YDC Keiko-Soken


Before every Tokyo basho, a special training session takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, called the YDC “Keiko-Soken” (Group observation of keiko). Members of the YDC and the NSK board watch the sekitori practice. This allows the YDC to assess the situation of the Yokozuna, potential Yokozuna, and Grand Sumo in general.

This month’s Keiko-Soken took place earlier today.

kakuryu-vs-kisenosato
Kakuryu vs. Kisenosato

The one who drew the most positive attention was Yokozuna Kakuryu. He first took up Onosho and Mitakeumi. Out of 10 bouts with these lower san-yaku, he won 9. After a bit of rest outside the dohyo, he called upon Kisenosato and Takayasu for four bouts, all won by the Izutsu Yokozuna. He was pleased: “Not bad. One worry less”.

kisenosato-vs-goeido
Kisenosato and Goeido

Kisenosato, on the other hand, was lacklustre. Despite practicing with Takayasu like he was on fire for the past few days, he ended up with a miserable 2-6 balance in his bouts with Kakuryu and Goeido. His stance was too high and he couldn’t force his opponents to retreat. As Goeido shook off his left arm and threw him with a kotenage, the Yokozuna sighed.

This performance caused considerable worry among the members of the YDC. Kitamura, the head of the YDC, said that “I have the impression that his strength has not come back. He had some good tachiai, but when pushed, his ability to return the push has not come back. At this rate, he should take another basho off”. When asked whether his “life or death” basho can still be put off he said “Well, five consecutive kyujo is not unprecedented”. Indeed, Takanohana in his day took seven consecutive full kyujo.

Kisenosato was not happy, either: “Oh, that was not good. I have less than two weeks to correct what needs to be corrected”.

Hakkaku, chairman of the NSK board, commented: “He is still too light. If he doesn’t do more bouts, this will not improve. But if he does too many bouts, he may injure himself. There is also a problem of age. If he overdoes things, he will injure some other part. It’s hard to adjust around all that”. [In this context, “light” doesn’t refer to physical mass; rather it’s a description of how easy it is for the other rikishi to push him around. –PinkMawashi]

The third Yokozuna, Hakuho, seems unable to go through an interaction with the YDC without friction.

hakuho-stretching
Hakuho stretching. In the background, his favorite towel rack, Enho.

This public practice was, in fact, Hakuho’s first keiko since the beginning of the year. Actually, the first since the banzuke was announced on December 26th. He started the day doing stretches, shiko, and suri-ashi, while the other Yokozuna and Ozeki were doing actual sumo inside the dohyo. That appeared to be his plan for the day, but Hakkaku was having none of that. “Hakuho!” he snapped at the dai-yokozuna, and instructed him to mount the dohyo. The yokozuna entered the dohyo without even taping himself up, and named Shodai as his partner. Unsurprisingly, he won all seven bouts with the Maegashira.

Shodai was not the partner Hakkaku wanted him to engage, though. “I meant for him to engage an Ozeki if he can. He must have misunderstood.” said Hakkaku.

Furthermore, one of those bouts with Shodai included his now-infamous harite. This caused Kitanofuji, the commentator, to say with a bitter smile: “That man is a scoundrel. He was warned about that by the YDC. Is he trying to start a fight with them?” The members of the YDC, however, avoided criticizing Hakuho for this, perhaps because it was only a single one in a series of 7 bouts. Nevertheless, they did say that “His performance was uninteresting. He just drove Shodai to exhaustion”.

takaiasu-v-goeido
Takayasu vs. Goeido

Goeido was performing well in this keiko-soken. In his engagement with Kisenosato, he won three and lost two bouts, and against Takayasu he won three and lost 1. He was showing his Goeido 2.0 power-tachiai and relentless forward motion.

While Takayasu had a less than brilliant tally of wins vs. losses, he was showing no signs of favoring his right thigh, and was performing his usual powerful rushes. Hakkaku commented: “I have a good feeling about Goeido, and Takayasu is back. I have high hopes from both Ozeki.” Takayasu himself was not too happy, but still hopes to be in the yusho run in Hatsu.

