Aki Day 7 Highlights

The Landscape

In this odd tournament with few fans and no yokozuna, there have been few rikishi stepping up to take the mantle. As we head into the middle weekend, everyone has found the dirt at least once. There’s no obvious front-runner. All of those prospective Ozeki runs rest on a razor’s edge while several rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke find themselves at the top of the table.

Today offers us fans a study in pulling techniques: when to try, and when not to. For those who are beyond such a base strategy, though, today’s action did provide a few choice moments of great sumo and a bit of drama. Read to the end. It’s worth it.

Highlights

Kotoyuki defeated Shohozan (0-7): You know things are going poorly for Shohozan when he henkas Juryo visitor, Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki was unfazed and bludgeoned Shohozan repeatedly in outrage, driving Shohozan back to the edge, where Shohozan fell forward. Hikiotoshi.

Meisei (4-3) defeated Ichinojo (4-3): Ichinojo never got his feet planted as Meisei drove forward with a strong tachiai, driving Ichinojo back and out. Ichinojo was way too high at the initial charge and tried to envelope Meisei’s arms for a kimedashi but that just handed Meisei a strong morozashi, with momentum and superior position. Yorikiri.

Shimanoumi (4-3) defeated Kaisei (2-5): Shimanoumi patiently waited out Kaisei’s fumbling. After a nice initial charge, Kaisei fumbled with his right hand for a belt grip. Shimanoumi shoved Kaisei off but Kaisei moved in again for a belt grip. Shimanoumi pushed Kaisei’s hand away and drove forward, putting Kaisei in retreat and gaining some separation. As Kaisei reached the edge, Shimanoumi pivoted and Kaisei stumbled forward. Shimanoumi re-engaged from below and with Kaisei standing upright at the tawara, it was all over. Oshidashi.

Kotoshoho (6-1) defeated Hoshoryu (3-4): Kotoshoho’s perfect pull was decisive as Hoshoryu fell first. No mono-ii. Hoshoryu was puzzled as to how he lost but Kotoshoho’s initial charge drove Hoshoryu back just enough to give him space to execute the hated pull. His hand, firmly on Hoshoryu’s head and feet planted firmly in the tawara, Kotoshoho guided Hoshoryu to the ground without stepping out. Tsukiotoshi.

Tobizaru (6-1) defeated Chiyotairyu (5-2): The tachiai descended into a wild brawl of charging and slapping. Tobizaru dove for Chiyotairyu’s mawashi and secured a right-handed belt grip. With the left on Chiyotairyu’s top-knot, he twisted and threw Sumo’s Elvis to the floor. Shitatedashinage.

Kotoshogiku (2-2-3) defeated Enho (1-6): Kotoshogiku wrangled the struggling Enho in the middle of the dohyo. Enho secured a belt grip at the tachiai and tried to drive forward but Kotoshogiku just dropped all of his weight down on Enho, forcing the pixie’s knee to buckle awkwardly. Koshikudake.

I’m a bit worried about the way that right knee twisted, but Enho seemed to walk it off. I’ve always wondered what it would look like if someone decided to squish Enho. Now we know. If Giku can squeak out three more wins, he may just save his rank. Enho, on the other hand, may join Ishiura in Juryo unless he can turn things around quickly. Perhaps fortunate for both men, there appears to be more men ready to flee makuuchi for the safety of Juryo than there are eager promotees.

Wakatakakage (5-2) defeated Kotoeko (3-4): Wakatakakage henka’d Kotoeko. He tried to pull Kotoeko down for the hatakikomi but Kotoeko kept his footing. However, Kotoeko seemed perplexed as to how to attack this man who moved over so suddenly. While Kotoeko tried to figure things out, Wakatakakage charged forward and blasted Kotoeko off the back of the dohyo. Oshidashi.

