side is mostly held together with tape and courage. After a good tachiai, Tsurugisho let Kotonowaka change his grip, and really take over the match.
Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru was totally dedicated to pulling Shimanoumi down, to the point of throwing this match out the window. Shimanoumi’s no slouch, and this kind of sumo, coming from Chiyomaru, is easy to predict. Chiyomaru picks up his first loss.
Kaisei defeats Daiamami – Kaisei picks up his first win, and breaks out of the quarantine club. Most times in sumo, being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy. But Kaisei makes amble use of his enormity today to leave Daiamami no option beside a hasty retreat.
Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Not sure what happened to Aoiyama, but he will get a couple of basho per year where he looks like an unstoppable sumo machine. He completely dominated Nishikigi today, and my sole worry was that both of them had set up arm-breaker holds on the other. Nishikigi remains winless as Aoiyama has yet to lose a match.
Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – I have to say, there are days (like today) where Ishiura’s slightly bulkier frame and higher strength allows him to do small man sumo better than Enho. We are only 4 days into this basho, but I am really impressed with Ishiura’s sumo right now. He threw blisteringly fast combo attacks at Chiyotairyu, who had no chance to even respond. Sadly it looks like Chiyotairyu may have been injured in the match. The giant wheelchair makes its first appearance.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ah, poor Kotoshogiku cannot generate much forward pressure at all any more against those knees. Terutsuyoshi kept Kotoshogiku from really pushing forward in any meaningful way, although Kotoshogiku’s defensive foot placement was excellent. Terutsuyoshi’s make-kai was the key to this win, and it left the former Ozeki struggling to respond.
Ikioi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan remains in the winless self-isolation group, and I can only assume that some injury has completely robbed him of his sumo. Today’s effort was an attempt to pull Ikioi, who was quite prepare for it. Ikioi starts March with a solid 3-1 score.
Takanosho defeats Tochinoshin – Also solidly in the “injured veteran” cohort is dear former Ozeki Tochinoshin, who is visibly struggling with that right knee. Takanosho improves to 4-0 with solid, straight ahead sumo.
Kiribayama defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi had the early advantage, but Kiribayama hit a very well timed shitatenage at the bales to rescue the win. Sadly, Sadanoumi, who is fighting well, drops to 1-3 now, and really needs to peel off a few more wins in the first week.
Takarafuji defeats Tamawashi – Once again Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo pays off. Tamawashi had a solid armpit attack running, but rather than try to fight to break Tamawashi’s grip, Takarafuji decided to work with it, and put all of his focus on keeping Tamawashi turning to his right, and moving forward in reaction to Takarafuji’s retreat. It was a struggle, but Takarafuji got his opening when Tamawashi missed a step, and down to the clay he went. This match is a great example of the form, worth study.
Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Shohozan went for a deep right hand mawashi grip at the tachiai, but missed. He was able to convert it to an inside position, and began to put the pressure on Kagayaki. But look at Kagayaki’s foot placement. His feet are wide and at a 45° angle, his hips are low and he’s ready to repulse the attack. Kagayaki engages forward engines and just pushes ahead for a win. Mr Fundamentals strikes again.
Onosho defeats Ryuden – I know Ryuden was working to stay mobile, and to encourage Onosho to over-extend, and fall on his face. But Ryuden let himself get bracketed by Onosho’s oshi attack, and provided an effective balance point / counter weight for Onosho’s forward rush. Onosho improves to 3-1.
Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu just cant seem to make it out of the quarantine group, as he succumbs to an enormous load of Abi-zumo applied to his face. Remember to wash your hands, gents, at least 20 seconds, after any match with Abi.
Mitakeumi defeats Yutakayama – This match just showcased how well Mitakeumi is fighting week 1 this March. I point out week 1 because sometimes the “Original Tadpole” fades into week 2, so lets savor his excellent, heavy sumo while it lasts. Freeze frame on that tachiai if you can. Both rikishi are in excellent form. But Mitakeumi was just a half step ahead, and Yutatakayma ended up with poor foot placement. Unable to generate enough forward pressure against Mitakeumi, he was forced out.
Endo defeats Tokushoryu – We still love Tokushoryu, but he is completely outclassed at this rank. We did see another of his rescue moves at the tawara, but like the prior 3 days, it was fruitless.
Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – As much as I like Asanoyama, he operates in a fairly narrow range of sumo outcomes. The reason why we are talking about his as an ozeki is he is very good at that narrow range, and he is an expert at guiding a match into that narrow range where he excels. Today’s match against Hokutofuji is a first class example. Hokutofuji will look to pin his opponent with a nodowa and call the cadence for the match. His right hand failed to find its mark, and suddenly its in Asanoyama’s power range. To his credit Hokutofuji realizes this within the first 3 seconds, but his go-to move, a pull on the back of the neck, only gives further advantage to Asanoyama. Now off balance and far too high, Hokutofuji is an easy mark for Asanoyama’s sukuinage.
Shodai defeats Enho – Shodai has an excellent recipe for shutting down Enho’s sumo, and turning him into a light weight practice target. That slow, high tachiai that Shodai seems to execute instinctively is actually an excellent first line of defense against Enho, as it leaves Shodai with an easy reach to grab a deep grip on Enho’s mawashi. From there its Shodai who drops his hips, widens his stance and shuts down any chance Enho might have had to convert to a throw.
Daieisho defeats Takakeisho – Daieisho escapes the quarantine group by capitalizing on Takakeisho’s blunder of trying to pull Daieisho down moments into the fight. This move by Takakeisho was so monumentally bad, that its worth watching in slow motion on replay. With any luck we won’t see that one again this basho.
Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi is a high-skill yotsu-zumo practicioner. Hakuho took his time and worked his way to get that left hand outside grip. Once he had a handful of black silk, it was a fast route to a win. The Boss remains at 4-0, and looked more solid today than the prior two.
Kakuryu defeats Takayasu – It was clear that Takayasu was in trouble early in this match. He put himself in a bad position with Kakuryu controlling Takayasu’s body quite effectively. But the former Ozeki’s mass and strength left the match stalemated for a time. As sometimes happen when two high-strength rikishi grapple, they loaded simultaneous throws. When this happens, it is a battle over power and body control to see who throws whom. Today, sadly, it was resolved not when Takayasu’s mighty strength overwhelmed the Yokozuna, or when Kakuryu’s superior body mechanics overcame Takayasu’s power, but when Takayasu’s knee bent outward, and the 175kg Tagonoura lead rikishi hit the clay, moaning in pain.