Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore


Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

So… let’s start with a couple of Juryo bouts. First, if there are any Ishiura fans out there, take a look:

Finally, Ishiura gets a win, against the hapless Homarefuji. He plants his head and keeps his feet in order, and manages to take the Isegahama man out. Of course, this black star is probably the last worry on Isegahama Oyakata’s mind this day. But they keep piling on.

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

A couple of days ago I said that there’s a level of difference between Yutakayama and Asanoyama. But as it turns out, the larger man is already in possession of three wins, while Asanoyama is not doing as well.

Up into Makuuchi we go, and Daiamami gets his first win today! Admittedly, Kyokushuho is just a Juryo rival, but any white star is a gold star at this point for the newcomer. It starts with a matta, but in the second round, Daiamami just cannons into Kyokushuho and gaburi’s him out. The fans enjoy his interview face:

Kotoyuki also grabbed his first win today, in a bit of a confused battle. Myogiryu throws Kotoyuki down, but falls a split second before the huge meatball. Air resistance?

Up we go to take a look at everybody’s favorite uncle. Whatever is happening around him in his heya, and the fact that he is going to do his dohyo-iri in his own kesho-mawashi from now on, do not seem to affect him. Nishikigi tried to do the smart thing – to press the kneeless man against the tawara. But Aminishiki just tiptoed aside like a ballerina, and handed Nishikigi the first Katasukashi of the day.

Aminishiki’s comment on the Isegahama website: “The heya has met with a serious situation, but the remaining rikishi must do their best. As the eldest I will strive to lead everybody forward”.

Takekaze seems to be headed to Juryo (if he doesn’t decide to retire). Okinoumi exchanges some thrusts with him until he gets a nice hold of his neck and ends it with a hatakikomi (if anybody can explain to me why this is not a tokkurinage… sigh).

The Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki bout was different than I expected. I’m used to seeing Kagayaki flailing wildly with his arms and his… additional appendages… This time he basically got his hands on Asanoyama’s body and managed to beat the Yotsu man at his own game.

Daiesho gets a first win today as well, when, after some attempts to slap and defend on Ikioi‘s side, he finally sidesteps and lets the big man hit the clay.

Endo decides to use thrusts vs. Shodai, and doesn’t make any use of his tachiai advantage. Shodai withstands the tsuppari attack, and manages to get a grip on Endo’s upper body. That’s the end for the recovering man in the golden mawashi, as Shodai has more than enough power to get him out even without a mawashi grip.

Not much can be said about the battle of the Marus. Again, Chiyomaru seems to have come to the dohyo without his usual genki. Daishomaru easily pushes him out.

Arawashi takes Tochinoshin to the bales and executes a beautiful sukui-nage. As Tochinoshin tries to resist the fall, Arawashi uses his right leg against Tochinoshin’s left and “helps” him complete the roll. Very nice!

Takarafuji earns his first win today vs. Chiyoshoma. It was Chiyoshoma’s initial initiative, but Takarafuji rallied, didn’t let Chiyoshoma get any grip on him for a throw (come on, Chiyoshoma, don’t try neck grips with Takarafuji, those are futile!) – and then throws the thrower in a nice uwatenage.

The second Katasukashi of the day came from Ichinojo. But this one was rather weird. Hokutofuji came at him low at the tachiai, and Ichinojo grabbed him under his arms, and then just let him drop. Not sure if slippiotoshi or sloppy tachiai on Hokutofuji’s part.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Shohozan was less of a slapfest than I thought it would be, and ended pretty quickly with the Kokonoe man slapping his opponent down. All-important first win for Chiyonokuni.

Kotoshogiku nearly succeeds in his game plan today, and starts pumping his hips. However, Mitakeumi makes sure to be loose on one side, and concentrates his power on his grip on the pump-man’s arm for a well-executed sukuinage. Still bothered by his toe, but as long as he can execute throws like that, I’m sure the sekiwake is happy. Kotoshogiku is not getting the comeback he was hoping for, now 0-3.

Terunofuji‘s ghost continues to float over the dohyo without ever being able to latch its feet to it. Yet another loss for the former kaiju, this time against Yoshikaze who picks up his first win.

I wonder when Onosho is going to switch back to his fiery red mawashi. Rikishi are usually quick to blame their mawashi for their troubles, and the tadpole clearly suffers some bad lack, with his second slippiotoshi in a row against Takayasu. Unlike yesterday, when the Yokozuna really could take no credit for anything in the bout, Takayasu can be commended for managing to keep his footing first against a sidestep and then when pushed to the tawara. Excellent footwork from someone who tore a major leg muscle less than two months ago.