Ryuden (3-4) defeated Sadanoumi (2-5): Ryuden was having none of Sadanoumi’s pulling. He charged forward steadily as Sadanoumi circled in retreat. Ryuden kept up with Sadanoumi and his shove forced Sadanoumi to lose his footing and fall to the clay. Oshitaoshi.

Kagayaki (5-2) defeated Onosho (5-2): Bruce’s worries about an Onosho slump are well founded. Kagayaki got the jump on the tachiai, forcing Onosho back. But Onosho rallied at the tawara, driving forward into Kagayaki. However, as the back-pedaling Kagayaki neared the edge he drove his left arm forcefully into Onosho’s right side, throwing Onosho to the clay. Tsukiotoshi.

Takayasu (5-2), no, wait, Aoiyama defeated Aoiyama (3-4): Big Dan stepped out. This is the ultimate, sad danger of the pull when you step back too far and lose. Aoiyama absorbed Takayasu’s tachiai and pulled backwards. Takayasu’s forward charge wasn’t particularly strong and should have been easily defeated. But Aoiyama’s big left foot had gone over the bales. Oshidashi.

Halftime

Takarafuji (5-2) defeated Tokushoryu (1-6): Bruce is right, Tokushoryu’s out of ideas. Tokushoryu’s entire game plan was to pull. After a decent tachiai, he gave it his first attempt for hatakikomi but Takarafuji was not falling for it. This yielded position and forced Tokushoryu back to the edge. Uncle Takara reached in for a firm right-hand grip. As Tokushoryu pulled again, Takarafuji drove forward and Tokushoryu rolled over. Yoritaoshi.

Kiribayama (5-2) defeated Hokutofuji (2-5): Kiribayama sidestepped the tachiai. No bother, Hokutofuji drove forward into Kiribayama. Kiribayama’s twisted at the edge and with his left hand on the mawashi and right arm in Hokutofuji’s side, he threw Hokutofuji down.  Sukuinage.

Takanosho (4-3) defeated Myogiryu (3-4): Takanosho weathered Myogiryu’s nodowa, and drove forward. Myogiryu launched for a belt grab but Takanosho deflected him with the right arm. This gave Takanosho the advantage as he came at Myogiryu’s right side and shoved Myogiryu out. Oshidashi.

Sanyaku

Terunofuji (5-2) defeated Endo (3-4): Ready for a brawl, right? LOL. Migi-yotsu vs Hidari-yotsu. I gotta say, I was ready for a great belt battle but Terunofuji had other plans and, “Wow”. Terunofuji wrapped up Endo’s arm, spun him around and cast him from the dohyo in the blink of an eye. It was brilliant!

At the tachiai, Terunofuji had his sights on that right arm of Endo. He came up with his right, immediately, ensnaring Endo’s arm. Once he secured it, he shifted to his right, twisting Endo around, still holding Endo’s arm behind him. While Endo’s still trying to figure out why he’s facing the wrong way, Terunofuji propelled him forward, off the ring and halfway back to Saitama. Okuridashi.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Isegahama had a higher goal in mind for Terunofuji…not just a return to Ozeki. He’d be able to rest his knees on occasion with a nice tsuna, that’s for sure. I think this is the first time that I’m taken aback more so by the brilliant tactics than his brute force. This was no sea monster, meting destruction. This was Dr. Kaiju, dissecting his opponent and flaying him for all to see. In the 9 second clip, half of it is Endo running down the aisle. The bout itself was over in three seconds.

Tochinoshin (3-4) defeated Daieisho (2-5): I’m pretty sure I saw the kitchen sink get thrown across the screen during this bout. Watch for it on the replay. What didn’t we have in this bout? We had a bit of oshi/tsuki and a bit of yotsu. This was a rough-and-tumble brawl as both men tried to out-pull each other. It seemed that since both men had the same game plan, neither of them were falling for it. Tochinoshin delivered several great blows as he showed he can do tsuppari quite well. Though his knee is weakened, his stamina is strong. When Daieisho tired, Tochinoshin was finally able to step in for that belt grip and usher the Oitekaze’s faltering hope over the straw bales. Yorikiri.

