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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Arrrgh, ya scurvy dogs. Long time no C. Orange ya glad Im back? (Okay, see right there, I nailed it. A timely commentary on the modern day pirate situation off the coast of eastern Africa combined with a general medical alert about eating citrus fruits, all while crafting a sly nod to one of our old ST contributors who wrote arguably the worst running gag ever! My jobs done. The rest of this report should write itself.)

There have been rumors aswirlin that I was hospitalized, recovering from a broken coqbone; or that Id run off to live in the bush with Arbo (no, not THAT kind of bush--the African bush!); been arrested for public lucidity; and even that I was bivouacked in Antarctica! Well, none of them are true, though Martin is not far off the mark, as the current state of sumo has left me cold. Yes, Ill admit it, Im not as tough as the rest of you and I found it hard to get out of bed this basho knowing that I would not be getting my fortnight of Takamisakari (I have a rule, in order to avoid the possibility (as remote as it is) of becoming a sumo fanboy, and that is I do not watch anything lower than Makuuchi).

The real answer to my disappearance is that I was headhunted by another online wrestling site, one that dangled as its carrot the chance to report on clean, straight up bouts that are spontaneous and fresh and not at all as dirty as the neighbors cat. In addition, they have really neat nicknames, like Macho Man and The Giant and Superfly and Hulk. But Im loyal to Mike (and not just because of those photos he has of me and my cousin) so I turned Mr. McMahon down. I wish him all the best. (Did I mention they also let women in the ring?)

Lets begin Day 15 with the guys who are pretty much guaranteed to be mixing it up in the upper Maegashira and sanyaku ranks for the next couple of years, meaning the upper Maegashira and the sanyaku! Seriously, though, apart from Aran, every guy fighting in the final seven bouts today belongs in the final seven bouts.

First we had Homasho using his stiffbacked style to resist young strong (and from my state) Tochinowakas earnest attempts to grab Homas belt. The E1 controlled this bout from soup to nuts, and while the W7 needs to get a few more basho under his belt, his 9-6 was pretty impressive as he took down three big mofos in Hibiki, Kokkai, and Flobby. They may not be the men they once were, but look at it from T-Nos p.o.v.: All three were established (if not made) guys when he broke into sumo (well, maybe not Hibki). Their names alone would have to give him pause at that tachi-ai, am I wrong?

Two guys who may have been sergeants in rival security forces had the Soviet Union continued, No Shine got his KK by picking Aran up and dangling him over the edge for our amusement before putting him down to his 10th loss and the ignominious status of Double Digit Midget.

Kitataiki ran away from Toyonoshima and his 7-7 record, and there it was, KK from a 1-7. Tugboat has to be thankful he got to face the Bumzeki Kotooshu before he pranced away.

Next we had what Ill call the Out Of Shape Middle Aged Mans Problem bout, with Kak trying to fight through all that Miflobbiness. Happiness ensued as Kakuryu ignored the soft protestations of the once formidable Ozeki to drive him out lickety split and stand proud at 9-6. Miyabiyama represented the last of ten 7-7 rikishi to fight. Howd it go? Well, six out of a possible eight of them got their KK (two bouts had 7-7s facing each other).
They must have been more...motivated! Thats it.

Kisenosato was going for win #12, but Goeido had a different plan as he sprung from his tachi-ai like a enraged hippo and uh, well, got slapped and fell down. Oh. Uhm, okay. Kisenosato secures his 22nd win in two basho, meaning if he gets 11 qualities in Kyushu we could start the year with a second JPese Ozeki, ca-a-a-a-u-u-u-s-s-s-s-s-e...

Kotoshogiku undoubtedly will be promoted after his 12-3 showing this time out. His incredible (in=not) wins over Hakuho and HowDo sealed that deal. That he was thrown to the ground like a used condom by Baruto today matters not. The Sumo Kyokai will pick him up, empty him out, wash away the scum, and present us with a shiny new Ozeki in a few days.

And really, since the bar has been lowered by the revolting scam that was the final four years of Kaios career, Geeku wont have to do anything more than go 8-7 every basho (like Kaio did for the ENTIRETY of 2009) to satisfy the requirements of being a champion. Wonderful.

In the final bout, Hakuho took on fellow countryman Harumafuji, to whom he deferred in July, needing his 13th win to avoid a playoff with both Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato, the very two guys he provided with an early Christmas over the past few days. Unlike in those bouts, today Hakuho seemed to be, whats the word Im looking for? AWAKE, that’s it. When HowDo went a this way, Hakuho went a that way. When twisted, he resisted. When pounded, re responded. He was a totally different animal today.

Ya ever see a documentary on say, lions? The camera shows them stalking their prey, then ferociously exploding onto the back of a yak, and then they cling and bite and shift and tear and simply do whatever it takes to win the day? Now compare that to when youve seen a lion in a fucking zoo, swishing its tail and licking its balls. The former is Hakuho today; the latter Hakuho vs. the two Japanese Hopes. The Jopes. Thats right, people, the Jopes on us!

Hope you enjoyed your 15 daze of sumo and Ill be back in November because it beats being one of those guys who waves an orange flag on the highways.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
I welcome thee, fair readers, to my belated day 14 report. I'm writing this with a bit of a hangover, so please, let not thee ire the inevitable idiomatic inexactitudes.

To start things off, Hakuho looked pretty ineffective in his bout against Baruto, and the Estonian's ability to force hostilities into hidari-yotsu (left hand inside) was the key. However, despite not being able to move his opponent around the way he usually does, Hakuho was never really in trouble. Ok, he was lifted clean off his feet at some point, but when that happened, Hakuho did exactly what one is supposed to do, i.e. shifted his center of gravity a foot or so back by extending his legs. Baruto wasn't really able to carry him out and had to put him down, so Hak wrenched his way back to safety. Tired from his previously failed attempt, the big white guy had no answer to the Yokozuna's lightning quick dashi-nage with the grip he had on the front of his foe's mawashi. Hakuho stays in it at 12-2 and something tells me we'll have a playoff tomorrow. Baruto is business as usual at 9-5.

"Ozeki" Harumafuji blatantly threw his bout vs. now certainly Ozeki Kotoshogiku when he left his right wing wide open for the Geeku to plant his fat beam of an arm inside. From there, it was yori-kiri in two seconds. Kotoshogiku (12-2) secures his shift up the banzuke with the gimme, while Ex-Ama falls to 8-6. One thing's for sure... yaocho is still alive and well, and everyone knows it. All the rikishi have to do now is make bloody sure they don't leave evidence of it lying around.

Kisenosato easily brushed aside Tochiohzan (7-7) with an inspired combination of tsuki and oshi to win his 11th and start serious talk of an Ozeki run in Kyushu. I wasn't totally surprised with Hak's loss to Kisenosato a coupla days ago, and it definitely makes sense in the bigger picture. Let's face it, two young Japanese Ozeki on the banzuke won't do the sport's popularity much harm.

Kakuryu quickly got the upper hand on Tochinoshin at the initial charge, lunging straight into his preferred migi-yotsu double grip while denying Shin the uwate, but the slippery Mongol rushed his charge and almost fell victim to an utchari. Fortunately for him, his Georgian opponent failed to grab more than a fold of his mawashi and his fingers slipped, causing him to fall to his back and his 7th loss. With the win, the Kak scores his kachi-koshi.

Aran ignominiously put down Miyabiyama, feigning some contact at the tachi-ai only to retreat, grab him by the back of the head and drag him to the dohyo. Aran's been thoroughly beaten this basho at 5-9, but the Fatman still has a chance to get his 8th tomorrow against Kakuryu (which he won't, despite Kakuryu having secured his kachi-koshi – on the simple rationale that Kak needs all the wins he can get if he wants to start another Ozeki bid).

Toyonoshima survived his fatter foe's spirited thrusts, skillfully evaded a couple of pull attempts and finally pushed the outmaneuvered Wakakoyu back and out to his make-koshi. Toyonoshima now proudly stands at 7-7 after a miserable 1-7 start, and props to Mike for predicting in his day 9 there was a 50-50 chance the Tugboat ekes out a kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi made it three wins in a row when he pushed the overmatched Takekaze right back and easily kept up with his meek evasive maneuvers to send him into double digit loss territory. Okidoki got some mercy from the tori-kumi makers, as he faces Asasekiryu (also 7-7) tomorrow. I won't rule out a henka, but Okinoumi should see it coming as well.

Homasho struggled mightily to keep Gagamaru from pushing him straight out and he was in deep trouble at some point with the fat Georgian driving him back with a shallow left inside grip, but Homie dug in deep and turned the tables on Sir Gaga. Driven back to the edge, Gagamaru crumbled to dust, his knees bending in an awkward way. Hope he's ok, though. Homasho ups his record to 9-5 and is certain to be promoted (finally!) to sanyaku. Gagamaru overachieved a bit this basho, standing at 10-4 with victories over Goeido and Baruto. But, of course, he's going to be cannon fodder in Kyushu (I foresee no more than 5 wins there, from a likely M4 or so position).

Kokkai looked to be in control throughout his match with Yoshikaze, dominating his smaller opponent with a mix of pushes, thrusts and pulls, but the valiant Kaze stayed with him all the way, ducking and getting in close. Kokkai then grabbed a firm right uwate and deployed the combined kubi-hineri throw, but Yoshikaze countered the move with a solid left arm under Kokkai's hairy pit. The result was a fancy yori-taoshi which boosts Yoshikaze to 6-8, while Kokkai cools down a bit to 9-5.

Kaisei, desperate for a win, henka'd to his left against Wakanosato but got his ass handed to him when Croconosato read the move and slipped both of his stubby arms on the inside for the ho hum yori-kiri. Both guys share an unflattering 3-11 and will definitely look to recover in friendlier parts of the banzuke.

Tokitenku produced his worst yet this basho, merely standing up at the tachi-ai and slapping his foe in the face. Toyohibiki ate the slap like a good little bruiser and proceeded to push his now compromised foe straight back and out. 5-9 is a deserved reward for Tenku's boneheaded sumo, but Hibiki ain't much better himself.

Goeido looked briefly in trouble after allowing Kitataiki to get the left uwate and only countering with a right shitate of his own, but he used that inside grip to great effect, wrenching his green-mawashi'ed foe left and right before quickly letting go and yanking him down. Goeido's 10-4 is par for the course, and Kitataiki now shares the same mark.

Takayasu had some early trouble against Hochiyama's bothersome tsuppari, but as soon as the bout was forced to the belt, Takayasu used his superior skill to drag his foe down by shitate-dashi-nage. 5-9 for both men.

Shotenro probably oshidashi'ed Tochinowaka's hopes for a sansho right into oblivion. Really, there isn't much more to say about it, except that both guys have a neat 9-5.

Fujiazuma left featherweight Takanoyama nary a pot to piss in with plenty of well-aimed thrusts to the face and neck, laughing off the Czech's tame attempts at pulling on his arms. Don't look now, but these two are yet another pair sharing the same mark after their bout. Six in a row must be some kind of record.

Sagatsukasa shamelessly henka'd Daido and grabbed his arm for the very cheap tottari win, "improving" to 6-8. Daido still has a chance to get kachi-koshi tomorrow if he beats Tamawashi.

Yoshiazuma was no match for Kyokutenho's yotsu, despite holding his own for a few seconds. Tenho checks in at 10-4 with the routine win, while Yoshiazuma will have to avoid certain demotion from the top division with a win tomorrow.

I'm not particularly sure what was going through Tamawashi's head at the tachi-ai against Kimurayama, but the Mongolian was totally surprised when Kim greased him with a henka to the left. I'm telling you, this guy must have some hypnotic powers. It must be that annoying head-bob he does. Anyways, Tamawashi crosses the border into make-koshi land, while Kimurayama puts it on the line tomorrow when he faces Juryo-ite Tenkaiho in his first ever top division bout. I'll bet you he henkas.

Aminishiki won a surprisingly competitive fight vs. a guy he usually dominates left, right and center (15-4 head to head coming in). Because the details span over a whole minute of footage and are way too complicated to enumerate here, let me just say Sneaky's evasion craft prevailed in the end, as he burned his overzealous opponent with a perfectly timed and executed hataki-komi.

Finally, Tosayutaka got his ass handed to him by a guy from Juryo in yet another bout over a minute long. I won't bore you with the details, but I do have to say Tosayutaka (4-10) needs some rest and relaxation in Juryo.

What more could be said? Speculating on the Sansho, I'd say Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato are well positioned for the Shukunsho, Gagamaru will get the Kantosho with another (unlikely) win and no Ginosho is awarded (or they give one to the Geeku, to reinforce the legitimacy of his Ozeki run).

Also, look for most of the 7-7 dudes to win tomorrow – I've already covered the exception I find most likely. And look for Clancy to finally be back from Antarctica and report here once more. Cheerio.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
There's a term in sumo that I really like called "tsuchi." In Japanese, tsuchi means simply enough "dirt." In sumo terms, it's used to refer to a loss. Many times when rikishi are beat in close bouts, they get up and they have a large patch of dirt on the back of their shoulder or sometimes even on their face. Likewise, if a rikishi is burned by a pulldown, he'll often have a big dirt spot on his belly. The term "tsuchi" is derived from this patch of dirt, and it's often used in headlines to signal that a rikishi has lost an important bout. The whole reason a rikishi would get dirty in a loss is because he tried his hardest and refused to go down without giving it his all or something unexpected happened to him like a quick pulldown. So, when I see a dai-Yokozuna in his prime lose two days in a row to Sekiwake and he doesn't even need a bath afterwards to clean off the dirt, I can only roll my eyes and declare, "sumo is better than this."

Years ago when Sumotalk began openly declaring fixed bouts because the practice was starting to get out of hand, I listed somewhere the signs of yaocho. The list probably looked something like this:

- The losing rikishi puts his hand down to break his fall in a non-pulldown bout
- The losing rikishi fails to gain an advantageous position even when available
- The losing rikishi employs a move or hold he isn't custom to in order to give his opponent the clear upper hand
- The result of the bout greatly favors the winner

I'm not sure what happened to Kenji yesterday. He had to go to Mississippi on business this week, and I haven't heard from him since Monday, so allow me to cover the final bout of day 12, Hakuho vs. Kisenosato. Kisenosato entered the day riding a three bout losing streak; this after a brilliant 8-0 start that had everyone thinking here's another Ozeki candidate. The problem with Kisenosato's losses were that they came at the hands of the three rikishi ranked just above him. If he suffers a fourth loss to the Yokozuna, even if he wins the rest of his bouts and finishes with 11 wins, it's harder to hype a guy as an Ozeki candidate with no wins over a rikishi ranked above him. Heading into this bout, yaocho was not on my mind, but after I watched it, I just couldn't find a scenario where this wasn't thrown.

From the tachi-ai, the Yokozuna got both hands on Kisenosato's belt as the Sekiwake left himself wide open...something he always does (see pic at right). Hakuho quickly brought his left hand back, however, grabbing the right frontal belt from the tachi-ai, and at his point, Kisenosato still isn't close to a belt grip after a bad tachi-ai. If we stop the action at this point, the first red flag that jumped out at me is Hakuho refusing moro-zashi and grabbing the frontal belt grip. While the Yokozuna has fought from a frontal grip years ago, lately his sumo has been the deep right inside position followed by the left outer grip. I can't remember the last time he grabbed a frontal grip, especially when moro-zashi was there for the taking.

With the Yokozuna settled onto that frontal belt group, Kisenosato finally made his first move of the bout which was to push at Hakuho's right side ottsuke style. As Hakuho moved to the side, the right hand side of Kisenosato's belt was wide open, yet the Yokozuna refrained from grabbing the belt opting to continue to circle and allow himself to further get twisted in an awkward position by refusing to let go of that frontal grip.

That was the second red flag for me in this bout. Instead of grabbing that left outer grip, squaring up, and digging in, the Yokozuna stubbornly held onto that right frontal position even though it was obviously allowing Kisenosato to dictate the bout in the first place.

With the Yokozuna now forced to circle at the supposed behest of Kisenosato, the Sekiwake wrapped his left arm around the outside of Hakuho's right arm (still latched onto the front of the belt) and executed a kote-nage throw. The Yokozuna went down without a fight and actually put both hands down to break his fall before landing on the left side of his butt. When you see a guy make an unnatural fall, that's the first indicator to go back and watch the tape in slow motion. Doing so for this bout made it obvious. You have perhaps the greatest Yokozuna ever who refuses moro-zashi at the tachi-ai, makes zero adjustments during the bout, and then goes down in mere seconds to a guy with nary a belt grip and who has lost three in a row not to mention his momentum. I don't buy it.

As I mentioned previously, I didn't suspect yaocho coming into this bout (unlike the day 13 Hakuho - Kotoshogiku bout), but once it unfolded I saw too many red flags. If we review my signs of yaocho above with the Hakuho - Kisenosato bout, let's see how it checks out.

1. Hakuho's fall was definitely unnatural. He clenched both hands into fists on the way down and hit the dirt with the bottom of the fists before gently landing on the side of his butt.

2. Hakuho employed zero offense in this bout. When a rikishi grabs a frontal belt grip, he does so to do one of two things: lift his opponent straight upright or dashi-nage him off balance. If he doesn't do either of those two, he's upright and in close leaving his belt wide open. Once Kisenosato grabbed the left outer and pinched in on the Yokozuna's right, Kisenosato's right side was completely open to the taking. As Hakuho was being spun around, the left outer was centimeters away but he refused to grab the belt. A guy who last year at this point was in the midst of a 63 bout winning streak failing to make any adjustments as Hakuho did is unthinkable to me if he intends on winning the bout.

