Haru Day 1 Highlights

I want to start today with something we have not seen in 8 months, a Yokozuna dohyo-iri.

Savor that one folks, I fear we won’t have too many more of them, and it’s grand and wonderful to see this grand ritual return to sumo for the first time since July of 2020. Of course, I know that we won’t see Hakuho retire tomorrow, and there is the open question of Kakuryu. But both of the top ranked men in Sumo are edging closer to retirement, and it could be some time once they leave active competition before we see another rikishi gain the rope.

The current Ozeki and the Ozeki hopeful have their fans, and rightfully so. However I watch them, and I don’t see Asashoryu, or Harumafuji, or even Kisenosato. I see solid Ozeki. That means that one of them will need to make a step change to evolve to another higher form. This might take a while, if it should ever happen. While I can see a post Hakuho era with a lot of strong Ozeki sumo, getting one of the current bunch to have back to back yusho may be a tall order just now.

What a glorious first day of sumo.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Tokushoryu – Interesting clash of opening gambits at the tachiai. Tokushoryu went for Daiamami’s face, and Daiamami kept his hands lower. This resulted in Tokushoryu getting a good combo in on Daiamami’s face, but when that ended, Daiamami was in control. With his power focused center-mass, Daiamami owned the rest of this match. An attempt at a last ditch defense at the tawara by Tokushoryu ended when his right foot skidded onto the janome. I really liked Daiamami’s focus and discipline today.

Hidenoumi defeats Kaisei – After coming back from COVID-Kyujo in January, it would seem that Kaisei has a fair amount of ring rust. Hidenoumi struggled quite a bit to capitalize on Kaisei’s poor balance and even worse footwork. There is just so much giant Brazilian to try to move. A final stumble as Kaisei tried to set up a rescue throw at the edge sent him tumbling from the dohyo, and I have to hope he did not injure himself with that one.

Yutakayama defeats Tsurugisho – Was looked like a fairly straightforward chest-to-chest battle took a worrisome turn as Tsurugisho’s knee appeared to give out and he tumbled down the dohyo. I know I gasped when I saw this, and Yutakayama’s body language could be read from Dallas – “Oh damn!” But Tsurugisho managed to get up, and seemed well enough.

Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, but there 14 days left for us to see the “Flying Mongolian”. Chiyoshoma looked to have tried a hit and shift, but ended off balance and vulnerable. Kotoeko read this perfectly, and with a right hand on Chiyoshoma’s face, applied a massive thrust that put into the salt box. Points to the Yobidashi who yanked the chikara-mizu bucket out of the way before Chiyoshoma ended up with a swirly as well.

Aoiyama defeats Terutsuyoshi – There are matches where I think Big-Dan Aoiyama is going through the motions. Then there is today, where this giant bag of muscle and mayonnaise can surprise you. He opened with a V-Twin thrusting attack, and when Terutsuyoshi circled left to set up his attack, Aoiyama used Terutsuyoshi’s body position to hurl him to the clay. Nice move.

Akiseyama defeats Kotoshoho – Akiseyama also really over-performed today. He took Kotoshoho to his chest, which I think Kotoshoho was not quite quite expecting. With a solid right hand inside grip, Akiseyama went for a yorikiri, but Kotoshoho found his footing and ramped up the forward pressure. Akiseyama deftly converted and took one measured step back, and Kotoshoho hit the clay.

Chiyotairyu defeats Ryuden – Chiyotairyu without sideburns is a bit unsettling, possibly to Ryuden as well. In the past we have discussed the possibility that some minor kami resides in them, so this basho he may be without that boost in power. Chiyotairyu kept the pressure on Ryuden’s face and shoulders from the tachiai, and Ryuden never really had a chance to set up much if any offense. But did Chiyotairyu steal Midorifuji’s katasukashi?

Midorifuji defeats Hoshoryu – It seems Midorifuji mounted the dohyo to find that his prize katasukashi was missing, and he needed to do something else. By all accounts, Hoshoryu was not paying attention today, as he launched. hard and fast into the tachiai expecting Midorifuji to try for a shoulder / under-arm hand placement. Instead the Isegahama power pixie had stepped to the side, and Hoshoryu got a face full of Kokugikan clay.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tobizaru – I had high hopes for this match, but a clumsy Tobizaru tachiai mostly made Chiyonokuni’s win a foregone conclusion. Better luck day 2!