Tamawashi (3-4) defeated Mitakeumi (4-3): Tamawashi may have ended Mitakeumi’s Ozeki run. Mitake who-me? Why in the hell would Mitakeumi try a hatakikomi pull from his own side of the ring? Why? Tamawashi met Mitakeumi with a solid tachiai and drove forward, forcing Mitakeumi back deep into his own side of the dohyo. Mitakeumi did charge forward and try to get some separation but he had nowhere near the space required for a pull, so he ended up cast off among the empty purple squares. Oshidashi.

Okinoumi (2-5) defeated Shodai (5-2): Shodai drove forward into Okinoumi. Okinoumi resisted at the edge and circled back. While Shodai applied forward pressure, Okinoumi wrapped his arms around Shodai, twisted and thrust him to the floor, along with any hopes of yusho or promotion. Tsukiotoshi.

Takakeisho (6-1) defeated Yutakayama: T-Rex’s wave action was too much for Yutakayama. Both oshi-battlers fought to their strength but Yutakayama’s thrusts were unable to move Takakeisho at all. Takakeisho, however, was able to move Yutakayama around the ring, almost at will. “You go right now. Now backwards. Now down.” Oshidashi.

Yutakayama’s knee buckled awkwardly at the tawara so we’ll be watching that tomorrow. He kept it extended as he sat to watch the next bout and when he finally got up to walk back to the shitakubeya, he limped down the hanamichi. Watch this space for a kyujo. Takakeisho is now the favorite for the yusho, especially since he has already faced, and defeated, Terunofuji.

Asanoyama (4-3) defeated Terutsuyoshi (2-5): “Not again!” Terutsuyoshi went for the ashitori — again — but Asanoyama was prepared this time. When the attempt missed, Terutsuyoshi retreated and jumped off the dohyo with Asanoyama close in pursuit. Asanoyama connected with a bit of a push so it counts as oshidashi rather than what it looked like at the time, niwatori-tobikomi.

Tokyo July Basho Day 5 Highlights

We’ve had some nerves and sloppy sumo to start the tournament but we’ve also had some great sumo as four yusho winners lead the pack coming into Day 5. By now at the end of Act One, that rust should be brushed away. Asanoyama has proven to be stainless steel and Hakuho must have been bathing in WD-40 since March because he’s dominant and he’s winning without the tricks, dame-oshi or dirty play that had earned him a bit of derision over the past year. These two are at the top of the heap and the top of their game. Will they close out the first third of the tournament still in the lead? This day is one to stay until the end, that’s for sure.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko (4-1) defeated Tobizaru: The flying monkey visits from Juryo to take on Kotoeko. A bit too nervous and outmatched by Kotoeko, who’s on a hot streak. Kotoeko got under his armpits and looked to drive him back and out. Tobizaru wriggled free from Kotoeko’s grip but Kotoeko was able to use his right arm to execute a throw.  Sukuinage.

Nishikigi (2-3) defeated Chiyomaru (0-5): Winless Chiyomaru got the advantage on the initial charge, thrusting Nishikigi back to the edge. The tawara gave Nishikigi the resistance he needed and Chiyomaru tried a pull but Nishikigi used the change in direction to charge forward and force Chiyomaru out. Oshidashi.

Wakatakakage (2-3) defeated Kotoyuki (1-4): Wakatakakage defeated Kotoyuki at his own game. A strong charge at the outset earned the youngster superior position in the center of the dohyo. He kept up the pressure on Kotoyuki who countered with his own thrusts but Kotoyuki was never able to get enough power in those thrusts to back Wakatakakage out. Instead, Wakatakakage wore out the penguin and pushed him out. Oshidashi.