3. After refraining from moro-zashi at the tachi-ai, Hakuho's right frontal grip allowed Kisenosato the easy opening to the Yokozuna's right side. It was clear Hakuho didn't grab the belt to employ an offensive maneuver, and stubbornly holding onto that grip throughout the bout ensured that Kisenosato always maintained the upper hand.

4. By Kisenosato winning this bout, he is now a legitimate Ozeki candidate again. Not only has he defeated a dai-Yokozuna, but he has picked up a precious win in his march to 33. As we all know, the closer you get to 33, the harder each win becomes. If the Kid can now ride this momentum to a 12-3 finish, he can likely secure promotion in Kyushu.

The entire reason why I have dissected this bout ad nausea is because Hakuho obviously threw his day 13 bout against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku as well. With Kaio and Takamisakari out of the division, Japan desperately needs rikishi for whom they can root on. The horrible attendance figures at the start of this basho is a clear indication that the sport is sliding down a steep hill with little to grab onto. The quick and dirty cure now is to promote a Japanese rikishi or two to the Ozeki rank to stop the bleeding until the young talent we can now see from the Makushita ranks on up matures a bit and is able to restore balance to the sport. The clear roadblock to the promotion of a new Ozeki is the Yokozuna. Hakuho understands the situation, however, and is fully complying for the good of the sport. As Clancy so aptly described it, sumo is on life support right now and Hakuho is the iron lung. Who is orchestrating all this is unknown to me, and this could all be Hakuho understanding the politics of sumo and acting of his own volition. But regardless of the who or even the why, the fact is that Hakuho lost on purpose to Kisenosato yesterday and Kotoshogiku today.

Regarding the bout today, it was much easier to see the signs of yaocho compared to yesterday's bout even without watching in slow motion. Once again, the Yokozuna secured the inside position from the tachi-ai, but he failed to raise his arm up into his opponent's armpit opting to just stand there like a bump on a log and allow Kotoshogiku to grab the left outer grip. Hakuho kept his right knee up high as if that could fend of Kotoshogiku as he easily walked the Yokozuna back and to the side directly in front of the head judge's seat. At the edge, Hakuho went for as fake a kote-nage attempt as you'll ever see where he just flailed his left arm at nothing while jumping off the dohyo with a silly twist. This bout was both sad and ridiculous, but I totally get the why. With Harumafuji and Baruto on the horizon, Kotoshogiku had to have this win in order to aid him in reaching that 33 win mark over three basho. Sitting at 32 wins now after this bout, he only needs to defeat either Harumafuji or Baruto over the final days, not both. Defeating Hakuho, Baruto, and Harumafuji three days in a row with those guys fighting their hardest was an impossible task. Hakuho stepping aside today just made that road a lot easier to travel. It's amazing to me the lengths that Hakuho is going in order to accommodate the Japanese rikishi, but I suppose he understands where his bread is buttered and benefits as much as anyone from a healthy sport.

If you rewind back to the first tournament of the year, a surprising story appeared in the Japanese media where it was revealed that both Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato were being considered for Ozeki promotion even though they didn't meet the general requirements. The news article from January 24th read as follows:

"It is being reported that talks have already begun among the Sumo Association brass regarding the promotion of Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku to the rank of Ozeki pending their performances at the Haru basho. Normally, a candidate is considered for promotion after fighting three consecutive tournaments ranked from the sanyaku while posting double-digit wins. Both Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku, however, were ranked as Maegashira for the Kyushu basho, but Takanohana-oyakata stated that if either of the rikishi take the yusho or the jun-yusho, the board of directors will meet to consider promotion to Ozeki. Kotomitsuki was the last Japanese rikishi to be promoted to Ozeki for the 2007 Aki basho. Prior to Kotomitsuki, Tochiazuma was promoted to the prestigious rank prior to the 2001 Hatsu basho."

Even at the first of the year, it was clear that the Sumo Association wanted badly to promote Japanese rikishi to Ozeki. They were making exceptions for the two then, and they will make the same exceptions for them now. The Sumo Association is hoping the two can clear the hurdles on their own, but if they can't it's not surprising to see them get help on the dohyo. Hakuho has dropped his last two bouts against Kotoshogiku leaving the Sekiwake at 32 wins now instead of 30. And don't forget senshuraku of the Nagoya basho. When Harumafuji was gunning for a zensho yusho, he had Kisenosato by the short hairs and on his way out before mysteriously falling to the dohyo in a surprise loss. Clancy correctly called the yaocho, and while I had no idea why Harumafuji would throw that bout, when I went back and watched the tape, it was clear...Harumafuji took a dive despite moro-zashi and Kisenosato with his back to the tawara. That bout makes a little bit more sense now.

I hope that some of this is merely coincidence, but without question, Hakuho dropped the last two bouts this tournament on purpose; Hakuho lost to Kotoshogiku in Nagoya on purpose; and Harumafuji took a dive against Kisenosato in Nagoya. I think that Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato are both legitimate Ozeki candidates; however, I want to see them earn their promotions outright. Frankly, Hakuho's actions the last two days have been insulting, and if Kotoshogiku ends up taking the yusho, I'll barf harder than if someone force fed me a bowl of natto. If you were fooled by the Kisenosato bout, you're forgiven, but if you watched today's bout against Kotoshogiku and thought it was legitimate, you need to talk to OJ Simpson about what it means to be in denial.

I guess there were a few other bouts of interest today, so let's get my mind off of this yaocho crap and onto actual sumo. The two remaining Ozeki in the tournament locked horns today in a gappuri yotsu contest. From this position, Harumafuji really didn't have a chance, but the longer he let Baruto suck him in close, the less change he had of escaping. He never would escape as Baruto used his sheer size advantage to walk HowDo back and out without much of a struggle. Baruto moves to 9-4 with the win but must play the role of spoiler from here on out. Same goes for Harumafuji who is resting comfortably at 8-4 after that horrific start.

Sekiwake Kisenosato welcomed M11 Gagamaru, a rikishi off to a fast start down low but one who can no longer be overlooked after his stunning ass kicking of Baruto a few days ago. The last thing one wants to do is go chest to chest with this guy, so Kisenosato wisely stuck to a tsuppari tachi-ai. Gagamaru threw a few volleys of his own Kisenosato's way, but experience showed here as Kisenosato kept up the pressure like a boxer with a good jab before finding that opening and pushing Gagamaru back and out for good. Great tactical work from Kisenosato as he improves to 10-3. In the middle tier of his Ozeki run, every win from this point on his crucial for the Kid. You'd much rather go into Kyushu needing 11 wins instead of 12. Gagamaru falls to the same 10-3 mark, but pray to Clancy that the yusho line doesn't drop below 13-2 this basho.

Sekiwake Kakuryu completely folded under the pressure this basho. The good news is plenty of other rikishi have done it before, and it will get easier the next time. At 6-6 coming in, he faced the feisty M2 Yoshikaze who has shown he's capable of an upset. This was a tsuppari fest from the beginning with both rikishi more cautious than aggressive since both knew the other guy was sneaky. Kakuryu seemed to dictate the direction of the bout, but at the edge, Yoshikaze nearly yanked the Kak's right arm pulling him out of the ring, but the Sekiwake recovered and took advantage of his compromised opponent from there scoring the push out win. At 7-6, Kakuryu should get that coveted eighth and will have to regroup in Kyushu.

Komusubi Toyonoshima kept his kachi-koshi hopes alive by staying in front of M3 Takekaze and using cautious tsuppari before finding that opening that let him get in close and pounce on the final shove of his hapless opponent. At 1-7 last Sunday, Toyonoshima has now reeled off five straight wins to stand at 6-7. This isn't too surprising as his competition the last five days has been substantially weaker, but with no room to spare and the increase of tachi-ai henka this basho, you can't help but to root for him to win eight.

The last thing I thought we'd see from Komusubi Aran and M4 Tokitenku was a gappuri yotsu bout from the tachi-ai, but sure enough, both guys henka'd by going straight into each other and grabbing each other's belts with right insides and left outers. Aran is so damn strong in a belt fight that you wonder why he doesn't try and instigate more of them. Tokitenku tried to put up a fight and threatened a few tsuri attempts, but Aran was just too strong and quickly rebuffed him eventually working Tokitenku over to the edge and out for a victory he actually earned. This was a great bout and defined the term o-zumo. Still at 4-9 we won't see him here again at least until January...hopefully later.

You can tell just how seriously the Sumo Association takes a rikishi from way down low who gets off to a hot start by who they pair him with when he keeps hanging around the leaderboard. The red hot Kitataiki (and I do mean hot) was matched against M1 Homasho, a jo'i rikishi going for kachi-koshi. I loved the matchup because you knew Kitataiki really wasn't going anywhere, and why not give Homasho a chance to put him back in his place? Both rikishi butt heads at the tachi-ai before Homasho got his left arm on the inside indicating he would dictate today's pace. Kitataiki threatened a pull, which caused some separation, but Homasho got the left inside again and then the eventual moro-zashi to set up a push out win. They key here was the better rikishi dictating the pace with the left inside position picking up kachi-koshi in the process. Great stuff from Homasho today and with Aran dropping out of that final Komusubi slot for sure, it will be refreshing to see Homasho there for Kyushu. As for Kitataiki, he falls to 10-3 and can still win a special prize for his efforts.

M1 Okinoumi kept his slim kachi-koshi hopes alive by pulverizing M3 Tochiohzan kicking his ass at the tachi-ai getting the left arm on the inside and a right hand so low at the belt it was moro-zashi for all intents and purposes. Tochiohzan's only hope was to go for a pull, but Okinoumi was all over that too and actually had to put on the brakes at the end to keep Tochiohzan atop the dohyo. Excellent sumo from Okinoumi who creeps to 6-7 while Tochiohzan falls to 7-6.

M14 Shotenro picked up kachi-koshi by taking advantage of M6 Takayasu's light tsuppari. I actually think it's good for Takayasu to stay low at the moment and work on his sumo before rising too high up the charts.

M7 Tochinowaka demanded moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M15 Daido, and when Daido countered by going for a pull, I bout dropped my drawers at the poor decision. To say that the force-out came straightway would be an understatement. Tochinowaka cruises to 9-4 while Daido still waits to...ah, too easy. He's 7-6.

I was chatting with Martin yesterday about the day 13 matchups, and we came to conclusion that M15 Takanoyama was probably the favorite against M8 Kaisei, who has been so slow this basho somebody oughta check the Tomozuna-beya chanko for lead. The gangly Takanoyama used girl slap tsuppari to keep Kaisei at bay until he could squeeze his frame inside for the moro-zashi grip. In this position, Takanoyama wasted little time in tripping up Kaisei sweeping his right leg into Kaisei's right leg...the first time I've ever seen an uchi-gake go opposite leg like that. Takanoyama improves to 5-8 but still doesn't belong in the division. Kaisei's lucky to be 3-10; he's looked horrible.

And finally, M10 Kyokutenho was so high in his tachi-ai against M16 Kokkai that even Snoop Dogg paused as he rolled his next joint. The two ended up in gappuri hidari yotsu position, but Kokkai took full advantage of the lower stance as he incredibly beat Kyokutenho by yori-kiri. Both dudes are sitting know what I mean at 9-4.

Martin's back tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Oscar Gutiérrez reporting)
Well, well, surprise, this is not Mike Wesemann reporting. You're probably tired of receiving some insightful and really useful comments and some exacerbated love for the young crop that has rised to maku-uchi. I know I am, that's why I called the boss and decided to offer myself to give veryone a break from him and take his place for one day. Now that I take a look at it carefully, I think there's some pedobear stuff going on in sumotalk (if you know this character, you're a pervert who likes the darks parts of the internet). That perennial "you're done, old man, you are as good as gone" kind of stuff for the Tochinonadas and Miyabiyamas, but a little too much of overexcitement for the Takayasus and Tochinowakas in his early twenties. Heck, that's why they don't like our so beloved Takanoyama. It has nothing to do with him being a chopstick, it's because he's in his high twenties.

It has been a lot of time for me. I disconnected from sumo somewhat after the scandal for personal reasons but now I'm back and look at this mess. Kaio is gone (pinch me) along with guys like Shimotori, Koryu, Henkuba, and a bunch of other really good rikishi who had shown great promise. There was some Yokozuna stuff right over there, I wonder if the kyokai feared they had too much raw potential and they might see 4 or 5 Yokozuna, so they decided to just make them walk away so his elder fans with a heart condition didn't have to suffer yet another exciting yusho race going on between those guys and Hakuho. Then, on top of the banzuke we have only one Yokozuna and 3 Ozeki, so the kyokai has placed an ad: "ancient and poorly run business looks for healthy young men to fill in vacancies for administrative assistants." They got 3 applicants, and one of them is poised to take one of the places thanks to his ability to hump everything that moves (not the first time I've seen that). Him being of the right "race" also helps. Congrats in advance to the Geek (now I'll jinx him). Well, let's start with the action already. I know the Kenji-like reports that Mike is pulling lately are driving you nuts. You want to know about the Hochiyamas and Tamaasukas of the world. I'm here to serve you.

Let's see the first pair: Noodle vs. Dildo, awesome! If you can, look at Takanoyama just before the tachi-ai, wiggling his legs as if he were a soccer player. It's the first time I've seen this on a dohyo. Not having 50 extra kilos over your knees sure helps, doesn't it? Unfortunately for our swimsuit model, those kilos (pounds if you're using the royal system, and if you are, I don't like you) are useful to not be manhandled like a little child and that's what Dildo did after recovering from the usual suspect tachi-ai and some tries of leg trips by Slim. 6-5 and vibrating mode for Dildo. Takanoyama is one loss away from make-koshi and needs to win at least 3 more bouts if he wants to keep playing with the big guys, and I don't give a dime for it.

Yoshiazuma got his ass kicked and was taken straight out in mere seconds by Shotenro even after executing yet another henka that gave him two grips on the Mongolian's mawashi. I couldn't be happier about it. 5-6 for the old rookie who can't get out of here fast enough. Not so hot Shot is 6-5 and will keep lingering on the low part of Makuuchi as long as his bum knee holds.

Asasekiryu, still tired of his bout yesterday against Tosayutaka, decided to have none of that today and pulled a leapfrogging henka on unsuspecting Hochiyama for the cheap win. When the kimarite is uwate-nage you usually think it was a legit win, so they should call these henka-nage or henka-kikomi if it were the case. Just so it hangs on the resume of these jerks. 6-5 for the Secretary and 4-7 for Hochiyama who is a little short of firepower to linger long in Makuuchi, but at least is fighting straight up, and I'm not looking at anybody, Yoshiazuma.

Would you believe it! Kimurayama defeated Aminishiki! After a careful tachi-ai, the former Sekiwake went into push mode and Kimurayama started evading to his left and finally managed to do it, leaving Aminishiki with nothing to push at but thin air. Aminishiki was pissed with himself, cause he knew Kim was gonna go always to the left (it's like the guy has a leg shorter than the other, you know). 7-4 for Aminishiki this low means time and the bum knee are taking his toll. 5-6 for the endangered Kimurayama, who could well go extinct as far as I'm concerned.

Kokkai is back with a vengeance in Makuuchi and has managed to beat the scrubs and achieve an early kachi-koshi. Today he beat the irregular Tamawashi who is having an off basho. They played the push game, but always keeping some air in between the bodies, like the Georgian likes in these affairs. Being this is Tamawashi's game, he started to gain terrain, but Razorblade was sharp and timed a pull to perfection befuddling the Mawashi, who is 4-7 but could very well kick ass come Kyushu, so watch out for him.

Poor Tosayutaka is clearly injured. He managed to get some early wins, but is nowhere near his former self. It's a guy like this who deserves kosho status. He got injured fighting Kotooshu last basho only on the third day. Now, pre-basho he saw himself on the low part of Makuuchi and decided to fight it out to not see himself in Juryo after that disgrace. But he's going to go there and hasn't had the time to get healed. Maybe in a year he'll somehow recover (I wish) but it's unfair, cause this is a guy who is all balls and a pleasure to watch. If you need proof, take this. Tosayutaka was 7-1 against Toyohibiki in previous meetings, and I had no doubt that Hibiki would kill him. The M8 just rolled with his straight-up charge followed by tsuppari and inflicted make-koshi on his rival, saving himself from that fate. And then Kotooshu is allowed to leave without a fight. Bollocks!

Of the new crop, the one I have my eyes on is Tochinowaka. He has certainly the best body of all and the belt abilities that are required for my liking. Of course I had to report a loss because Mike's mancrush Kitataiki is certainly showing why he has that title. Tochinowaka came out with his arms on the inside trying mightily to gain moro-zashi or at least one inside belt grip on Kitataiki and trying to raise him up, but the Mongolian wanted nothing of that and battled it pushing his opponent's armpits. And push he did, Tochinowaka tried to resist but it was Kitataiki's day, and it's being Kitataiki's basho, nice oshi-dashi that gives 9-2 to the Mongolian, who has to fight for his first sansho as Gagamaru is just blazing. 7-4 for Tochinowaka and I can't wait to see him battling Ozeki and the kind. Just as a side note, Kisenosato could learn from Tochinowaka's tachi-ai.