Finally, here is a short video from NHK where you can see some of the aforementioned action:

 

Final Jungyo Newsreel – December 17th


🌐 Location: Ginowan, Okinawa

Today was the second day at Ginowan, but the last day of the Jungyo. Today’s newsreel centers on bouts, bouts, bouts!

hakuho-takayasu
Hakuho vs. Takayasu

Before we sit back to enjoy our sumo, it should be mentioned that Kakuryu’s health took a turn for the worse in the past couple of days, as he developed an inflammation in his left foot (or leg – the word in Japanese is the same). He says that once everybody returns to Tokyo, he’ll be able to get care for it, but nevertheless, this is a source for worry. Remember, Kakuryu has to participate in Hatsu, and have a good showing. Having been kyujo from Aki with a problem in his right foot, in the preparations for Kyushu he got his lower back in trouble again, and was kyujo from Kyushu as well. He is running out of body parts to spare.

He did participate in today’s tournament, and did a dohyo iri-with a baby, but Hakuho was the one doing the tsuna-shime ceremony today.

tsuna-shime-enho

Those who followed the Jungyo reports diligently will notice that Enho has been promoted from “thread bearer” to “rope puller #5”, an important position that comes with white gloves!

OK, so let’s finish this Jungyo with a bit of sumo. As in the previous 3 days, the top 16 Makuuchi (which is basically Ichinojo and up on the Kyushu banzuke, deducting Harumafuji, Kisenosato and Chiyonokuni) competed in elimination format. Below that, the torikumi went the usual way.

The Makuuchi bouts started with Aminishiki vs. Yutakayama. Yutakayama won – and the audience let out a sigh. Poor Yutakayama! It’s not his fault that Aminishiki is the most popular rikishi in Japan!

No visuals from that torikumi, I’m sorry to say, but here is the Maru bout, Chiyomaru vs. Daishomaru:

Arawashi vs. Ikioi:

Now let’s move to the tournement part. Hakuho starts with Onosho:

…and makes short work of it. Onosho, where is your red mawashi?

Mitakeumi takes on Tochiozan:

Nexw was the battle of the Fujis – Hokutofuji vs. Terunofuji. No video for that, but Terunofuji wins. So did Goeido vs. Takakeisho. So the two top tadpoles were eliminated in the first round already.

Takayasu took on Chiyotairyu in the first round. Remember Takayasu took the title yesterday:

Sorry for the lack of Tachiai. Next was Ichinojo vs. Tamawashi. Ichinojo wins.

Now Yoshikaze vs. Shohozan:

And the end of the first round is Kakuryu vs. Kotoshogiku:

This, despite the left foot issue…

Next round. Hakuho vs. Mitakeumi:

No repeat of Nagoya basho… And also no video of the Terunofuji-Goeido bout. But Terunofuji won. Terunofuji actually able to beat both Hokutofuji and Goeido is great news. Please don’t let him find a new way to ruin his knees in January.

Next was Takayasu vs. Ichinojo.

I do wish Ichinojo would not give up so easily at the tawara. 😦

To finish this second round, Kakuryu vs. Yoshikaze:

Yori-no-questions-about-it-kiri!

Semifinals. Hakuho wants to finish this Jungyo with a freaking yusho. Terunofuji hung on for about 20 seconds:

Takayasu got the other Yokozuna and won. No video.

And so we come to the final: Hakuho vs. Takayasu:

And here is a different angle with better video quality but poorer view:

Okinawa Jungyo day 2 - tournament brackets

Hakuho was, of course, delighted, and felt that he has tied up the Jungyo in a satisfactory way, giving the audience something to enjoy.

Now everybody has already landed back in Tokyo, having been absent since September. And this is the end of this newsreel series, see you in the next Jungyo!

 

Short Jungyo Newsreel – December 16th


🌐 Location: Ginowan, Okinawa

Today was the penultimate day of the Jungyo. Almost 3000 people came to the venue today to see some sumo action.

okinawa-basho-day-1

Among them, apparently, many gaijin enjoying a bit of Japanese tradition

gaijins-enjoying-sumo
Let me fix your hair, there are foreigners watching!