Takayasu (3-2) defeated Terunofuji (4-1): Yesterday, Takayasu faced Kotoshogiku. Today, the former Ozeki got another former Ozeki in Terunofuji and again came out victorious. At the charge, Terunofuji tried reaching in for that belt but Takayasu fought against it and shoved Terunofuji away. Takayasu re-engaged, securing both hands on Terunofuji’s belt. While Terunofuji tried to get purchase with his left hand, Takayasu began backing him up until he was fully stood against the tawara. Terunofuji recognized that he was done and stepped out. Yorikiri.

Kotoshoho (5-0) defeated Shohozan (0-5): Shohozan baited Kotoshoho into a false start. Shohozan charged fiercely at the tachiai and added a slap for good measure. Kotoshoho was unphased, however. He pivoted and used Shohozan’s hard charging ways against him with a well-executed throw. Kotenage.

Tochinoshin (3-2) defeated Sadanoumi (2-3): Tochinoshin drove forward into Sadanoumi but Sadanoumi stayed composed, got a solid grip and started forcing the Georgian Giant back. Tochinoshin pivoted and brought the action to the edge of the ring where he grabbed Sadanoumi by the butt cheek and forced him over the edge. Tsukiotoshi.

Kotoshogiku (4-1) defeated Shimanoumi (1-4): A strong showing from Kotoshogiku today. A quick blast driving Shimanoumi back and wrapping him up. He attempted a throw which Shimanoumi resisted but some strong gabburi action got Shimanoumi stumbling backwards and out. Yoritaoshi.

Myogiryu (5-0) defeated Kotonowaka (3-2): Myogiryu charged forward, always the aggressor. He kept Kotonowaka at arms length, never allowing access to his mawashi and driving action. Kotonowaka briefly slipped to the side and had a chance but Myogiryu recovered at the edge, turned back around, and drove Kotonowaka back and out. Oshidashi.

Ikioi (2-3) defeated Kaisei (2-3): A slim Ikioi drove forward into Kaisei with both arms under his armpits. Kaisei resisted with his own grip but Ikioi charged again. At the edge it seemed Kaisei’s leg gave but the official call was an underarm throw but I couldn’t see what that right arm was doing. Anyone have the opposite view? Shitatenage.

Tamawashi (4-1) defeated Ishiura (1-4): Ishiura’s predictable henka attempt put him halfway toward the edge of the dohyo and Tamawashi was more than happy to give him a single shove out. Ishiura needs a new schtick. There are plenty of other successful pixies who aren’t afraid to bring the action to their opponent. Oshidashi.

Chiyotairyu (3-2) defeated Terutsuyoshi (2-3): What did I say about successful pixies? Chiyotairyu gave a beautiful demonstration of how the Non-henka is supposed to work. One hand securing the belt, the other hand on the top of aite’s head. A strong pull with that right hand, in this case, and Terutsuyoshi was whipped around and thrown down. Uwatenage.

Halftime

Hokutofuji (4-1) defeated Enho (2-3): Hokutofuji blasted Enho back at the tachiai. Enho seemed puzzled, not knowing how to attack. So Hokutofuji used that left oven mitt to decide for him. “Go back now.” He shoved Enho back to the tawara and down. Oshitaoshi.

Abi (3-2) defeated Tokushoryu (2-3): Classic Abi here. Right hand under the chin of Tokushoryu, forcing his head up and back. This gave Abi the clear advantage and he followed up with a convincing win, shoving Tokushoryu out quickly. Oshidashi.

Aoiyama (2-3) defeated Ryuden (1-4): Aoiyama with the advantage of a stronger tachiai, pushed Ryuden back to the straw bales. Ryuden tried his own shoves putting all of his might and weight into Aoiyama but getting no backward movement until…Aoiyama pulls beautifully and Ryuden rolls across the clay. Someone was asking about pulls after Takakeisho’s loss the other day. The timing is so crucial with a pull and Aoiyama timed it very well today. Hikiotoshi.

Takanosho (2-3) defeated Kagayaki (2-3): Kagayaki had the better force in the initial charge, moving forward strongly. Takanosho’s sidestep combined with Kagayaki’s slow recovery time allowed Takanosho to shift right and help Kagayaki out. Oshidashi.

