Natsu Day 13 Highlights

My Thoughts Exactly, Ma’am

Dear Sumo – What the hell was that? It’s time to set Onomatsu oyakata in a corner as he is a menace to orderly sumo. This is not the first time he has completely bumbled a call, and left everyone upset and more than a little confused. Tradition and seniority my broad, hairy Scottish backside. This guy is a disaster.

For those of you who many not know, head shimpan Onomatsu oyakata made a howler of a call in the match between Asanoyama and Tochinoshin that very well may cost Tochinoshin his return to Ozeki. In the final moments, Tochinoshin’s foot is on the tawara as he swings Asanoyama to the clay, and in what may be the longest monoii in the modern era, they gave the win to Asanoyama. Was Tochinoshin’s sumo extra sloppy today? It was – his foot placement was poor, his ring sense was nowhere to be found. But that decision is going to offend plenty of sumo fans, and not just readers of this blog.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Ishiura – The highest ranking Onami brother visits the top division to give Ishiura his make-koshi, and possibly send him back to Juryo once again to sort out his hot and cold running sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu worked his tail off to get back to the top division only to turn in a double-digit make-koshi. Tokushoryu is actually a skilled, talented and experienced rikishi. For long term fans it’s sad to see him fade this hard. Back to Juryo with him.

Shimanoumi defeats Kotoeko – After a cold start that saw Shimanoumi lose 3 of his first 4, he rallied to a kachi-koshi in fine fashion. This fellow won the Juryo yusho two times in a row, and has managed to get his 8 in his debut Makuuchi tournament.

Daishoho defeats Shohozan – Daishoho racks up his 8th win against a listless Shohozan, who is getting close to his 8th loss now.

Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Is Chiyoshoma finally going to Juryo again? Another loss and he goes to double digits, which is fine with me as he seems hurt and needs to throttle back his competition and recover.

Kagayaki defeats Yago – Yago lost this when he decided, “Hey, lets pull!”. This has happened a lot this basho. A strong, competent rikishi is executing a great attack plan, suddenly tries to pull his opponent down and loses the match by throwing away his forward pressure to the pulling move. Yago, get it together man!

Nishikigi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi launches a leg pick, but Nishikigi expertly shuts it down and gives Terutsuyoshi a face full of Natsu clay. Great attack move, excellent defense move. I loved this match.

Meisei defeats Enho – The big news here is that it looks like Enho may have injured his right thigh, as he was limping badly following the match. Meisei is one win away from double digits this basho, and he has been fighting much better than his normal.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – The Yoshikaze the fans love is simply not in right now. Chiyotairyu did a great job of executing his usual sumo with great effect. I did like his move to arrest Yoshikaze’s impending fall at the end of the match.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Maybe this is why everyone is trying a pull right now. They see Tamawashi stick one on Kotoshogiku to hand him his 8th loss. Yes, I was wishcasting Kotoshogiku to kachi-koshi this tournament and maybe return to San’yaku for Nagoya.

Hokutofuji defeats Daieisho – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai pays off today, and completely disrupts Daieisho. Daieisho exits the dohyo with his 8th loss but has a win over an Ozeki and a Sekiwake to show for his posting to the joi-jin.

Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – What tactic lost this match for Mitakeumi? Oh yes, he decided to try to pull Ryuden down. To be fair, I think Mitakeumi is still fighting hurt, and Ryuden is really fighting his best ever. Still 2 more chances for Mitakeumi to pick up his 8th win, but the traditional week 2 Mitakeumi fade is well in effect.

Aoiyama defeats Abi – This mess was a triple decker sloppy joe with extra sauce. Everyone was all over the place, and it was anyone’s guess who was going to lose first. Arms, legs, mawashi flying everywhere. I guess Abi exited first…

Asanoyama defeats Tochinoshin – The match that shall live in infamy. An embarrassment of a sumo contest, not that either competitor did anything wrong. I mean that 7 minute monoii. Points against Tochinoshin for having almost no forward pressure, trying to pull Asanoyama and that quarter-assed kotenage attempt at the bales. I am going to guess that we are not seeing the sky crane because our glass cannon Tochinoshin is once again hobbled with an injury.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – When Ichinojo is genki, this is what you get. I watch this match and it’s like Endo is some kind of doll that Ichinojo is playing with. The level of force that goes into even his casual movements must be enough to overpower any normal rikishi. Good lord, what a brute.