Kagayaki defeats Kotonowaka – Yeah, I know I mentioned Kotonowaka as a candidate for a breakout basho in the podcast. Perhaps I have now doomed him? Goth mode Kagayaki, who may have been humming the chorus from “Bella Lugosi’s Dead”, kept his feet heavy and is hips low. In response, Kotonowaka had. Well, frankly, nothing.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – You can forgive Tochinoshin for thinking that he should start the match with the assumption that Ichinojo was going to use his brand of sumo. That is to be large, heaving and immobile (aka “The Boulder”). Instead, Ichinojo was on the move from the first step, and came in aggressive and strong. Once Tochinoshin was off balance and mostly relying on his damaged right knee, he was an easy mark for Ichinojo’s throw.

Okinoumi defeats Tamawashi – This match was unique, in that the outcome stumped the unflappable Konosuke, who had his eyes on the moment when both men stepped out, and came away with the expression of “hell if I know…” has he pointed both east and west with his gumbai, tossing it to the shipman and the replay crew. The replay was equally as baffling as you can see two high-skill vets undertake the most amazing series of footsteps each defying physics and human body mechanics to keep their feet inside the ring. At the end, it seems that the replay crew concurred and flipped a coin, giving the win to Okinoumi. On the NHK replay, I saw the fine sand from the janome fly about thanks to Okinoumi’s heel. But I am sure the replay crew had access to more cameras (in 4K!) than I do. Kimarite was listed as isamiashi, or a non-winning technique of “Inadvertent step out”.

Myogiryu defeats Endo – Well, better luck day 2 Endo. There was a solid clash at the tachiai, and Endo either bounced away off balance, or tried to hit and shift. Either way, Myogiryu was ready for it, delivering a fast win for his shonichi.

Shimanoumi defeats Kiribayama – Shimanoumi’s first every win over Kiribayama. He had his hands inside and lower at the tachiai, and it was straight into an armpit attack that disrupted whatever Kiribayama had planned. Kiribayama finally was able to break Shimanoumi’s attack, but by that point Kiribayama was too high. Shimanoumi dropped his hips, dropped his head, squared his shoulders and drove forward. Nothing Kiribayama tried could do any better than stalemate until Shimanoumi’s finishing drive took them both out.

Meisei defeats Takayasu – Takayasu had this won at least twice, but Meisei’s higher mobility shut down Takayasu’s attempts to drive him from the ring. Takayasu had really sharp foot placement today, its a shame that he let Meisei hook a leg in when Takayasu drove forward to finish the match. Nice recovery into a kakenage for Meisei.

Takanosho defeats Wakatakakage – It seems that these two watched the Okinoumi / Tamawashi, and declared “hold my beer”. I am not sure I have ever seen more elaborate efforts to keep your feet in while your opponent is off balance from two rikishi. Once again the result was “hell if I know”, but this time it was declared a torinaoshi, and they fought again. The second match – Takanosho kept his focus and power on center mass, and quickly drove Wakatakakage from the ring.

Terunofuji defeats Hokutofuji – My compliments to Hokutofuji for a well fought match. He used the handshake-tachiai into a right hand nodowa. With his left hand on Terunofuji’s chest, he dialed up the pressure and began to advance. The risk of this attack strategy is that the attacker’s body is wide open. Terunofuji found easy handholds and collapsed the nodowa by taking Hokutofuji to his chest. In response, Hokutofuji shifted to defense smoothly, dropping his hips and pressing forward with his shoulders. But Terunofuji’s left hand found a mawashi grip, and moments later the Kaiju’s powerful shitatenage sent Hokutofuji tumbling. Nine more to go.

Takakeisho defeats Onosho – I really like both of these rikishi, but Takakeisho looked strong and healthy today, and I was happy to see him in good form. Onosho made contact first, but his hands were just an couple of inches too high. Takakeisho had an open route to center mass, and his feet were in excellent position. Realzing he was 2 steps from defeat, Onosho tried to pull and twist against Takakeisho’s head. But with his balance centered, his hips low and his feet heavy and wide, the pull failed, giving Takakeisho his first of 8 wins to secure his Ozeki rank.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – Asanoyama got his preferred stance and grip at the tachiai, and Takarafuji found himself face first in the clay one step later.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – I had high hopes for this match, and it did deliver. Shodai was high at the tachiai, and his feet were in poor position. While Shodai tried to sort out his body, Mitakeumi went for the chest and began his attack. Shodai quickly set up a left hand outside mawashi grip, shutting down Mitakeumi’s chances for a quick win. Mitakeumi broke Shodai’s grip, and re-took command and bodily threw Shodai over the edge of the dohyo before the Ozeki could unleash any of his trademark cartoon sumo.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – After sitting out for several months, I am expecting a lot of ring rust on Hakuho. He looked a bit shaky in his first competition match since July, and he let Daieisho set up a throw in the face of Hakuho’s overwhelming forward advance. But The Boss made sure that Hatsu yusho winner Daieisho went out first, and picked up his first win for March.

