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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)
A new batch of English teachers descends annually pon Japan every year in August, sworn to learn the youngins in the ways of Chaucers tongue but in actuality bent on, as they frame it so eloquently in Salt Lake City, "gittinsum." So much for "Because I love Kurosawa."

What this influx means is that every September we here at Sumotalk have a goodly number of new readers, men and women (yes, some furrener women DO seek out Japan, mainly women who are sick and tired of all the large penis back home) who look to ST to crack open the tricky nut that is sumo. What most of them dont realize is that Dave Shapiro has not yet drowned in a boating accident.

I gave up listening to the English side broadcast about three years ago, due to Mikes constant nudging that there was more substance to be found on the Japanese side (tho on occasion Ill catch me some Ross, a professional and a pleasure to listen to). I had stuck with the English side in hopes that in exchange for less insightful blow-by-blow Id be afforded what I call the "Monday Night Football" experience--decent analysis from seasoned and knowledgeable commentators ...ALONG WITH some color. You know fun, jocular, whimsical commentary that on occasion mirrors the private thoughts I have about the sumos in the quiet of my own 2DK with gorgeous view of the train station and easy access to late night ramen.

Long intro short, on Day 14 my TV was set to English when I ignited it, and as I fumbled for the button that makes it all Japanesey, I heard a voice that sounded like a dwarf who lived in a helium tent and had lost his testicles to a rabid hamster at the age of nine. And it was speaking Chaucers tongue! I was so transfixed that I left it on English, wanting to hear the name of this creature. S/he was paired with Ken Swenson, an earnest if dull fellow whose voice sounds like he should host his own radio program about the dangers of pedophilia. I never did get the name of that charter member of the Lollipop Guild (and to be fair, s/he was not uninformed nor overly annoying), but what I DID hear was that Murray the Head would be working on my Day 15, along with Woody Allens infinitely less talented vocal doppelganger David Shapiro.

To call Shapiro annoying would be ennobling him. He is to sumo commentary what Gollum is to ringbearing. Listening to him not only makes me want to commit suicide, it makes me want to kill my neighbors and their pets beforehand. If I was given a choice between having dinner with him or being burned alive tied to a stake, Id pack my pockets with incense and take my chances with the rumor that 'human flesh smells horrific when roasted' being "just talk."

And so it was, after putting up with a comment that went something like "and and...and...and and and and and and, as I said, um, you know this...this this um, particular riKEEshi brings, um you know, to the game, a very very very very very very explosive...uh-h-h- tachi-ai" that I switched to Japanese. No way in hell I was going to stick around to hear him say "on the part of Kakuryu," or "on the part of Hakuho." Is it possible that Nigerian mobsters once told him that if he ever used the word "by" in place of "on the part of" that theyd hurt his Auntie?

Despite what Andreas wrote on Day 14, Harumafujis ascension to the rank of Grand Champion Yokozuna was not a foregone conclusion even after his "ass kicking" of Kakuryu (who decided that standing up tall and proud right from the start, and thus putting his center of balance roughly in the third row of seats at his back, was the best way to defeat his countryman). There were said to be those who were demanding Howdo defeat Hakuho today for him to earn promotion. As if THAT was ever in doubt.

It was appropriate that the former Asashoryu, 68th Yokozuna drummed out of sumo for being too foreign, was on hand to watch the final five or six bouts (odd that he didnt care to show up earlier to catch that highly anticipated bout between Takanoyama and Jokoryu). As many of you know, Asashoryu and Hakuho met on Day 15 eighteen times over exactly four years, including four playoffs, before the NSK decided to place sumo on an iron lung and deprive us all of what would have been 2 1/2 years more of great Day 15s between two legendary Yokozuna.

The astute (a word, by the way, I was shocked to discover at the age of eight did NOT mean "fart") among you will also recall that the two Khans had gotten into the habit of trading yusho when it was on the line (not always, but often), giving us protracted bouts exhibiting all the raw strength and sweat that goes into making a classic sumo bout. The astuters will notice I wrote "exhibiting." This was intentional.

But we were so giddy with seeing two guys who were so much better than the rest that we let it pass, with Mike often writing that he was okay with them sharing the rank in such a manner mainly because theyd both proven they were grand champions and they owned sumo. It wasnt like we werent getting our moneys worth, because nearly each and every time they battled with the yusho on the line they brought the house down, and although the house was filled with seals and the Khans were throwing fish, it still did what it was supposed to do, entertain us.

Now let me be perfectly clear. Neither guy was lying down or rolling over in these legendary matchups, no sir. Rather, it seemed that one or the other would pass on a golden opportunity he would not normally let pass, ease up when he had his foe dead to rights, lengthening the bout and setting it up for some epic finale.

I think even (insert name of some famous blind person whose name people often invoke to illustrate just how easy something is to figure out) could see where Im going with this one. I came into the day convinced that Hakuho would lose after a "ferocious" struggle, and thats precisely what he did. It seems silly to describe in detail a bout that anyone who is sick enough to come and read this report would have already Tved/YouTubed/streamed, so Ill try to stick to just pointing out the points at which Hakuho lost the match.

Two seconds into the match the Yokozuna gets his right hand belt so deep that its on the knot at the back of the Ozekis belt. Nine times out of ten Hakuho wastes no time and wrenches his foe toward him while pivoting and flings him down piece o cake. But today Kublai decides to wait, moving his hand off the knot and resting it more to the side of the belt. Some of you might be saying, Whoa there Kelly, a grip that is too deep can be dangerous to the gripper. Thats true, but only when the two men are aligned chest to chest, in tight. This grip came early in the bout with both men relatively separated, and Harumafuji had not had time to set himself, and might have been easy pickins (if his foe was looking to pick, which Hakuho was not). But the Ozeki IS crafty, so maybe Hakuho was rightfully playing it cautious, nothing wrong with that.

Now we had Hakuho, a much larger and stronger wrestler, with a commanding inside right that he could use to throw, but he decides to stand there, letting the Ozeki wiggle for a second and jam his left arm in between their bodies to turn Hakuhos inner belt grip into an outer (as if the Yokozuna didnt know this maki-kae was coming and couldnt block it). Immediately after this move, Hakuho himself pulls a maki-kae on the opposite side, getting his left arm in on HowDos right side.

But the key here is Hakuho never once tried to grab the belt with that left hand, instead keeping his hand palm up like he was doing that funny dance he does before every days bouts. Take a look, he has it palm skyward, instead of grabbing the belt and using it to swing the Ozeki out.

Which he now does try and do anyway with just the great right hand belt grip he has, and he has the Ozeki going sideways and out, no doubt, but wait, for some reason Hakuho loses his power and Harumafuji, on no accord of his own, is able to get back to the center squared up cheek to cheek with Hakuho, the long dance of hips bent at ninety degrees about to commence.

They now dance for about a minute, Harumafuji with a deep and full layered inside left hand belt grip, and Hakuho with a one layer outside right hand. Hakuho makes no move. Harumafuji does the occasional tug. Both guys are tired, no doubt. Suddenly Hakuho, confusing himself with Tokitenku, tries to kick the Ozekis leg. Doesnt work and the gyoji steps in to remove Kublais tassles.

Now right after this occurs, Hakuho turns his head so its facing the other way, allowing Harumafuji to calmly slide his grip deeper and directly onto the Yokozunas knot. Meanwhile, Hakuho has not once tried to readjust his own one strand grip on the Ozekis loose belt, something rikishi who are trying to win always do in protracted yotsu battles.

Now more than a minute into the bout, Harumafuji tries to use his lower angle and solid grip to rush the Yokozuna backward. Hakuho fights this off but for some reason decides that his own left inside is not helping so he gives the inside to the Ozeki, who now has morozashi double inside belt grips. Gee, thanks Hak!

So now HowDo is hunkered down and has Hakuho perpendicular, and after a ten second wait or so, he drives him to the edge with the deep left hand belt, proceeds to let go in favor of the deep (too deep, now with chests aligned) back of the belt grip, allowing Hak to do one of those classic tippy toe stands on the ropes to save his bacon. Once saved he is run across the dohyo by the Ozeki who is now using an inside right belt to try and swing the Yokozuna down, who once again valiantly saves himself at the edge, only to be dragged forward into a square dance, with Hakuho comically hopping not one, not two, not three, but four times on his right leg before being swung down to the clay in an exhausted and thoroughly entertaining manner.

Trying to write all this out and be clear has caused me to become surly, and since I know Mike will analyze it better than I can in a few days, Ill leave it at that. They gave us a good show, but Hakuho never had any intention of winning this bout. Like in the past, I dont really mind because these two are the top two guys in sumo and either one is deserving. And it entertained the fans bigtime, if this enthusiastic furrener who posted the match on YouTube is any indication. From 5:11 to 7:10. His reaction reminds me of Double Rainbow Guy.

Well, honestly Im tapped out. Its been a long exhausting week, my wife is in Kankoku so Im Mr. Mom for another three days, and I have a long exhausting training run ahead of me today, so I wont be covering any other bouts. Sorry about that, but Ill be back with bells on for our first dual Yokozuna basho in nearly three years. Best of all, Arbos baby will be there to watch it live in Fukuoka. Cheers.

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Day 14 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
May I have the honor - on behalf of Sumotalk - to officially welcome the 70th Yokozuna? There can be no doubt now that Harumafuji will indeed be handed rank and rope. I remember very well one of Mike's post-basho reports, just after I started reading articles here on this site, where he pointed out that little Ama's 8-7 kachi-koshi in his second Komusubi basho came as a little surprise. I also remember some comment - either from the reports or the forums - which stated that the choice of a new shikona after his promotion to Ozeki would somehow hint at the oyakata's notion that newly named Harumafuji might even occupy sumo's top spot one day. At that time, this was considered to be overdoing things a little.

The question is, will the pending promotion of a third Mongolian Yokozuna backfire? Will he turn out to be mediocre and one-more-yusho-and-that's-it? Did he display Yokozuna sumo at all? And - somehow always a topic during the last decade - does he have the character for carrying the burden in an acceptable fashion? I think that the answer to the first two questions cannot easily be given, as they are purely speculative. Personally, for example, I wouldn't have bet a lot of money on Harumafuji even winning his second basho, and now he is about to succeed in a fourth. On the other hand, the second pair of questions lead into the territory of subjective. How do you define worthiness and character?

Let's momentarily focus on the worthiness of his sumo and achievements in general. When Ama appeared in the top division almost eight years ago, he was the freakishly small type, weighing only around 115kg. Not surprisingly, he turned out to be a gifted technician, using superior speed often and well enough to his advantage. After getting accustomed to the pace and demands of Makuuchi for a little longer than a year, he found himself debuting in the sanyaku ranks in May 2006, which ended in a (to be expected) 4-11 disaster. He nevertheless bounced back, and when he reentered the sanyaku spots, he would come to stay, never ranking below Komusubi afterward. It was at this stage when he packed a couple of extra kilos, enabling him to defeat Hakuho three basho in a row for three consecutive shukun-sho. As it turned out, this was the opener for the forthcoming Ozeki challenge, something Ama mastered basically in his first real attempt, all the while cashing in special prices and even only barely failing in an early claim of a top division title.

There have certainly been prodigies in the past who have had a smoother and more determined path to the rank of Ozeki. Nevertheless, Ama had acted within the limits of, well, his physical limits in a more than impressive way. Naturally, his sumo was pretty much small-man-style. He was no stranger to shifts and henkas, he definitely won more bouts by outwitting than by forward momentum. Having cleared the hurdle that separate the Grandmasters from the rest, he tried to change that instantly. And he almost horribly failed. Switching to some - in my opinion - rather silly silver mawashi, he all of a sudden tried to do "Ozeki-sumo". This failed miserably in the sense that he first set a new record for consecutive losses as shin-Ozeki, and additionally needed a little help from the friends to get through with eight overall.

Changing back to the old mawashi and seriously reconsidering his stylistic approach, he already came back with his first Ozeki double digits in the next basho. And only one tournament later, he started his first - rather epic - campaign to grab the yusho. The Ama we saw in that specific tournament had now truly become Harumafuji. He was still counting on his speed and technique, but the speed was now converted into forward pointing power and aggression. The technical highlights were now used to finish off only the most resilient foes. Harumafuji had - without overdoing the diffuser scrim on the rearview mirror - reinvented himself.