Goeido defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo for Shodai today, no chance to move laterally and inject chaos vectors into his opponent’s battle plan. Goeido does a masterful job of containing Shodai to keep him centered and in front.

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – Anyone else breathe a sigh of relief on this one? Takayasu gets his 8th with a well timed side step of Kakuryu’s charge.

Now just think – if that call in the Tochinoshin match had not been botched, we would have Ozeki Tochinoshin in a 3 way tie for the yusho heading into the final weekend. Everyone say thanks to Onomatsu oyakata for being a block-head today.

Natsu Day 4 Highlights

The Tadpole War Took An Unexpected Turn

A surprising match that came late in the day’s torikumi – we got to see a pair of tadpoles go chest to chest, with a unexpectedly good yotsu-zumo battle from… Takakeisho?

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi comes in low, but can’t generate any forward pressure against Chiyoshoma, who grabs a shoulder and swings him down to the clay.

Tokushoryu defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a hit-and-shift mini henka, and Tokushoryu is having none of it. After Ishiura’s opening gambit fails, he spends the next few moments dodging Tokushoryu who runs him down and tosses him out.

Kotoeko defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage took the tachiai, and got inside to take initiative and dictate the match. But he took too low of a body position, and while Kotoeko’s attempt at a pull down failed, it did disrupt Wakatakakage enough for Kotoeko to go on offense. Kotoeko kept his head, stayed focused and seized his chance.

Enho defeats Daishoho – It looks like Enho attempts another leg-pick, but Daishoho keeps moving, and so Enho settles for a unique shoulder-to-mawashi hold that he converts to a shitatenage. It’s almost an entirely different form of sumo that most of the giants are completely helpless to stop.

Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi continues to struggle, to the dismay of his fans. Although Shimanoumi seems to get the better for the tachiai, Sadanoumi gets a shallow left hand inside grip that he uses to carry the match.

Yago defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru picks up his first loss after Yago puts him on the clay. Chiyomaru had a number of problems this match, including a soft tachiai, an inability to finish Yago once his heels were on the tawara, and getting that giant belly too far forward to enable Yago’s slap down.

Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Tochiozan was the model of calm efficiency in dismantling Kagayaki in this match. He kept pushing inside Kagayaki’s defenses and driving forward. Mr Fundamentals defeated by excellent fundamentals from Tochiozan.

Shohozan defeats Onosho – Shohozan went chest to chest with Onosho, and rolled him around with great effect. The biggest knock against Onosho is that he focused his osha-attack against Shohozan’s head and shoulders, rather than center-mass. When they grapple, Shohozan had the superior body position with his hips lower and primed for offense. Onosho had only a tentative grip on Shohozan’s mawashi, and there was little he could do to prevent the throw.

Kaisei defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze wisely tried to get Kaisei off-axis, and succeeded. But the Brazilian was low enough and stable enough that the attempt to convert that body position to a throw failed, and Tomokaze attempted to pull Kaisei down. It was successful, but Tomokaze fell / stepped out first, handing Kaisei his second win.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Watching Asanoyama today is a great visual study in excellent sumo mechanics. This version of Asanoyama is strong, confident and winning without fail. With his brother from another mother, Yutakayama, in the Juryo bush-league getting rebuilt, Asanoyama has stepped up and started to shine.

Meisei defeats Takarafuji – Meisei picks up his first win of the basho with a tottari, sending Takarafuji sliding belly first.

Yoshikaze defeats Myogiryu – Yoshikaze is finally showing some offensive sumo and forward pressure, though the start was quite tentative. The match was mostly fought chest to chest after a separation following the tachiai. Fans hope that Yoshikaze brings more vigor to his sumo for the rest of the basho.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Once again Ryuden can’t seem to find a way to beat Shodai, even though Ryuden seemed to have superior body position, foot placement and higher energy. Shodai’s sumo somehow took over and carried the match. I have watched it three times and I am still not sure what happened.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Traditional Abi-zumo match here, but ended with a ballet pull-down kimarite that was listed as uwatenage. In spite of his fairly one dimensional sumo, Abi is tough to beat at this rank and when he is on his game.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – A surprisingly soft tachiai from these two, I think both suspected the other of a henka, or side-step. But once Aoiyama pushed forward, Chiyotairyu’s side-step took place sending Aoiyama diving for the west side clay. Chiyotairyu’s first win of the basho.