Daiamami seems to have found his alarm clock and now shows up to morning practice like a good boy:

daiamami-up-for-asa-geiko
Daiamami (left). Now let’s see you do some shiko.

Just as in Miyakojima, the top 16 rankers fought in elimination format. This time, the winner was Ozeki Takayasu, who has beaten Onosho by hikiotoshi.

Here is the NHK summary of the day: Shokkiri and some bouts. Notably, Ishiura being Ishiura. He is probably telling himself that’s a hassou-tobi. But we all know what that is:

But this short summary won’t be complete without the following little candy. Kiddie sumo. This rather cheeky kid is asked to pick his opponent. He picks… Aminishiki, no less, who is not on the dohyo and is rather surprised.

But fansa is fansa. And Uncle obliges.

Who needs Shokkiri when there’s Aminishiki around? 🙂

Tomorrow is the last day of the Jungyo!

Short Jungyo Newsreel – December 14-15


🌐 Location: Miyakojima, Okinawa

The second day of the Jungyo at Miyakojima continued pretty much the same as the first day.

venue
Venue filling up in the early afternoon

Hakuho still didn’t practice on the dohyo, and opted for practicing with low-rank partners in what was at first a quiet corner:

hakuho-practicing-off-dohyo

Ikioi joined the Jinku team again, once again singing the part dedicated to Yuho. He commented later “Yuho has always been kind to me and cared about my well-being. I put my soul into the song and I believe it has reached him in Heaven”.

ikioi-doing-jinku-again
Ikioi in the Jinku finale. Note the fan with the lyrics stuck in his mawashi.

Kakuryu did the tsuna-shime ceremony again. On his way back down the hana-michi, still wearing his rope, he high-fived a kid who stood on the sidelines with his hand extended (this used to be a Harumafuji specialty).

The main difference between yesterday and today was that Hakuho found motivation enough to want to win the Yusho on the second day. Remember, the top 16 rikishi were competing in elimination format.

Hakuho beat Onosho in the first bout. In the second, he defeated Tochiozan. In the semifinal, he met Terunofuji (back on the torikumi, apparently, and able to win two bouts!), and passed him as well. In the final bout, he faced Chiyotairyu – but lost, and the yusho slipped away.

“Aaagh… I wanted that yusho!” he lamented in the shitakubeya.

The day ended in dance again. Note Homarefuji dancing like a boss, hand motions and all:


Today (December 15th) the Jungyo was on hiatus again, as the rikishi took flights back north to the main island of Okinawa. The first plane that landed included Kakuryu and Takayasu, and a few other sekitori, and they ended up participating in a welcome party at the Naha airport, in the company of the lovely Miss Okinawa.

arrival

A while later Hakuho and Goeido arrived as well, and the two Yokozuna and two Ozeki, together with Kasugano oyakata, went to lay flowers at the Cemetery for the Fallen in the Battle of Okinawa in Itoman, and also had a moment of silence at the Cornerstone of Peace.

Tomorrow the Jungyo renews, for the final two days in Ginowan.

Jungyo Newsreel – December 10th


🌐 Location: Kagoshima, Kagoshima

Today’s location was Kagoshima, where 4500 fans came to cheer for the rikishi, particularly the Kagoshima-born Chiyomaru and Daiamami. Daiamami, as a freshman, drew most of the attention. Accordingly, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban and butsukari.

kakuryu-butsukari-daiamami

The san-ban part consisted of 9 bouts, and as would be expected, Kakuryu won them all. This was followed by butsukari, but at this point Daiamami somehow came to admit that he “wasn’t doing enough keiko”.

The butsukari that followed turned out to be rather punishing for the local. Despite much support from the spectators, he hardly had any pushing power, and found himself rolling frequently:

Kakuryu was relentless, and after about 10 minutes, the session ended like this:

Daiamami did come to, and went through the thank-you ceremony at the end, albeit in a bit of a hazy state:

“This is all because you don’t do keiko”, scolded the Yokozuna after the keiko session was over. “I didn’t work you out that hard. You shouldn’t be exhausted by that much. You should do keiko every day.” Kasugano oyakata, who sat on the sidelines during the session, added his own voice to the scolding. “Both veterans and youngsters should go up the dohyo with vigor. It’s your job. There are fans watching.”