The following two years were a blur of mixed results, a pratter of scandals, and the unholy Japan-needs-an Ozeki sideshow. For Harumafuji it was room enough to post an average of about 9.5 wins per basho, nothing remarkable, but still quite decent when compared to his erratic companions and considering his ongoing fight with several minor but nagging injuries. When the wind had cleared the dust of Yaocho Scandal, Harumafuji suddenly struck for the second time, basically out of nowhere. This time his style reminded again a little of his former self Ama, only paired with the Harumafuji aggression. This drew some criticism back then, as it was considered stained. Too many shifts for easy grips, not forward moving enough. His second attempt at the tsuna was therefore frowned upon, and many officials must have been relieved to see him drop every other bout in the first week of the follow-up tournament. The reason for that was another series of injuries that kept him (the small man) from playing his speed to the full potential.

And here we are in the now. Harumafuji returned once again to claim the rank of Yokozuna. He did this by storming in the most convincing (true Harumafuji) style to an astonishing zensho yusho in July, something achieved only by a couple of career Ozeki before. He then extended his winning streak into a region never before reached by any career Ozeki, fortifying his claim to the tsuna by numbers alone. But he delivered not only the numbers. In both the July and the ongoing Aki basho, he convinced by the content of his sumo, which - considering his physical constraints - has turned out to be just short of ideal. Even if he won't win the second consecutive yusho, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council will have a tough time in denying him the honor based on questions of content, especially after considering his significant changes of style and his overall career.

There stays the question of character. To be honest, I think this is a smokescreen, even though I cannot really claim to understand the Japanese soul. Mike once deconstructed the talk about hinaku in connection to one of the various Asashoryu incidents. I don't remember in detail, but I seem to recall that he insisted on the term having no significance whatsoever outside of the rhetoric of certain xenophobic hardcore traditionalists with an agenda. And this sounds sensible, as "worthiness" (to choose a random translation) does not necessarily mean that he is regularly off to help grannies across the street. If I would have to choose the real meaning, than it would be rather "bearing" or "presence". Does Harumafuji have the bearing and presence of a Yokozuna? And what does that exactly mean...again?

In need to evoke another memory to expand on my own thoughts about this. Before I seriously got involved in sumo, I nevertheless sporadically switched into the then still ongoing Eurosport broadcasts. This was nothing intentional on my part, but rather part of a frequent smoke-pot-zap-TV-channels routine. But you know, whenever I got held by the sumo action, I regularly encountered a guy which made me think "He's the MAN", not because I understood anything of what was happening, but only through the incredible presence of this dude. Later I found out that it was none other than Musashimaru. If I would have had to describe the special aura of this wrestler among wrestlers, I would have said "He is a stone pillar. He will not lose. He knows this and the other guy, too." To project this kind of aura in the intimate dialogue between two rikishi, but also outwards in the direction of the (uninformed and therefore pretty objective) spectator, this is an essential part of Yokozunahood in my book.

Of course this needs to be backed up by results. If you consider Kisenosato, for instance, he tries to conjure up exactly what I described just now. But since he fails more often on the dohyo than it can be considered healthy to keep up the image, he is turning into a caricature and additionally producing quite some disdain in his betters. After all he is - to a certain degree - a pretender. With Harumafuji this is not so. During his first two yusho winning tournaments, he had accomplished minor auras of invincibility while the respective tournament went into the second week. In July, it needed only three or four days to implement the notion in everybody's head. And this time, he basically appeared straight from Day 1 with the stone face expression his peers came to fear by now. If I look at him now, I see the parallel to Hakuho's expressive earthedness, I see the barely contained brutality of Asashoryu, I see the pillar which I came to know as Musashimaru.

There will never again be a 70th Yokozuna, since we have found him.

At this point I would like to close my little diary to serve the need for actual bout reporting. The yusho decision had already been narrowed down to Hakuho or Harumafuji. There have been a couple of noteworthy bouts with other participants, though, so here's what happened elsewhere.

I am quite sure now that Tochinowaka is suffering from a quite significant injury of the back. He was scheduled for a quick trip up from Juryo to meat underachieving Sadanofuji, a rikishi I came to like throughout the last two or three basho. For the Tochinowaka of late, he put up an epic effort in an extended exchange of thrusts and choke holds. The significant observation was Tochinowaka's unnatural stance, whenever he tried to move his opponent backwards. It reminded me very much of myself, whenever I try to find a comfortable position in one of my own hurting-back episodes. The last thing on my mind would be sumo in such instances, so I start to understand the former Maegashira's problem. The ensuing win won't help Sadanofuji to stay in the division, but I am confident that we will soon see him back in Makuuchi. Sadly, I'm not so sure about Tochinowaka.

Someone who will stay in the division is newcomer Asahisho, who - all in all - had a convincing debut. Like so many of the young blood he is of the oshi-zumo persuasion, meaning he perceives the opponent's mawashi as something to protect himself from unrequested insights, and not much else. Accordingly, his bout against Takarafuji turned out to be another exchange of thrusts and pushes (but refreshingly no pulls). The two of them did their best to visit every section or sector of the ring, before Takarafuji deflected a final volley to the side, making the newcomer facing outward. A quick oshi-taoshi ended the affair in favor of Takarafuji, who should still take care to get his sixth win, as there are quite a couple of guys in Juryo queueing for promotion.

In the first ever battle of two rikishi with more than 800 career wins apiece (thanks to Kintamayama for pointing this out), veteran Wakanosato met veteran deluxe Kyokutenho. The bout was basically decided after the tachi-ai, when Wakanosato managed to get a double inside grip that his counterpart could only answer with a double kime, where he tried to immobilize his opponent's arms by pressure from the outside. Both men played it out a little, with Wakanosato trying the push and Kyokutenho trying the shwing. There was an iconic stalemate just before the end, when both wrestlers were just standing in the established stance. In this moment of ultimate peace, where you could faintly here the gyoji of the past announce 1600 times the names of both men, Kyokutenho suddenly had a face expression of immediate enlightenment. I think he might even have been sighing, confronted with the simplicity of the situation. He knew Wakanosato would push once more, he knew he would try to shwing once more, and he knew that the result wouldn't matter whatsoever. This might sound sarcastic to you, but I'm serious. It was a moment of beauty.

Talking of the elderly: Miyabiyama will retire within the next year. I simply cannot imagine him being able to do his one-size-fits-all thing much longer. Today, he tried to either push out or pull down Toyonoshima, whose own zenith seems to lie in the past as well. The smaller Maegashira turned out to be too quick and could easily attack the former Ozeki from the side, at which point Miyabiyama simply stepped out by himself. Residues of a better past.

Many people detest Aran. And these people earn my full sympathy, as on many days the Ossetian will represent what is wrong with the Westerners approach to sumo. This tournament, though, Aran didn't try anything dodgy, as far as I recall. Bizarre as it may seem, I think he tried to give a straight up fight on any single day, which is clearly unprecedented. He stuck to his new code in his meeting with Shotenro, a guy he had already owned on several instances in the past. After the mandatory Shotenro matta, Aran used his tachi-ai to quickly gain a right hand inside grip, which succeeded easily enough, as Shotenro seemed to have his mind grassing with the Yaks instead of doing something helpful. Aran finished the job with a quick yori-kiri. His result of 3-11 is still abysmal, but he regained some respect this basho, at least from me.

When I saw the tori-kumi with the match up of Shohozan against Gagamaru, I thought "This is easier to call than Hakuho against Tochiohzan." Well, I got it wrong, too. As I expected, Shohozan applied his high frequency tsuppari to a guy who weighs more than 200 kilos achieving nothing at all. Shohozan simply cannot move Gagamaru. It is totally out of the question. The Georgian took the abuse for, like, three seconds, changed his face expression to thunderstorm and answered with a single thrust that sent his opponent half down the circle. Now, we all remember that Gagamaru has an amazing footwork considering his bulk, so he rushed behind to finish off the job with a follow up attack. At which point Shohozan somehow - barely - managed to materialize one meter to the side, sending his opponent crashing down to the clay. Personally, I think this was the upset of the day. Gagamaru is a wonderful guy to have hanging around the upper Maegashira.

Miracle Sekiwake Myogiryu had to survive an evil knock out by the hands – or rather biceps - of Hakuho on Day 12. As I already explained in my previous report, he turned up on the next day like nothing had happened. Same business today. Takekaze can be an annoying opponent, and I was concerned a little that the Sekiwake might get tricked into some tachi-ai trap. This time, Takekaze took it like a man. Which didn't help him very much as Myogiryu blew him back quite a distance only to fail to hold his hand when the Maegashira came tumbling forward in the counter momentum to balance himself out. This made Takekaze end up facing away from his opponent spelling quick doom. Myogiryu has started an Ozeki run, no less. I will be happy to see him giving headaches to the three kadoban Ozeki next basho.

The 70th Yokozuna Harumafuji had to overcome one final obstacle in order to make his promotion really, seriously unavoidable. It turned out to be fellow Mongolian Kakuryu who didn't make any attempt to even get into the bout whatsoever. I fully expected this kind of cooperation from Kakuryu and I don't mind. The two of them will have real battles again soon enough. Two seconds yori-kiri in a bout that was content wise as significant as a fusen.

Finally, the 69th Yokozuna Hakuho had to bring his war face once more, this time to withstand the challenge of The Pretender himself, Ozeki Kisenosato. I join Matt in his estimation that Hakuho's loss to Tochiohzan was a fluke. I go further and say that Hakuho had suffered from a brief lack of focus or concentration. I claim that, because since this bout, you can see it boiling in him. He totally cut out any self restraint when knocking out Myogiryu and he continued his own strategy of anger management by beating the shit out of Kakuryu on Day 13, probably after telling his tsuke-bito "I will kill him without even touching his belt." He seemed to have repeated this bet today against the Kid, as he immediately went into frantic oshi mode again, slapping his opponent silly before applying the mother of all thrust downs to send his aite to the clay. Hakuho's sumo in the last three days has been so monstrous, raw and brutal, that I think it is the last piece of evidence that you might need to understand what really would have happened throughout the last two years, if the Yokozuna wouldn't have held it back by purpose. I totally don't condemn him for his recent outburst. Sometimes you just have to send messages.

The message to you is "Come back tomorrow".

PS.: I join Mike's (?) call. Hakuho will win both the regulation bout and the kettei-sen.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I like to refer to day 13 as moving day because usually by the end of the second Friday, the yusho race has been whittled down significantly. Heading into the day, Ozeki Harumafuji was boasting a 12-0 start, and if you've been scoring at home the last few basho, that translates into a career best 28 bout winning streak. I've been saying since the start of the basho that the yusho would come down to Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kisenosato, and with the two Ozeki from that group squaring up today, it was make or break in terms of keeping a yusho race going beyond just the two usual Mongolians.

Kisenosato entered the day at 10-2, and with Harumafuji at 12-0, a win by the Mongolian would officially eliminate Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Kyokutenho, and Takayasu from the leader board. It seems that in every report I've been talking about Kisenosato's weak tachi-ai, and it's not weak in terms of the Kid getting no push from the initial charge; rather, he's not getting the sufficient position to win his bouts straightway. Today was a perfect example because this bout should have gone to hidari-yotsu, a position that would have given Kisenosato a chance because he's been so good about pulling his dates in close to set up the force-out. But Kisenosato was too lazy with his left arm opting to push up high at Harumafuji's shoulder instead of getting that limb deep on the inside. The result was moro-zashi for Howdo after two seconds, and the truly elite rikishi do not lose after gaining moro-zashi. Harumafuji kept it respectable by methodically wrenching his fellow Ozeki back and across the straw, but Kisenosato was at his full bidding today after that moro-zashi.

This bout was a perfect indication of where these two rikishi are at in all facets of their sumo including effective tachi-ai, making quick adjustments, and mental approach. I'm pretty sure that all of Kisenosato's bouts have been fought straight up, so for him to only manage a 10-3 record at this point (he has Hakuho up tomorrow) with such a weak banzuke is frankly as good as it's gonna get for this guy. Think of all the close bouts Harumafuji has had this basho; then consider that Kisenosato couldn't even challenge him. Harumafuji skates to 13-0 with the win, and just like that, this is a two horse race between the two Mongolians.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho used a right kachi-age (forearm to the throat) against Ozeki Kakuryu, and the move caused the Kak to evade back a step in hopes of setting up a pulldown. Hakuho's footwork was solid, however, and he used his advantage in length to fire what looked like a series of karate chops to Kakuryu's head and shoulders. The Kak was obviously bothered by the blows and began evading laterally, but Hakuho was calm as a mid-summers morning and pinned the Ozeki up against the edge before delivering a final shove into his chest to score the rare oshi-dashi win for the Yokozuna. This was solid sumo throughout from Hakuho who moves to 12-1 while Kakuryu is eliminated from the yusho race at 10-3.