Ichinojo defeats Okinoumi – Ichinojo’s hiji-yotsu (elbow lock out) really paid off as Okinoumi found himself unable to do anything offensive or defensive. Is Ichinojo’s ring rust fading yet?

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Great hazuoshi (armpit attack) from Tamawashi shut down Tochinoshin’s early efforts to get his left hand grip in place for the sky crane. But land it he did, although Tamawashi continued to dance around, not letting the Ozekiwake plant his feet for the lift. Tochinoshin kept tight cover and moved forward, getting the white star to reach 4-0. If he can stay healthy he is on course to re-take his Ozeki rank.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – Some readers may have noted that I pointed out that in the run-up to Natsu, there was video of Takakeisho going chest to chest with Ozeki Takayasu, and winning. Some folks on Twitter tried to downplay this video evidence that the tadpole was at least trying to diversify, but here we are again. This may be the most interesting match in the next few months, so let’s break it down. Takakeisho tries to start the wave-train at the tachiai, but loses traction and falls into Mitakeumi’s chest, and finds he cannot push. Much to the crowds surprise, Takakeisho settles into yotsu fighting position and proceeds to get to work. I am sure Mitakeumi is surprised at this point, and they stand leaning on each other for a moment as if to say, “ok, this is odd – what do we do now?”. Takakeisho takes the initiative and lifts Mitakeumi from the clay, the crowd loses its mind, but Takakeisho can’t find any advantage. The two continue to dance atop the shikiri-sen, and Mitakeumi seems to decide to lean in and make the shin-Ozeki support his massive body. Again Takakeisho lifts, and advances – to win! But immediately following he drops to a crouch, and it’s clear that the effort caused at least a minor injury. But yes, Takakeisho won via Yorikiri, and did it well, and made it work. I think this is only the 3rd or 4th time in his sumo career he has done that. I am even more impressed with him now.

Late word is that Takakeisho did in fact strain his knee, and that Chiganoura Oyakata is saying that they will decide Thursday morning if the shin-Ozeki will go kyujo.

Takayasu defeats Hokutofuji – Takayasu seems to have recovered his sumo. He gets a thrusting attack going against Hokutofuji’s chest while Hokutofuji is still trying to get his hands on the Ozeki. Hopefully Takayasu’s ring-rust is under control now.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – With 30 wins over Kotoshogiku, Goeido has a formula for shutting down the Kyushu Bulldozer, and he employed it with great effect on day 4. That shallow right hand grip was the key, as it gives Goeido leverage right at the focus point for Kotoshogiku’s “Hug-n-chug” attack.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Reactive sumo strikes again. The pull down attempt against Endo fails but the Yokozuna follows up against Endo’s disrupted balance and gives him the propulsion needed to exit the dohyo. Not the best sumo from Kakuryu, but his 4th white star to remain undefeated.

Natsu Day 4 Preview

Sumo – 200 Metres That Way…

A number of friends of Tachiai are headed to Tokyo this week to take in sumo at the Kokugikan, and it is likely to be a great weekend of sumo. The weather is fairly nice in Tokyo, the food is always amazing, and the people are the best. Rumor has it some of them will be wearing their tachiai shirts around town, so you never know who might wind up on TV…

While some folks will be in Japan, the coverage on the blog will be non-stop, as we expect this to be a very exciting tournament thanks to the transitional era in sumo, and the absence of the dai-Yokozuna.

We can expect there to be another live stream event for Sunday’s Makuuchi division, brining fans world wide the last 50 minutes of the midway point of the tournament. The team may live-blog that one, and if we do it’s likely to be its normal non-sensical romp through the best of sumo. No promises yet…

What We Are Watching Day 4

Terutsuyoshi vs Chiyoshoma – Can we hope that Chiyoshoma can go through the first act without a henka? Does Terutsuyoshi succeed in converting his outrageous chance to stay in the top division into a kachi-koshi? Why is Bruce asking the Tachiai readers questions?

Wakatakakage vs Kotoeko – Wakatakakage comes up from Juryo to try out his dorm-room in a preview of what we hope is the first Onami brother to break into the top division. He faces bullpup muscle man Kotoeko, who seems to be fast enough to exploit any mistake, and strong enough to make it work. Speed match, sumo fans!

Tokushoryu vs Ishiura – Tokushoryu’s girth and low center of gravity is going to be Ishirua’s biggest obstacle on day 4. He’s got a 4-2 career advantage against Tokushoryu, and I am certain that Tokushoryu enters this match well frustrated by the two somewhat sloppy losses thus far. I am looking for Ishiura to dive and move, and stick a right-hand grip.