Kakuryu added: “The butsukari is not over. When we get to a warmer place, I’ll continue it”, hinting that when the Jungyo gets to its Okinawa leg he is going to be grilling Daiamami again.

By the way, did you notice Nishikigi hovering worried over Daiamami in the video above? This is typical of Nishikigi, who has earned the nickname “Mommy Nishikigi” for caring for rikishi during keiko, wiping sweat, etc.


OK, switching to the light side of the day’s event. First, Halt! Yokozuna aboard!

Enho works out in what seems to be a rather painful way:

Tobizaru, the Flying Monkey, tries to imitate him…

Er, no banana for you…

Isegahama beya took up the kiddie sumo as a team today:

isegahama-kiddies
Takarafuji, Terutsuyoshi, Aminishiki exchanging tykes

Where’s Homarefuji? Well, funny that you should ask!

Sumo with the older, more serious young sumo hopefuls was taken up by Kokonoe. Specifically, Chiyomaru, the other local.

Yep, that’s a big kid. But Chiyomaru is not Hikarugenji, either, if you catch my drift.

Here is the NHK coverage for the day, in which you’ll see Daiamami having recovered from the morning’s troubles, and beating Okinoumi in their torikumi.

You’ll also see Hakuho doing a baby dohyo-iri. This time we get to see the excited parents at the end. “He passed near us, and I asked if he’ll give the child a ‘dakko’. And he said a good-natured ‘yes’, so I quickly undressed her and handed her over” said mom.

More torikumi:

Takayasu vs. Goiedo

Takayasu complains about his lack of practice, but somehow ends up with the kensho-kin. Goeido having trouble with his ankle again?

Note Mitakeumi rising at the end to give the chikara-mizu on the opposite side. This means he has won his own torikumi (vs. Yoshikaze).

Musubi-no-ichiban:

Hakuho 4 – Kakuryu 3. Close call, there?

Again, note the applause Satonofuji gets when he arrives at the side of the dohyo. Very popular, that man.

satonofuji-popular
Also popular as a picture subject

 

Jungyo Newsreel – December 9th


🌐 Location: Kumamoto, Kumamoto

Today an Ozeki and a Yokozuna started practicing in earnest. Takayasu, who has been practicing mostly with rikishi of Makushita and below, selected Nishikigi for san-ban practice, which consisted of five bouts, all won by Takayasu. He then followed that by naming Tochinoshin as his next opponent.

takayasu-with-tochinoshin

Now, this was a whole different power level, and the san-ban started with 3 consecutive losses for the Ozeki. He rallied and won 3 times, but then he started favoring his damaged leg, and lost the next three bouts.

“Not enough practice. It’s not real sumo yet”, commented the Ozeki. “My leg takes its time recovering, but if I do nothing at all, my entire body will lose its power. I have to work my body back into its normal condition.”

Yokozuna Kakuryu also chose this day to step up his practice, after doing mostly dohyo-side workouts. He – unsurprisingly – picked Shodai as his san-ban opponent. This consisted of 10 bouts, all of which the Yokozuna won.

kakuryu-butsukari-shodai

Kakuryu demonstrated various dashi-nage, yori and sukui-nage techniques in that series of bouts. However, this Jungyo event took place in Kumamoto, which is Shodai’s home territory, and Kakuryu seemed to consider his total dominance over the maegashira to be perhaps unsatisfactory for the fans. So he followed the san-ban with some butsukari.

When interviewed, the Yokozuna talked to the press about the state of his health. He said that favoring his injured foot has over-strained his back, and a few days before the Kyushu basho, after he went to sleep, he could not get up in the morning. “I was agonizing over the decision to go kyujo again”, he said.

He has consulted a specialist, and has taken special care of the affected area. “I have many injuries, but I do not want to give in to them. I want to overcome this. I will overcome this.”

Now let’s turn to the entertainment part of this event. As I told you, Shodai was the man of the day, and was supposed to be the center of attention in the kiddie sumo event. Only… Ikioi decided to steal his thunder.