M11 Kyokutenho still technically had a chance coming into the day where he met Sekiwake Myogiryu. Prior to the tachi-ai, I thought Myogiryu might be vulnerable coming off of his knock out yesterday at the hands of Hakuho and the fact that Kyokutenho is no slouch in a belt fight, but the Chauffeur would never touch the Sekiwake's belt. It looked to me as if Kyokutenho was attempting the hari-zashi charge he's shown quite a bit this tournament, but Myogiryu was so quick in his attack that he had the left inside position and his feet motoring before the M11 could even fire a slap. There was no way the elder statesman could recover from this onslaught, and Myogiryu scored the force out win in two seconds flat. Great stuff from the Sekiwake whose making this sanyaku bidness look easy as he scoots to 9-4. Kyokutenho falls to 10-3 and is eliminated from the leader board.

The final rikishi on the leader board heading into the day was M9 Takayasu who met M5 Tochiohzan. Takayasu is the better rikishi these days, and he took charge from the tachi-ai with a tsuppari attack, but he was thrusting way too high, and so Oh simply ducked under a bit, secured moro-zashi, and forced Takayasu halfway across the dohyo and back without argument. Takayasu really blew this one, and I remember my early criticism of this guy when he first entered the division was his high attack. Sure burned him today as he falls to 10-3 while Tochiohzan clinches kachi-koshi at 8-5.

There's been some debate this basho as to whether or not Hakuho took a dive against Tochiohzan on day 10, but there can be absolutely no debate as to whether or not M4 Aminishiki dove against Sekiwake Goeido. The Sekiwake exhibited a horrible tachi-ai staying high and putting both hands near Aminishiki's dome, and so Aminishiki instinctively seized moro-zashi, but he put on the brakes keeping Goeido in the ring, and when the Sekiwake tried a desperation kubi-nage throw near the edge, Aminishiki just jumped out and landed on his side. This was horrible acting, but most people didn't notice since the bout had little significance. Or so it would seem. I believe there's been a conscious effort to keep Japanese rikishi in the Sekiwake rank, and at 6-6 coming in, Goeido (7-6) needed the favor. Aminishiki takes one for team Japan today falling to 8-5.

It's one thing for a Komusubi to get his ass kicked in week 1, but there's no excuse to get bullied around in week 2. Today Komusubi Aoiyama offered no defense against M4 Toyohibiki and it took about two thrusts and two seconds for the Hutt to drive his hapless opponent back and across the straw. Awful sumo all around for Aoiyama who drops to 3-10. Toyohibiki is still alive at 6-7.

Komusubi Tochinoshin easily gave up the left inside belt grip to M3 Homasho, and that's saying a lot because how often does Homasho go for the belt from the tachi-ai? The Private was defenseless as Homasho worked his way into moro-zashi thanks in large part to Tochinoshin's monkeying around with a neck throw. While not quite as swift as the Aoiyama bout, Homasho took care of bidness in a matter of seconds improving to 8-5. Tochinoshin falls to 4-9.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say the M1 Kaisei - M1 Shohozan bout was yaocho. Kaisei just stood straight up at the tachi-ai and didn't look to set up a position or fight his foe off. The result was an easy moro-zashi for Shohozan who forced Kaisei back and out as easy as you please. Kaisei did sorta counter near the tawara with a right outer belt throw, but he just let Shohozan get that position. It doesn't matter whether it was intentional or not, but it looked like yaocho to me as Kaisei drops to 6-7 while Shohozan is 5-8.

I always enjoy talking about an M5 Takekaze loss, so let's cover his bout against M8 Okinoumi. Takekaze actually took charge at the tachi-ai henka'ing for him which means he charged straight forward pushing at both of Okinoumi's teets in the process. Okinoumi had no answer for the onslaught until Takekaze blew it by going for a stupid swipe down a step away from the rope. When that failed, it breathed new life into Okinoumi who pounced driving Takekaze back two steps with a right kote-nage grip before sending the hapless Kaze down in the center of the ring via tsuki-otoshi.

M6 Masunoyama used two kachi-age against M11 Wakanosato to clobber him a full step back from the start, and with Masunoyama's legs a chuggin' he delivered a few more tsuppari into Wakanosato's chest sending him back across the tawara with some oomph. Great sumo from Masunoyama who moves to 7-6 while Wakanosato is the inverse.

M14 Asahisho continues to impress in his debut basho where he easily fought off M7 Miyabiyama's lumbering tsuppari (that's singular today, not plural) and shoved the Sheriff back and out in a matter of seconds. The rookie clinched kachi-koshi today at 8-5, and when you consider that his opponent was ranked at M7, this kid will soar all the way to the jo'i. Miyabiyama's make-koshi became official today at 5-8.

Say it isn't so! It's day 13 and M16 Takanoyama still hasn't make-koshi'ed! He kept his hopes alive today against J3 Chiyonokuni by putting both hands at the back of Kuni's dome at the tachi-ai and backing up as fast as I've ever seen someone retreat. I guess he gets plenty of practice. Anyway, the White and Nerdy M16 scored the cheap hataki-komi win to improve to 6-7. Looks like we'll see Chiyonokuni in Kyushu as he stands at 9-4 after the tough loss.

So, the NHK leader board coming into the day had six rikishi, but that list has now been whittled down to two: Harumafuji and Hakuho. The only thing that stands between Harumafuji and the Yokozuna rank is Ozeki Kakuryu whom he faces tomorrow. I don't see how Harumafuji loses that one, and then in the day's final bout, if Hakuho defers to Kisenosato, it will give hAruMAfuji his second consecutive yusho.

Andreas will be back to break'er all down.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Since I reported last we've had three major shake-ups this basho. 1) A costly second loss by Kisenosato, 2) a straight-up loss by Yokozuna Hakuho to Tochiohzan of all rikishi, and 3) the declaration by Andreas that he is really enjoying the sumo this basho. Ok, I kid, I kid. That Hakuho loss really wasn't straight up. Here's a good formula to measure whether or not a loss by the Yokozuna is real: if you have any doubts as to the legitimacy of the bout, it was yaocho. It's really just that simple. Whether it was Hakuho's suspect footwork, his failure to grab the belt with the right inside or lift up into Tochiohzan's pit leaving the limb in no man's land, his inability to grab the left outer, or his lame fall where both palms hit the dirt and nothing else, there were plenty of red flags throughout the bout to make it more than just a coincidence.

If you see even one red flag in Hakuho's sumo, it was either yaocho or he was leaving himself vulnerable. This Yokozuna is just too good (the best ever in my opinion), and he doesn't make multiple silly mistakes and lose to a guy like Tochiohzan. Tochiohzan of all rikishi! If you go back and watch Hakuho's day 9 bout against Aminishiki, it was the same sumo from his opponent in a dude looking to evade from the start and try and score the cheap pulldown win. I don't know why Hakuho took this dive, but I just know that the did. Nuff said; let's get to the bouts.

I suppose we should start with the basho leader, Ozeki Harumafuji, who met Sekiwake Goeido today in a bout that saw Goeido commit the cardinal sin in sumo: keeping your feet aligned. Furthermore, when you do it at the tachi-ai as Goeido did today, you don't have a chance. The Ozeki just barreled into his opponent and knocked him straight back onto his keyster with two easy shoves. Goeido's fall was extremely unnatural for a bout of sumo, and it's all because he aligned his feet. The result is Harumafuji moving to 12-0 while Goeido lives to fight another day at 6-6.

Let's climb back up to the toppa the charts where Yokozuna Hakuho played that awesome arcade game from the 80's, Punch Out!, against Sekiwake Myogiryu. The Yokozuna led with a hard right kachi-age (elbow to the throat) as he is wont to do, and Myogiryu decided to duck his head down into the right side of the Yokozuna. The result was a block of concrete that literally knocked Myogiryu out as Hakuho's right forearm connected squarely with Myogiryu's nose. As the Sekiwake fell, his knees wobbled and he completely blacked out causing the announcer from Punch Out! to declare "KNOCK OUT!" To his credit, mYogi Bear tried to stand right back up, but he swayed to and fro causing a coupla yobi-dashi to jump up onto the dohyo and lead him down to safety. As much as I like the Sekiwake and don't want to see him get injured, this was an awesome display of sumo from the Man of Steel. With the win, Hakuho moves to 11-1 trailing Harumafuji by one bout in the loss column. Myogiryu falls to 8-4 and can still threaten double digit wins if he isn't concussed and forced to withdraw for his own safety.

Before I move on, I'll make a prediction as to how I suspect the basho could end. Hakuho and Harumafuji will win the next two days leaving the Yokozuna one loss behind the Ozeki heading into their senshuraku bout. Hakuho will go all out and beat Harumafuji and then beat him again in the playoff leaving both guys at 14-1 with Hakuho taking the yusho and Harumafuji earning promotion to Yokozuna. Regardless of the outcome, Clancy will call the bout correctly on senshuraku.

With Kisenosato all but outta the race two losses back of the leader, he needed to recover against M4 Toyohibiki, but he was forced to recover after losing the tachi-ai. Toyohibiki charged with a right kachi-age that stood Kisenosato upright and disabled him from getting a good grippa the Hutt's belt. The two ended up in the gappuri hidari-yotsu position, but the Ozeki's outer grip was only on one fold of the belt, and so Toyohibiki actually held the upper hand. The Hutt didn't have good legwork, however, and Kisenosato was able to press his chest in tightly enough against Toyohibiki's belly to keep him upright just enough, but it still took forty seconds or so for Kisenosato (10-2) to wrench his foe over to the straw and down via yori-taoshi. This took a lot out of both rikishi, so we'll see how Kisenosato fares tomorrow. You don't want to attempt to beat Harumafuji of all rikishi after gassing yourself against an M4. Said M4, Toyohibiki, is on the brink at 5-7.

Okay, I don't mean to constantly beat a dead horse, but M5 Tochiohzan used the exact same tachi-ai today against Ozeki Kakuryu that "worked wonders" against the Yokozuna a few days before. Kakuryu's own tachi-ai was pretty half-assed yet he still easily managed to stumble into his opponent's pull attempt and send him clear off the dohyo in two seconds using a few body blows (yes, the Punch Out! announcer declared "BODY BLOW!  BODY BLOW!"). Don't look now but Kakuryu is even steven with Kisenosato at 10-2 while Tochiohzan (7-5) needs one more elusive win to secure a Shukunsho.

Just as soon as Andreas mentions the lack of henka this basho (he must not be watching any of Takanoyama's bouts), Komusubi Tochinoshin henka'd to his left against M2 Gagamaru grabbing the cheap outer grip followed by the right inner that allowed the Komusubi to dump Gagamaru (3-9) to the clay with a swift outer belt throw. He's 4-8 for his troubles.

Komusubi Aoiyama stood straight up at the tachi-ai against M3 Toyonoshima rendering himself a huge oshi-dashi target. Toyonoshima (4-8) happily complied shoving the giant back and out once, twice, three times a lady. Aoiyama falls to 3-9.

M1 Kasei stood straight up at the tachi-ai as well against M5 Takekaze, but how can you blame him considering his opponent? Takekaze actually came forward, but he had no de-ashi, so he struck Kaisei's chest and then went for that quick swipe down the torso. Kaisei wasn't buying it, yet he still wouldn't move forward knowing that Takekaze was already in pull mode, and so he waited for Takekaze's next faux push attempt setting up the pull and pounced the second time scoring the easy oshi-dashi win. Kaisei improves to 6-6 and is eyeing a sanyaku berth for Kyushu. Takekaze is denied kachi-koshi at 7-5.

In a feisty matchup, M4 Aminishiki settled for M3 Homasho's fighting style, which is to duck low, stay on the move, and look for an opening. I thought Homasho was vulnerable in this one, but Aminishiki continued to play Homasho's cat and mouse game, and so about 10 seconds in, Homasho got the left arm on this inside and used his momentum to force Aminishiki back and clear off the dohyo for the yori-kiri win. Solid win for Homie who moves to 7-5 while Aminishiki is sitting pretty at 8-4. Well, maybe pretty isn't the best word to use, but you know what I mean.

M6 Masunoyama looked too methodical at the tachi-ai against M13 Asasekiryu as Masu secured the left inside position, but before he could really plant his feet and mount a charge, Sexy beat him to the punch going for a right outer belt throw. Masunoyama countered with a left scoop throw sending both dudes to the dohyo at the same time. A redo was correctly called for whereupon Asasekiryu just jumped to his left henka-ing Masunoyama, grabbing the back of his belt, and sending him down to the dirt in a second flat. The tachi-ai henka was weak for sure, but Masunoyama's gotta put Asasekiryu away the first time around. Both gentleman are 6-6 as the dust settles.

M11 Wakanosato forced his bout against M6 Tokitenku to hidari-yotsu from the get-go, and Croconosato was in so deep Tokitenku's right arm was sticking straight out flapping like a condor's wing. With Wakanosato burrowing in tight, he worked this way and that way before finally pushing Tenku (5-7) down to the clay about 30 seconds in earning him a 6-6 record.