Daishoho vs Enho – Global sumo fans are finally getting to see why Team Tachiai has been going on about Enho. Not only is he a handsome fellow, his sumo is first rate. We have yet to see Enho in a stalemate situation, where he gets to show off some really impressive stamina as well. Maybe day 4 will leave Enho and Daishoho chest to chest at the center of the dohyo.

Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi looks to have degraded his injured knee following Enho’s leg pick on day 3. He’s going to come against a struggling Shimanoumi for day 4, who understands very well how tough his road to eight wins is going to be now. This is their first ever match.

Chiyomaru vs Yago – Chiyomaru seems to be on a roll, and I am not talking about that enormous bulge above his mawashi. With a 3-0 start he looks like his regrouping mission in Juryo is paying off. Yago is a large, quite strong fellow, which introduces a few physics problems of note into today’s match. The trick for Yago will be keeping balance with that much mass bearing down on you.

Kagayaki vs Tochiozan – Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals seems to be back in session. The day 3 win might have been at the edge of matta territory, but he won’t get that kind of jump on Tochiozan’s hair-trigger launch. I am expecting Tochiozan to drive inside fast, and to minimize his target zones, robbing Kagayaki of a chance to generate much offense.

Shohozan vs Onosho – I am looking for Shohozan to bait Onosho to get too far forward, which he is almost always willing to do. This would be followed by a throw, as it’s how Shohozan tends to end these matches, and he holds a 4-2 advantage over the tadpole.

Kaisei vs Tomokaze – This pairing holds a lot of interest for me. It’s their first-time meeting, which is always good, and you have a very burly Tomokaze going against Mr. Mass in Kaisei. I am sure Kaisei will want to land the first hand, and if he can keep Tomokaze centered, he can put that size to work.

Nishikigi vs Asanoyama – Yes, Nishikigi has looked like total hell thus far, while Asanoyama has been at the top of his sumo. But this is just the kind of match where Nishikigi rallies and puts his high-efficiency sumo to work. Asanoyama holds a 5-2 career advantage, so I am guessing day 4 is heavily in favor of Asanoyama.

Takarafuji vs Meisei – Another first-time match, Meisei is struggling to find his first win, while Takarafuji continues to quietly go about his sumo and rack up wins. Takarafuji can usually kachi-koshi at this rank, so I think he’s going to continue to win a bit more than 50% of his matches.

Myogiryu vs Yoshikaze – I worry this will be another match where Yoshikaze generates nearly zero offensive power, and leaves his fans (like me) wondering what damage is holding him back. Myogiryu could certainly use the win, and is likely going to face some named-ranked rikishi later in the basho.

Shodai vs Ryuden – This match also interests me greatly, as Ryuden has yet to win a single match from Shodai (0-2), who has excellent foot work and great lateral mobility, so this may be a weakness for Ryuden. But day 4 is a new day, and no telling what might happen.

Abi vs Daieisho – Daieisho has opened strong in the first 3 days, and I think his sumo has stepped up a notch. He holds a 4-2 career advantage over Abi, who took a chance to get into Chiyotairyu’s business early on day 3. I am guessing Daieisho will be ready to respond to a fast launch, and we will see if he can shut down the Abi-zumo attack.

Aoiyama vs Chiyotairyu – Both of these formidable rikishi had little to show for day 3 on the dohyo. I am expecting them to bounce back with vigor. Chiyotairyu has the harder trail here, as Aoiyama’s reach overpowers Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai most of the time.

Ichinojo vs Okinoumi – Ichinojo seems to have lost the advantage he used to rack 14 wins in Osaka, which is the #1 gripe of his fans: his lack of consistent performance. So far he has been tossed about more than he has dominated, and with Okinoumi looking fairly genki, we may see some good technical sumo used against The Boulder on day 4.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – Oh yes! Tochinoshin needs to land that left hand, and I know Tamawashi will use everything he has to keep mobile, keep striking, and keep Tochinoshin from setting his feet and lifting. Tamawashi showed some superb power and speed on day 3, and a similar attack might overpower the Ozekiwake.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Behold, Takakeisho’s kryptonite. When two tadpoles fight, the rank means nothing most days. Mitakeumi holds a 7-3 career advantage over the shin-Ozeki, and we are likely to see a high force oshi-brawl today. It will come down to Takakeisho setting up the wave-train before Mitakeumi can put him on his heels.

Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – Hokutofuji has the speed and power to challenge an injured Takayasu. I am certain that Takayasu is in fact injured, as he has not been able to execute much in the way of coherent offense yet. Hokutofuji has worked very hard to get his “handshake tachiai” to a state where he can put a hand on his opponent before they complete their launch, and he uses that early touch to control the match. Takayasu brings power and incredible stamina to the fight – something we have not seen thus far.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – This match up has a long history. Fifty, Five Zero, matches between these two. With Goeido holding the high ground 29-21. Speed vs stability today. Goeido faltered a bit against Endo, and let him take control to Goeido’s demise. I am sure he wants to stop the loss run at a single black star.

Endo vs Kakuryu – Fresh from surprising Goeido, Endo has seen how light Kotoshogiku made the Yokozuna look. The plan that worked was not let Kakuryu move, don’t give him space to evade, pin him to the tawara and force him to act rather than react. I am interested to see if Endo will try that strategy, too.

Natsu Sekitori Stature Update

 

Ichinojo
No prizes for guessing who came in heaviest in the latest weigh-in…

Unlike last year, this May’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council soken – an event held before the Natsu basho where rikishi work out in front of the YDC and are appraised thusly – was closed to the public. We had a friend in the media on hand, who furnished us with the media handout detailing the height and weight updates that were taken and published earlier in the week by the Sumo Association.

This is by no means incredibly “new news,” but I thought it would be fun to give a brief update on some easily digestible stats published from this document, in case anyone’s interested:

Height

Tallest rikishi (Makuuchi): Kaisei, 195cm. Closely followed by Ichinojo and Kagayaki, both 193cm.

Tallest rikishi (Juryo): Ikioi immediately becomes the tallest in the division upon his demotion, at 194cm. Closely followed by Takagenji, Kyokushuho, Azumaryu, all 191cm.

Shortest rikishi (Makuuchi): Enho, 168cm. Terutsuyoshi is just taller at 169cm, followed by Ishiura at 174cm.

Shortest rikishi (Juryo): Toyonoshima, 169cm. After him it’s all the way up to Daishomaru at 174cm and Tobizaru at 175cm.

Weight

Heaviest rikishi (Makuuchi): It’s Ichinojo and it’s not even close. He’s up to 227kg, which is a gain of 1kg from the previous weigh-in. After him, the next closest is Kaisei, at 204kg. So, it’s fairly astonishing that there’s a 23 kg difference (a quarter of an Enho) between the heaviest and second heaviest rikishi in the top division.

Heaviest rikishi (Juryo): Mitoryu now clocks in at an even 200kg. This makes him 1kg heavier than the next heaviest Juryo rikishi, Gagamaru.

Lightest rikishi (Makuuchi): No surprise here, it’s Enho, at 99kg (and according to the NSK he’s actually lost a kilo). Again, he’s followed by Ishiura (115kg) and Terutsuyoshi (116kg), who were both even.

Lightest rikishi (Juryo): Wakatakakage (125kg), followed by Kiribayama (129kg) and Tobizaru (135kg).

Biggest weight gain (Makuuchi): Chiyomaru added an incredible 8 kilos, and is now at 193. Asanoyama (177kg) and Chiyotairyu (198kg) both added 7kg. So, it will be interesting to see how they’re all moving.

Biggest weight loss (Makuuchi): Stablemates Tochinoshin and Aoiyama both dropped 5 kilos, landing themselves at 170kg and 193kg respectively. Veteran “Big Guns” Shohozan also shed 5kg, to end up at a more trim 137kg.

Averages

Average Makuuchi stature: 183.4cm, 163.9kg. On the whole this is a decrease in 2.3kg from the previous weigh-in. This means the average top division rikishi would be of a similar build to Goeido (184cm, 160kg) or Shodai (184cm, 165kg).

Average Juryo stature: 183.4cm, 159.8kg. While Juryo rikishi are 4kg lighter than their top division counterparts on average, the group did increase by 2.7kg on average. Much of that can probably be explaining by swapping in Ikioi for Enho. The average Juryo rikishi would be of a similar build to Takanosho (183cm, 161kg).

While these kinds of numbers don’t necessarily tell us a whole lot in isolation, they can be helpful when it comes to understanding the performance of a rikishi relative to his previous tournament, as well as and understanding of his potential physicality compared to others in the division.

Edit: Our friends over at Inside Sport Japan have shared a shot of the full list (in Japanese):