Hatsu Day 10 Highlights

With a thunderous kyujo, act 2 comes to a close. I do mean Takakeisho, yes. While he has had poor performance from the start, he was was the center of attention in the days before the basho, as he had taken the cup in November and had an opportunity to make a bid to be promoted to Yokozuna. It seems at some point early in the tournament he injured his ankle, but frankly I think there may be more than that. He has looked unwell since the joint practice in the basement of the Kokugikan. I hope that he can get his body together a bit later this year and try again.

In the rikishi still active, there was no change at the top of the leader board as both Daieisho and Shodai won their matches today, and remain #1 and #2 respectively. This only gets interesting if someone can drop Daieisho at least once during act 3, which starts tomorrow. Personally I like the chances of another loss (at least 40%) due to the mental pressure of considering the yusho may cause some loss of focus during the daily bout. The chance is high we won’t know who will take the cup until day 15, and that is how it should be.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Akiseyama – Akiseyama has now lost 4 in a row, and is on a genuine cold streak. He had been tied for the lead at one time, and is now struggling. Is it a cold streak, or did he pick up an injury? Either way, Azumaryu picks up a much needed win to improve to 3-7.

Hoshoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Ok, Hoshoryu seems to have found his sumo for real! He beats Kotonowaka for the first time in 4 attempts by slamming him to the clay after a leg trip attempt. He has won the last 5 in a row after losing the first 5 from opening day.

Ichinojo defeats Midorifuji – You have to admire Midorifuji’s courage, he has to have seen Kiribayama’s day 9 attempt to grapple Ichinojo, and he somehow said to himself, “I am going to try that too!”. Well, it was just as pointless as once you get a hold of Ichinojo, he gets a hold of you, and you realize you have no way to let go. So you try to bide your time, but Ichinojo is quite comfortable and possibly napping. You then realize that you are simply going to have to make it look good. Ichinojo advances to 7-3 to remain at the edge of the group chasing Daieisho.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama had the early advantage, and fired up his thrusting attack. Sadanoumi took the punishment and got inside and them got Aoiyama moving back. I notice that Sadanoumi’s leg was not as heavily wrapped today as it had been in earlier matches. Maybe that gave him some of his speed and mobility back. Both end the day 5-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Myogiryu – Well, they traded push back mattas, and it was clear they were annoyed with each other. When they got underway on the 3rd attempt, Myogiryu attempted a double hand slap down, but could not make it stick. Myogiryu found himself without any defensive elements to the match, and Terutsuyoshi blasted him out to improve to 4-6.

Akua defeats Tokushoryu – Sharing is caring, they say, and today Akua gave Tokushoryu the gift of make-koshi, which he received on day 9 from Tobizaru. This was another extended chest to chest match, though nothing on the scale of Ichinojo’s long duration endurance challenge. I did not like the way Tokushoryu’s left knee / leg collapsed at the end. I hope he is not injured. Both end the day at 2-8.

Meisei defeats Kiribayama – It was a battle of the slap / pull down attempts, and while it was not pretty, it all worked out for Meisei. Meisei tried one first, giving the advantage to Kiribayama who responded moments later and that loss of forward pressure was all Meisei needed. Why do these guys try to respond to a dumb move with their own version of the dumb move? I see it far too much in sumo. Meisei improves to 7-3 and stays 2 behind Daieisho.

Kotoeko defeats Tobizaru – Another day with a flying hands of fury match involving Kotoeko. He has the right partner for that activity in Tobizaru, and they two went at it like a pair of tabbies jacked up on catnip. Sometimes I do love a good “kitchen sink” match, and this was pretty close to that, with Kotoeko ultimately giving Tobizaru a powerful shove over the bales for the win. Both end the day 4-6.

Ryuden defeats Yutakayama – Ryuden did a fantastic job of robbing Yutakayama of his offensive tools. He locked him up early and drove him back and out within 5 steps, leaving Yutakayama no room to maneuver, and no room to push back. Ryuden has won 3 of is last 4 and improves to 4-6.