Fujiazuma has a perfectly round belly and I like it. As for the rikishi himself, well, I'm not that thrilled, he's OK but something tells me Tochinowaka and Takayasu are going to be much better rikishi. Today Roundbelly simply had to throw a little tsuppari to Tamaasuka, who, as I said a year ago, has no business in Makuuchi, even without the guys who left. Tamaasuka just collapsed with a couple of thrusts to his neck, tsuki-dashi, as Mike says, you got your ass kicked, boy. Still, only the third win for Roundbelly, one more than today's "rival".

Wakakoyu vs. Sagatsukasa might entice you if you are into pull-push sumo, but I'm not. Wakakoyu went for that, but the Roach knew perfectly what was coming and gained some terrain on his bigger rival. Wakakoyu recharged and fired a nice round of tsuppari over Sagatsukasa, who was overwhelmed and finally fell to his arms when Wakakoyu stopped firing and placed a timely pull on the little smurf. 6-5 for the Puller and 5-6 for ippon master Sagatsukasa-es-tu-casa.

Goeido's first 4 days this basho were awful. He was doing his best Kakizoe impersonation and got a 2-2 start to show for it. Suddenly, he remembered he's a helluva belt fighter and despite losing today and yesterday, this is the way to go, kid. Today's bout is worth watching. Him and the Chauffeur got away with the tachi-ai quickly setting into hidari-yotsu (left hand inside) and Goeido went for the rush kill. Kyokutenho managed to somehow maintain himself alive I can swear by only standing on a couple of toes like a ballerina. Then, the Mongolian grabbed the shitate to pair with the uwate he had from the beginning, and when you thought Goeido had pulled the tsuri-dashi win, it was really Kyokutenho who had turned the tables using that shitate grip to spin himself into a favorable position. The Chauffeur wasted no time driving miss Daisy out despite some ballerina-dancing by Goeido himself. Goeido is 7-4 but there's no shame in these last two defeats, Kyokutenho is showing some oldies goldies and is already kachi-koshi.

Takayasu justified the good press he's receiving despite losing today. He tried to start a slap bitch contest with Tochinoshin, who decided to settle matters on the belt. After some struggles they settled into gappuri-migi-yotsu, with dual right-inside and left-outside grips. Takayasu stroke first with a shitatenage attempt, but Tochinoshin survived it and finally pulled a forceful uwatenage on a Takayasu who was trying to resist even at the expense of his health, cause sure as hell he wasn't rolling over. Fortunately for all of us, the fall was clean and we had nothing to regret. 5-6 for Shin, who along with Tochiohzan and Tochinowaka are going to be a helluva line-up for Kasugano beya in years to come. 4-7 for Takayasu, who should go more for the belt and less for the bitch slaps, methinks.

If you see Takekaze on one side and Tokitenku on the other, you know the chances of a clean tachi-ai are more or less the same than me banging Heidi Klum. So be it, the ugly affair ended almost before it started with Meatball just hitting (kinda), immediately stepping to his side and just briefly supporting Tokitenku's way to the dirt. 4-7 for both. Heidi, please, return my calls, a restraining order won't keep us away.

Errrm, enough with my "handy" love life, Homasho is going to finally make it to Komusubi. Yippi-yei! Today he schooled Okinoumi, who tried to bulldoze his way to the inside. Homie resisted until he was leaning on the straw. Then he put up the resistance, and when Oki went for the kill, Homer executed the decisive move twisting Okidoki for the nice maki-otoshi win. 7-4 and Homie won't be denied this time if he gets another win. Okinoumi is exactly the opposite but has booked a place in Makuuchi for the next 5 years as I don't see him much prone to injury, so he'll be fine.

Yoshikaze vs. Aran is surely a funny bout to watch even (or maybe because) sometimes it features some hair pulling. Today there was none of that, so shame on you guys. Ugly is not the word I'm looking for…I mean, if there were any spirits around the dohyo, they surely scared them away, there's no need for big stomps on a Yokozuna dohyo-iri. If you give these two guys two feather dusters, they'll clean your house in a minute (though you don't want them to go anywhere near your porcelain) Enough with the jokes, no hair was pulled, Aran lost by hataki-komi, and I say this, because I consider nobody wins in these bitch-slap affairs. Now, if it had been two women, that'd be different, then everybody wins…5-6 for Cafe, who is well high on caffeine this basho and can kachi-koshi from the jo'i (a tremor in the force); 2 henkas and 9 losses for Aran, who should be concentrating on next basho and doing proper sumo, but he's not.

Toyonoshima knows he has to get moro-zashi to win. Today's opponent, beloved grandpa Wakanosato achieved a left inside on the tachi-ai, but Tugboat went maki-kae, got moro-zashi and it was curtains. 4 wins for Toyo, 3 in a row and he's very well capable of winning out and preserving his Komusubi slot. Only half those wins for Wakanosato, who's getting murdered as usual up here.

I swear on the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I wrote the "jinx on Kotoshogiku" part at the beginning of my report before the actual bout took place. The uber-tachi-ai Giku claims to have been practising hasn't showed this basho and we have 4 days left, ahem. Today Tochiohzan just got his left inside at the tachi-ai, there was some fight on the other side to claim the inside. Oh simply won the battle, won the war and pushed Kotoshogiku and his dreams of becoming Ozeki to oblivion. Simple and powerful sumo by Tochiohzan (7-4), who should be very interested in denying promotions to Ozeki. 9-2 for Giku, who now has to defeat Hakuho for my liking, as I don't see a 12-3 without that scalp worthy of consideration of promotion. But that's me.

Now, for our big match of today (taking into account the size of the contestants) we had Baruto and Gagamaru. Baruto, starring as a drunk husband, came out with his moro-te tachi-ai and threw the dishes, the sink, the lamps, the toilet and the washing-machine at Gaga, and yet Gagamaru simply held his ground, shrugging off Baruto's tsuppari as if it were butterflies. Gagamaru finally responded like an angry wife, hit Baruto with the rolling pin, spun him and pushed his sorry ass out of the house on an amazing display of strength and savoir-faire. Lady Gaga is surely moving well this basho, are we contemplating the birth of a new star or is it just a one basho wonder? Time will tell. Meanwhile he's with a lone loss (on shonichi to Aminishiki, give him the shukun-sho!) and tomorrow he faces the Giku (and I can't fathom how the Geek is gonna get on the inside). Baruto already got his 8, but he's nowhere near contending for a yusho as he was when he was promoted to Ozeki.

Harumafuji-Kisenosato was another good bout. The Yokozuna Pretender knocked the Ozeki Pretender on the tachi-ai and got a mae-mitsu grip (a frontal one) on the Kid's mawashi. Kise tried to shake it off, but Harumafuji stayed well low, denying any advance and even getting his left hand on the inside of the Sekiwake. When Kisenosato tried to resist on that side, Harry pulled the plug on the other and executed a perfect dashi-nage motion (throwing and pushing at the same time) and threw Kisenosato on his face for his third consecutive loss. I'd call it shitate cause that's what Harry had when he started the throw, but what do I know, they said it was uwate. A moral victory more than anything for the ozeki, who is cleaning up the sanyaku but has gone 2-4 against Maegashira (yikes!). The Kid should try to build on for a future promotion and tomorrow he's facing Hakuho, not exactly the rikishi you want after 3 losses, but the Kid is the best chance of denying The Man of a zensho-yusho.

Musubi-no-ichiban features the lone Yokozuna, the lone "invictus" rikishi, the monster, yadda-yadda-yadda…Hakuho featuring a 18-0 record against his rival today, the slippery, but not henka-easy rikishi he once was, Kakuryu. Kakuryu has almost defeated Hakuho 2 or 3 times that I can remember easily, but I don't think he's even been closer than today. Hak usually deploys a cautious tachi-ai, controls his opponent without any danger of losing to a henka and then simply overpowers his rival, whoever may be. Today he got blasted by the Kak and was in no time with his heels on the tawara and with a pesky Sekiwake on top of him like flies on shit. But there's a reason why this is the 63 victory man. Out of the blue, Hakuho pulled a desperate throw with no grip at all on the Sekiwake's mawashi. As if it mattered. Sekiwake rolling to the dirt and only a fraction later, Hakuho's hand on the floor. Easy as pie. Utchari, though it was labeled as sukuinage. The Kak is 5-6 and has no chance of promotion till mid 2012 at best. Hakuho has to lose twice to be denied of the yusho (and that, considering Gagamaru cleans up). So congratulations to the Yokozuna on his 20th yusho.

Tomorrow Kenji will deprive you of Tamaasuka's achievements. I don't blame him. Hasta la vista.

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I guess a typhoon is pounding Japan at the moment because NHK opted to pre-empt the first 30 minutes or so of the sumos in favor of showing the same five video clips over and over mingled with the same weather maps. I didn't mind too much thinking I wouldn't have to watch the early Makuuchi bouts, but alas, as soon as the broadcast started, they replayed 'em all. On a bit more serious note, we should be in for a treat these last five days. Yokozuna Hakuho is coasting towards the yusho, but promotion hopes are still alive for Kotoshogiku, and even Kisenosato is in the midst of an Ozeki run, so every win he can secure now is crucial heading into the Kyushu basho. Aside from those three, the next best rikishi on the banzuke are the two Ozeki, Harumafuji and Baruto. Harumafuji's promotion hopes have vanished like a fart in the wind, but kachi-koshi isn't yet a given, so you know he'll be desperate. As for Baruto, the Ozeki pride should instinctively kick in making him a force to reckon with down the stretch. While Kisenosato has already faced Baruto, the big five will for the most part battle each other the rest of the way, so I'm looking forward to the shubansen, or final five days.

But let's take care of day 10 bidness first starting with the featured bout of the day, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku vs. Sekiwake Kisenosato. If you ask any sumo old-timer what's the most important aspect of sumo during a hon-basho, they will all say the tachi-ai. Kotoshogiku realized his tachi-ai was lacking during the Nagoya basho, and Kisenosato has relied heavily on a solid tachi-ai this basho propelling him to an 8-0 start before dropping his first bout yesterday against Baruto...due to what else but a lackadaisical tachi-ai.

So, the tachi-ai was key for this duel between the two Sekiwake. Kisenosato opted to come with a hari-zashi charge meaning he went for a face slap with the right hand while attempting to get his left arm on the inside, but in the time it took him to execute this, Kotoshogiku was already in Kisenosato's grill using his left arm on the inside to push Kisenosato back and out so quickly, Kisenosato either didn't know what hit him or he threw the bout. I just didn't see any attempt from Kisenosato to dig in even though he could have done so with his left arm on the inside, and it was so easy Kotoshogiku didn't even need his trademark gaburi-yori near the tawara. Who knows? Regardless, Kisenosato drops his second bout in as many days to fall to 8-2 and out of the yusho race while Kotoshogiku is still alive on both counts (yusho race, Ozeki promotion) at 9-1.

In the Yokozuna ranks, you see the effect of Kotooshu's withdrawal because Hakuho's day 10 opponent was M4 Tokitenku. Do I need to even describe Hakuho's inside position and left uwate grip? Didn't think so. As Hakuho nudged Tokitenku to the edge, he threatened a kiri-kaeshi with the left leg ensuring Tokitenku had nowhere to go but back and out. As Tokitenku was forced back across the straw, Hakuho was squatting in the perfect suri-ashi position, which shows you that sound sumo starts from the legs up. Hakuho's sumo is simply beautiful. At 10-0, he controls everyone's destiny, so let's see what happens against the guys desperately seeking wins.

Ozeki Baruto used a hari-te of his own against M3 Tochiohzan that was as equally as slow as Kisenosato's earlier attempt, but they don't call his opponent Tochi-slow-zan for nothing. Bart's slap connected firmly to the side of Tochiohzan's grill whereupon the Estonian just plowed forward not even needing a grip as he bodied Tochiohzan back and out in a flash. The Estonian is 8-2, and while I think he's out of the yusho race, he's close enough that he'll be a bitch to handle for anyone down the stretch, Hakuho included. Tochiohzan cools off a bit at 6-4 and will likely get more tough opponents the last five days.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Harumafuji used a henka to his left against M4 Tochinoshin that was so wild, both rikishi were completely separated after the initial charge. With hands extended a meter apart, Harumafuji lurched quickly to the inside of Tochinoshin leading with the right arm and a left outer grip and went for the quick kill aided by a gaburi belly shove or two. Tochinoshin made it extremely close, however, unleashing an utchari throw at the edge, but Tochinoshin's right heel barely touched outside the tawara before Harumafuji was slung off the dohyo. The ending was great here from both rikishi, but an Ozeki using a tachi-ai henka is weak. It shows just how much Harumafuji is out of his element this basho and succumbing to the mental pressure of it all. He'll still have to scrap for kachi-koshi at 6-4 as he has Hakuho, Baruto, Kisenosato, and Kotoshogiku on the horizon. Tochinoshin falls to a tough luck 4-6.

Sekiwake Kakuryu received a huge scare from M1 Homasho, who won the tachi-ai and gave Kakuryu no choice but to retreat and look for a cheap pull. When that didn't come, the relentless Homasho forced the bout to migi-yotsu, but the M1 enjoyed the upperhand also known as the hidari-uwate. Homasho went for the yori-kiri win straightway leading with the left outer grip, but a subtle right scoop throw attempt from the Kak threw Homasho off balance just enough, so that when he went for his next yori-kiri charge, Kakuryu was able to back out of it and slap Homasho to the clay as the Kak dangerously tiptoed the tawara. It was so close, a mono-ii was actually called, but Kakuryu barely kept his foot from touching out. This bout was an example of that sixth sense the Mongolian rikishi seem to employ in the ring that gives them a slight edge. The Kak can breathe a bit easier at 5-5 while Homasho is still sitting pretty at 6-4.

Komusubi Toyonoshima was clearly expecting a tachi-ai henka from counterpart Aran, and when it didn't come, he just assumed moro-zashi due to the Russian's weak attack. Toyonoshima immediately went for the force out win, and when the Bride resisted, he tried shifting gears and going for a pull down. That didn't work either, but Aran is so off of his game this basho that he was the easy push-out fodder in the end. Toyonoshima's alive at 3-7 while Aran will thankfully be booted from the sanyaku now that he's just 2-8.

It was swell to see M1 Okinoumi pick up another win as he survived a henka from M2 Yoshikaze and secured his left arm sufficiently on the inside of Yoshikaze's right side bodying him back and out for the easy yori-kiri win. Having fought everyone above him, Okinoumi still has a shot at 4-6. If only he had a fair fight from Aran...

M5 Goeido latched onto the front of M11 Gagamaru's belt with the left hand, but was met with a pretty cool defense from Gagamaru, which was to use both beefy paws and pushed straight into Goeido's face. Like a bulldog on it's prey's neck, Goeido refused to let go of the belt, and so Gagamaru continued to push into the Father's face. Finally, Goeido relented and went for a deep grip on the mawashi, but he made a mistake grabbing the back vertical strap of Gagamaru's belt instead of a few folds of the belt around the Gentleman's waist. Due to his frail handle, Gagamaru had the time and wherewithal to counter with a right kote-nage throw that felled Goeido to the dirt for the upset win. This was a tough loss for Goeido who did everything right, but at 7-3 he will be ranked among the jo'i for Kyushu. As for Gagamaru, dude sails to 9-1 with the excellent win and could be asked to fight Kotoshogiku down the stretch. He can bone up for that one against Baruto tomorrow. I wonder who the lucky guy reporting on that one tomorrow is.

M7 Tochinowaka just stormed straight into M5 Miyabiyama's tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but the youngster literally laughed off the shoves continuing to plod forward as he bodied Miyabiyama back and out for the easy win. Two realities were evident in this bout: Miyabiyama has nothing left in the tank and Tochinowaka is a stud. At 7-3 now, the kid will not only kachi-koshi but will find himself ranked in the jo'i for Kyushu. I don't see a lot of fear in Tochinowaka, and if you couldn't tell, I'm really high on this guy.

Just when you thought M10 Kyokutenho would keep himself on the yusho leaderboard, he dropped a yotsu-zumo contest to M7 Fujiazuma, who was all of 1-8 coming in. Normally, Kyokutenho would kick Fujiazuma's ass in a belt contest, but the Fuj somehow managed to get his beer belly lodged up and under Kyokutenho's belt, so with the Chauffeur standing too upright, Fujiazuma just dry-humped him back for the force-out win. I've seen it all now as Kyokutenho drops to 7-3.

And finally, let's end with M11 Kitataiki who simply stayed low against M16 Kimurayama, kept himself square with his opponent as Kimurayama drifted left, and then easily shoved him out in a few seconds. If Kitataiki had taken his opponent seriously, this could have been tsuki-dashi, but the picks up the conservative win to move to 8-2. That means Kitataiki is prolly in the lead among the Maegashira rikishi in terms of securing a special prize, but I haven't been nearly as impressed with Kitataiki as I have other rikishi this low.

Back at it tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Kenji was called out of town on business this morning and will be unable to report until Thursday, so in his stead you get me again. I know that other contributors sometimes mock Kenji's reports, but I have taken a page from his book and have cut out the daily dross opting to focus on the true talking points. I mean, back when Sumotalk was confined to our email inboxes, we definitely weren't chatting about the Tokitsunada - Asanowaka matchups. Anyway, I think Kenji would agree with me that by day 9 of the basho, the cream definitely starts rising to the top, and we are also able to sift out the pretenders from the contenders, so let's get right to the action starting with the day's most anticipated bout.