Sanyaku

Daieisho (3-2) defeated Yutakayama (0-5): This was an entertaining slapfest. Daieisho with the slight advantage but both wrestlers landed several haymakers. Daieisho’s were more effective, keeping Yutakayama on the ropes with slaps to the chin and the throat. Yutakayama pitched forward to counter and Daieisho landed a perfect left on Yutakayama’s shoulder, sending him tumbling across the dohyo. Tsukiotoshi.

Mitakeumi (5-0) defeated Endo (1-4): A great tachiai from both men, a nice blast. Endo tried to shove Mitakeumi back…it almost looked like he was going to try an oshi battle but got confused. While he tried to sort things out, Mitakeumi moved forward through the golden boy. Another Oshidashi. Oshidashi Day here in Tokyo.

Shodai (4-1) defeated Okinoumi (3-2): The best tachiai of the day? A Shodai bout? Na… Shodai slipped that left arm under Okinoumi’s armpit and whatever Okinoumi was trying to do was utterly irrelevant. Shodai continued turning while Okinoumi hopped along, trying to stay up but eventually hopping over the bales. Okinoumi didn’t meet clay but it was a throw. Sukuinage.

Asanoyama (5-0) defeated Kiribayama (1-4): Kiribayama slid to the side and channeled Harumafuji with his continued pressure. He wanted the spin of death to end things quickly but Asanoyama persevered. Twisting and turning, Kiribayama kept up a vigorous attack. Asanoyama was always able to maintain his balance and his composure. He countered by bringing the action back to the center and wearing Kiribayama down. Eventually, Asanoyama struck forcing Kiribayama out. The best sumo from Kiribayama this week. Sadly, not enough against the ozeki. The effort from both men combine for the bout of the day, enthusiastically appreciated by the crowd. Yorikiri.

Takakeisho (4-1) defeated Takarafuji (2-3): Another strong tachiai as skin-on-skin echoes through the Kokugikan. Takakeisho kept up the thrusts as Takarafuji was on the defensive, shifting about. Takakeisho worked Takarafuji back and several times tried the pull down. It wasn’t until the fourth attempt that his right hand found the top of Takarafuji’s head and pulled him down. Hatakikomi.

Hakuho (5-0) defeated Onosho (0-5): Onosho jumped the gun and the two reset. Hakuho got under there with both hands on the belt immediately. As he charged back Onosho got some resistance at the edge. Hakuho wasn’t having any of it and used that belt grip to throw Onosho forward to his doom. Uwatedashinage.

To follow on with Tim’s kimarite of the day, I’d have to go with that forceful yorikiri from Asanoyama. I know, yorikiri is the most common and therefore the dullest choice of kimarite of the day in the 1000-year history of sumo…but here we are. I liked it. He held on in a great battle and won. Boring technique? Not at all. Oshidashi’s the boring one.

Let’s Meet Chiganoura Beya

Chiganoura-beya

Over on Twitter, Chiganoura-oyakata, pictured here in his traveling salesman days, had the brilliant idea to introduce all of his deshi and the staff of his stable. OK, let’s get going, we don’t want to keep him waiting any longer. Chop, chop!

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Have ozeki forces been expelled from the dohyo ?

Asanoyama has deservedly been promoted to the ozeki rank, right after a solid 11-4 performance in Osaka. Long life the ozeki!

By the way, in terms of roles, what, exactly, is an ozeki?

The ozeki are sumo’s second highest rank, and should provide yokozuna serious competition for the Cup.

However, how often hs this been the case recently?

Recent records show us that ozeki have largely been disappointing. Let’s dig deeper into this topic, knowing that we will look back until 2010:

  1. Who has been an ozeki since then?

Kaio, Kotomitsuki, Harumafuji, Kotooshu, Baruto, Kotoshogiku, Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Goeido, Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin and Takakeisho. That’s a total of 13.