Kagayaki defeats Shimanoumi – Possibly the best sumo from Kagayaki so far this tournament. He stayed low, kept his stance wide, kept his feet heavy and his shoulder square. Shimanoumi battled back well, but once Kagayaki gets into this mode, he’s quite powerful. Kagayaki improves to 5-5.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho continues his relentless drive toward a 0-15 result, which is slightly easier to obtain than a zensho result. Its heart breaking, as the guy really has some excellent sumo. Kotoshoho came close today when Takarafuji fell out of the ring with Kotoshoho, but it was clear that Takarafuji’s hand touched down after Kotoshoho’s foot it the janome. Takarafuji improves to 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with (once again) The Most Powerful Make-Koshi in Sumo! Hokutofuji had a couple of good hits, but this was all Daieisho, and he improves to 9-1 and maintains sole possession of the lead.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Takayasu had some great hand placement, catching Tochinoshin under the armpits with a meaty shove that ruined his balance and left him wide open to be attacked and moved out. Takayasu improves to 6-4.

Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – Ok, maybe Mitakeumi has his act together now. He takes down fellow tadpole Onosho and knocks him out of the group 2 losses behind Daieisho. Mitakeumi guessed that Onosho would bring his center of balance as far forward as he could, and timed his release of pressure and pull down superbly. He improves to 5-5.

Takanosho defeats Terunofuji – I am gobsmacked by this one. On what planet was Takanosho the winner. Oh well, anyone surprised that Terunofuji got the short end of another monoii? I sure am not. Takanosho’s gymnastics to stay airborne as they both went out were spectacular. Both end the day 6-4.

Asanoyama defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi opened with a powerful combo, which Asanoyama absorbed well, got his hands around Tamawashi and took control of the match. He improves to 7-3 to remain 2 behind Daiesho.

Shodai defeats Endo – Endo is a master tactician, and had a great formula for today’s match against Shodai. He had the Ozeki off balance and dancing around to maintain footing, and then the cartoon sumo kicked in. Shodai’s in the middle of being thrown, and suddenly he pivots and its Endo thats off balance. Shodai continues the rotation and they both crash over the bales. The gumbai goes to Shodai, and I am left wondering what I just saw. Of course there was a monoii, as they all say in unison “What the hell was that?” But no, the cartoon sumo worked once again, and Endo lands first, and it’s kachi-koshi for Shodai.

Tokyo November Day 10 Highlights

Today could be “What the hell was that?” day. The odd happenings and strange sumo occurrences were on display. Zero velocity tachiai, matta-tachiai, thrusting battles that turned into endurance matches, this day was full of the unexpected.

The 2020 magic continues: at the end of day 10 you have both the first and last man on the banzuke tied for the yusho race at the end of act 2. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. If we see yet another yusho from the last slot on the banzuke, well I am going to suggest the Kokugikan be checked for mischievous gnomes or perhaps a toll living in the cavity under the dohyo. You want further evidience of some kind of yokai at work? How about the six way tie for the lead in Juryo.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Midorifuji – Chiyoshoma drives ahead at the tachiai, standing Midorifuji up. Chiyoshoma then pulls him down with great effect. At 6-4, I think Chiyoshoma has a pretty good chance of making his 8, and staying in the top division for January.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyonokuni – This match was a great idea on paper. With the chance being that Chiyonokuni might slow down the “last man” magic. Chiyonokuni had a strong open, but nothing is stopping Shimanoumi right now. He gets an armpit lift / hold on Chiyonokuni and drives him out of the ring. Shimanoumi 9-1.

Kotonowaka defeats Akua – Akua had a solid tachiai, but Kotonowaka was largely unmoved. He reached inside with both hands and took command of the match, marching Akua over the bales, improving to 6-4.

Hoshoryu defeats Sadanoumi – Excellent sumo mechanics today from Hoshoryu, and with Sadanoumi lack of usable knee joints, Hoshoryu made it a short match. That’s loss number 8 for Sadanoumi, and he is make-koshi for November. He’s not going to have much in terms of sumo without repair to those legs.

Enho defeats Chiyotairyu – We go from low velocity Chiyotairyu tachiai to ZERO velocity tachiai! Both men just stood up, expecting some kind of trickery at the start of the match. Even the gyoji was surprised. A couple of tentative probing attacks back and forth, and Enho grabs and pulls, swinging Chiyotairyu to the clay. Odd but wonderful too. Enho improves to 2-8.

Meisei defeats Tokushoryu – Meisei completely dominated this match. I am not sure if Meisei somehow tripped the “power off” button on Tokushoryu with that deep left hand, but Tokushoryu rapidly went from competitor to ballast in the space of about one step. Both end the day at 5-5.

Kaisei defeats Aoiyama – Around a quarter ton of sumo action today. A weird matta tachiai, and we once again wonder what the hell was that? Neither of them were really dialed into any kind of high energy attack plan, so they went through the motions and finished quickly. Kaisei improves to 5-5.