Sekiwake Kisenosato has been the bright spot of this basho so far. Early on, he went about his bidness quietly while others like Homasho and Okinoumi were scoring the early upsets, but over the first eight days, Kisenosato methodically posted an 8-0 record with meaningful tachi-ai and quick bouts. Dude looks to be in great shape, and in my eyes, he's always been the most Ozeki-like of the current Sekiwake.

Today he would receive his stiffest test so far in Ozeki Baruto, and the key to a victory would be a strong tachi-ai that kept Bart on the defensive. We never saw it, however, as Kisenosato left his armpits wide open with a lethargic charge that allowed Baruto to get the solid left inside position and equally solid right outer grip. Kisenosato quickly countered with the same left inner and right outer meaning the gappuri yotsu contest was on. Kisenosato actually dictated the pace early and had Baruto close to the edge a few times, but the key to the entire bout next to Kisenosato's lazy tachi-ai was Baruto using his right thigh on the inside of Kisenosato's left to bump the Sekiwake back before quickly cutting off his outer grip. From there, Baruto used the right leg again to lift Kisenosato upright to where he was finally able to dump him with a shweet belt throw. This was one of the better fought matches of the tournament, but Kisenosato failed to take advantage of the Estonian at the tachi-ai, and his reward is an 8-1 record. I mean, if Yoshikaze can take advantage of Baruto at the initial charge, there's no reason why Kisenosato can't, so hopefully the Kid uses this as a learning experience. Baruto improves to 7-2 and quietly "hangs around," but the yusho line isn't falling below 14-1.

Moving to the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho was business as usual stealing the right inside position from M4 Tochinoshin at the tachi-ai and following that up with the left outer grip. There wasn't anything Shin could do as the Yokozuna swung him around by the belt and then dug his head into Tochinoshin's torso and bulldozed the Private back and out. All one can say after a bout like this is "textbook," but I have noticed that Hakuho does appear a bit uncomfortable when he's forced to fight with the right arm on the outside. Moving forward, let's watch his bouts when he doesn't get the right inner / left outer combination. At 9-0, Hakuho is now the only undefeated rikishi and is well on his way to the yusho. Tochinoshin is 4-4.

Back to the Ozeki ranks, you'll notice that Harumafuji has abandoned that balls to the wall nodowa tachi-ai. While effective the first few steps of his charge, he was getting burned too often at the edge unable to entirely rein his opponents in merely by pushing into their necks. Today against Sekiwake Kakuryu, the two butt heads in a sharp tachi-ai that saw both rikishi come away with with left inside positions. Harumafuji one-upped the Sekiwake, however, with the right outer grip, and that enabled him to wrench the Kak to his liking and spill him to the dirt with a nifty soto-gake leg trip. Harumafuji gets his mage above water again at 5-4 while Kakuryu slips to 4-5. I think these rikishi are equals right now, so whoever wins the tachi-ai will win the bout.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku received a break today in M4 Tokitenku, a rikishi who cannot beat the Geeku straight up. Case in point, Tokitenku just waltzed into the moro-zashi position today from the tachi-ai, but Kotoshogiku wrapped him up with firm grips around the outside of Tokitenku's arms and drove Tenku back and out in mere seconds. Kotoshogiku picked up his eighth win of the tourney, but he should be seriously concerned that he let Tokitenku get moro-zashi. He cannot reach 12 wins if he continues to let his opponents get on the inside so easily. After nine days, Kotoshogiku has fought two legitimate opponents in Toyonoshima and Kakuryu. Against those guys he's 1-1. He has got to solve that tachi-ai and do it fast.

Komusubi Toyonoshima breezed into the moro-zashi position against M1 Okinoumi from the tachi-ai, and while Okinoumi executed a maki-kae bringing his left arm to the inside, Toyonoshima's belt grip with the right was so tight that he just spun Okinoumi to the dirt with ease. Toyonoshima improves to 2-7, and I'd say odds are 50-50 that he pulls out a kachi-koshi.  Okinoumi falls to 3-6 with the loss today and had no spunk at the initial charge. That's a far cry from his performance the first few days, but perhaps the henka loss to Aran yesterday has taken him out of his rhythm.

Out of respect for the sanyaku, I will comment on Komusubi Aran's bout, but only to say he's a dirty rotten scoundrel. After greasing Okinoumi up the arse yesterday, he buttered M2 Wakanosato's bun today with an identical tachi-ai henka to his right that allowed him to slap Wakanosato to the dirt without incident. I can't recall a bigger sack a shit on the dohyo than Aran. Both rikishi are 2-7 after the travesty.

M1 Homasho is well on his way to the sanyaku next basho after giving up an early right outer grip to M2 Yoshikaze but shaking it off with a powerful left arm on the inside that not only broke Cafe's grip but set him up to be forced back and out with some oomph. The two rikishi bounced off of each other at the charge rendering the bout in Yoshikaze's favor, but Homasho literally played defense, countered, and drove his opponent out using only the left arm. And good footwork. Homie finishes at 6-3 with nothing but guys ranked below him left. Yoshikaze falls to 4-5.

M3 Tochiohzan's hopes at returning to the sanyaku received a minor blow at the hands of M3 Takekaze. Oh failed to lock Takekaze up at the tachi-ai, and the result was a slippery Takekaze who was able to evade and catch Tochiohzan with a quick shoulder slapdown. I can't really fault Tochiohzan here as he drops to 6-3, but he's got to dictate the pace at the initial charge, especially against weaker rikishi like Takekaze.

The best fought bout of the basho so far occurred today as M5 Goeido locked horns with M7 Tochinowaka. There was just too much action going on here to describe it blow for blow, but to sum it up, Goeido looked for the belt throughout the bout, and once he got it, he was able to use it to defeat his taller, stronger opponent in Tochinowaka. Goeido moves to 7-2 with the win while Tochinowaka falls to 6-3, but I can totally see these two duking it out in a few years on day 13 both ranked as Ozeki. Great stuff here, and if you have the means, you should go back and watch it.

It's great to see M6 Takayasu come out of his funk and get back to his winning ways with sound sumo. Today against M8 Kaisei, he used some sharp nodowa shoves into Kaisei's throat to stand the giant up, but he wisely didn't try and go for the oshi-dashi win as that's not his style. Instead, once Kaisei was raised up sufficiently, he dove inside, grabbed the front of Kaisei's belt, and twisted him down in a heap before the Brazilian could say, "o que acabou de me bater?" At 4-5 now, Takayasu has kachi-koshi back in his sights. Kaisei falls to a lethargic 3-6.

M10 Kyokutenho is making some noise in the lower ranks beating up on the inexperienced rikishi. Today's victim was M15 Daido in a bout that saw both guys take a half step to their right to grab the cheap outer grip. Both got it straightway and both countered with left insides, but the Chauffeur is going to win this race 10 times outta 10. He's 7-2 if ya need him.

M11 Kitataiki moved to 7-2 himself after losing the tachi-ai to M17 Hochiyama and being forced to fight on his heels for most of the bout. Fortunately, Hochiyama is mostly bark and no bite, so with him flailing away at Kitataiki with upper body tsuppari, Kitataiki was finally able to seize an opening to the inside, and once he got it, he forced Hochiyama back and out in a flash.

And finally, M11 Gagamaru either watches film or reads my reports because he knew damn well M15 Takanoyama couldn't beat him straight up. As expected, Takanoyama moved to the side at the tachi-ai (today was to his left) looking for a quick kote-nage throw down, but he completely whiffed on the move, and if I were him fighting a guy more than twice my weight, I'd prolly wanna get the hell outta there so fast that I'd whiff too. Gagamaru easily recovered his wits and rewarded Takanoyama with a choke hold and forearm that sent the native of the Czech Republic into the first row. With the win, Gagamaru moves to 8-1 and finds himself tied for second in the yusho race.

Regarding Takanoyama, I know that my harsh criticism of him bothers a lot of readers, but sitting in this chair, I have to remove all rooting interests and that natural feeling to root for the underdog. My ability to breakdown a bout of sumo and intertwine the effects of Japanese culture on the sport is what makes my reports work. As a result, I sometimes provide a perspective in my comments that doesn't sit well with a lot of readers, especially when it sounds as if I'm picking on Takanoyama. I'm not picking on the guy, and I'm not rooting against him. I'm merely stating that he doesn't belong in this division. Regarding today's bout, proponents of Takanoyama will say, "well, he had no choice to henka because there's no way he can beat Gagamaru by walking straight into him." And that's my point. If you can't beat someone with a sound tachi-ai, then go back down to Juryo and polish your sumo until you can. Takanoyama moved to his left today instinctively. It's that instinct called survival. I don't want to see someone trying to figure out how to survive in the Makuuchi division with gimmicks and henka. Dude's going to get hurt if he continues to take these guys on chest to chest. He knows it, and so he's avoiding it. But that is contrary to everything about sumo. You practice a sound tachi-ai every bout of keiko, and the term most often used in practice is lending one's chest," not "playing cat and mouse."

Something tells me I'll be back again tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I'm becoming more and more peeved this basho by the increasing amount of tachi-ai henka. In nearly every case it's coming from rikishi who can't win otherwise. My stance has always been if you don't practice the move as part of keiko, it shouldn't be allowed atop the dohyo. It's a dirty move that gives a rikishi an unfair advantage over his opponent that is unequaled in sports. With sumo struggling to win back fans, it's clear to even the Sumo Association that the quality of sumo must improve, so it disgusts me that they still allow the practice of evading one's opponent at the tachi-ai continue.  But until they make me commissioner, I'll just have to deal with it...and continue to criticize it and belittle the rikishi who employ it to get gain.

Let's start with the three undefeated rikishi heading into the day beginning with Yokozuna Hakuho who welcomed M3 Tochiohzan, a rikishi on 6-1 hot streak this basho. The key to Tochiohzan's success in Aki has been his ability to gain moro-zashi in many of his bouts. And he actually got it today, but it came only after the M3 was blown off the lines at the tachi-ai and back-pedaling towards the straw. Hakuho led with the inside position on the left and right outer grip to force Tochiohzan back so swiftly that a Tochiohzan maki-kae giving him moro-zashi didn't even matter as the unfazed Yokozuna kept up his momentum forcing out his opponent with two outer grips. With the win, Hakuho adds yet another 8-0 start to his resume while Tochiohzan falls to 6-2, a record that will probably be good enough to send him up to the Komusubi rank for a Kyushu...where he will probably get Hakuho on day 1.

Sekiwake Kisenosato was looking to achieve something he's never done in his career, start out 8-0. Prospects looked good against M5 Miyabiyama, and the Kid didn't disappoint easily outclassing Miyabiyama at his own tsuppari game and then reversing gears at the tachi-ai to pull the former Ozeki to the dirt in short order. At 8-0, Kisenosato has looked to the best of everyone besides Hakuho while Miyabiyama falls to 4-4.

Rounding out our list of undefeateds, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku faced his toughest opponent so far in fellow Sekiwake Kakuryu. So much for Kotoshogiku's retooled tachi-ai. It was so soft that Kakuryu waltzed into the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai and forced Kotoshogiku back and across without argument. As I alluded to prior to the basho, I believe Kakuryu is the better rikishi of the two. Sure, Kakuryu only moves to 4-4 with the win while Kakuryu drops to 7-1, but this is the first time Kakuryu's had the pressure of Ozeki promotion on him. With the loss, Kotoshogiku can only spare one more unless Hakuho decides to give him another win. As the pressure mounts in week 2 with opponents like Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Baruto, Kotoshogiku had made things difficult with this loss today. We'll get a glimpse of his mental make-up for sure, but I've seen enough of his tachi-ai to know that nothing's changed there.

So, at the turn the leaderboard looks like this:

8-0 Hakuho, Kisenosato
7-1 Kotoshogiku

With the withdrawal of Kotooshu, Hakuho may not face Kisenosato until Friday, so if Kisenosato can keep winning, we'll have legitimate yusho race on our hands. The Kid has a helluva opponent tomorrow in Baruto, and physically, Baruto is the underdog at this point. The issue, however, could become Kisenosato's ability to handle the mounting mental pressure as he heads into week 2.

Returning to the Ozeki ranks, Baruto and M4 Tochinoshin gave us an exciting gappuri yotsu-zumo bout that saw Tochinoshin attempt the early tsuri-dashi. Shin had Baruto off the dohyo alright, but he started the move from the center of the ring, so there was no way he could finish it off. As Baruto landed, it was now the Ozeki's turn to attempt the counter tsuri-dashi against Tochinoshin. The Ozeki managed to hoist Tochinoshin off the dohyo as well, but the move was more reactionary than offensive, so while the move didn't finish Tochinoshin off, it did render him off balance to the point that Baruto was able to body slam him into the ground at the dohyo's edge and then show us a nifty cartwheel to boot. Baruto moves to a quite 6-2, but it's too little too late. Tochinoshin drops to 4-4 and feels the effect of Kotooshu's withdrawal.

Ozeki Harumafuji received a break today in M4 Tokitenku. After his usual nodowa tachi-ai, the Ozeki hunkered down into a belt match with his fellow countryman staying low and thus disallowing Tokitenku to mount an offensive. After gathering his wits, Harumafuji shifted and dragged Tokitenku by the belt uwate-dashi-nage style dragging Tenku down to the dirt for the easy win. Harumafuji moves to 4-4 and has gone from Yokozuna hopeful to kachi-koshi hopeful.

Helping to inspire my rant in the introduction was Komusubi Aran who entered the day at 0-7. The Russian Bride never gave M1 Okinoumi a peek up his gown jumping to the right and henka'ing his opponent to the dirt before the bout had even started. One reason why Aran's henka pissed me off today is because Okinoumi (3-5) is/was in the running for a special prize not to mention a sanyaku berth, so to see the bout completely taken out of his hands rubs me wrong.

Props to Komusubi Toyonoshima for at least giving M1 Homasho a straight-up fight in a bout that saw Homasho get an arm on the inside, which is the key to defeating Toyonoshima. From the tachi-ai, Homasho hunkered down way low keeping his ass back and more importantly keeping Toyonoshima from any sort of inside position or belt grip. As the rikishi got lower and lower in their stance, the advantage swayed to Homasho by virtue of his longer limbs. With the Komusubi completely neutralized after about 10 seconds, Homasho pushed up quickly at both of Toyonoshima's arms and sent him out of the dohyo via oshi-dashi. Homie moves to 5-3 with the win, and the main difference between him and Okinoumi at 3-5 is that Homasho has been here before countless times and knows how to attack the jo'i rikishi. Okinoumi will learn that in time, though, and one day surpass Homasho's greatest accomplishments in the division.

In the Maegashira ranks, I've been hard on M5 Goeido for relying too much on pull sumo, but I don't fault him for the tactic today against M3 Takekaze, a rikishi who actually henkas when he goes straight forward because you're so used to him going to either side at the charge. True to form, today's bout saw both rikishi standing upright and using token shoves for one set up a pull down attempt. When it didn't come for Goeido early on, I was thrilled to see him win the bout by ducking in close and forcing Takekaze out with the body instead of settling for a pull down. Good stuff from Goeido who moves to 6-2, but now I want to see him win via yori-kiri against someone who is actually good.

The only reason I comment on the M6 Wakakoyu - M8 Kaisei bout is because I knew the moro-te-zuki tachi-ai followed by the quick pull reversal from Wakakoyu was coming, so I find it comical that Kaisei had no clue. The pull down win for Wakakoyu came quickly, and if guys would just watch a bit of film, they'd clearly pick up on this move. Both dudes' are 3-5 at the turn.

It was nice to see M6 Takayasu quit the monkey business and win with forward-moving sumo again (it had been six days). His opponent was M8 Toyohibiki, which made winning much easier. Case in point...Toyohibiki actually had Takayasu turned 90 degrees near the edge, but he was unable to finish him off. Takayasu recovered nicely, squared himself back up with the Nikibi, and then bulldozed him across the ring and down for the nice yori-taoshi win.

M7 Tochinowaka quietly moved to 6-2 after thumping M7 Fujiazuma in a simple oshi-dashi fashion. Fujiazuma has lost all confidence in himself this basho, but at least he's still charging straight on (hope I didn't jinx tomorrow's opponent by saying that). The really story here is Tochinowaka who will be fighting from the jo'i next basho if he keeps up this pace. I think he's got the potential to have a Tosanoumi-like effect among the jo'i, which means he can score a lot of upsets. Whether or not he has the same blue collar mentality as the former Tosanoumi remains to be seen, but I'm looking forward to his first dance from the jo'i.

M12 Aminishiki never let M9 Sagatsukasa get to the side as he scored the easy force-out win improving to 6-2. The sneaky veteran is largely having his way this deep and is definitely in the running for a special prize.

M13 Yoshiazuma has sold his soul to the devil. After a lousy start using straight-forward sumo, he's now figured out that he can win if he henkas. And so he's doing it every day now. Today's victim was M10 Tamawashi who charged straight forward while Yoshiazuma moved to his right, grabbed the cheap outer belt, and then threw Tamawashi down from there. Dude may have thought he was masking the henka by going for the belt instead of the pull-down, but I will always call a spade a spade. This guy is quickly working his way up my shitlist.