Goeido diversifies. In the two previous matches he hugged his opponent and swept him all the way to the other edge. Today he heard it was Katasukashi day, so he showed Tochiozan that he has waza as well as brute force.

If anybody hoped for another pedagogic bout between Hakuho and Takakeisho, this was not to be. Takakeisho exhibited welcome fearlessness in this bout, and even attempted to throw the dai-yokozuna. And if he had managed to do that I would really be worried that we’re seeing the decline of the One True King. But of course, Hakuho maintained his footing, got his other arm on Takakeisho and quickly swept him off the dohyo.

Finally, in the musubi of the day, Kisenosato manages to overwhelm Chiyotairyu in a way that he can feel happier about than yesterday’s silly bout vs. Onosho. He almost dances back to his position on the east to take his prize money.


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

 

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who Is The Genkiest Of Them All?


I had a feeling of déjà vu as I watched the opening day today. It looked like the Nagoya basho all over again. Yokozuna falling left and right, Terunofuji looking like a ghost. And one Lord of the Ring.

hakuho-2017-11-day-01
The boss, under pressure

But do I detect a worried look on the face of the King of Kings?

Hakuho was very careful and kept his pelvis about a meter away from Kotoshogiku’s. The man in the blue mawashi did try one gaburi before he realized that he had nothing but Hakuho’s classical Mongolian wrestling grip – all upper body – and from there it was only a matter of hakuho getting his hands sorted for a throw.

What pain in his body has given him that worried look, we’ll never know.

Moving to the less pleasant yokozuna stories. It was every bit as painful to see Harumafuji as I thought it would be. His shikiri/salt throwing routine was slow, heavy and stiff. His tachiai was slow, heavy and stiff. If it was just his elbow that didn’t work, well, an injury is an injury. But my favorite Yokozuna’s whole body is screaming for retirement. Onosho, of course, is not taking any prisoners. The only positive thing that can be said about this bout from the Yokozuna’s perspective is that it was short.

Kisenosato’s bout, with all its mattas, was pretty strange. I would have thought that the big, experienced man would have at least the same composure as Takayasu has shown, but his nerves were all over the dohyo.

At some point in the bout Kisenosato pushed Tamawashi away, and then seemed to be surprised that Tamawashi came back as strong as he did. In fact, as soon as they re-engaged Kisenosato didn’t stand a chance. What the injured Yokozuna has going for him at the moment is a great angle on the Tachiai (which was somewhat neutralized by all the mattas and nerves), and excellent balance. But at the point they re-engaged, it was in a standing position with no angle of attack advantage, and Tamawashi wasn’t going for anything that would require unbalancing the Yokozuna. Just applying power where the Yokozuna couldn’t answer.

Bruce has already said all that there was to say about the Goeido bout. I still maintain that in their Aki bout, Goeido lost by slippiotoshi and bad state of mind. Takakeisho is not a quick thinker or a sly planner. Goeido simply used him as a slider today.

Takayasu is one guy who doesn’t just say that he’s cool. When he says it, he means it. He simply doesn’t stress too much about his kadoban. He opened with his signature shoulder blast, and once he got that out of the way he didn’t shy away from a sidestep and an easy win.

On to Terunofuji. Well no, on second thought, let’s pretend that Terunofuji is not in this basho. How did that man succeed in damaging his knees that thoroughly in less than a month? When he joined the jungyo he looked sharp and strong. That Utchari! And then he managed to overdo it so badly that he is hardly able to move, much less threaten his opponents.

It really was a bad day for Isegahama. With the exception of Uncle “Who Needs Ligaments Or Tendons” Aminishiki, not a single sekitori from that heya won. At least most of their lower-level rikishi won, including our favorite Shunba:

shunba
Obamaumi rising after Shunba’s Tsukiotoshi

The situation is very similar for Kokonoe. With the exception of Chiyoshoma’s excellent katasukashi, all their sekitori lost their bouts. It was Chiyoshoma’s 8th katasukashi, by the way. The thin thewy thug thrives on thrilling throws.

Poor Chiyonokuni was just unlucky to face Ichinojo on one of the rare occasions he comes out of hibernation. But what happened to Chiyomaru? The fire in his eyes seems to have gone out. Yes, it’s lovely that Endo is back, but at least give the man a fight!

Now, what about the Yokozuna’s favorite toy, Asanoyama? One thing that I noticed about his rather quick bout today was that he used hidari-yotsu. That’s not his favorite grip. But he did get to practice it a lot in his bouts with Kisenosato during the Jungyo. The fruits of Yokozuna love?