I suddenly realized I'm commenting on every bout, so I'll repent now and skip down to the M14 Asahisho - M8 Okinoumi matchup. Okinoumi was the clear favorite in this one, but he failed to force the bout to the belt (his strength) and seemed content to play Asahisho's game that consists of shoves. Okinoumi was forcing Asahisho back step by step, but he's gotta get to the belt, especially against a rookie. He never did, and so the fleet of foot Asahisho dodged to his right at the edge and successfully pulled Okinoumi forward and down for good. This is the best win so far in Asahisho's career as he moves to 7-5 while Okinoumi definitely wants this one back at 8-4.

The M11 Kyokutenho - M9 Takayasu bout was the highlight of the first half on paper, but in reality, it turned out to be a sloppy affair. Both dudes were upright at the tachi-ai that saw Takayasu force the action with tsuppari, and as Tenho pressed in to get to the belt, Takayasu backed up and forced Kyokutenho to give chase. Kyokutenho kind of stumbled forward and lost track of where he was on the dohyo because when Takayasu used a right kachi-age and left inside position to set up a right outer grip, Kyokutenho looked to pivot out of harm's way stepping out in the process. Yes, it was a yori-kiri win for Takayasu in the end, but it was a sloppy affair where neither rikishi was committed to a forward charge.

M16 Takanoyama has done that tachi-ai henka to the left/kote-nage move for the last 10 days, so why do guys keep falling for it? M10 Yoshikaze (6-6) bit hook, line, and sinker and was dispatched in a second and a half for his troubles. The one trick pony Takanoyama "improves" to 5-7.

And finally, good ole Kokkai finally hung it up today after languishing in Juryo the last few years.  At J12, he was going to be demoted to Makushita for Kyushu, so he's making the right call.

I think the basho really begins tomorrow, so I'll be back to tell you all about it.

Day 11 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Angles are good. Without angles there is no perspective, no variation, no surprise. Go and play pool (or snooker if you are British or previously colonized) and see what you can do without angles. You can apply some forced but more or less meaningless spins, although they won't really help. But if you have angles, a whole world of possibilities opens up. Fortunately, Aki basho 2012 comes with lots of angles.

I must say that - until now - I thoroughly enjoy the ongoing tournament. More so than any other basho that I can remember watching intensively. This has to do with? Right. Angles. There are so many astounding things going on all at the same time, that I almost cannot decide where to start. OK, let's start with this: Day 11 was a real sucker. It almost sucked as much or maybe even slightly more than Day 3 or 4. I forgot which. The other nine days, though, were all the way through real fireworks, and I'm serious.

Remember the henka? I barely do. I ask you to go and rewatch every single bout of the basho and make a henka count. I claim that we haven't seen more than one henka per day on average and I would be surprised if the number would exceed 0.75. Accordingly, the slap/pull down ratio seems to be equally low. Instead, we are witnessing compelling, intensive sumo on all levels of the top division. For me, this is unprecedented in my own viewing experience. It is also a source of unexpected joy.

The question could be why it is like that. We are Sumo Talk here, so I might address the conspiracy angle (!) first. Every single Makuuchi rikishi got a visit from Kyokai officials before the tournament. The message delivered was: "No crap sumo and strictly no deals. Don't think we won't recognize. Remember we did this, too." Naturally, Yoshikaze didn't catch the first part, as the sound of his espresso machine drowned out the speech.

Short intermission: If Yoshikaze would be a piece of software, he definitely would be the Java (!) Updater. Annoying. Intrusive. Faulty. One-dimensional. Useless. Won't go away. Today we were even given the double coffee treat. Miyabiyama was just about to check his mails when the Java Updater popped up, wildly alternating between pushing up his arms and slapping him on his head while prancing like Fury on acid. So Miyabiyama clicked "No" resulting in a BSOD. After the reboot, the Java Updater popped up again, doing the same things, only longer and this time also pulling hair. So Miyabiyama just buggered off to do something worthwhile instead. Then Yoshikaze open a door to let in a virus.

Anyway, my perception of the basho could also be related to the absence of the three Ozeki. Sure, Baruto is not a bad guy and even less a bad rikishi. Nevertheless, he is - in his own way - as boring and one-dimensional as both Kotooshu and Kotoshogiku. Don't get me wrong. All three of them belong to the top of the division, even though I personally still discount the Geeks gifted rank. They can handle most of the lesser dudes, fair's fair. At the same time, though, their are painful to watch, especially when they lose. Which occurs frequently, rather randomly, and in a way that exploits their inability to keep the focus necessary to live up to their full potential. I say it in a harsh way: If the three guys get busted together next week while sucking up some quality weed and playing guitar hero, thus being expelled on the spot - I wouldn't give a sh*t. I might even welcome it.

More likely, though, I am enjoying the basho because of guys like Okinoumi, Takayasu, Myogiryu and maybe even Kyokutenho. Now that's a clever line, Herr Kungl, you simply picked out the rank and filers that went kicking and screaming through the first week. The point is that their sumo was valid in the strict sense of the word. All of them turned up every single day with a fresh and determined attitude. And in their bouts they showed a combination of skill, strength and to-the-point urgency. Their respective records were thoroughly deserved. How often can you say something like this about so many rikishi of such ranks so late in the basho?

On Day 11, Okinoumi had to face the biggest challenge of all of them, as he was scheduled to meet Yokozuna-in-the-making Harumafuji. The Ozeki chose to open the bout with a purely deflecting tachi-ai, shifting to the right after initial contact and seeking to end the fight quickly with a strong left outside grip. The Okinoumi of the last couple of months would have been beaten at this point. This time around, though, the Maegashira managed to withstand the charge at the tawara, compromising Harumafuji's rushed charge and gaining moro-zashi to make things even more sparkly. He then launched a strong counter-attack, driving his aite to the other side of the dohyo. Just before everyone could scream "Upset!", Harumafuji somehow managed to pull off the most unlikely of throws just at the edge, downing his counterpart with the mother of all last ditch efforts, fractions of a second before he fell himself. The gyoji got it right, even though the MIB chose to have little chat.

Takayasu, who is generally a dedicated oshi-zumo fighter, showed that he is perfectly capable of adapting his style. He simply absorbed the expected bull charge by Toyohibiki and converted the forward momentum of his opponent into an instant and technically perfect mid-dohyo uwate-nage. This was very strong and intelligent sumo from the youngster. Toyohibiki is no walk-over for other oshi specialists, so the impressive part was Takayasu's ability to choose a superior tactic. After receiving lots of abuse in his first ventures to the upper ranks, I see Takayasu becoming a joi'i regular. I am looking forward to that.

A star in the making is Myogiryu. No less. It is his first basho as a Sekiwake and he already looks like he has never fought from any other rank. The most fascinating thing about him is the freshness with which he approaches every single bout. Even if he gets beaten in a stupid or annoying way, you wouldn't be able to tell the next day. The second best thing is that he is a learner. While he was too low throughout the last couple of basho, resulting in quite a few slap or thrust down defeats, he has adjusted that very effectively. Against mighty Yokozuna slayer Tochiohzan, he nevertheless fell back to old habits. At least a little. First, the Sekiwake charged very well with both hands to the throat, denying his counterpart any mawashi action whatsoever. The momentum was also good enough to drive the Maegashira back and almost out. Here, Tochiohzan had to resort to basically same kind of move that had felled Hakuho the other day. In stark contrast to the Yokozuna, Myogiryu didn't forget his legs and managed to stay upright long enough to finish the job. This was a little scare for the Sekiwake, no less. Anyhow, he officially has started his first Ozeki run, it won't take a lot of time for him to gain the rank, mark my words. Oh, and no, I didn't want to insinuate anything. I honestly don't know if the Hakuho loss was your odd fluke or something else.

Kyokutenho is a man out of balance. But I mean it in a very positive way. He used to be a master of economical sumo. He always chose the safe, injury preventing approach - except for a full basho in 2007 he never missed a single bout since November 1992! So even if he might have not lived up to his full potential, never showing the ambition to actually stay in the topmost ranks, he was keeping up his own personal equilibrium in the mid to top Maegashira ranks year in, year out. The surprise yusho in May changed all that. What followed was humiliation in July. He was clearly outranked but also showed signs of frustration and both mental and physical fatigue. Which doesn't come as a real surprise after weeks of boozing. In this tournament, the pendulum swings to the other side again. This time he clearly wants to prove that his sumo can be worthy, and so he skips a lot of the stepping out by himself parts of his usual seat belt approach. The result? The best initial run of his entire career. Ozeki Kakuryu was the chosen stopper on Day 10, and he did his job. Kyokutenho didn't fall into inertia, though, as he had to face the dangerous (and I might add: thoroughly negative) Homasho to pick up momentum again. The bout itself was not very pretty. In fact it was a redo of the kettei-sen we witnessed four months ago. Still, I am satisfied with Kyokutenho's new and fresh approach. By the way, Takayasu was two years old when Kyokutenho started his professional sumo career.

My final angle would be the one on certain aspects of Yokozunahood. I will return on Day 14 to expand on that topic. I hope you can enjoy the rest of the basho as much as I will certainly do!

Mike again this time tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
So as I'm getting ready to watch today's matches, I scanned the list of results on for interesting story lines and must-see match-ups. Nothing much jumps out at me until I get to the bottom and … ruh ruo, Shaggy! The Yokozuna fell down! And by slap down hataki-komi. To Tochiohzan. "Oh, snap!" indeed. As a Sumo-talker, my mind naturally wanders to the possibility of a thrown match. After all, I have to do my part to keep the ratings up…

So I watched it. Hmmm. I'm gonna have to go with a clean fall on this one. How is it possible? Well, no matter how you look at it, Oh Snap was given a gift. Such an unimpressive display of backwards-moving sumo would not be a consistent winner at the bottom of the Maegashira ranks, much less against a usually sure-footed and incredibly balanced Yokozuna who just completed a very solid 9-0 start. It's just that the gift appears to me to be unintentional.

A quick recap in case you didn't see it: straight-up tachi-ai, Hak has his right hand inside, Oh Snap backs up and to his left, Hak's head is just a bit low as he is reaching for the left outer grip, and Oh Snap pulls down on Hak's head. A pretty ordinary pull-down from the tachi-ai, all in all. Nothing to throw a zabuton over, that's for sure.

Mind you, it is completely, 100% still possible that Hak threw the bout. To intentionally fall here would have been so easy that you or I could have made it look realistic without much practice. I have only two pieces of evidence from the bout. Numero Uno (gotta give you a little Spanish touch with Oscar kyujo this basho): it looks to me like the Yokozuna's left foot slips a bit in his first step after they collide. It's not much, I grant you. But his footwork doesn't otherwise seem so completely suspect as to suggest that he gave it away. Numero Two (my Spanish doesn't stretch very far): at the end of the match, he looked genuinely peeved. When he's given away matches in the past, he sometimes fakes this look or gives a head shake as if he's upset, but it doesn't ring true. Today, I thought it was real. Maybe he's just become a better actor.

And where does this leave us? Hak should still bulldoze through the rest of the competition up to senshuraku. His sumo has been sound outside of this bout. This still comes down to Day 15.

Speaking of Day 15, how did Harumafuji fare against a now slightly cooled-off 8-1 Takayasu? Just fine, thank you. At the tachi-ai, How-do got Takayasu (what's his official Sumotalk nickname? let's go with "Hairball" today) turned to his side and heading very quickly to the edge in a bad way. Hairball, much to his credit, stopped the charge and swung the bout around toward the center of the ring where he shook off How-do's grip and turned this into a pushing affair. This was all rather impressive by the hirsute one, who now had a battle much more to his liking. Unfortunately, he immediately slipped and got his legs into a terribly awkward position that was like a cross between the start of the splits and twisting an ankle, and he fell right into his opponent's arms to boot. Harumafuji (now 10-0) quickly took advantage by dumping Hairball on the ground. Looks like Takayasu (8-2) is hurt and may be out of this basho, which is really too bad after his great start.

Our other contender -- keep that Japanese hope alive! -- pretty thoroughly dominated Goeido today. Kisenosato had a solid tachi-ai, getting into his aite's body and driving him back in that "I don't need no stinkin' grip" way of his. Goeido, sensing that his goose was cooked, switched to a desperation tactic. With nary a grip, he turned way to his left, hooked his right leg backwards into the Kid's right leg, and went for a trip and shoulder throw. It was a pretty nice move, and shows the kind of talent that Goeido possesses, but Kise stayed in control with his body position and made sure that Goeido hit the clay first. A quick but good match that leaves the kid with still just one loss and Goeido still in good position at 6-4.