M11 Gagamaru moved to a shweet 7-1 today with a methodical oshi-dashi win against M15 Daido landing his first thrust in Daido's neck and then sending him off the dohyo with a paw or two to the chest. Gagamaru is setting all of this up with impeccable footwork. Usually if you're the fattest guy on the banzuke, you're also the most susceptible to cheap pull-downs, just ask Konishiki. But Gagamaru is seeing his opponents well, and he's leading his charges with great footwork and balance leaving his opponents nowhere to run and hide. I'm really enjoying the Gentleman's sumo this basho.

M11 Kitataiki showed today why he is the superior rikishi to M16 Kokkai in a contest that saw two fast starters face off. Kokkai actually secured moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but with sloppy footwork, he wasn't able to force Kitataiki back and out. Kitataiki easily executed a maki-kae turning the bout to migi-yotsu. From there Kitataiki used his left outer grip to wrench Kokkai this way and that until he was finally able to commit on a force-out charge that saw both rikishi crash to the edge of the dohyo and off with Kitataiki on top. Kitataiki moves to 6-2 with the win while Kokkai is cooling fast at 5-3.

Finally, M15 Takanoyama has assumed lovable loser status and seems to be the rikishi receiving the greatest applause from the Japanese crowd, at least during the Maegashira bouts. Like Takamisakari, it's a case of everyone clueing in to something quirky--in this case it's Takanoyama's feather weight and nerdy looks--and not cheering for a guy because of his sumo. It was hard to cheer for Takanoyama's sumo today as he relied on a tachi-ai henka to grab M14 Tosayutaka's belt and swing him over to the edge and out. I realize that Takanoyama has won three straight bouts on paper, but I reaffirm my stance that the dude has no business in this division.

As we head to the second week, the focus now falls on Kisenosato and whether or not he can keep pace with Hakuho in the yusho race. With the spotlight completely off of the Kid in week one due to pending promotions for Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, and Kakuryu, there has been no pressure on the Sekiwake. Until now. We'll find out a lot about Kisenosato's mental makeup starting tomorrow against Baruto, but I think Kisenosato's the favorite there.

Kenji weighs in tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
I must confess I had mixed reactions to Mike's last line in his day 6 report. On one hand, I felt sad and personally insulted, but on the other hand, I realized that this...issue, shall we call it, is something that has to be dealt with sooner or later. OK, this is how it goes. You're probably aware that Romania is a former communist country that only recently (some 20 years ago) managed to break free from under the Russian Iron Heel of Oppression. This, despite lot of good consequences, also had a few (but just a few) bad ones.

The worst of them, as I see it, is rampant consumerism – people had little to no money before 1989, and, even if they could muster a bit of cash, there was no good stuff to buy. Well, all that changed when we joined the civilized world. People soon found themselves discovering a whole new world, filled with reliable cars, flashy electronics, colorful magazines, cable TV, all-day porn, and, most importantly, FOOD, great, delicious, reasonably priced food you could now get at a convenience store within 200 yards of your home – and a shitload of cash at their disposal to spend freely on whatever their little hearts desired.

After 50 years of starvation, everyone started eating like pigs, and the nation soon found itself literally flooded by overweight people. A recent study indicates that more than one in three people is obese (that's more that 30%!). Yes, fat people EVERYWHERE! Eating your food, breathing your air, treading your ground. Fortunately, since everyone saw this was going to be a problem, special measures had to be taken. It's funny Mike brought up the cinema issue, because a lot of people actually complained about that; in fact, they were so vocal that the government decided that anyone with a BMI of over 28.734 was to be equipped with a high precision GPS, so as they wouldn't hurt anyone when sitting down! This opened a huge market for personal GPS devices, and, in fact, one can actually sue the manufacturer if his machine fails, no matter if anyone gets hurt or not.

Moreover, with so many fat-asses roaming around, bullying started to become a serious problem. As usual, the government came to the rescue and issued laws to protect the fatties – if your (normal) kid happens to say something bad to some fat kid, you're gonna pay a hefty fine and his family is likely to sue your for "distress", with a good chance to earn a serious portion of your life savings – and your kid has to go through PC and sensitivity training. But enough about fat people, let's get down large men dressed in ceremonial costumes, performing a ritualistic form of martial arts. Yeah, that's it.

I'll take it from the top, then. OK, I lied. Last and certainly least, Kimurayama was dealt his 5th loss in as many days when an all-business Takarafuji (he's 5-2 now, in Juryo, in case you're wondering) read the inevitable shift at the tachi-ai and grabbed himself a slab of solid right shita-te which he didn't even need in the end. It looks like these two are gonna be trading places in Kyushu – not that anybody minds.

Kokkai and Shotenro, both struggling in the banzuke basement, produced some unexpected excitement in their fight when Shotenro got inside at the tachi-ai and drove the Korporal back towards the tawara. The hairy Georgian sensed he was in trouble, pivoted nicely and deployed an interesting kote-nage. Shotenro didn't just give up, though, and the two ended up in a nage-no-uchi-ai that eventually proved too close to call. In the rematch Kokkai shamelessly henka'd to his right, catching the unsuspecting Mongolian completely off guard and giving him a token push as he was flying past him. To add insult to injury, The Kokk gave Big Shot a subtle but annoyingly patronizing pat on the back. Kokkai improves to 5-2 with the dubious win, while Shotenro (2-5) will likely pick up the pieces in Juryo.

Hochiyama dictated the pace throughout his bout with Tamaasuka, flustering him with well-placed tsuppari and keeping him away from the mawashi. Asucka eventually whiffed on one of his thrusts, allowing his nimbler foe to easily get behind him and send him to his 5th loss. Don't look now, but Hochiyama is actually above .500.

The way I see it, the highlight bout of day 7 was the very uneven match-up, at least when strictly looking at the numbers, between Takanoyama and Yoshiazuma, who outweighs his opponent by some 70 kg. However, Mike knows better than anyone that size doesn't matter if you compensate with skill and agility (now don't even THINK about reading this the wrong way, ya hear?) – just ask him about Mainoumi and Tomonohana, tiny guys who gave the likes of Akebono, Musashimaru and Konishiki a really hard time in their respective primes. On to the actual bout, though, props to the Czech for not pulling any of that shite a certain now-retired undersized Mongol was always resorting to. Takanoyama charged hard and straight, tickling Yoshiazuma a bit with some fake tsuppari before lunging right into migi-yotsu, where he managed to not let his much larger foe push him around at will (like most of the others before him did). Of course, such disparity almost always guarantees that the smaller rikishi will have the lower stance, and that's exactly what happened today when Takanoyama finagled his way to Yoshiazuma's side and attempted the always spectacular kawazu-gake (a leg-hooking sacrifice throw – in case you're wondering what one looks like, this one happens to be one of my favorites). Of course, Takanoyama is no Mustuarashi, but he was good enough to switch gears and use his lower stance and the hooked leg to pull off a beauty of a kake-nage and get his second win in as many days. Now, before you get all excited, no, I don't think he'll last in Makuuchi more than one basho – ripped as he may be, his skill level is pretty far from Mainoumi's, first of all because he has little to no experience in the higher divisions, and second of all, well, because he fights for Naruto beya, which is famous for its isolation from the others. But, to hell with it, if THIS is what we get when he wins, let him stay as long as he wants.

The next bout isn't nearly as exciting, despite lasting even longer. In fact, I dare say it was over right after the tachi-ai, when a very opportunistic Daido got a left outside grip as solid as any you'll ever see, denying Asasekiryu one of his own on the other side. With only the shita-te and his arm clamped to his side by his bigger opponent, all Sexy could do was defend, which he did valiantly, I might add. But it was only a matter of time before Daido made the final push, had his foe to the straw, then switched gears and pulled him down by hataki-komi (don't believe them when they say it was kote-nage!). Daido (5-2) looks determined to undermine Mike and his bold prediction, while Asasekiryu falls to an uneventful 4-3.

Aminishiki improved to 5-2 with a routine win over Tosayutaka (3-4), whom I must confess I expected to do better this low. The Sneaky One knows he doesn't really need any of the sneakiness to win against the dregs, so he charged straight and low, pushed his smaller foe back a step, then yanked him down by the neck without backpedalling. Stifle me a yawn.

Ironically, Tamawashi the Mawashi is one of the few Mongols who favor pushing over fighting at the mawashi. The dude is pretty big and has a LOT of pushing power in those legs, so I wasn't really surprised by the 4-0 head to head against Gagamaru coming into today. However, that power was nowhere to be seen today, when Tamawashi threw everything but the kitchen sink at his larger foe, but failed to move him back an inch. The Georgian methodically kept Tamawashi in front of him and eventually got the better of him with an emphatic shove that sent him back a couple of feet. Gaga stays on the leaderboard with only one loss so far and we're likely to seen him fed to the likes of Kotoshogiku, Tochiohzan, Goeido or Kisenosato (he'll get his fat ass kicked by those guys, mind you, but it's sure gonna look good). Tamawashi falls to a listless 3-4 which makes me wonder if anything is wrong with him physically.

Toyohibiki strangely won a bout in which he allowed Kitataiki to get a double grip on his mawashi – hidari-yotsu, no less. Getting the better of the tachi-ai, The Hutt immediately pushed Mike's mancrush back a step or two, but Kitataiki promptly grabbed Hikibi's belt and made me think it was all over. However, for reasons that elude me because of the fixed camera angle (thank you, nonetheless, NSK, for the high quality stream), Kitataiki simply crumbled at the edge, probably under the Hutt's weight – in which case it should have been called abise-taoshi. Kitataiki falls to 5-2, while Toyohibiki improves to 2-5.

Probably unsatisfied with his two losses thus far and the loss to Kaisei last basho, Kyokutenho went into asshole mode and henka'd the Brazilian for the cheap left uwate. Yori-kiri was a mere formality afterwards, and it left Kaisei with a below .500 record and a bitter taste in his mouth. Tenho skirts to 5-2, and we could care less. Not.

Having already covered the highlight bout of the day, let me linger a bit upon the bout of the basho. The way I see it, it simply has to be the monster ippon-zeoi Sagatsukasa pulled off against Tochinowaka to defy the laws of gravity. What makes it even more outstanding is that it wasn't a desperation move. Sure, Tochinowaka is much bigger and heavier, and Sagatsukasa doesn't really stand a chance chest to chest, so he had to evade this way and that during the bout, but when the opportunity presented itself (i.e. Mr. Lee leaned in a bit too close), the Roach instantly recognized it, grabbed the arm as firmly as you'll ever see, turned around, fearlessly facing the tawara, swept Tochinowaka's right leg in an instant and deployed the move, heaving the youngster clean over his shoulder and onto his back, and, to add panache to it all, showcased his flexibility finishing the throw by balancing in a split and getting up without having touched the dohyo. "[F]**cking real ippon-zeoi" doesn't even begin to describe it, because this one was unreal. No, it was surreal. I'll betcha we won't be seeing anything near this level of godliness in the next 50 years.

But enough of that, let's get to today's bout involving the little balding guy. Fujiazuma, his opponent, is another guy who outweighs him by some 50 or 60 kg, but that didn't really stop Saga from going straight in and aiming for moro-zashi. He couldn't really get both arms in, and a straight up yotsu battle with a guy this big is the last thing you want if you're the Roach, so Sagatsukasa took a quick step back and, at the same instant, pushed/slapped in an awkward kind of motion at Fatty-azuma's side, getting him critically off balance. The little pest went for charge #2, but when that failed, he fully committed to the pull, dragging his larger but thoroughly outmatched foe to the dirt in ignominious fashion. The undersized man improves to only 3-4, but sumo could sure use more guys with balls of steel like him – hear that, Europeans?! Fujiazuma will be looking to regroup next basho, because his 1-6 so far puts a big question mark on his kachi-koshi.

Tochinowaka coped well with the PTSD after being on the receiving end of Sagatsukasa's throw, scoring two wins in as many days. Today he took care of business against Takayasu, who did go after him, but didn't really have a game plan. The bigger Korean withstood Takayasu's tsuppari, dug in at the edge and used his right hand to slap his smaller foe off balance while pushing at his side with the left. Takayasu fell to his knees, not to mention his 5th loss. Tochinowaka leaves the day at 5-2. Watch out, sanyaku, he's a-comin'.

After starting out with two bad losses and two ugly wins, Goeido finally manned up and reverted to his bulldog yotsu style he's so good at. After demolishing Tochinoshin and Tokitenku, it was Miyabiyama's turn. Surely enough, there was a moment in the bout when Goeido could be seen slapping at Miyabiyama's arms, but he was never on the defensive. When he finally managed to latch on to the front of the Fatman's mawashi, it was curtains, as he pushed him straight out, before the Sheriff had time to pull him down. 5-2 for the Father, but, more importantly, now there's actual sumo in his wins. Miyabiyama falls to 4-3.

It's good to see Wakakoyu fail miserably at the ugly push-pull (but more pull than push) game he's so good at (well...really, it's the ONLY thing he's, uhm, good at). Tochiohzan easily withstood his more-bark-than-bite pushes and thrusts, got in close, turned his round foe around and pushed him out from behind with no resistance. Wins don't come easier than this, let me tell you. Oh Snap is all smiles at 6-1, while Wakakoyu slumps to his 5th loss.

Wakanosato had a dose of miserable failure of his own, when he couldn't get moro-zashi against the air-tight Tokitenku. Despite dominating the bout from start to almost finish, Wakanosato could never really make that decisive push over the straw, and the slippery Mongol evaded at the edge and pushed him down as he went by him. Oh well.

Aran showed yet again just why's he's the only rikishi winless so far. The Russian kept Homasho well away from his mawashi and had him in all sorts of trouble during the encounter. Homie finally managed to get a shallow inside grip, but Aran promptly locked that arm and deployed the kote-nage, throwing his opponent clean off the dohyo. But he's still winless, you said. Hell, yeah, he is, because when pivoting for the throw he stepped nonchalantly over the tawara, and I mean 2 feet over it. I honestly can't remember a guy with poorer ring sense than this guy, because this wasn't the only time he stepped out on his own – just watch his bout with Kisenosato earlier on day 4. Homasho improves to 4-3 after wins over ALL the Ozeki and losses to Hakuho, Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato. Could this be the basho he finally makes it to sanyaku?

Kakuryu (3-4) is clearly having an off basho. After completely winning the tachi-ai and having Kisenosato (7-0, if'n ya need him) on the ropes, he pulled his best Takanoyama impression when the Kid used sheer strength to push upwards and to the side at the Kak's left armpit, throwing him completely off balance and sending him stumbling all the way out of the dohyo. I can't really describe it in words, you'd have to see it to know what I mean, but believe me when I say Kakuryu looked like a ragdoll in this one. At some point before the basho Takanohana said that Kisenosato might be taken into consideration for Ozeki promotion should he go 15-0; I remember musing about his fine sense of humor, but...Far fetched as it might be, let's not rule out a double promotion to Ozeki for a couple of still somewhat promising Japanese rikishi.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku stayed perfect as well, with a dominating win over a guy who spoiled his promotion last basho. Okinoumi could never really muster any sort of belt grip against the thick Geek, so he could never really withstand the pressure the Ozeki candidate was exerting from below. Naturally, the bout ended rather quickly with an uneventful yori-kiri. Okidoki is now 3-4, but should be OK with all Yokozuna, Ozeki and Sekiwake out of the way.

On to the Ozeki, we find the first one missing in (in)action. Whether it's an injured body or a bruised ego, only Koto-no-show knows, but Tochinoshin (4-3) will take it either way.

Next up, Baruto got away on sheer size and strength AGAIN, despite being thoroughly out-sumo'ed by a much smaller and lighter foe. Takekaze charged straight and brilliantly used an inashi to get to the side and somewhat to the back of Baruto, in a position most likely insurmountable for anyone else. With the firm grip on the Estonian's mawashi, the fat Kaze pushed him this way and that, but Baruto somehow half-turned and grabbed Takekaze's armpit with the left hand in a really, really awkward position, then used his massive weight to lean on him and make him fall an instant before he himself touched the dohyo. Don't get me wrong here, Baruto worked for his win, but without the weight and strength, there's no way in hell he could have made it. Takekaze (1-6) all but throws in the towel, while Bart slips to a thoroughly undeserved 5-2.

Harumafuji the Yokozuna Pretender somehow mistook the nimble and slippery Yoshikaze for his look-alike Yamamotoyama, because he did EXACTLY what he shouldn't have done against him, i.e. charge ahead recklessly and try to push him out immediately. Naturally, Yoshikaze absorbed the momentum, took a step or two back, then evaded to the side and let inertia do the rest, as Ex-Ama slipped and fell to his face with token assistance from the small Kaze. Harumafuji should really consider going AWOL as well, because 3-4 sure as hell ain't flattering. Yoshikaze improves to 3-4 with the gimme.

Probably impressed by Yoshikaze's agility, the Yokozuna decided to do the same in his bout against Toyonoshima, crashing into him, then quickly switching gears and yanking him down for the expected 7-0. Hakuho was never in trouble in this match, so my guess is that he did it simply to escape boredom. Toyonoshima is barely alive at 1-6.

Having bored you enough with sordid details about my homeland, I won't insist much on predicting and anticipating, but I simply must state my desire for a double promotion. Hakuho will have a say in that (especially in Kisenosato's case), but, with right "input" and "feedback" from the guys in black, it's not impossible. Looking at it objectively, Kisenosato is the favorite in all the matches he has left, except Hakuho and, perhaps (i.e. if the latter hasn't got enough wins) Kotoshogiku. If I were the NSK, I'd probably promote Kisenosato with 14 as well, but...