Yutakayama defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi gets a left frontal grip at the tachiai, but can’t do anything with it, and the two stalemate in the center of the dohyo, with Yutakayama leaning over Terutsuyoshi to get a hold of his mawashi knot. After a fair amount of leaning, Terutsuyoshi tries to rally, but finds himself overpowered by Yutakayama, and quickly on the clay. Terutsuyoshi gets his 8th loss and is make-koshi for November.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – Today the “good” Ichinojo showed up and won. He left Tochinoshin no route to use any kind of offensive sumo, and completely dominated this match. You have to wonder if this version of the Boulder only shows up when he’s about to get a make-koshi. He improves to 3-7.

Kotoeko defeats Endo – Endo had the better sumo mechanics, and should have won this match if it were just down to style. But Kotoeko did not fret too much when Endo got his preferred left hand grip at the tachiai. He worked that left arm into a arm-bar hold and used that to beat Endo. Solid sumo tactics from Kotoeko today, and he improves to 6-4.

Ryuden defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi falls to the power of Ryuden’s butt, which has added some kind of shimmy before he goes into the starting crouch. I would ridicule it more, but it seems to be working. Tamawashi opened strong, but the power of the shiri-zumo was strong again today, and it rallied to move Tamawashi back and out to deliver Ryuden’s 8th win, and a kachi-koshi for Butt-vember.

Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – A magical display of “defend and extend” sumo today from the master craftsman, Takarafuji. Hokutofuji was throwing in combos left and right against Takarafuji, and each of them landed. But only with partial effect. After expending his energy with his attacks, Hokutofuji is left a bit winded. At that moment Takarafuji attacks, with great effect. Hokutofuji can’t defend and moves back again and again. Spent, he goes to Takarafuji’s chest and leans in. Eventually Takarafuji has had enough, and works to end the match, but can’t quite manage to defeat Hokutofuji’s lower body. Takarafuji sets up a throw, but in spending his last watt of energy, Hokutofuji manages to resist just enough to land last. What a match! Monoii? Rematch? What the hell was that? Somehow these two found the stamina to do it all over again. The second match is a brilliant continuation of the first in style and execution. But Hokutofuji manages to overcome Takarafuji’s defensive sumo, and pushes Josh’s favored contestant over the tawara for the win. Hokutofuji improves to 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Daieisho seems to be dialed into his sumo now, and today is a great example. He was strong and straight forward at the tachiai, with maxiumum force directly into Okinoumi’s chest. It was over in a moment, improving Daieisho’s score to 7-3.

Kagayaki defeats Kiribayama – Also finally showing good form is Kagayaki. He was low, strong and moving forward today, with a dash of gaburi-yori for garnish. Sadly it looks like Kiribayama may be headed for a double digit make-koshi. Kagayaki now 4-6.

Onosho defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage did not have much in this match, but he was able to force it into a yotsu battle when he connected to Onosho’s mawashi in the tachiai, and refused to give up his left hand grip. Onosho struggled some with the format, but no longer in danger of being off balance and on the move at the same time, he settled into just working to get Wakatakakage under control. Wakatakakage made his move about 30 seconds into the match, but could not finish the bulkier Onosho, who rallied and drove forward for the win. Onosho improves to 4-6 after a cold 0-4 start.

Terunofuji defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru could not quite make it 2 in a row. He went for a deep grip, and held on to Terunofuji’s mawashi with everything he could muster. The kaiju thanked him for his offer, lifted him high and took him to the curb like a basket of green glass on Tuesday morning in Sumida. Terunofuji kachi-koshi for November, and still very much in the yusho hunt. Could we have Terunofuji – Shimanoumi soon, please?

Kotoshoho defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell was that, Mitakeumi? Kotoshoho improves to 6-4.

Takanosho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu goes for “wild man strength” at the tachiai, and it completely fails. His body is too high, he is off balance and now he has Takanosho’s counter attack to absorb. Takanosho was low, compact and focused his energy center-mass. Takanosho’s efficiency was high today, few wasted movements, and all power devoted to moving forward and pushing Takayasu out of the way. A textbook example of why Takayasu’s current sumo style is prone to him losing matches that, on paper, he should dominate.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – There was a moment of hesitation from Myogiryu at the start of the match, and I am confident that is what cost him a competitive chance at a win today. His moment left Takakeisho in control, and with the forward momentum. The lone surviving Ozeki improves to 9-1.

Osaka Day 4 Highlights

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.

Highlight Matches

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.