I liked Nishikigi’s bout with Daiamami. It’s not often that you get to see a good mawashi fight that low down the banzuke.

Here are a couple of Makuuchi dropouts. I mean, potential come-back men. Start with Ishiura. Um, forget about the comeback. But at least he didn’t try a henka.

And here’s Yutakayama. He is said to be Asanoyama’s rival, but despite the win, what a difference of level:

Now, who will get an oicho-mage first? Asanoyama or Yutakayama? That’s a point on which Yutakayama may actually stand a chance…


In news unrelated to the basho: Ura’s “people in charge” officially made it known that he’ll have his operation and rehabilitation.

Ura Gets The Chair
No more of this, please.

As it turned out, during the pre-basho practice, he tried to practice with a brace etc., and caused himself serious damage including an internal hemorrhage, and couldn’t even walk. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way, I guess. They are optimistic about his recovery chances after that operation. Go Ura! Listen to the doctors!

Makushita Rikishi Updates (Shunba, Yago, Mitoryu)


This past week, Terunofuji tweeted a picture of Shunba from this past basho.

Along with this article on the Tsukebito system that featured Shunba’s mentoring of Terunofuji, I had also written about the debut of two college champions in Makuushita. However, I neglected to provide updates during the tournament on their performance. It’s difficult to follow these guys because rarely are videos taken or shared of their bouts.

These are links to YouTube videos of Shunba’s bouts. Click this image to see his post.

Fortunately for us, Shunba has his own social media presence, on Twitter as @shunba_sekito, and here’s his blog. His blog is great. It’s often hard to find video of lower-ranked rikishi but in his latest post he provides links to Youtube videos of his bouts from the last tournament. Please visit his site and click on the links over there. Unfortunately, he finished 1-6 after his fantastic 6-1 Makushita debut. So he will slide back down the banzuke, likely around Makushita 45 or so.

Mitoryu’s (Torbold Baasansuren) first bout was available on SumoDB but they didn’t have videos of Yago’s bouts. Mitoryu finished makekoshi, 3-4, but Yago did well at 5-2 and will rise toward the top of makushita. We may see him in Juryo in September or November if he continues to do well. I will try to do a better job of keeping up with makushita.

As for a cryptic test tweet last week and a follow up tweet about Chanko that many seemed to enjoy, I’m working on a secret project (I’ve dubbed it Project X). I’m very excited about it and hope to provide details on it by the end of June.

Great Insight Into Tsukebito (assistant) System


One of the huge storylines coming out of Haru basho was that Terunofuji is back. We get a bit more of the back story from an article, written by Muto Hisashi and published in Mainichi a couple of days ago. It’s a much longer article than the usual one or two paragraphs, and it’s fascinating. The topic is the “tsukebito” system. Makushita and lower rikishi serve as assistants to those in Juryo and above (sekitori). You often see them carrying the cushions and accompanying top ranked wrestlers as their entourage.

相乗効果もたらす「付け人」=武藤久

This headline is a quick one: Gaining synergies, “Tsukebito” by Muto Hisashi. The important term here is (付け人). I’ve never had to use the word “synergy” in English but this is what it is in Japanese: (相乗効果).

In the business world, particularly the entertainment industry, the core talents have personal assistants. They’re called “tsukibito.” For some reason, the sumo world has adopted a more positive turn on it and they refer to it as “tsukebito.” They say that there are synergies gained as younger, lower ranked wrestlers gain experience by training with the higher ranked wrestlers.

In the article, Muto highlights the relationship between Terunofuji and one of his tsukebito, Shunba. Usually these assistants are indesputably junior to the sekitori. However, occasionally some wrestlers are so good and progress so swiftly through the ranks that they seek out veteran tsukebito who act more as advisors than as assistants. Shunba fills this role for Terunofuji.

In the interview, Shunba reveals that there were deeper matters troubling Terunofuji. The injuries were serious but he had much more on his mind…the specifics of which he would not reveal. Muto interviewed Shunba in the weeks after Terunofuji’s dismal 4-win Hatsubasho where he went kadoban again. Despite the poor performance, Shunba was very confident that Terunofuji would do well. Apparently, Terunofuji had been keeping things bottled up and he had deep conversations with his tsukebito that seemed to bring about a lot of relief.

So while still hampered a bit by injuries, notably after the Endo bout, he was dominant. Not only did Terunofuji almost win his second yusho…in an awesome, fearsome manner enjoyed by us and many of our readers…Shunba went 6-1 in makuushita, at his highest rank ever. I’m eager to see him climb up the banzuke. I will be following both wrestlers and hope to do a deeper profile of Shunba and these assistant wrestlers in the future.