Alright, alright, I'll just leave the daydreaming to Clancy, who SHOULD be up tomorrow. If not, well, just clench those teeth and get ready for more Mike. See ya on day 14.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After the last couple of days of deep thoughts and introspection from Mario and Andreas, you'll forgive me if I just opt to play it straight and focus the brunt of my comments today on sumo. Trust me, the last thing anyone wants to read is my making confessions and the baring of my soul. I mean, it's one thing to be a woman trapped in a man's body, but it's quite another when my emotions are running so close to the surface all because Clancy keeps refusing to produce and co-star with me in Sumotalk's stage production of Brokeback Mountain.

When we last talked, a few of the pending promotions were doing some serious teetering, a crop of young rikishi were making a statement, and the Ozeki were abysmal. Now, just three days later, two of the three pending promotions have gone the way of music videos on MTV, the young crop of rikishi are losing with silly mistakes, and the Ozeki still suck. The Aki basho has come down to a trio of rikishi; fortunately, two of them are Japanese and have at one point been labeled as Japan's next "hope," which means we should hopefully start seeing fewer empty seats show up and more paying customers.

Let's start with the undefeated rikishi today and then work our way down from there by rank touching on the bouts that actually have some significance (buck up Kitataiki fans, today's your day!!). Yokozuna Hakuho was all badass today. I mean, when your opponent is M3 Takekaze, it's pretty hard not to be, but Hakuho not only dispatched of the runt in short order, but he exhibited a bit of showboating afterwards. The match was uneventful as Takekaze chose to charge straight forward, which meant charging straight into two pile drivers otherwise known as Hakuho tsuppari. The Yokozuna beat Takekaze so hard with his first volley that the Maegashira just turned those last two steps and walked out on his own. Hakuho's momentum carried him to the edge of the ring where he continued his flawless footwork (looks like the suri-ashi exercise) and then squatted at the ring's edge as if in the midst of a Yokozuna dohyo-iri staring at the mess that was Takekaze standing on the arena floor. With the win, Hakuho is a solid 6-0 and firmly planted in the yusho driver's seat.

His only challengers this basho now are two Sekiwake in Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato. Let's start with the Geeku today who fought what I feel was his first legitimate bout of the tournament. On day 1 I thought Wakanosato gave him the win; on day 2 Yoshikaze committed that false start and then just quit ending up with his being wrapped up in a dirty carpet and stuffed in the trunk of a car; on day 3 Aran just stood there like a faithful bride at the Sekiwake's bidding; on day 4 Kotoshogiku's opponent was Takekaze; and on day 5 Homasho executed the worst henka I've ever seen that was easily read resulting in a quick slapdown. Finally, on day 6 Kotoshogiku would receive a legitimate test in Komusubi Toyonoshima, and the Ozeki-hopeful passed with flying colors. Kotoshogiku actually dominates Toyonoshima because he knows that all he needs is one arm on the inside at the tachi-ai since Toyonoshima's arms are too short to do any damage on the outside. Kotoshogiku got his left arm on the inside at the initial charge, pulled his gal in close, and then escorted the Komusubi back and out yori-kiri style leading wth a right outer. It was vintage Kotoshogiku as he moves to 6-0. Dude hasn't really fought anyone until today, and so it's been difficult for me to actually gauge his condition, but the good news is he didn't waste any opportunities up until this point. With the Ozeki reeling at the moment, finishing at 12-3 now would be par for the course. The Geeku really has to screw things up to miss out on promotion.

Our final Sekiwake making some noise is Kisenosato, who was matched up against M1 Homasho. Hopefully, Homasho hasn't deflated his basho after that horrible decision to move right at the tachi-ai yesterday. That failed plan and the embarrassing result may have been a turning point from a great start to a lousy finish because today, he offered no resistance whatsoever as the Kid wrapped him up at the tachi-ai and forced him back and out in like two uneventful seconds. There's not a whole lot else to comment on here other than it appears to me that Kisenosato has made an adjustment in his tachi-ai where he's not leaving himself wide open for the easy inside position from his opponent. Dude's got some confidence now and a 6-0 start to boot. As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, the Ozeki this basho are actually underdogs compared to these two Sekiwake, so Kisenosato should continue to run roughshod this fortnight.

If we must, let's climb back up to the Ozeki ranks where Kotooshu has given up on the basho. Today against M3 Tochiohzan he was sleep walking again at the tachi-ai where he allowed Oh the easy moro-zashi position. What made matters worse is that Kotooshu didn't even go for a counter outer grip allowing himself to be be forced back and out in a straight line. Ridiculous. They showed a close up of Kotooshu's countenance after the bout, and dude is in that "feel sorry for myself" mode that Hokutoriki used to display. It's a feeling where something's not quite right but you don't want to say anything because you want people to feel sorry for you. All I can say is this is a man's game, and Kotooshu's 1-5 start is inexcusable. On the flipside, look at Tochiohzan and his 5-1 start considering he's fighting from the difficult M3 slot.

Ozeki Harumafuji met Komusubi Aran today, and Aran put up his best fight of the basho. Is this a case of Harumafuji being vulnerable? Probably. The two hooked up in the gappuri yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Harumafuji made sure he enjoyed the lower stance. The result was a fairly straight-forward yori-kiri win for the Ozeki, but at least Aran tried in this one. With the win, Harumafuji only progresses to 3-3. Yokozuna Shmokozuna. Aran is already 0-6.

Ozeki Baruto at least enjoys a winning record, but that loss to Yoshikaze has really taken him out of the basho. Today against M2 Wakanosato he came with the moro-te-zuki tachi-ai, which means he simultaneously shoves both hands into his opponent from the tachi-ai. It worked to perfection as it knocked Wakanosato completely back to the edge where Baruto simply followed up with another one two punch to send Wakanosato off the dohyo in wham bam thank you ma'am style. Perfect de-ashi from Baruto, but at 4-2 his only role now is spoiler to the two Sekiwake.

Speaking of Sekiwake, the one we haven't talked about yet is Kakuryu who was manhandled by M1 Okinoumi in a straight up hidari yotsu contest. It often happens that when a rikishi is up for Ozeki promotion for the first time that there's so much going on in his head that he fails to concentrate on his sumo. Only the true great ones like the dai-Yokozuna aren't fazed by talk of Ozeki, but it's going to affect a guy like Kakuryu. The Kak's strategy at this point is to ensure that he wins his eight and then regroup starting in Kyushu. It's going to be tough for him to kachi-koshi though at 3-3 with a tougher schedule coming up in week 2.

In the Maegashira ranks, just when you thought M4 Tochinoshin was gaining some momentum, he went for an early pull in his bout against M2 Yoshikaze, and the move completely took him out of his rhythm. Shin is a belt guy, so when that failed pull attempt left him in a grapplin' match with Yoshikaze where both guys circle the ring looking for the next opening to pull, it's no surprise that Yoshikaze was the better rikishi today pulling an off balance Tochinoshin down for the upset win. Yoshikaze is just 2-4, but he's taken down two giants. Tochinoshin is 4-2 now after the boneheaded loss.

M5 Goeido exhibited his best sumo of the tournament; unfortunately it came against has-been M4 Tokitenku. For once Goeido decided to bull dog his way inside at the tachi-ai, and Tokitenku's only answer was to keep in step with his partner as he was quickly escorted back and out in two seconds flat. Goeido jumps to 4-2 with the win, but he's still go too much of a penchant for pulling to seriously become a sanyaku mainstay.

What the hell was M6 Takayasu doing going for a tachi-ai henka and cheap pull down against M5 Miyabiyama? He looked like a 12 year old kid trying cigarettes for the first time and selecting unfiltered Camels. After coughing and sputtering severely at the lame tachi-ai, Miyabiyama just slapped his sorry ass to the clay on his first shot. I see Takayasu working. He started off 2-0 but then dropped his next three, but attempting to henka and pull is not the way to get back on track. I love the dude, but I'm glad he failed miserably today.

Yesterday, M6 Wakakoyu won with a quick moro-te-zuki tachi-ai followed by an instant pull down, and while that moved worked on Tokitenku yesterday, M7 Tochinowaka brushed it off today parlaying his compromised opponent into a nice oshi-dashi win. I thought Tochinowaka showed great balance and footwork in this one, and he's already the next Tokusegawa. Thing about Tokusegawa (who was forced to retire for yaocho earlier in the year) is he was closing in on 30 years old. Tochinowaka is still young and has far more potential. Dude's 4-2 after a good win.

M11 Gagamaru shot to 5-1 today with an impressive win over M9 Sagatsukasa. I know there's a huge size difference between the two, but Sagatsukasa's like a roach. No, not because he's ugly but because he's so evasive and hard to squish. If I had a nickel for every time Sagatsukasa scored a victory from a counter attack, I may be able to lure Mario out of retirement. Anyway, the roach was looking for a corner in which to hide and then catch Gagamaru off balance, but Gentleman Gaga used perfect footwork to hone in on Sagatsukasa's antennae and fire off effective tsuppari that sent Sagatsukasa back and out in short order.

M11 Kitataiki joined Gagamaru at 5-1 after dispatching nemesis M12 Asasekiryu by disallowing Sexy to get in low and going for the force out kill before Asasekiryu could even get settled. Kitataiki's charge was so swift that Asasekiryu nary had time to counter to either side. Before I get too excited about my former ex, let's wait to see how he does a lot higher up the banzuke. For now, at least he can see himself on NHK's leaderboard.

And finally, let's conclude with none other M15 Takanoyama who picked up his first--and likely only--Makuuchi career win against M14 Shotenro who just stepped out of the ring like a dumbass. Takanoyama actually gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, and usually when a dude this tall gets moro-zashi, it's curtains for his opponent, but Takanoyama is so light that Shotenro actually stuffs his bra with the dude, so he clamped in tightly around both of Takanoyama's arms from the outside and forced him back and across kime-dashi style. The only problem was Shotenro's right foot accidentally stepped across the tawara before Takanoyama was driven out. They showed a replay, and I thought that Takanoyama's left heel was actually in the dirt before Shotenro stepped out, but I guess the judges figured this was as close to a win as Takanoyama would get, so they ruled in his favor. I don't know what's more upsetting for Shotenro...the fact that he really won today or the fact that he's only one bout ahead of Takanoyama in the win column.

Before I turn over the reins to Martin tomorrow, let me just comment on Masunoyama who was injured on day 4 causing him to withdraw from the basho. As you know, I was really high on this kid early on. I still am; however, I noticed from the first day that this guy has trouble stepping off of the dohyo after his bouts. Have you ever been in a movie theater and watched a super fat person come in and sit down? They don't have the strength in their knees or the dexterity to lower themselves into the seat, so they line their arse up with the chair and then sorta fall backwards into it hoping that their aim is good. It's like that with Masunoyama getting off the dohyo. He has to consciously place his foot in the correct place before stepping down, and then instead of a normal step before he's down to the floor, he kind of catches himself with the other leg and then uses the floor to stop his momentum. The whole point is the dude's too fat for his own good, and it's going to lead to even more injuries in the future. He was kyujo from this year's Hatsu basho, and now he's gone three tournaments later. Dude has so much potential, but not unless he shapes up. He doesn't necessarily to drop his weight; he just needs more muscle than fat. I noticed this early on and sure enough, he's gone after four days.

Alright, Marty, see if you can top that fat man in the movie theater analogy!

Day 5 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)

(for sumo stuff scroll down a bit)

Very, very fortunately, most things that are written and insta-published - recall the strict meaning of the word: "made available to the public" - are never really read and immediately break the surface tension of the World Wide Swamp. Interestingly, most egotripping (un)thoughtsharers don't even realize that and watch if they'd care. But now a mental reflex arc kicks in, making me, well, reflect "Do and would you? Like, just here and now?" To tell you the truth, I really do and I couldn't care less.

(still no top-knot on the horizon; keep scrolling)

See, the thing about writing these reports here is that doing it is (for me) quite analogous to being elected to man the tap of your village's social or sports club's bar for one or two days every other month. It's a responsible thing and not everyone is allowed to do it. It is often a pain in the ass, when the actual day arrives. Most importantly, though, it is a communicative challenge, both strenuous and refreshing. You do it for the guys, you know, even though the guys might not care. But all is well, as long as the other parts of your life allow you to enjoy the little extravagance.

(the mouse-wheel is your friend)

Yesterday, fellow contributor Mario announced that this doesn't hold true for him anymore. Here you go. Another sudden intai invading one of my reports. What can I say, what can I say? "Sympathy" is the first word that turned up in a quick brain storm exercise, "understanding" the second (the sixth one was "femdom", but I digress). Everyone must understand this with sympathy, because every sane person has manifold experience with losing the flame. Watch children. They turn away from "the best thing ever" at a rate of ten per hour. Growing older puts the breaks on the wheel of attention while intensifying the level of absorption. At 30+ your set of "Likes" might become quite small and static, but your involvement is probably quite deep. If you are forced to euthanize one of your hobby-horses in this period of your life, stay brave! It is already painful and makes holes.

(OK, a teaser: Hakuho stays spotless; Yoshikaze couldn't get him)

I wrote "forced to" and that is what it is. The other things around you make you reconsider. How can you lose sumo then? You might turn away in disgust for all things that surfaced and you refused to speculate about before they did so. Or you might get tired from enduring the (supposedly) pale quality in comparison to the Golden Age Of Sumo Like How It Was When I Started To First Watch. These are examples for intrinsic reasons, things that happen between you and it. Then there might be life reasons. Literally. Go have a child and recheck your priorities. Do fat men appear on your schedule? Or take death reasons. See, my own (thankfully short) absence last year was a direct result of a very specific DNA reproduction error in a single dividing cell of my wife's lymphatic system. We are and will be well, but back then I spent a May in hell and half a year in limbo. In all dimensions Japan seemed to be far away. There are so many potholes that can cause you to fall off the parade float.

(If you plan to make a "Worst Of" DVD consider scanning Day 5 for a fistfull of real pearls. A couple of slap downs here, a henka there, blundered tachi-ais, you name it.)

I mentioned my own situation. Since I am a person I can speak for, I will stick to the I. For me, finding a way BACK was easier than I thought. In retrospect, not being a total geek probably helped. You know, there are so many people out there knowing so much more about sumo, rikishi, technique, tradition, whatever, and I will never ever reach such a level of involvement. I cannot even remember favorite grips. I am vaguely aware of other divisions below Makuuchi. Therefore, when fate properly yorikiried me for the second time in four years, I may have lost an important pastime but nothing to the level of a totem (Yo there, old RPG devotees!). The reasons why I became attracted to sumo in the first place didn't dissolve, I just couldn't muster as much energy to tend my interest.

(On the bright side, there was a f**king real ipponzeoi to be witnessed in the bout between Sagatsukasa and Tochinowaka. This is an ultra-rare kimari-te. During my own lifetime it had been recorded only three times in Makuuchi before.)

What did attract me to sumo when I first started watching is what is valid as a motivation today. We are forced to sit out trying times. So for your comfort, I give you a condensed version of my main attractors:

*I love the physicality. Huge men who are fat, strong, fast and mobile all at the same time somehow trigger my genetically programmed need to worship something that I could only describe as mythical warriorhood.
*The first time that I heard the yobi-dashi sing out the name of the rikishi before a bout was one of the strongest sensations of immediacy I ever had.
*The whole system around the presentation of the sponsors' banners is so far out that it already makes sense again. *Asashoryu
*Other guys with an attitude (Hokutoriki, Kakizoe)
*Anyone kicking Kasugao's ass
*The Banzuke, its style, its making, its core-of-things-like importance
*Youngsters who make an impact
*The formality of everything in general

Does this sound naive? It bloody well should. Naivety makes you care.

And come back.

(The Sekiwake take over for the embarrassing Ozeki. Kotoshogiku stays on promotion course, while Kisenosato builds the foundations of his own Ozrun.)

In memory of Mario, an attempt at parody:

Anyway, let's move to the action. Sekiwake Fishface met the (naturally) even stinkier Russian Aran, who might get expelled as soon as I can take a hold of his wallet, too. As could be expected from the two shneakiest fatboys next to Shneaky, the tachi-ai was not worth the name. Fishface soon gained a moro-zashi, that Aran tried to counter, but he is a Russian and only here for the money. Then the Sekiwake pushed him to the edge, where he totally destroyed the Russian by giving him a yori-kiri equivalent of a total buggering without lube.

My wife always slapped me whenever I carried an idea from a Mario report to our bedroom.

Read Mike's tomorrow as he's on the quest for setting the new record for Most Reports.

Day 4 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
I have to be honest to all of you, readers and contributors alike. If I look back the past year since I came back from Japan all I see is a decline. A decline in total amount of sumo bouts, a decline in the quality of sumo both in general and at the top. Yes, there was the flash in the frying pan of Harry's yusho and the kind of speculative Ozeki runs, but they were just that, speculative. And most of all a decline in my interest in sumo and the reporting.

What this means is that in reality you've been cheated out of your money (or would have been if you'd have been paying for reading the reports). The reports have gotten shorter and covering less details. Last basho I actually forgot to report on one day and later blamed the dog like all have done at least once in their life. So to add to it the attractiveness of real world and the recent developments, I've come to a sad realization that I don't enjoy sumo enough anymore that it would make sense for me to write here. So today I'll do a Kenji style report only covering bouts that actually made me watch them, not that there were that many.