Used to lift small cars for training: former ozeki Baruto (left)

2. Since 2010, who has not won a single basho as an ozeki?

Sadly enough, many of them: Kaio, Kotomitsuki, Kotooshu, and the four last of them: Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin and Takakeisho. It’s more than the half: 7 out of 13.

On the contrary, Harumafuji has been the most successful, as he collected eight of his nine yusho during that period.

3. How to analyze ozeki records?

To sum up grossly ozeki ranks since 2010, Kaio was in his late career, and Kotomitsuki got dismissed in 2010.

By the end of 2011, an unseen sextet of ozeki took place after Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato’s promotions.

The trademark Kotoshogiku stretch

Harumafuji had won a yusho (Nagoya 2011) as an ozeki right before. He repeated that feat twice in a row in Nagoya and Aki of next year, securing his promotion to yokozuna.

Of the sextet, only Baruto was immediately successful, winning the January 2012 basho. But that was it, for the time being, and the sextet disagregated.

We had to wait until Osaka 2014 to see another ozeki win a yusho, namely Kakuryu – he got promoted to yokozuna right after.

A successful rise to the top: yokozuna Kakuryu

We had to wait almost two years to see more ozeki success. In fact, we could witness twelve months of ozeki bless, with three of them notching a yusho: Kotoshogiku in January 2016, Goeido in September 2016, and Kisenosato in January 2017. His second win in March came as a yokozuna.

And, incredibly, that was it. Ozeki tried, lost twice in a playoff in 2017 (Terunofuji in March, Goeido in September) ; Takayasu came close to meeting Takakeisho in a playoff in November 2018. But they visibly failed to delivered since Kisenosato’s promotion ; their health condition has been a great concern. Terunofuji fell into the abyss, Takayasu and Tochinoshin got definitively demoted. For all three of them, demotion did not came too long after their promotion – about two years. Goeido’s physical condition caused him to retire, but he had quite a long spell – a bit less than six years. Kotoshogiku failed to regain the ozeki rank early in 2017; the final blow was given by a very infamous henka by Terunofuji, and caused great scandal.

What about Takakeisho? Considered a great hope, he already suffered two grave injuries during his younr career, a knee and his chest having been hit. If he did manage to get a spot in a playoff in Aki of 2019, he hasn’t won a yusho as an ozeki yet, and I’m afraid we might not see him lift the Emperor’s Cup ever again, due to his precarious health condition.

A great future already behind him ? Ozeki Takakeisho

Unfortunately, this is truly been the ozeki’s stumbling block.

To sum up:

Only 8 bashos have been won by an ozeki since 2010 : 1 by Baruto, Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, Goeido and Kisenosato ; 3 by Harumafuji.

Three of them have been promoted to yokozuna after the yusho; the other three have stayed at the rank but failed to deliver again.

  • From 2010 to 2012 included: 4 ozeki yusho (Baruto, Harumafuji thrice)
  • From 2013 to 2015 included: 1 ozeki yusho (Kakuryu)
  • From 2016 to January 2017 included: 3 ozeki yusho (Kotoshogiku, Goeido, Kisenosato)
  • From March 2017 to present: no yusho.
Set to break the curse? Ozeki Asanoyama

Time is ticking, and let’s hope Asanoyama will be able to break that new, worrying ozeki curse…

Update: I got a very interesting question from Abi Fan, which I thank a lot for that. He asked how ozeki fared in the previous decade.

16 yusho were won by ozeki back then:

– Chiyotaikai – 2 (July 2002, March 2003)
– Kaio – 4 (his first yusho came as a komusubi)
– Tochiazuma – 3 (January 2002, November 2003, January 2006)
– Asashoryu – 2 (November 2002 and January 2003)
– Hakuho – 3 (May 2006, Maech and May 2007)
– Harumafuji – 1 (May 2009)
– Kotoosho – 1 (May 2008).

Remarkably, the majority of all yusho winner of that decade is quoted on that list.