From here, I'm going to have to keep this short and sweet.

I thought it was interesting that Kakuryu (8-2) felt that he needed to maki-kae to take down Kyokutenho (9-1). Good thing he had plenty of room to pull it off and execute a turn-around tsuri-dashi at the edge. The old man still looks to be in good position to move up another notch in the all time wins ranking in the next basho, as long as he doesn't get over-promoted (which he might).

Myogiryu dropped a bout to Tochinoshin that he might have won. He had a little bit better position after the initial battle and then thought it was time to execute a shitate-nage with his deep inside right. Well, No Shine is not a very inventive or quick rikishi, but he is hard to move around. Instead of the traditional both-men-crash-to-the-dohyo-who-hit-first routine, No Shine (3-7) was able to keep on his feet and drive Yogi Bear (7-3) all the way to the edge and crush him out.

Aoiyama overpowered Shohozan (how much have we heard that this week?) with his thrusting attack from the get-go. The purple-clad Furball (not to be confused with the bigger and green-clad Hairball) managed to slip one big paw and convert it into a bit of an attack. But he got too low and got slapped down for his troubles. Both men at 2-8.

Kaisei reminded us how he got up to M1 with his performance against Toyohibiki. Hibiki has been pretty solid and reliable for a while now -- he doesn't have a lot of surprises, but he's got reasonable power and a good, forward-moving attack. Today, the Brasilian just blasted Hibiki back and out. Impressive stuff. Both men now at .500.

Toyonoshima looked a little more like his old self today against Gagamaru. An overhead replay of the tachi-ai on NHK showed how he came in with both hands way, way inside and how they diverge like a couple of fish around the outside of Lady Gaga's stomach upon contact. Perfect moro-zashi tachi-ai by the little man. No belt grips, though, and Gagamaru was quick to put the kime squeeze down on the arms and start to move forward. Exactly the right play by the Georgian, but I think I mentioned how Tugboat was like his old self? Here that meant slipping his left hand out, moving laterally to his right, and using his now free left hand to push down on the top of the big man's left shoulder while pulling on shoulder from underneath with his right hand. This is apparently called kata-sukashi and it was executed beautifully. Watch the replay. Both men now at 3-7.

I normally wouldn't comment on the Tokitenku-Aran match, but I have to say that I heartily approve of the leg tripping tactic used by Tokitenku when used like it was today. Because instead of using it as a gotcha at the tachi-ai, he used it to facilitate a better position to move his opponent out via yori-kiri. Nice win.

The Aminishiki win over Okinoumi was by hataki-komi, but Shneaky had the better tachi-ai and really owned the bout. Oki-doki drops to 8-2.

And I'll finish with Takanoyama. He made Daido work for his chance today. A valiant effort.

Here's to an interesting five days. See you in November, and maybe with a new Yokozuna to talk about?

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Apologies for the absence of any day 8 comments. Clancy was slated to report, but a storm ravaged his part of the island, and he has been involved in the community cleanup. The only real meaningful bout from day 8 featured Ozeki Harumafuji vs. Sekiwake Myogiryu. The Sekiwake actually gained the advantage at the tachi-ai securing moro-zashi, but can you really say he won it? As Myogiryu hurriedly drove the Ozeki back, Harumafuji had plenty of time to wrap his right arm around Myogiryu's neck and use his right leg brilliantly to use Myogiryu's momentum against him lifting him up off of his feet and not only slamming him down to the dohyo via a neck throw, but Harumafuji landed squarely on top of his opponent adding insult to injury.

Kicking off the day 9 broadcast was a discussion between NHK's Shirasaki Announcer and Kokonoe-oyakata, the artist formerly known as Yokozuna Chiyonofuji. It was key to have Chiyonofuji in the booth today because he is the director from the board who is acting as the unofficial spokesman in regards to Harumafuji's requirements in order to achieve promotion to the Yokozuna rank. The Association never did give a required number of wins because they of all entities were able to dissect the banzuke and realize that Harumafuji really had no competition coming in. Instead, Chiyonofuji announced that the focus would be on the content of the Ozeki's sumo, and so after the first eight days, we were treated to his frank analysis regarding Harumafuji's progress.

NHK first replayed Harumafuji's eight straight wins, and then they showed a graphic listing the opponents and the kimari-te. Based off of his winning techniques, there were no complaints the first five days due to four wins by yori-kiri and then an outer belt throw on top of that. The last three days, however, paints a different story with wins by hataki-komi, shitate-nage, and kubi-nage. The argument was posed by Shirasaki announcer that the last few days of Harumafuji's sumo seemed a bit unstable, but Kokonoe-oyakata didn't seem concerned citing that even when Harumafuji hasn't exactly won the tachi-ai, he's still had more than enough room to maneuver in his bouts allowing him to easily gain the upper hand and score the victory in the end. He specifically used the day 8 bout against Myogiryu as an example. Sure, Harumafuji gave up moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but he was still in control of the bout, so it was no harm no foul. The former Yokozuna also praised the Ozeki's footwork from the tachi-ai and stated that's the reason why Harumafuji has largely been in control of all of his bouts even though he hasn't blown everyone back from the tachi-ai. One of the main points made prior to the basho was that Harumafuji would need to create his own style, and Kokonoe-oyakata was in agreement that the Ozeki has succeeded so far. The other two clauses were no tachi-ai henka and no dame-oshi, but that's just useless filler the Association added in to make them appear more fisticated in their analysis. The end result is great news for Harumafuji fans, and in the end, could you really deny him promotion with 14 or 15 wins regardless of how he got there?

Turning our attention now to the day's bouts, when one of the big three this basho loses then that must be our starting point, and so let's begin with the Ozeki Kisenosato - M3 Homasho bout. Homasho henka'd to his right at the tachi-ai going for an ottsuke at the back of the Ozeki's shoulder, and while the Ozeki survived the move, you could see that he was hesitant the rest of the way. Kisenosato squared back up with his opponent and offered some cautious shoves and pushes looking to get to the inside, and just when he thought he could make his move and pounced, Homasho again jumped to his right at the edge timing another shove at Kisenosato's left shoulder slightly throwing the Ozeki off balance for a second time. And just like the first time, Kisenosato squared back up with the M3 and threw a few cautious shoves Homasho's way trying to get to the inside once more, but you could see him holding back in fear of another henka. The third time proved a charm...for Homasho because once the Ozeki did make that third attempt again pouncing near the edge, Homasho succeeded in jumping right again and using a hikkake move to pull Kisenosato out of the ring by the back of the left arm.

This bout was very rhythmic with Kisenosato making a charge only to be side-stepped followed by about 8 seconds of reloading and then another charge. Kisenosato made three charges altogether including the initial charge, and Homasho responded by side-stepping the Ozeki each time succeeding in the pull down on his third attempt. The tone of the bout was set with Homasho's tachi-ai henka, and you could tangibly see Kisenosato afraid to really commit after that. I hate to see a tachi-ai henka from any rikishi because it's a dirty attempt to win a bout, but Kisenosato has got to recover and be confident enough in his abilities to survive such an attempt and respond by kicking his opponent's ass...something that Harumafuji has repeatedly done even when he's foiled at the initial charge. That didn't happen today, however, and so the Kid falls to 8-1 while Homasho skips to 5-4. Of the main three, Kisenosato was the least likely to yusho anyway, but he's fragile enough mentally that I hope this loss doesn't derail him the rest of the way.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho got his favored right inside grip at the tachi-ai which he parlayed straightway into a left outer on the other side. With the prey firmly set in his jaws, Hakuho kept his chest aligned with Shneaky as the M4 tried to circle around the ring in hopes of shaking loose from his captor. Wouldn't happen as Aminishiki made it around about a third of the ring's edge before Hakuho forced him out for good. Hakuho is your leader at 9-0 while Aminishiki is still a very respectable at 6-3.

Ozeki Harumafuji looked to keep pace against M3 Toyonoshima using a wicked left nodowa that was so effective it set up the easy right outer grip on the other side. But as ferocious as that nodowa was, there's a reason why guy's don't score force-out wins using nodowa instead of the customary inside position, so after a few seconds Harumafuji settled into the left inside. Before he could make a move, however, Toyonoshima struck first with a counter left inside throw attempt, and it was effective enough that he tried it a second time completely creating separation between the two opponents. With both guys standing about a meter apart in the ring, Harumafuji stood upright and cocked his shoulders back drawing oohs from the crowd, and instead of working his way back to the inside, he demanded his way back into an offensive position grabbing the right outer grip and left inner which he used to push Toyonoshima forcefully back while tripping him with the right leg around Toyonoshima's left. The result was Tugboat crashing backwards to the dohyo giving the Ozeki a spectacular win, but regarding the content of the sumo, a Yokozuna would have won that bout by yori-kiri. Regardless, it was an impressive win, and the kimari-te don't matter at this point as long as the Ozeki has the numbers. Harumafuji is your co-leader with Hakuho at 9-0 while Toyonoshima falls to 2-7.

With one Ozeki left to cover, Kakuryu continues to make the same mistake against Sekiwake Myogiryu, which is attacking him too high and thinking he can bait the younger bear into a pull down. The Kak defeated Myogiryu their first two bouts with pull sumo, and he keeps trying it even though Myogiryu figured it out on the third attempt. And so once again, Kakuryu was forced to go for pull downs from the tachi-ai after attacking too high for his own good, but mYogi Bear ducked down and used perfect de-ashi to stay right in Kakuryu's grill and push him out of the ring in about eight seconds. This was an ass-kicking through and through leaving both guys at 7-2.

Since I feel obligated to cover all Sekiwake bouts, I guess I'll mention the half second pull-down Goeido scored against M1 Shohozan. The Father actually used a left kachi-age but read Shohozan's poor position and had him slapped down to the clay in less than a second. Goeido improves to 6-3 and will be happy just winning eight. Shohozan falters to 2-7 and has to put up a better effort than this.

There's something about the Komusubi rank that brings out the suck in a rikishi, and that's never been more apparent than with Aoiyama this basho. Today against M2 Aran, it was clear the Russian wanted no piece of his opponent mano a mano and so he backed up at the tachi-ai and continued to backpedal making Aoiyama give chase. Problem was Aoiyama didn't want to commit, and so Aran did it for him slapping him down to the dohyo in about two seconds leaving both dudes at 1-8 (shudder).

Komusubi Tochinoshin and M1 Kaisei treated us to the best bout of the dohyo hooking up in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai. With NoShine monkeying around up high with the left arm, Kaisei swooped in to grab the left outer, which he used to bully the Komusubi back. The Private realized the error of his ways and brought that left arm down grabbing Kaisei's belt and forcing the contest to gappuri migi-yotsu. As the two giants dug in, Kaisei pressed the action first driving Tochinoshin back to the edge, and when it was clear that Tochinoshin couldn't escape laterally, he went for his last move, which was a desperation utchari. Damn near pulled it off but Kaisei used his outer grip to force Shin to hit a split second early moving the Brasilian within kachi-koshi range at 4-5. Tochinoshin falls to 2-7 but gave it a great effort today.

Well, well, well, none other than M11 Kyokutenho found himself tied for the lead coming into the day, and so the Association paired him with M5 Tochiohzan, a rematch of the worst playoff for the yusho in history that occurred at the Natsu basho. I don't think Tochiohzan's stil recovered from that loss, and it showed today as he actually gave up moro-zashi for no reason that resulted in his quick demise. Tenho attempted a hari-zashi tachi-ai, and while the slap with the right hand did connect, he failed to get inside with the left leaving Oh with moro-zashi. Kyokutenho had to have known, though, that he was still in command, and so he just pressed his body forward into Tochiohzan forcing him to react. His response was bringing his left arm from the inside out erasing his moro-zashi position and setting up a ride into the first row. Stupid sumo from Tochiohzan who falls to 6-3, and Kyokutenho still hasn't been paired with a tough opponent as he skates to 9-0. The Association will be damned if they make the same mistake as they did in Natsu, so I'm not even considering Kyokutenho as an official leader on the board.

The best bout on paper in the first half of the day featured M9 Takayasu vs. M8 Okinoumi, two combatants who had a combined 15-1 record coming in. Takayasu is a thrust guy and Okinoumi is a belt guy, so when Takayasu allowed the bout to go to migi-yotsu at the tachi-ai, he spelled his doom on the spot. The taller Okinoumi grabbed the right outer to gain the upperhand and then just dug in tight while Takayasu expended some energy trying to counter with a right outer grip of his own. It would never come and with Okinoumi dug in tight just daring Takayasu to make any sort of move, the frustrated Takayasu went for a maki-kae with the right arm about 20 seconds in, and Okinoumi immediately sprung the trap scoring the impressive force-out win and evening these two dudes at 8-1. Great sumo today from Okinoumi.