I'll skip the lower half of Makuuchi altogether with the small exceptions of Aminishiki vs. Dildo match where Dildo honestly surprised both me and Ami with a decent kote-nage throw. Where that came from I can't say, but it was nice. The second event worthy of a mention is Tochinowaka owning Masunoyama who was rolled off the dohyo afterwards and wheeled away with probably a broken ankle.

Of the second part of Makuuchi, Tochinoshin survived a Wakakoyu henka, Tokitenku pulled one of his go-to suso-harai leg trips against Takayasu, and Tochiohzan owned Goeido's ass (at right) . The struggle between Kakuryu and Toyonoshima was the first close match of interest with both having a real shot there. Kakuryu started off with a vicious tsuppari that almost finished Toyo off, but the round man was able to gain a grip and force a stalemate for about a minute. With both working the belts, there were attempts by both, but finally Kak persevered and sent Toyo out onto his ass.

Kisenosato scared Aran and hence Aran just ran out with Kise following and pulling a badass move from being so pumped up. Giku continued his run by doing it it calmly and without his inner dog, but in kote-nage style. For me, however, I wasn't as interested in whether or not Giku can continue his winning streak, but way more about whether or not Kotooshu continues his winless run, but the Ozeki wanted to screw me because he came today totally focused and just blew Yoshikaze away with total anger.

Ah, Baruto. I have to say that I did look at two of the previous three bouts and didn't like what I saw. He's not putting any effort into it and today wasn't that much different. He did what we have asked, he started off with double nodowa and followed with tsuppari. He almost lost it when Okinoumi grabbed his hand and pulled, but was able to stay in and finish Okidoki off. But being 2-2 at this point means he's settled into an average Ozeki basho without any ambition. From what I can gather from speaking with him in Tokyo, he isn't really that motivated, and I think he isn't gunning for the tsuna cause he knows he can't keep it, and he plans to be around ca two more years...

So, Harry managed to win a Yusho last basho. That means that if he contends for the Yusho again this basho he might actually get the tsuna. Then again he screwed up already coming in with a loss, but that can be overcome by killing the rest including Hakuho. But today he was just outmuscled. Homasho absorbed Harry's charge and then just muscled him backwards and out. So much about that storyline.

Hakuho won. And now that there's no story left (right, there's Giku's theoretical Ozeki run) he'll go on and win 15-0.

So with four days behind us and the combined Ozeki score at FIVE wins out of TWELVE possible can you blame me for having lost my sumo mojo?

Andreas reports tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
This basho is already starting to sputter as early as day 3 after a decent start out of the gate. The Ozeki are a combined 3-6 already, and the young guys making noise in the Maegashira ranks all decided to lose today, so one by one the intriguing storylines are going by the wayside. Really, the two stories left are Hakuho on track to pick up yusho number 20 and Kotoshogiku managing to reach three wins after as many days...not exactly a barrel of monkeys that will inspire new fans to come and check out the sumos.

Let's just go from top to bottom today focusing on the bouts of interest.

Yokozuna Hakuho allowed M1 Okinoumi to secure moro-zashi today in the day's final bout, and when I say "allowed," I don't mean he gave him the position on purpose; rather, Okinoumi's quick charge that forced the bout to hidari-yotsu surprised the Yokozuna a bit as he always looks for the right inside. As the two looked to hook up in a gappuri yotsu position, Okinoumi managed to bring his right arm to the inside with a maki-kae that didn't cause Hakuho to budge as his opponent assumed the moro-zashi position. What separates the Yokozuna even from the Ozeki is the ability to make quick adjustments in the ring and already be thinking three steps ahead instead of the usual next step, and as a result, Hakuho never panicked in grabbing a firm left outer grip. As Okinoumi looked to turn the Yokozuna around to set up a force out attempt, Hakuho simply pivoted with his right leg, planted it firmly, and hoisted Okinoumi to the clay with a wicked outer belt throw. Both guys deserve props here...Okinoumi for dictating the start of the bout and not backing down from the Yokozuna and Hakuho for managing the situation with complete composure. Hakuho was never in danger in this one while Okinoumi is still making a statement as he drops his first bout of the basho.

Ozeki Kotooshu surely wouldn't lose his third bout in as many days would he? Against M1 Homasho, Kotooshu came with his deer in the headlights tachi-ai that consists of no effort to grab his opponent's belt, his body upright, and his feet aligned. Kotooshu used his reach to try and keep his opponent at bay, but Homasho smelled blood and began firing tsuppari into the Ozeki in order to create an opening. Instead of trying to get an inside grip on Homasho's belt, Kotooshu lamely put both hands at the back of Homie's head and actually attempted a flat-footed pull. Homasho read the move like a dirty manga and pushed the Ozeki back across the straw in short order. Kotooshu's failure to even give a damn is insulting. I'd be interested to know what kind of keiko he was doing pre-basho because it sure as hell isn't working. As for Homasho, he jumps out to a great start at 2-1 along with Okinoumi.

And dare I say Ozeki Baruto one-upped Kotooshu in the pathetic department? Against M2 Yoshikaze of all rikishi, Baruto was sleepwalking at the tachi-ai that saw Yoshikaze jump into the moro-hazu position (pushing against both armpits of your opponent) that lifted the Estonian so upright that he couldn't eve reach across or around his much smaller opponent to grab a belt. Yoshikaze couldn't sustain keeping Baruto upright for long, so he'd push up into the Estonians pits, let him down, push up again all the while waiting for an opening to go for the kill. It took about four seconds, and I'll be damned if I'm about to type the word "Yoshikaze just kicked Baruto's ass." What is up with these Euro rikishi? I can tell you that they are only in it for the money and will retire sooner than later. Pitiful stuff from both whitey Ozeki.

Ozeki Harumafuji made amends for his loss yesterday. Today against M2 Wakanosato, he ignored his vicious nodowa tachi-ai which got him in trouble the first two days and just seized moro-zashi against the hapless Wakanosato. The yori-kiri came about two seconds in. Harumafuji is not dead yet, but he has to win out, something I don't think he can do since primarily he probably isn't 100%

Sekiwake Kakuryu has lost the game mentally already this basho, and I can tell he's over thinking things now. After getting burned by insisting on going for the belt yesterday, today against M3 Tochiohzan he resorted back to straight tsuppari, but about two seconds in he went for a stupid pull down and completely lost his moment. Even in a tsuppari duel, Kakuryu is superior to Tochiohzan, but not when he's over thinking things. Kakuryu was just not committed to anything, and in that case, a rikishi goes for the pull down. On the second pull, Tochiohzan timed it perfectly and sent the Kak to his second straight loss. Kakuryu can recover and win eight, but an Ozeki run starts anew in Kyushu.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku did move to 3-0 today with a win over Komusubi Aran, but I'm still waiting for him to fight a legitimate bout. Aran just stood there again today allowing Kotoshogiku to grab the firm outer grip and sufficient left inside to yori-kiri Aran back and across the straw without argument. I'm still waiting to see this new and improved tachi-ai because it wasn't there on day 1, and then he's fought two practice dummies after that. I want to see the Geeku fight someone tough before I speculate on whether or not he can win 12.

Sekiwake Kisenosato looks the hottest to me of the sanyaku rikishi, Today, dude bullied Komusubi Toyonoshima back and out in a manner that few rikishi able to pull off. The key was the tachi-ai where Kisenosato kept his pits in tight disallowing Toyonoshima a sniff of the inside position, and with the Komusubi already flustered, Kisenosato used three or so solid thrusts to shove Toyonoshima out with some oomph. The kimari-te was tsuki-dashi, and I've already explained what that means this basho. The Kid is hot tonight. Mmm...Loverboy.

M3 Takekaze failed to henka again today, and so M3 Takekaze got his ass kicked again, this time at the hands of M4 Tochinoshin who smothered Kaze up like a pig in a blanket leading with a solid left outer grip and right inside position. At one point in the point, for some unexplained reason Shin brought his right arm up and put it at the back of Takekaze's head, and that move woulda cost him against anyone else, but he calmly realized his mistake and inserted his right arm back on the inside grabbing the belt...all the while with Takekaze just standing there like a bump on a log. Tochinoshin took a second to gather his wits and then just lifted Takekaze off his feet and yori-kiri'ed him straightway.

The only reason why I comment on the M4 Tokitenku - M5 Miyabiyama matchup is to illustrate just how slow and immobile Miyabiyama has become. Tokitenku went for that ugly keta-guri move of his, but Miyabiyama read it perfectly and went Darth Vader grabbing Tokitenku in a shweet choke hold with the right hand while Tenku's leg was still kicking away. Yet, in this position the Sheriff was unable to finish his man off and actually allowed Tokitenku to just pull him over to the clay with little effort. If you have rebel scum in a choke hold with one leg kicking straight out, that dude better be picking himself back up from the lap of a smelly old guy in the front row.

Goeido, Goeido, Goeido. Where did your mother and I go wrong? Sure, Goeido won his bout again today against M7 Fujiazuma, but he didn't look for the belt once opting to retreat and circle the ring with his hands up ready to pull at the first opportunity. Of course a guy who has been in the division for a few years will be able to time the pull down as Goeido did, but it's disturbing that this brilliant belt fighter hasn't even attempt to get to the mawashi in his first three bouts.

Upstart M6 Takayasu walked into a moro-te tachi-ai from M6 Wakakoyu who immediately reversed gears and pulled Takayasu down in a second. The problem here was that Takayasu's feet were aligned at the tachi-ai making it easy pickings for Wakakoyu. So much for Takayasu's fast start.

My man M7 Tochinowaka was completely befuddled by M10 Tamawashi who refused to settle for a belt contest (which he knew he would have lost) and instead just held Tochinowaka at bay by both arms. Tochinowaka ducked low and accepting the pace of the bout, but he had know idea how to fight out of it. After 7 seconds are so, Tamawashi just pivoted to the side and yanked the youngster down by the arms. This was a great example of a guy whose been around the Makuuchi block a few times schooling a youngster.

M8 Kaisei picked up his fist win making sure to keep his long arms underneath those stubby limbs attached to M9 Sagatsukasa. He methodically worked Sagatsukasa back and across in a few seconds, and the only reason I mention this bout is because Kaisei is a decent, young rikishi but one whom I think has already been surpassed by the likes of Takayasu, Tochinowaka, and Masunoyama.

I guess I should mention M10 Kyokutenho since he's managed a 3- start thanks in large part to fighting a handful of no-names. Today against M8 Toyohibiki, the Chauffeur had the worst tachi-ai of the day standing upright with his feet aligned, but Toyo-ibiki still couldn't capitalize. Kyokutenho repented quickly and just grabbed a right outer grip yanking Toyohibiki down to the dirt via uwate-nage. This was a really ugly bout.

M9 Masunoyama got a taste of his own day 2 medicine at the hands of M11 Kitataiki, who feigned a legitimate tachi-ai faking a move forward with a token kachi-age but who was really moving left all the way masking the henka. With Masunoyama's forward momentum leaning into thin air, Kitataiki easily pulled him down for the quick and dirty win. Hopefully Masunoyama learned his lesson because it's really a cheap move.

M12 Aminishiki is just toying with the bottom feeders, and is it me or has his bedroll gotten like twice as big recently? I don't know how he even walks with that thing wrapped around his leg, but hey, at least he sleeps like a baby. Today he used a moro-te tachi-ai against softie M13 Tamaasuka whose response was to immediately go for a pull down. Bad move as illustrated by Aminishiki's quick forward charge that sent his opponent down hard landing on his tama-ass-ka just outside the ring. Shneaky is 3-0 without even being sneaky.

M15 Takanoyama was obliterated by M17 Hochiyama, a guy who will probably win four bouts this entire tournament. Takanoyama is so light that he has no chance in this division. None.

And finally, in a battle of undefeateds, M16 Kokkai crashed hard into M16 Kimurayama and had him backpedaling throughout with a nice, under-control tsuppari attack. Finally, Kim extended an arm to try and stave off the assault whereupon Kokkai just yanked it and Kimurayama down to the clay with some mustard sending the Gorgeous Georgian to a 3-0 start.

Looks like you get me for one more day before Andreas mercifully takes over on day 5.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I must admit that I winced today as the broadcast began and they showed a camera angle from the second tier of the Kokugikan. I've grown quite used to seeing all of the empty seats at the regional basho like Nagoya and Fukuoka, but it smarts to see a drastic drop in numbers like this in Tokyo. The Sumo Association announced that 5,682 tickets went unsold for day 1, which blisters the previous dubious high of 5,118 for day 3 at this year's Hatsu basho. The Kokugikan's capacity is 11,000, so we had Dr. Kadastik run the numbers on the super computers at CERN, and he reported back that 11,000 minus 5,682 did in fact equal 5,318, and according to his hypothesis, this very well could have been the first time ever the Ryogoku Kokukigan was less than half capacity. We are still trying to determine whether or not half of 11,000 equals 5,500, but I have a hunch the doctor is correct in his calculations.  I'm okay if he doesn't report this basho just as long as he keeps the numbers comin'.

After an exciting day 1, I had hoped for more of the same on day 2 because the only way to stop the bleeding is to produce quality sumo atop the dohyo. That two of the three dudes up for promotions lost today didn't help the cause this basho, but I think I'm starting to see a solid base for the future. When hacks like Kotooshu and Baruto are gone, Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato will move into the Ozeki ranks (if not sooner), and Toyonoshima will become a sanyaku mainstay. Then, there is an excellent base of new talent forming. You have the Heisei duo of Takayasu and Masunoyama, there's Tochinowaka, and Okinoumi's surge here couldn't come at a better time. And lest we forget, there's a dude fighting in the Makushita 50's range named Tatsu who could make Juryo by the age of 18. He was bigger than Hakuho when he left junior high school, and he's steadily shot up the ranks. The excitement around sumo starts with Japanese rikishi. Then when you get one who becomes a sekitori in near record time (I believe the last one to do it was Kisenosato and then it was Tochiazuma before that), a lot of hype is generated and people start paying attention to sumo again. As an aside, we foreign fans are inconsequential to the equation, so when I talk about "people" and "fans," I'm only referring to Japanese people.

Like the art of sword making and tea ceremony, sumo will never regain it's high point in terms of popularity and demand, but the economist in me is starting to see a bottom form here with a new crop of young, Japanese rikishi. Things are guaranteed to get worse next basho in Kyushu, but two years from now, I wouldn't be surprised if sumo's numbers have vastly improved.

On that note, let's get to the day 2 bouts, and once again I will only comment on bouts that I think are worth anyone's time.

After his spectacular come-back win over Toyonoshima yesterday, Ozeki Harumafuji had another challenge on his hand with M1 Okinoumi fresh off of his upset of Kotooshu on day 1. HowDo charged hard using his patented nodowa that lifted Okinoumi upright, but like yesterday, he wasn't able to parlay that into a quick yori-kiri win. Harumafuji tried his damndest moving Okinoumi back to the straw in a flash, but Okinoumi had the sense about him and the ability to work his left arm to the inside while retreating and then time a perfect kote-nage throw/sideways shoulder push with the right hand as he tiptoed the tawara sending Harumafuji down to the dohyo in his haste. I think more than detracting from Harumafuji's performance, the props have to go to Okinoumi for not only winning like this on the big stage two days in a row but having the ring sense to pull this particular win off. Harumafuji dominated the tachi-ai and showed good de-ashi, but he wasn't overpowering to the point where Okinoumi was helpless. On the contrary, the Ozeki played right into Okinoumi's hand. Great stuff today from both rikishi in a bout that illustrated why I don't think Harumafuji is quite Yokozuna material. Regarding said promotion, if HowDo can win out and defeat Hakuho in a yusho playoff, I think you have to give him the promotion, but there's no way that happens now. Didn't sound as if the Ozeki was 100% going into the basho, and now he's got this mental lapse to overcome. Won't happen. As for Okinoumi (2-0), if he can win eight he deserves the Shukunsho no question.

Next up on the promotion board is Sekiwake Kakuryu who welcomed M2 Wakanosato. You know, for an old guy, Wakanosato sure wins his fair share of tachi-ai, and he did so again today entirely keeping Kakuryu away from the belt and upright. With the fight veering away from the belt, it turned into a bout with Kakuryu desperately trying to find an opening on the mawashi and Wakanosato keeping him away with effective tsuppari. Prior to the basho, Kakuryu stated that one of his goals was to grab the belt and not let go of it until he had his opponent finished, but dude's gotta read the flow of the bout. He didn't today and as he kept trying to duck in and get to the inside, Wakanosato timed a perfect pull attempt that sent the Kak squirting towards the edge where a simple push from behind finished off the Sekiwake in rather easy fashion. Coming in, I'd say the only way Wakanosato could win this thing was with moro-zashi or at least an advantageous inside position. That he won a tsuppari/pull fest indicates that Kakuryu must adjust to the flow of the bout, especially against one of the easier guys at this level. Both guys sit at 1-1, and a guy up for Ozeki promotion cannot afford to lose to Wakanosato...just ask Kotoshogiku.

Speaking of the Geeku, he musta been giddy to see M2 Yoshikaze across the starting lines today, and it got even better as Yoshikaze committed a false start that wasn't called and then just stood there as Kotoshogiku jumped, heard the referee yell "nokotta," and wrapped up his opponent escorting him back and out before Yoshikaze could finish saying, "what the hell?". Uh, judges, you have to call this one back. You could even hear the jeers from the crowd because fans don't want to see any bout end like this even if it does involve a guy the Association desperately wants to promote to Ozeki. Kotoshogiku woulda won the bout anyway, but call it back already. Poor refereeing and judging all the way around on this one. Kotoshogiku's about as ugly a 2-0 as you care to see while Yoshikaze is 0-2.