You know how boring it is to wait in your kesho-mawashi until you are called up to the dohyo to do your dohyo-iri? Well, I don’t suppose any of the readers here has ever worn a kesho-mawashi, so you probably don’t know how boring it is. But Daieisho and Takakeisho found a way to pass the time.

This is called “Teoshi-zumo”. The rules are simple – you can only hit or touch the opponent’s hands. You lose if you move a foot.

Amakaze was in a specially sunny mood today as he waited for his torikumi. He helped the television crews with their work:

And offered “help” undressing:

So, speaking of torikumi, let’s start with a few at Makushita. But first, it appears that Enho and Tobizaru decided to have their own unofficial bout:

They then proceeded each to his own official one. Here is a – rather odd – bout between Terao and Enho:

It’s a bit hard to use tsuppari when your opponent is, like, a meter below you.

Then came the bout between Tobizaru and Akua:

Akua is a patient fellow.

Moving up to Makuuchi, we have the bout of the geriatrics, Aminishiki vs. Takekaze.

I keep fearing that one of Aminishiki’s limbs will simply come off and roll down the dohyo. But he somehow manages to keep them intact, with duct tape and spit.

You can see Shodai’s bout in this video from NHK (as well as some of Kakuryu’s san-ban mentioned above):

Onosho once again tries to win without his red mawashi? Tsk, tsk…

And I’m getting a bit tired of NHK opening every one of its reports of the Jungyo with “The Jungyo, which has been shaken by the Harumafuji incident, took place today at…”.

And the musubi-no-ichiban:

Hakuho 3 – Kakuryu 3

[cough, cough]

BTW, Takayasu is back on the torikumi, but Terunofuji [sigh] is no longer on it.

Finally, Osunaarashi shared this image of today’s shitakubeya (preparation room)… Lovely, but the rikishi were not allowed to use the pool. 😢

shitaku-beya

 

Jungyo Newsreel – December 6th


🌐 Location: Nogata, Fukuoka

terutsuyoshi-smiling
Evidence contradicting the claim that Terutsuyoshi never smiles

Today I have a bit of a strange newsreel for you. The accredited news outlets continue to focus more on scandal and less on the content of the Jungyo. More reporters than ever are chasing the Jungyo, mostly trying to find some new reason to grill Hakuho.

Today’s event’s sponsor decided they will have none of that, and their press officer simply forbade any television crews from entering the venue, saying they do not want anything that will be troublesome for the spectators. As a result, and because none of the phone-wielding obasan was obliging, I have no actual bouts for you. Should anything materialize, I’ll update.

So what I managed to pick is mostly from unofficial (read “Twitter”) sources.

There was a positive, though secondhand, report, that said that attendance was higher than ever, with the floor level full, and all unnumbered seats in the gallery sold out. The reason? “The attached stall was selling Harumafuji goods”. This, despite the sponsor’s decision to replace the cover of the pamphlet handed at the event to one that does not include the troublesome retiring Yokozuna.

Takayasu continues to do keiko with low-ranked rikishi. This time he was working out with Shonannoumi and Hakuyozan – mostly the latter – for 40 or 50 minutes, in a quiet corner of the venue.

takayasu-practices

And Hokutofuji engaged in synchronized calisthenics (with Tobizaru):

The resident oyakata (I can’t tell which one it is from the back, sorry) watched Kagayaki and corrected him again and again. Looks tiring.

kagayaki-guided

During the moshi-age phase of the sekitori practice, we had the famous rivals in a battle of tadpoles:

onosho-takakeisho
Onosho vs. Takakeisho

As you recall, a Jungyo always includes kiddie sumo. Take a look at Shohozan – that sour-faced observer in the picture above – playing around with the kids:

Then, finally, everybody dressed up in their kesho-mawashi. Here is the Makuuchi dohyo iri – babies, babies everywhere! Watch out for Onosho trying to cope with a wriggling baby:

Edit: Got the musubi-no-ichiban!

Hakuho 2 – Kakuryu 1

Alas, outside the venue, controversy continued. When Hakuho came out, the press bore down on him, and in the crowd, somebody raised this placard behind his back. It says (free translation) “Hakuho carries most of the blame”.

hating-hakuho