Let's conclude with the final two bouts of the day, which were actually the first two bouts if you watched the broadcast. First up his M14 Asahisho, the lone rookie who is actually creating his signature by molding a big ball of salt in the basket and then hucking it high into the air just prior to his fight. It's not the freshest act in the world, but I can live with it as long as his sumo is good...and it has been the first week. Today against M15 Fujiazuma, the rookie was loaded for bear as he charged hard into Fujiazuma, but the tachi-ai was called back since Asahisho failed to touch down his right fist (it was the properly call but unnecessary). In the do-over, Asahisho just didn't have the same pop as he fished for his opponent's belt, but Fujiazuma did have his legs driving, and so the rookie was quickly knocked back and out of the dohyo altogether with a good forearm shove from Azuma (4-5). Asahisho falls to 6-3 with the loss, but he's still a contender for a special prize.

And finally, we got our first look at J3 Jokoryu who is knocking on the door to the Makuuchi division. Today he completely schooled M15 Sadanofuji grabbing an outer grip at the tachi-ai and dragging the larger Sadanofuji across the dohyo before setting him up for an outer belt throw. Jokoryu entered sumo outta college, and he still doesn't have his hair tied up in the formal oicho. He's a bit small, but with such a terrible bottom half of the Makuuchi division, he'll do just fine.

Speaking of doing just fine, Matt courts you tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
When even Mike complains about the dearth of material for his intros, what the hell can an amateur like me even hope to offer? I WAS tempted to go the way of cute/menacing/funny animals, but that's been already done so many times that I'd probably lose my two remaining readers if I did it. Instead, let me recommend a fine read for those of you interested in the depths of the human mind.

The sumo day took off to a snoozing start, with a lengthy affair between two of the larger (and slower) guys on the banzuke. Yoshiazuma seemed to have Tenkaiho in trouble a few seconds in, attempting an outside throw, but his fatter and shorter opponent survived and dug deep into a low stance. After about a minute of dilly-dallying, Tenkaiho took command of the bout and pushed the tired Yoshiazuma out for the win. Tenkaiho improves to 2-5, while Azuma falls to 3-4.

Takanoyama continues to be a bit too light to hang around Makuuchi, but somehow he manages to pull off spectacular wins. Why is that, you ask? Because his larger, stronger and, in most cases, more experienced opponents keep underestimating him. Yeah, OK, so he henka'd his way into moro-zashi vs. Asasekiryu, but Not-so-Sexy should NEVER have attempted the throw with the pest wrapped so deep around his leg. It's one thing to twist a guy into the ground from the side, and a completely different one to heave ALL his weight on your leg. Who the heck do you think you are, Asashoryu? Bottom line... the Czech checks in at 3-4, whereas Asasuckiryu gets beaten for he third time.

Relative newcomer Chiyotairyu (4-3), whose hair still isn't long enough for an oicho mage, brought some flavor to an otherwise dull sumo day, finishing off his much larger foe, Fujiazuma (3-4), with a powerful, expertly timed uwate-nage, after staving off some pushing from the Fatty. We definitely need more of this.

Fat, slow, boring and sometimes dastardly as he may be, Kimurayama brought a little smile to my world-weary face when he punished Wakakoyu's outstretched enthusiasm with a perfect slap to the side of the head. With a bit of luck, Wakakoyu (2-5) will lose just enough to drop to Juryo, and if that means keeping Kimurayama (4-3) in Makuuchi... so be it.

And after all the lard in the previous bouts, it was about time for some feistiness. Takayasu mounted his usual spirited tsuppari attack, and Asahisho answered with quick thrusts of his own. However, Takayasu's long arms made the difference, as he forced things to close quarters, wrapping his hapless foe with a tight double grip and yori-kiri'ing him to stay perfect and on the (hypothetical) leaderboard. Look for him to get paired with much higher ranked opponents soon. Asahisho slows down to 5-2.

Kitataiki won his bout from the tachi-ai, getting the most solid hidari-yotsu grip you'll ever see, and soon using it to dump Sadanofuji to the dohyo without argument. Both guys limp along at 2-5.

Okinoumi rebounded from his loss to Kyokutenho yesterday by thrashing another grizzled veteran in Wakanosato. There was little Croconosato could do when his larger and younger foe denied him any opening to the inside, and the only way he could go was out. Wakanosato falls below the .500 mark. Okinoumi stays one loss behind the leader pack.

Speaking of Tenho, the old bastard snuck to 7-0 with a thorough dismantling of Daido, getting the left uwate at the tachi-ai and forcing his overwhelmed opponent out in about two seconds. I'm looking forward to seeing him fed to the entirety of sanyaku come week 2, especially now that THREE Ozeki have gone kyujo. At 2-5, Daido is picking up pieces of himself from the floor.

Yoshikaze absorbed Shotenro's spirited attack using his superior flexibility, then immediately retreated, yanking his larger Mongolian foe violently to the ground. It hardly gets easier than this.

Masunoyama got a break today, facing Takarafuji. The man of many gasps, but with a large heart (and, well, large pretty much everything else...), left his foe little room to escape as he forced him out with an arm firmly planted on the inside. Masunoyama improves to 3-4, while Takarafuji just plain sucks at 1-6.

Tochiohzan probably sensed Takekaze would be up to his old tricks at the tachi-ai, so he was kind of soft in his charge. Takekaze had other plans, though, going at it full tilt. The fat Kaze dictated things to the very end, and Tochiohzan's nimbleness was the only thing that changed the outcome from oshi-dashi to hataki-komi. Oh turns around a poor 1-2 start and now stands proud at 5 wins, but if you look at the kimari-te in those wins (a coupla hataki-komi, a kote-nage, a kata-sukashi and one oshi-dashi), things aren't so rosy. Takekaze slips to 3-4, should anyone even care.

Toyohibiki saw right through Tokitenku's tachi-ai shenanigans and rammed him out of the dohyo before succumbing to the premeditated pulldown. Ah, gotta love Tenku's face when he gets foiled like this. Hibiki gets his third win, but his hapless Mongolian opponent must wait at least another day for it.

Aminishiki henka'd to his left, but Miyabiyama is way too slow to actually be damaged by that move. However, he's also too slow to capitalize on it, so Aminishiki recovered and pushed him out with little argument. A few years back, the Fatman was quite a pain in the arse for anyone not ranked Ozeki or above, but these days he's little more than record padding. And don't look now, but Aminishiki is actually 6-1. I think the Ozeki and Yokozuna will find him succulent, if not a bit stringy.

The highlight of the day (at least for the Euro-biased me) was Tochinoshin's valiant effort against the stubby and deceptively hard to throw Toyonoshima. Shin did what he knows best, that is charge with his elbow to his foe's grill, in the hopes of keeping him away from the deadly inside position. To my surprise (and probably his, too), it worked, and Tugboat was left grasping at straws until the opportunity for a kote-nage presented itself. It failed miserably, though, and Toyonoshima soon found himself with the much larger white guy wrapped around him. Shin wasted no time and hoisted his trapped foe, only to throw him to his side for the tsuri-otoshi, which, although it lacked Asashoryu's violence, technical precision and general artistic impression, was still better than anything else we'd seen this basho. There was a mono-ii, because Tochinoshin crashed along with his foe, but justice was served and the gyoji's initial call stood. And, believe it or not, Tochinoshin improves to 1-6. The things a rikishi has to go through to get a win these days... Toyonoshima slumps to 2-5, and things won't get better tomorrow, with Hakuho waiting around the corner.

Aran is on a rampage, notching his seventh loss in as many bouts, and his feat is that much more impressive if you look at the ways he lost. Let's see... 4 yori-kiri, 2 oshi-dashi, 1 yori-taoshi. In his defense, all of those losses were to men ranked Sekiwake or above, but that report card only means Aran is getting his arse whooped thoroughly. Case in point, our beloved Ossetian gave up moro-zashi to Goeido right from the tachi-ai and hoped to stall long enough to think of something by clamping his foe's arms down, but the Father yanked him around with something resembling a sukui-nage, and then forced him to his back over the tawara. Goeido improves to 4-3 with the win.

Myogiryu continued his display of excellence with a come-from-behind win against the larger Kaisei, who seemed to have the upper hand after the initial charge. Myogiryu stood his ground well and evaded at the edge, turning the tables on his slow opponent and pushing him out easily after escaping from his grip, notching his 6th consecutive win. Kaisei falls below .500.

Fishface (known by some as Kakuryu) also improved to 6-1, easily brushing off Shohozan's more-bark-than-bite tsuppari, then pulling him to the ground. Cheetos is an expected 2-5.

Kisenosato displayed textbook sumo, calmly taking anything Aoiyama might have had to offer, then giving back with interest. Oshi-dashi was only a matter of seconds. It's good to see the Kid taking care of business in convincing manner, because that means there will be something on the line in his bouts against the other 7-0 guys that matter, Hakuho and Harumafuji. Aoiyama is 0-7 as well, but he's actually trying.

Harumafuji was dominant in his own bout as well, despite taking some time to finish it off. The Mongol got the left uwate immediately after the tachi-ai, and deployed a dashi-nage right away, but Gagamaru was too big to fall for it just yet. A brief stalemate in the center of the right allowed Gagamaru to stand there like a bump on a log and allow his faster foe to invade his way into moro-zashi. Harumafuji then took initiative and pushed things to the edge, and, when faced with serious resistance from the 190kg behemoth, shifted gears and felled him with a shitate-nage and a bored look on his face. 7-0 and par for the course. Gagamaru falls to 2-5.

Hakuho was all over the place in his bout against Homasho, trying in vain to get some sort of grip. However, he didn't panic and ultimately beat Homie at his own game, trading thrusts and ultimately yanking him down by the back of the head. Definitely not pretty, but a win is a win is a win. 7-0 for him as well, while Homie drops to a very respectable 4-3.

Day 7 is over just like that, and we still have 5 undefeated men on the board, of which 3 actually have a shot. Look for Kisenosato, Hakuho and Harumafuji to beat everyone except each other, and look for the other two 7-0 guys to start racking up the losses once they get paired with hungry members of the upper echelons. Other than that... you may as well go Clancy's way and start looking for hotties in the front rows. Speaking of the man, he's supposed to be back tomorrow to do day 8, so look for him, too, if you won't have had enough looking by then. Look for me next basho.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Some of you may have noticed that for the first time in the ten years we have run this pile of crap, I failed to post a pre-basho report. It wasn't necessarily that I didn't have the time; rather, there wasn't anything new to say, and I'm not going to write something just for the sake of writing something. The only insight I had for this basho that could have been used in a pre-basho report was my intro for day 1, and I've been scrambling every day since to find something...anything that hasn't been said before. I guess I'm priming you all now not to expect much from this day 6 because this basho won't officially start until the threesome of Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kisenosato do battle late in week 2. Wait a minute, I already said that in my previous two reports. See what I mean?

We'll start today with Ozeki Harumafuji because he did score a win that wasn't necessarily forward-moving sumo. Facing M3 Homasho who was an impressive 4-1 coming in, the Ozeki charged forward at the tachi-ai looking for that customary nodowa, but Homasho henka'd ever so slightly to his left, and so it made for an awkward opening where the two didn't really clash. As Homie tried to recover from his move left, Harumafuji cautiously kept the pressure on throwing jabs as a means to set up a path to the inside while Homasho flailed a bit himself. With no real substance to the bout a few seconds in, Homasho ducked his head looking to chare inside, but the Ozeki read it in a flash and pulled the M3 down for the hataki-komi win. Sure this was a pull down win, but Harumafuji did all the right things including charging forward at the tachi-ai. Homasho's henka was what put a wrench in this bout, so there's no harm no foul with Harumafuji's pull-down win today. If we get to the end of the basho and Harumafuji is 14-1, there's been nothing in the content of his sumo to deny him promotion. Now, if he was 14-1 fighting like Takanoyama, it's a different story. Homasho has been a bright spot this basho regardless of his loss today that drops him to 4-2.

As he's done all basho, Yokozuna Hakuho breezed into the migi-yotsu position solidifying his charge with the left outer grip, a position that M2 Gagamaru could not answer. The force-out was swift as Hakuho raised Gagamaru's left arm straight up in the air as he drove him back dumping him across the straw in a matter of seconds. Rather than breaking down another methodical Hakuho bout, let me emphasize that Hakuho can do this brand of sumo any time he wants. He hasn't been injured the last few basho; he's been sloppy on purpose in an effort to bring himself back to the field. Hakuho has dictated every yusho since Asashoryu's retirement and probably a year's worth of them before that as he moves to 6-0 today. Gags is 2-4.

