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.

Aki Day 6 Highlights

It was a tumultuous day on the clay at the Kokugikan, which left us with a sole undefeated leader – journeyman veteran Okinoumi. The favored rikishi in multiple matches went out, went down, and handed the white star to the other guy. How bad was it? You will know once you watch the video feed. It was the kind of day that makes sumo fans frustrated. There were multiple “non-kimarite” finishes, and the crowning achievement was Yokozuna Kakuryu’s second kinboshi in 2 days. I am going to say the lone surviving Yokozuna may be hurt now, and we may be headed to a “nokazuna” tournament shortly.

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Yutakayama – Juryo visitor and Juryo yusho co-leader puts the doom on Yutakayama with an overwhelming thrusting attack. This is Yutakayama’s forte, but Takanosho just attacks with no quarter.

Ishiura defeats Tochiozan – Ishiura seems to have found a nice “groove”, which looks similar to Enho’s, but is more maneuver / evade based. It’s working well, and today it pushed grizzled veteran Tochiozan back down to 3-3.

Takagenji defeats Toyonoshima – I am happy to see Takagenji get it together enough to win another one. Folks love Toyonoshima, but I am starting to worry he may have reached the end of his run in the top division. Takagenji went left hand inside, and was able to resist Toyonoshima’s considerable forward pressure.

Nishikigi defeats Azumaryu – Nishikigi once again employs that double-arm bar hold that takes his opponents upper body out of the fight. Most rikishi (like Azumaryu) immediately shrug hard to try and break their arms free. It also raises their center of gravity and gives Nishikigi the win.

Tsurugisho defeats Shohozan – Tsurugisho kept trying to pull, but eventually decided to just face Shohozan, who looked uncharacteristically disrupted today.

Onosho defeats Daishoho – Onosho continues to look rough, but he is piecing together enough wins to keep true on a kachi-koshi trajectory. Hapless Daishoho has yet to win a single match.

Enho defeats Kagayaki – I give a lot of credit to Kagayaki, who seems to have tuned his attack to Enho. He shifts his thrusting about 12 cm lower, and manages to put a lot of pressure on the fire-pixie. But Enho calibrates and adjusts rapidly, breaking contact and coming back lower still. He repeats this 2 more times, each time grabbing for a leg, and Kagayaki stops trying to attack and starts trying to get away. Now off balance, Enho picks him off with no trouble. Wow.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Sadanoumi – Terutsuyoshi has had a rough start, but he was on his sumo today. He found Sadanoumi’s unprotected belly at the tachiai, and kept thrusting.

Meisei defeats Kotoyuki – After a strong start, Kotoyuki has gone back to being a bit silly. Granted he was against Meisei, who is fighting well, but any time I see a post-bout jogging tour of the zabuton section, I have to wonder.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku sets up the hug-n-chug straight out of the tachiai, but Takarafuji know Kotoshogiku’s horizontal hold is poor, and twists at the tawara to send the Kyushu Bulldozer over the edge in a heap.

Okinoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Really straightforward match that gave Okinoumi his 6th consecutive win, and by the end of the day, sole position atop the leaderboard. Shimanoumi got a left hand inside position at the tachiai, but Okinoumi had control of this match from the start.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I have not seen the wall-buster, canon-ball tachiai from Chiyotairyu yet this basho, and as a result he is 1-5. His balance is always poor, and with a lack of forward energy, its easy for Myogiryu bring him down.

Kotoeko defeats Ryuden – It’s time for the first WTF match! We have Kotoeko fighting well, and a moment of Ryuden’s hand on Kotoeko’s mage, but hey, they keep fighting. Kotoeko gets morozashi, but Ryuden man-handles the smaller Kotoeko out. Everyone gathers to conclude with bow, but Kotoekgo gets the envelopes? Yeah, seems Ryuden put a toe out. Kimarite is listed as isamiashi, which is ancient Yayoi for “Stink Foot”.

Tomokaze defeats Shodai – By the end of this match, fans might conclude that the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan was really hitting the cat nip. Again we see Tomokaze bring the weak sumo with “all pulls all the time”, but he manages to get Shodai in flight before he can try any of his cartoon sumo. But you have Tomokaze taking a good solid wrench during the final pull on Shodai’s mage as well. So we get a monoii, but its gumbai-dori. I give up, these guys should have tried again as this bout was a slop fest.

Abi defeats Aoiyama – Big Dan Aoiyama continues to struggle, and today its against Abi. Aoiyama is soft at the tachiai, and Abi more or less toys with him for a second before stepping aside and letting the Aoiyama sail past. Excuse me, sir? A bit more sumo please.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai once again fails to find its mark, and leaves his center-mass wide open for Mitakeumi to attack. Attack he does, and Hokutofuji finds his narrow window for any offense quickly taken away, and a heartbeat later he is over the tawara.

Endo defeats Takakeisho – Endo had the upper hand on this one, as he closed in on Takakeisho and went to work while Takakeisho seemed to try a desperate pull down. But the important element of this match is in fact the kimarite: tsukihiza. As Endo was working to set up a throw, Takakeisho’s knee (the bad one) collapsed out from under him. Maybe he stepped on the gyoji’s sandal? Any way you slice it, more slop.

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – But the Great Sumo Cat was not done, oh no indeed. Asanoyama shows us his Yusho performance was a prelude to the future of sumo, as he grapples Goeido, shuts down his offense and extends his career record over the Ozeki to 3-1. As the match raged, the Gyoji took a dive over the East side, with the Tate Gyoji desperately rising to take over the match but slipping and falling down himself. Goeido looks to have Asanoyama pinned to the edge but in fact Asanoyama has Goeido locked for a throw. Ignore the gyoji antics and watch some first class yotsu-zumo from these two today.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s hurt, and is getting no chance to set up his lift-and-shift sumo any more. With Tamawashi you are in for an oshi-battle, and at first it looks like Tochinoshin had secured his much needed 3rd win. But once again the Great Sumo Cat, now bombed out of his mind on sumo and cat nip, summons the monoii, who identify that Tochinoshin likewise has a case of “stink foot” and awards the match to Tamawashi. Dead body? Stink foot? Corn clog in port 7? This match has it all.

Daieisho defeats Kakuryu – Anyone who has cats knows, they can be jerks. When mine gets in a mood, he will start knocking things off of shelves just to watch them break. I am going to assume this was the general disposition of that mystical kami I call “The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan” today. Kakuryu had control over this match, until a poorly considered attempt to pull left his chest open, and Daieisho attacked with precision and vigor. This is 2 kinboshi dropped by Kakuryu in 2 days. He has in the past gotten mentally off of his sumo when he starts to lose, so lets see if he can get it back under control.

Nagoya Preview Podcast

Video version of the podcast is now live on YouTube, if you want to see a couple of sumo fans going on about the July tournament, just sit back and enjoy. We have all of the hits including a sumo news round up, our reaction to the banzuke, the Genki Report, the Ones to Watch, and our predictions. To go on record:

  • Andy – Takayasu 1st Yusho
  • Bruce – Hakuho Yusho, possibly perfect 15 wins.

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.