With the promotion talk out of the way, let's climb back up to the Yokozuna ranks where Hakuho welcomed M1 Homasho, who unlike Aran yesterday, tried to put up a fight but was wrapped up with a pretty bow and expunged before he knew what hit him. If you must know the details, it was a solid tachi-ai, right arm on the inside, left outer grip, and two second yori-kiri. Where have we heard that before?

In the Ozeki ranks, Baruto and Komusubi Aran clashed in a anti-climactic hidari-yotsu contest that saw Aran duck in low and Baruto grab the right outer over the top. The two cuddled this way for a few seconds before Baruto easily dispatched the Komusubi with a right outer belt throw. As for comments, Aran is living up to his new moniker as the Russian Bride by simply telling his opponents, "take me now." Baruto has looked sloppy in his sumo and won today because his gal was so passive. The Estonian's gonna struggle to even win 10 this basho.

And speaking of 10, Ozeki Kotooshu can only sigh at the thought of winning that many bouts again. Today he was worked by Komusubi Toyonoshima who waltzed into the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai and manhandled the Bulgarian with an inner belt throw. I mean, I get that sumo fans' minds aren't necessarily focused on the sport as much these days (myself probably included), but sumo seems to be the last thing on Kotooshu's mind, and this is his day job! I go back to Kitanofuji's comments yesterday when he described Kotooshu's sumo as small and take it step further by saying the Ozeki's presence is chiisai. It's like that annoying girl at the office whose overweight, needs to dye her roots, swills Diet Coke, and complains endlessly. She gabs all day and doesn't say a word. Major props to Toyonoshima for recognizing the vulnerability of his opponent and stepping in there straightway to kick his ass in mere seconds. Guys like Toyonoshima, Homasho, and Okinoumi are keeping this basho exciting.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Kisenosato met M3 Takekaze today, a rikishi with whom I've been quite disenchanted of late due to his constant tachi-ai henka. Well, he hasn't resorted to the move once this basho, and now I see why he needs it so much. Going straight into Kisenosato today, Takekaze was was beaten like a dusty rug on a clothesline. The Kid wasted no time firing a few tsuppari into Takekaze's chest that sent him back and out in two seconds flat. This bout was a perfect reason why I groan each time I see Takekaze this high in the ranks. Kisenosato has been solid so far, but let's wait for some better competition.

M3 Tochiohzan wasted another chance at an easy win versus M5 Miyabiyama. Instead of charging hard and demanding a fight at the belt, he seemed afraid to take a tsuppari or two from Miyabiyama and totally played to the Sheriff's style, which is bully the opponent with tsuppari and catch him with the quick pull down. And that's how it ended.

M4 Tokitenku knew there was no way he could beat counterpart Tochinoshin in straight up fight, so he henka'd to his left in a move as uncouth as you please. Dirty pool from all angles here.

M5 Goeido did pick up his first win against M6 Wakakoyu, but it was another ugly bout from the Father. Like yesterday, Goeido seemed content to fight upright and grapple with his opponent to see who could pull the other one down first. Goeido didn't even attempt to get a sniff of Wakakoyu's belt...not that I'd be too keen to sniff his mawashi either, but you know what I mean.  Bad first win for Goeido.

I thoroughly enjoyed the M6 Takayasu - M7 Fujiazuma matchup because it was a case of a yotsu guy in Takayasu taking on a strictly oshi guy in Fujiazuma. Takayasu won the tachi-ai enabling him to get on the inside quickly, and he drove Fujiazuma back so fast that the two rikishi became separated accounting for the tsuki-dashi winning technique in the end as Takayasu fired a kill shot into Fuji's chest to send him off the mound completely. I like both of these guys and what they contribute to the division.

M7 Tochinowaka made short work of M8 Toyohibiki laughing off any instance of tsuppari from the Hutt at the tachi-ai and squeezing him in real tight. With the inside position and an outer grip to boot, Tochinowaka easily dismantled the Nikibi and pinched him out of the ring in seconds. All of a sudden, we have this new crop of youngsters that are going to make some noise soon.

I so wanted to hype yet another youngster again today in M7 Masunoyama, but he went for the sly side step against M8 Kaisei at the tachi-ai. I'll stop short of calling it a henka since Masunoyama did offer a left forearm after moving his left foot forward at the charge, but he was clearly of the mindset to stick quick and evade in this one, and with Kaisei stumbling off balance as a result of the change-up, Masunoyama easily slapped him down to the clay in a second. I will look the other way on this kind of tactic as long as a rikishi doesn't use it more than twice per basho because then it becomes an addiction. I refuse to call Masunoyama's act today "good sumo" because you'd never do this to an opponent in the keiko ring. Man up tomorrow, Rook.

Let's skip all the way down to M12 where Aminishiki just thumped M13 Yoshiazuma by standing him up at the tachi-ai and yanking him down as he tried to recover and lean forward again. I thought Aminishiki would have to at least work for his wins even down in these parts thanks to his gimpy knee, but so far he's been a one-eyed man in a blind man's kingdom.

The safest bet in sumo right now is against M15 Takanoyama. This dude is so lightweight that M16 Kimurayama packed him up in a little plastic pouch and handed him out in front of the Ryogoku Kokugikan-mae train station. The kimari-te was oshi-dashi simply because they don't have one for sneezing into your opponent's chest and knocking him out of the ring.

And finally, M16 Kokkai just bullied M17 Hochiyama straight up from the tachi-ai and then straight down with a perfectly-timed hataki-komi. Korporal Kokkai and Kimurayama are prolly both thinking to themselves "this Makuuchi bidness isn't what I remembered" because it isn't. You have 17 sekitori removed from the ranks and replaced by guys fit for Makushita.

Oh well, it will work itself out...sorta like the week 1 reporting schedule which includes a whole helluva lotta me. See ya tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I scanned the headlines Sunday morning to see if there was any last-minute news prior to the basho, and the biggest topic of the day was that 4,500 tickets were left for day 1, the largest amount for a day 1 in the history of the Ryogoku Kokugikan. I can't say I'm surprised by that number, but one intriguing stat was the number of tickets the Sumo Association calculates is purchased by foreigners. According to their calculations, 40% of all tickets are purchased by foreigners, and with tourism down due to the recent natural disasters in Japan, they attribute the hit in tickets sales partly due to fewer foreigners showing up. I doubt the number of foreigners who actually fly to Japan in order to see sumo make a dent in ticket-sales statistics, but I was surprised that only 60% of the crowd is made up of Japanese people. That number seems low to me, but still, the rate that the domestic crowd is abandoning sumo is alarming. The reason for this trend, of course, is the lack of Japanese rikishi who are making an impact on sumo, and that's a shame because I thought day 1 was about as exciting of a day as we've seen in a long time.

Since I've got a long week ahead of me in terms of reporting, let's focus on the points of interest regarding rikishi up for promotion, upper echelon rikishi, and then rikishi of interest in the lower ranks.

Ozeki Harumafuji received a stiff day 1 test in Komusubi Toyonoshima as part of his "tsuna-tori" quest. The Ozeki caught Toyonoshima with a mean right nodowa that had Toyonoshima looking to the rafters and set up a left outer grip, but Harumafuji forgot his de-ashi allowing Toyonoshima to not only slip in moro-zashi, but he had Harumafuji's right arm pointing towards the ceiling. The Ozeki made a quick adjustment that saved his life, which was to bury his left shoulder into Toyonoshima's jaw disallowing the Komusubi to duck in low. In this position, Harumafuji wrapped his right arm around Toyonoshima's neck, but he couldn't go for the neck throw as that would have allowed Toyonoshima to kill him with a scoop throw. You could literally see Harumafuji digging in while searching his options to somehow pull out the impossible bout, and with Toyonoshima not necessarily pressing forward, Harumafuji went for an outside leg trip with his right leg wrapped around Toyonoshima's left, and while Toyonoshima survived the move, Harumafuji upgraded his right arm from useless limb to an outside armbar around Toyonoshima's left. Having lowered his stance considerably, Harumafuji was now in the position to move, and move he did this time using his right leg on the inside of Toyonoshima's left using that plus the right kote-nage throw to lift Toyonoshima clear off his feet and flip him 360 degrees in as shweet'a kake-nage as you please. In the process, Harumafuji also somersaulted to the dohyo, and it looked as if his mage actually touched the dirt before Toyonoshima fell down.  A mono-ii was called, but the judges got it right and upheld the referee's decision since Toyonoshima employed no move to cause Harumafuji's fall. Major props to them for overlooking the nationalities of these two rikishi and rewarding Harumafuji the win; he completely deserved it in probably the best bout we'll see in twenty eleven.

Vying for promotion to Ozeki first is Sekiwake Kotoshogiku, who would get an opportunity to avenge that costly loss to M2 Wakanosato last basho. Kotoshogiku indicated all throughout the pre-basho phase that he was working on his tachi-ai, but it sure didn't look that way to me in this bout as Wakanosato gained the quick moro-zashi. Before the two rikishi could get settled though, Kotoshogiku found his left arm on the inside after a slight kote-nage throw from the center of the ring. Now with the two in an equal stance, Kotoshogiku pressed matters dumping Wakanosato to the edge after a few seconds with his second kote-nage attempt, but I have high suspicions that this bout was bought. For starters, Kotoshogiku completely lost the tachi-ai giving up moro-zashi in the process. Second, it looked to me as if Wakanosato was spinning his wheels on the dohyo for no logical reason. And third, Wakanosato put his hand down to break his fall. I don't care to make a big deal out of the bout, but the flow didn't look completely natural to me. Kotoshogiku did pick up his first win, but he's going nowhere with that tachi-ai.

Sekiwake Kakuryu faced M3 Takekaze, and you could see the Kak come with a very cautious tachi-ai not quite sure which direction Takekaze would go. Takekaze came straight forward and offered a few token slaps, but the Kak easily used a few effective nodowa to stand Takekaze straight up and then push him out with ease using two hands to the chest. Mainoumi made a great comment afterwards as well stating that Takekaze's lack of height makes it tempting for rikishi to go for a pull down, but Kakuryu stuck to his guns and won with forward-moving sumo. Great start for the Kak who keeps pace with Kotoshogiku.

Let's move back up to the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks where the remaining bouts were a bit uneventful. You know how prior to a yusho playoff they show each guy in the dressing room practicing with a tsuke-bito? Usually it's a Makushita rikishi who just stands there as his senpai pounds him over and over practicing his tachi-ai. That exactly what Komusubi Aran looked like today against Yokozuna Hakuho. It was as if the two were conducting a yori-kiri clinic with Hakuho doing the demonstration on the Russian Bride, Aran. In other words, it was effortless as Hakuho grabbed the right inside position, left outside belt, and then marched Aran back and across the straw consummating the bout. That kind of performance from Aran is exactly what we don't need from the Komusubi rank.

In the Ozeki ranks, for some unknown reason Baruto failed to make a single effort in grabbing M1 Homasho's belt instead staying up high looking for the cheap pull down. As he is wont to do, Homasho burrowed his head in tight and was relentless in his charge into the Biomass, and when the Ozeki backed up a step with his hands at the back of Homasho's melon, Homasho latched onto both of Baruto's arms and just played the momentum of the bout's direction pushing Baruto clear off the dohyo. Baruto thinking he could just show up and win today was a fatal mistake. Credit Homasho for his persistence, but there's no way Baruto should ever lose to this guy.

If Kotoshogiku's tachi-ai was bad today, stablemate Kotooshu's was even worse. Against M1 Okinoumi, the Ozeki gave up the inside allowing Okinoumi to get his right arm in, and the youngster was on the verge of getting the left inside as well, which would have given him moro-zashi. With Kotooshu trying to fight off moro-zashi with sloppy footwork to boot, Okinoumi pulled him down with the right arm sending the Ozeki stumbling forward where his momentum forced his hand to touch the dirt. Okinoumi added a hand to Kotooshu's bare arse in the process adding insult to injury, but more than a good win for Okinoumi, this was a horrible loss for Kotooshu. Kitanofuji said it best when he described Kotooshu's sumo as "small."

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Kisenosato just pummeled M2 Yoshikaze who sorta jumped to his side at the tachi-ai. I say "sorta" because Yoshikaze didn't have a plan, so Kisenosato easily squared back up with Cafe and started pulverizing him with shoves that drove Yoshikaze to the dohyo via tsuki-otoshi. For our new readers, I'll tell you the difference between "oshi" and "tsuki" in sumo since both basically mean to shove. Oshi means you shoved your opponent back or down; tsuki means you just kicked his ass.

Let's move to the rank and file starting with M3 Tochiohzan, who at a very precarious position in the ranks, had to have been glad to see M4 Tokitenku across the starting lines today. I was glad to see that Oh didn't waste the opportunity charging hard into Tokitenku and then taking full advantage of the pull-happy Tenku. Tochiohzan dispatched his opponent in mere seconds with a powerful oshi-dashi win. I want Oh to stay up high in the ranks, so it's good to seem him get this win early.

M4 Tochinoshin easily dispatched of M5 Miyabiyama who used the not so lumbering tsuppari to at least keep Tochinoshin awake before the Private bullied his way into a yotsu position and forced Miyabiyama back and across without argument. The reason I even comment on this one is because Miyabiyama is done. He maybe lasts another year, but he's declining fast.

My two favorite rikishi in the division met up today with M6 Takayasu taking on M5 Goeido. Goeido employed that tachi-ai I hate where he strikes and moves to the side. Takayasu's reaction was to simply grab Goeido by the back of the head and slap/pull his sorry ass to the edge where Goeido barely had time to square himself back to the center of the ring before Takayasu sent him off the dohyo for good with a nifty dual shove into the Father's chest. Goeido is one of he best belt fighters out there, so it puzzles me he's always shying away from it.

Makuuchi sophomore, M7 Fujiazuma, completely dismantled M6 Wakakoyu, the same Wakakoyu whose taken a few Ozeki scalps this year. Fujiazuma used his low center of gravity to drive effective shoves into Wakakoyu's chest sending him back and out in a flash. I'm very impressed with Fujiazuma's straight forward approach. He's a guywho understands his strengths and doesn't monkey around with anything else.

One rikishi I will be watching carefully the next few basho is M7 Tochinowaka whom I was extremely impressed with last basho, the first tournament I was able to see him fight everyday. Today against upstart M8 Kaisei, Tochinowaka took full advantage of a half-assed tachi-ai from Kaisei where he left his body so open that Tochinowaka just walked into moro-zashi. From there it was wham bam thank you ma'am as Tochinowaka drove his opponent across and down via yori-taoshi.

Let's move onto our highest ranked rookie in the division, M9 Masunoyama who was pitted against M8 Toyohibiki. This was one of my favorite bouts of the day, not because of a rare kimari-te or a brilliant comeback win, but because Masunoyama went out and opened a can of whoopass on Toyohibiki. Toyohibiki actually demonstrated a good tachi-ai ramming his forehead into Masunoyama's torso, but the rookie swiped him away with some shoves to the head, and then used perfect de-ashi to set up an oshi attack that was so powerful, he quickly moved Toyohibiki to the side and then pushed him over with such force that at one point no part of the Hutt's body was touching the dohyo. Great stuff from Masunoyama who will quickly rise up the ranks. Takayasu may have beaten Masunoyama to the division, but Masunoyama's got the body, and that will make all the difference. Damnation, we have a playuh on our hands here.

Our second rookie was M13 Yoshiazuma who had a date with M12 Asasekiryu. Yoshiazuma was decent at the tachi-ai using a few shoves into Asasekiryu's chin to set up the right arm on the inside and a solid left outer grip. Yoshiazuma even had Asasekiryu raised upright, but there's a reason it took him until the age of 34 to reach the division because he could do nothing with a position so advantageous that even Paris Hilton took notice. Showing little effort to force Asasekiryu to the edge, Sexy took over from there dumping Yoshiazuma with an inside belt throw that looked way too easy. Yoshiazuma's already in serious trouble.

Our final rookie was M15 Takanoyama who faced M16 Kokkai making his return to the big dance. Takanoyama's tachi-ai was lighter than the noonday sun, and it disallowed him to get into any sort of position other than an attempt to grab Kokkai's right arm. The Georgian was having nothing of the sort, however, and used one tsuppari shove to send Takanoyama beyond the tawara and down to the arena floor. The kimari-te was tsuki-dashi, which means of course that Kokkai totally kicked his ass. Takanoyama has no business in this division. Doesn't mean he can't work his way up here in the future, but he's got a lot to sort out.

And finally, M17 Hochiyama had M16 Kimurayama by the short hairs throughout their bout grabbing a quick left belt grip that was an outer and then a frontal as Kim moved this way and that trying to shake it off.  Hochiyama's error was that he didn't align chests with his opponent and use his outer belt grip and right arm on the inside to set up the yori-kiri win. Instead, he opted for a dashi-nage pull, and somehow Kimurayama slipped out of it and turned the tables with a shoulder slap down at the tawara. Hochiyama is big and fast, but his sumo sense is awful...which is why we haven't seen him in years.

See you tomorrow where I will undoubtedly make a triumphant return.











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