Easily keeping pace at 6-0 was Ozeki Kisenosato, who looked for the inside left position against M3 Toyonoshima. Toyonoshima wanted no part of the yotsu affair, however, and backed out of it moving to the side, but the Kid was right on top of him using perfect footwork and bodying Tugboat back towards the straw where he made the yori-kiri official with the left inside position he sought at the beginning of the bout. Mentally, this is exactly the type of basho Kisenosato needs. Nothing's being handed to him, and he's going to be able to post 12 or 13 wins all on his own. Sure, the competition is total crap, but it's got to give the Kid confidence to realize he can win double digit bouts and then some all on his own. I'm really looking forward to watching him late in week 2. Toyonoshima falls to 2-4 for his troubles.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kakuryu looked to take a page out of Harumafuji's book going for a swift nodowa at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Aoiyama. Kakuryu's speed enabled him to knock Aoiyama upright from the chare, and it only required some mild wrangling for the Kak to gain moro-zashi. As the Ozeki drove Aoiyama back and to the side, Aoiyama executed a useless maki-kae with the right arm getting it inside, but the fork had already been stuck into him as Kakuryu moves to a very quiet 5-1. Aoiyama is 0-6 showing just how much pressure there is on a Komusubi compared to the M1 or M2 ranks.

By way of note, M1 Kaisei (3-3) picked up the freebie over Ozeki Kotooshu as the Bulgarian withdrew after his Twister injury yesterday.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Goeido made short work of Komusubi Tochinoshin getting his right arm deep on the inside and while applying pressure to keep the Private upright, he went for the left outer at the front of the Komusubi's grip. As Tochinoshin showed interest in fighting of that grip, Goeido just dumped his sorry ass with a right inside belt throw. Goeido ekes his way to 3-3 while Tochinoshin is an embarrassing 0-6.

Sekiwake Myogiryu pounded M2 Aran from the tachi-ai using a nodowa to lift him straight up, and the Russian reacted by backing up and ducking down trying to force the bout into a grapplin' match. With both guys swiping their arms trying to feel each other out, Myogiryu said enough of the funny bidness and used a few more neck shoves into the Bride's neck knocking her back and across the threshold for the oshi-dashi win. Don't look now but Myogiryu is 5-1 himself with a long list of softies to come. Aran falls to an awful 0-6, and the Eastern European fans must really be digging this basho.

M1 Shohozan gave M4 Toyohibiki the bidness striking him upright by the neck before grabbing the right frontal belt grip. While Shohozan isn't strong enough to drive Toyohibiki straight back, he played the Hutt well going along with his forward charge and then evading at the edge using that frontal belt grip to throw him down to the dohyo as he retreated. You rarely see an offensive maneuver like this, but Toyohibiki's lack of de-ashi is what enabled it. Both dudes are 2-4.

Speaking of a lack of de-ashi, M5 Takekaze took everyone by surprise charging straight into M4 Aminishiki, but his footwork was insufficient allowing Aminishiki to pull Takekaze down as he retreated at the edge. This was one of those bouts where Aminishiki kept his left foot on the rope while the right foot was well below the plane of the dohyo as he waited for Takekaze to officially hit the dirt, and by the time he did, I thought Aminishiki was too far gone. Still, the gunbai went in favor of Aminishiki, and the men in black didn't budge. I mean ask you want to see Takekaze fight again? Neither did the judges as Aminishiki moves to 5-1 as Takekaze falls to a tough luck 3-3.

It's hard to watch M6 Masunoyama fight when he's not at full strength. Today against M5 Tochiohzan, Masu go the solid left inside position, but he just couldn't drive with his legs, and so Tochiohzan latched onto the right outer and held on for the ride and Masunoyama tried to move him this way and that, but with no footwork sustaining his offensive, Tochiohzan was able to back up and pull Masunoyama down into all his girth on the dohyo floor. Credit Oh for hanging in there and moving to 4-2 while Masunoyama is reeling at 2-4.

After watching M7 Miyabiyama on day 1, I didn't think he'd win three bouts this basho, but I'll be damned if he didn't finish today at 3-3. M8 Daido was so tentative the entire bout throwing tsuppari the Sheriff's way but putting no leg into it. So around and around they danced until Daidough just tired himself out throwing shove after shove with nothing behind it. When he was totally gassed, he looked for the right inside grip prolly more in an effort to prop himself up, but Miyabiyama wasn't having any of it and pushed Daido (2-4) down by the side for the tsuki-otoshi win.

As bad as the Maegashira ranks has been this entire basho, we were treated to the most compelling bout from the rank and file so far with M11 Kyokutenho doing battle with M8 Okinoumi, a contest featuring two 5-0 rikishi who hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai. Okinoumi gained the upperhand, or should I say outer hand with the right uwate on Tenho's belt, but Okinoumi seemed hesitant to mount a force-out charge. Kyokutenho just stood there leaning into Okinoumi and waiting for him to make a move, and when it finally came in the form of a force out attempt, Kyokutenho timed things perfectly turning the tables near the edge and using Okinoumi's forward momentum against him yanking him forward as the Chauffeur stepped to the side. This was vintage Kyokutenho, and I'd really be enjoying this run if it wasn't for the nightmares I've been having since the Natsu basho after watching Kyokutenho steal the yusho away from two Japanese rikishi. Nonetheless, Tenho's 6-0, and there's no one who can stop him down here.

Note to be outdone, M9 Takayasu improved to 6-0 himself refusing to let M13 Asasekiryu hunker down low and get to the belt. This was really a once, twice, three times a lady charge as it took Takayasu that many methodical shoves to push the Secretary back and out. I can't believe they ruled this tsuki-dashi since Asasekiryu (4-2) wasn't even shoved off the dohyo, but I guess the kid did set his gal up with a pretty good paw to the face. I'll save my explanation of the difference between tsuki-dashi and oshi-dashi for you newbies when someone really earns it.

Let's end the days report with M14 Asahisho who was pitted against veteran M11 Wakanosato. This is one of those bouts that I really appreciate because you've obviously got the genki youngster going against the crusty old veteran who has surely lost a step but who still doesn't want to be shown up. In a rare move but one telling of Wakanosato's interest in winning this things, he went for a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping the rookie with the right hand while attempting to get the left arm on the inside, but Asahisho was unfazed and pinched in so tightly on Wakanosato's left arm that the veteran found himself standing upright with nary a pot to piss in. Asahisho's been too good to blow this one, and he drove Wakanosato back and across the straw without argument, but he did show respect to his elder by keeping him on the dohyo. Loved this bout all the way around, and yes, there are glimpses of light in this otherwise dreary basho.

Things will pick up late in week 2, but until then we must soldier on. Martin takes aim tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
When I received notice that the September Aki basho was finally here, I confess I felt like the guy from that iconic Dunkin Donuts commercial of the 70s.  Time to watch the sumos. Now I find myself faced with reporting on Day 5 with the Yankees being shown on JPese TV in the midst of a pennant race (theyve got Kuroda and Ichiro, so...) and well, I think I can be forgiven if this report is heavy on levity, long on brevity. Light on gravity, rife with depravity. Devoid of civility, destroyed by mobility. Okay, okay, you can rhyme, we get the point asshole!

The bout that really caught my eye as I sauntered in to the proceedings was the Kotooshu/Toyonoshima tilt, if only for the fact that 7 times out of 10 a matchup between these two "behweemoths" will produce something other than stale old "back and out." Today was the rule as Toyonoshima went Cujo, ensuring Kotooshu will probably go kyujo.

Tugboat laughed off a laughable double forearm to the face at tachi-ai (this kind of thing may work well if youre an NFL offensive lineman, but in sumo, it only makes it so your elbows are not tight to your torso). The M3 used this opening to get into a tight moro-zashi. As is typically the case, Toyonoshima does not wait, and he pushed the Ozeki to the edge. Kotooshu countered by trying to wrench the little man off, but the little man was wrenching as well, and they ended up in that stance where they look like two drunks keeping each other up by one arm as they stumble home. The two of them hung there in space (looking more like Twister combatants, now that I think of it) as they torqued each other slowly but inexorably down, legs spread wider than the Suez Canal.

In the end, Tugboat was able to sink to the clay last, and he did so right on to Kotooshus sickly twisted right arm. Dude was grimacing as he had to be helped up by his foe, and he walked back to his seat by the dohyo holding his arm to his side like Boris Karloff.  This one looked painfulicious.

In the bout after this, Hakuho was facing the fearsome and winless Aoiyama. The deer (no, thats not a spelling error) Komusubi was shitting his belt from headlight fear and it was obvious. Hakuho slapped his face and hit him with his body, but nothing that was going to make seismic equipment jostle, yet the frazzled Bulgarian went back to the edge (these guys are so large and the ring so tiny theyre back to the edge in a second), flitted his hands about for a second, and then fell forward to those same hands. What else could he do? He knew the Yokozuna was about to launch him off the dohyo.

Another bout with promise was Myogiryu and Shohozan, but it turned out to be a dull affair as Yogi Bears tachi-ai caused Shohozan to panic and move forward without his legs and get slapped down for his efforts.

Ozeki Kakuryu bided his time for a few seconds, knowing that Aran would be unable to keep him at bay, and when the Mongolian got his inside left on the belt, he simply turned the Russian around and drove him out in an uneventful bout of Japanese sumo.

You know, Ive lived here for fifteen years, and while I loved the Mongolian Insodus (made up word alert!) I gotta be honest, even IM tiring of no Japanese rikishi at the top. I mean, I used to be able to chat with various inhabitants of my town about sumo, but now when I bring up the subject, they act as if Im speaking English. Oh, wait, I WAS speaking English. Duh. So I switch to Japanese and still they show no interest. Their lack of interest is catchy, and makes me sad Clancy. Point of this ramble? Im a traitor.

Kisenosato continued his winning ways with a strong man showing vs. Gagamaru. The Ozeki let Gaga come to him and they got into a yotsu belt battle, but it was the much lighter Kise who was able to dictate the bout, lifting up and bumping his belly against his opponent and advancing him across the ring and out. Its not strength that Kisenosato lacks, but its something. Still, with two Ozeki gone (probably three), and him at 5-0, there is the distinct possibility that he may remain a viable yusho candidate up until I report a third time on Day 15. Course, also wouldnt be surprised to see he has faltered by the time I report on Day 8.

Not sure if its a good thing or a sad thing that my breakfast today consisted entirely of a block of silky smooth tofu about the size of a 1993 cell phone.

Yokozuna hopeful Harumafuji took the cheap way out today against Tochinoshin, barely contacting the (shin?)Komusubi at the tachi-ai and quickly slipping to the side to get a super discounted grip that allowed him to run the nonplussed Private out double time. If the dope track that Mixmaster Mikenstein laid down for us on Day 1 is true (and when is what he writes about sumo NOT true?) the powers that be will be looking down, askance, unkindly, and with disdain pon this shiny display of hit and run sumo. Still, HowDo used his speed to kick his ass, so wheres the complaint?

Homasho stayed on pace for a decent basho with an easy pushout win over Takekaze, his fourth win in five days including an upset over Kakuryu.

5-0 Okinoumi turned the tables on Masunoyama as he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat after nearly being pushed out, niftily reversing positions and forcing out the W6.

Aminishiki was awarded a redo after he drove Toyohibiki back and down but stepped out before The Hutt Brother hit the dirt. To me, if you cant win without stepping out then you lost, but they obviously see things differently. In the redo, The Nikibi was adamant about not letting Aminishiki own him at tachi-ai again, but his genki caused him to rush forward with abandon, allowing the E4 to absorb and deflect and twist his foe down by the upper arm. Shneaky sits 4-1 and is just the kind of guy who can take advantage of the weakened sanyaku. Who knows, we may see another veteran who seems about spent suddenly rise up and Yusho. Stranger things have happened. Imagine the goddamned tears that would flow if Shneaky could pull it off? And thats just from the bookies!

Speaking of bolts from the blue, dont look now but Kyokutenho is making quiet noise down at E11 with 5 wins in 5 days, which means he has not yet been defeated, nor lost. Today he stopped himself from laughing at the sight of Takanoyama across the way long enough to get an inside grip and put the lighter fella out on the wrong side of the rope.

Sumo is funny. I mean, youve got a man, Takanoyama, whose physique at least screams that he could kick the living shit out of 99% of humanity, but for whom said musculature does little once in Makuuchi. Goes to underline that oft repeated mantra that sumo guys may be fat, but under that fat, there is even more fat and that fat is fabulous. Oh, thats NOT what they say? Okay, then YOU try and make this stuff up.

So, that pretty much how the day went, a day that started with a bout in which there was no winner!! Thats right, at least according to the kimari-te, Kimurayama lost to Asahisho by stepping back and out on his own. Sure, AsahiSuperDrysho gets the black circle, but not the win, at least as far as Im concerned, and Im not that far concerned, so nobody listens, and thats fine by me. (For now, perhaps, for now, my little pretties. Muhahahahahahahaha.)

One happy bit of Sumotalk bidness to report. Most of you know that our old pal and contributor, the remarkable Mark Arbo, escaped from the clutches of that African warlord (we wont talk about the things he had to do to accomplish that, and perhaps one day I will elaborate, but for the nonce lets just say it involved bribery, cannibalism, and tunnels of excrement) late last year and made his way back to Kyushu. And the more perceptive of you will recall that I mentioned last basho that our lad had gone and gotten hisself married, yeehaw. Well, now it is my pleasure to announce the birth of his first child just a week ago (well, first one he knows of). Mother and child are doing fine, and while few details are known at the time, it has been released to the press that the child started watching sumo in 2012 and her favorite rikishi is Takamisakari.

The morrow brings you the Hick from Salt Lick (no, wait, thats Larry Bird, and hes from French Lick). I mean, the Rake from Salt Lake. Or is it the Warden from West Jordan? Either way, Don Miguel Sanchez Julio de La Punto del Wesemann is your host for what promises to be a prosaic and pedestrian Day 6. See ya Sunday.,

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Today was a very significant day for the Aki basho and not because of what happened in the ring. Ozeki Baruto and Ozeki Kotoshogiku both announced this morning that they were withdrawing from the tournament, the first time in history that two Ozeki have withdrawn on the same day. In Baruto's case it was a no-brainer. Dude could barely walk as it was, and when you have guys like Kaisei and Gagamaru pushing you out of the ring in mere seconds, it's time to rethink a few things. In Kotoshogiku's case I'm stunned at the withdrawal because his fall yesterday at the hands of Homasho was anything but fierce. Doctors reported that Kotoshogiku will need one week to recover from a left knee sprain, but there is some question in my mind as to whether or not he's really injured.

I don't know if there's an agenda behind this or if he really is ailing, but with both Baruto and Kotoshogiku out of the week 2 festivities, it significantly affects this basho. These two guys wouldn't have been favored to beat Hakuho, Harumafuji, or even Kisenosato, but who is going to replace them in week 2? One of the themes I've been harping on so far this basho is just how weak everyone below Myogiryu is, and now instead of Baruto and Kotoshogiku, the top three remaining guys in Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kisenosato are going to be paired with dross two more days than necessary. Instead of waiting until the start of week 2 to see any meaningful bouts, now we'll literally have to wait until the middle of week 2 when the threesome of Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kisenosato vie for the yusho. That could prove to be compelling, but it's going to be a long and painful trip until we get there.

Has anyone else noticed how Hakuho's brilliant sumo has all of a sudden returned? The last couple of basho, the Yokozuna was giving many of his opponents openings resulting in a lot of close calls and some losses, but this basho you can see the Yokozuna smiting his opponents without breaking a sweat. Today against M2 Aran, it was vintage Yokozuna with Hakuho getting his right arm to the inside at the tachi-ai and the left outer grip. He had the Russian forced back and out in two seconds flat for his fourth straight win without any scares. Prior to the basho when the Yokozuna sparred with Kakuryu at a de-geiko session, Kakuryu's stable master was joking with the Yokozuna when Hakuho offered to go on one of those 63 win streaks again. Izutsu-oyakata did say to reporters that the Yokozuna looks ready to win all 15 bouts, and watching for these tidbits in the press often times forecasts what will happen in the basho. Don't think that media isn't used to help move the Association's agenda forward. Aran is 0-4 for his troubles.

Let's next move to Ozeki Harumafuji whose quest for Yokozuna just became measurably easier with the withdrawal of two comrades. As I said, he would have been favored to beat guys like Baruto and Kotoshogiku this basho anyway, but now it's not even a question whether or not he'll pick up wins over their replacements. Two guys have a shot at beating him: Hakuho and Kisenosato, so the Sumo Association has to start thinking now what they'll do with a 13-2 Harumafuji should it come to that. Today against M1 Kaisei, the Ozeki used a moro-hazu tachi-ai meaning he pushed in at both of Kaisei's sides, and then as he pivoted to his left, Kaisei just fell forward flat on his face. It was ruled uwate-dashi-nage, but it was really a great tachi-ai and poor balance from Kaisei who falls to 1-3. The Ozeki is of course unscathed.

Let's next move to Ozeki Kisenosato who I think is the third rikishi worth watching this basho. I don't think the withdrawals today forecast a yusho this basho for the Ozeki, but it will leave him in a great position heading into Kyushu. Today's opponent was Komusubi Tochinoshin who was no match for the Ozeki's right nodowa and left inside attack. Before the Komusubi could counter, Kisenosato had his chest tightly aligned with his opponent's as he has done so well this basho resulting in a two-second force-out win. I thought today was Kisenosato's best tachi-ai, and if/when he does lose this basho, it will be by a speedier rikishi who knocks him on his heels from the initial charge.  Just look at that picture at right...stellar sumo from the Ozeki, and if he keeps it up he won't lose until he fights the two Mongolians.

Ozeki Kotooshu was lazy in his attack against M1 Shohozan opting to let his opponent dictate the pace of the bout, which turned out to be a tsuppari affair. Shohozan didn't exactly blast the Ozeki back, but he had him upright enough to wear he lurched into the deep moro-zashi position leaving the Ozeki with a left grip at the back of Shohozan's belt and then a right, but it was too late as Shohozan planted his right foot and threw Kotooshu all the way over to the edge with a right inside belt throw, and while this did cause separation at the end resulting in a love tap at the straw form Matutano earning the oshi-dashi kimari-te, Shohozan led this one from start to finish and wasn't afraid to take the fight to the belt. Great stuff as he picks up his first win while Kotooshu falls to 2-2.

Speaking of playing into your inferior opponent's hand, Ozeki Kakuryu opted to toy with M3 Homasho in a push/pull affair. About three seconds in when it was clear that Homasho was holding his own, Kakuryu made a stab at Homasho's belt, but he was already too upright, and as the Mongolian's fingers slipped off of Homie's mawashi, the Ozeki was already going backwards allowing Homasho a methodic thrust to the chest that sent Kakuryu off the dohyo altogether. Interesting how both of these Ozeki got lazy and lost as a result. Kakuryu falls to 3-1 and shouldn't factor into the yusho race. Isn't it interesting how the Kak was the second best rikishi the last half of 2011 and then the first two basho this year? After letting Goeido defeat him on senshuraku of the Haru basho and subsequently relinquishing the yusho, the Kak hasn't been the same. I don't believe it knocked the win out of his sails; rather, I think someone had a talk with him asking him to ease up. Homasho is a sweet 3-1 with the win.

As for Baruto and Kotoshogiku's opponents today, Sekiwake Myogiryu picked up the freebie against Bart to move to 3-1 while M2 Gagamaru moved to 2-2.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Aoiyama was so high at the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Goeido that Phish fans even took notice. Goeido parlayed the mistake into moro-zashi, and Aoiyama would never recover. Took the Father around 10 seconds to sill the dill, and he never was able to force Aoiyama across the straw opting to fell him with an inside throw with the right hand as the Komusubi resisted at the edge. Goeido limps to 2-2, but he's a non-factor in sumo these days. Aoiyama is still an o'fer.

Moving to the Maegashira ranks, remember when M5 Tochiohzan and M3 Toyonoshima were actually considered hopes for Japan? Oh how the mediocre have fallen as they met up today with Tochiohzan employing a stiff left paw to Toyonoshima's throat that rendered his left arm on the outside useless. Toyonoshima moved that arm to the inside in an attempt to hold his ground, but Tochiohzan had all the momentum and used a right kote-nage throw to defeat Toyonoshima (1-3) with some oomph. Oh evens things up at 2-2.

M4 Toyohibiki offered a right kachi-age into the throat of M5 Takekaze, but his legwork wasn't sufficient allowing Takekaze to slip to the side and pull Toyo the Hutt down for the win. As much as I dislike Takekaze (3-1), his sumo has been straight up this basho. Toyo-Ibiki is 2-2.

When the NHK cameras focused in close on M6 Masunoyama's left elbow that was heavily wrapped, I suspected he might be in trouble. Against M4 Aminishiki, Masunoyama's shoves were ineffective for sure, but his footwork was nowhere to be found. Aminishiki's plan was to stay back and make the younger Masunoyama chase him around, and with his feet often aligned and no punch to his thrust attack, Aminishiki found an opening about three seconds in and just slapped Masunoyama silly driving him back across and the dohyo so hard with some thrusts to the chest that Masunoyama (2-2) ended up in the first row. Aminishiki is a quiet 3-1.

There was no way that M7 Miyabiyama could beat M9 Takayasu today, and the younger Takayasu knew it charging mightily into his foe at the tachi-ai and pushing back him back once, twice, three times a lady. Takayasu is 4-0 if ya need him while Miyabiyama has done well to start out 2-2.

M8 Okinoumi gave up moro-zashi to M10 Yoshikaze shortly after the tachi-ai, but it didn't matter because the taller Okinoumi actually won the initial charge using a left on the inside to stand Yoshikaze straight up. And while Cafe did slip away and assume moro-zashi, he was upright and had Okinoumi's chest pressing hard into his teets so it was moro-zashi moro-shmashi as Okinoumi bodied his foe back and across the straw not even needing a grip of his belt. He joins Takayasu at 4-0 in the chase for a special prize.

M11 Kyokutenho is a man among boys in these parts albeit an old man. Today against M14 Kimurayama, the Chauffeur used a perfect hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the right and grabbing the inside left forcing Kim to the side and out in two seconds flat. Do I smell a repeat of the Natsu basho as Kyokutenho skates to 4-0?

And finally, let's end with the M14 Asahisho - M16 Takanoyama bout because today was another good example of how Takanoyama doesn't belong in the division. The Dummy used his newfound henka-kote-nage tachi-ai which failed miserably whereupon the younger Asahisho squared up and started giving Takanoyama the bidness. Actually, the Czech native did connect on one face slap, but other than that, Asahisho used perfect de-ashi to chase the spaz around and around the dohyo. About fifteen seconds in, Takanoyama looked to plant his foot to set up something or other and ended up stepping a full meter outside of the straw. It was obvious that he had no idea where he was in the ring, and this is because of his sumo style (and I hesitate to even use the word "style"). If Takanoyama tried the shite he uses during hon-basho inside of the keiko ring, the Sumo Association would officially reinstate that bamboo sword at practice so his stable master could kick his ass silly for his shenanigans.

Where I thought this basho offered little excitement after the first three days, the withdrawals of Baruto and Kotoshogiku add a whole new dynamic to the tournament as strange as that may sound.

Tomorrow, you say Papa; I say C!

Day 3 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Awwww yeah, my sumo peoples. It is time for the Walshster to give you some sweet man-on-man action. Day 3 and let's take it in order.

My man, Takanoyama, looked like a little boy today (as he often does). I enjoyed the Day 2 bout, by the way -- if you can't beat this guy even when he shifts at the tachi-ai, you don't deserve to win. Today, though: No henka, no chance. He crash test dummied his way off the dohyo and into the fans thanks to a little love tap from Kimurayama.

In an actual sumo match, Asasekiryu took out Fujiazuma in such an ordinary fashion that I've already forgotten what happened.

In what was something of a theme today (theme alert!), Sadanofuji's thrusting attack slipped, Takarafuji got inside and got a grip. That was enough to move the bigger man out.

Chiyotairyu got the better of Makuuchi newcomer Asahisho at the tachi-ai, moving him back quickly. But a little too quickly for his legs, unfortunately, and a shift by Mr. Rising Sun Sun Pine Tree (Asahisho's shikona strikes me as partly redundant) at the right moment was the downfall for the more promising youngster.

The next two matches featured rikishi slowly making their way into the top 10 in all time wins, as NHK helpfully informs us. In other words, these guys have been winning top tier sumo matches since you were but a wee lass. And if you're thinking that you were a wee lad, well, I'm writing this column because of all the hot babe action (check out this hottie!) it gets me so I don't really care about you.

Wakanosato was up first, and demonstrated very nicely why we call him the Croc. He had Tenkaiho in a good position, but his stubby little right arm couldn't sniff the mawashi. When he maneuvered around and got a maki-kae just to try to get said grip, he ended up giving up a deep grip on the back of his own mawashi. Tenkaiho needed little more than that to throw the old man down and slow his move up that wins ladder.

Kyokutenho, however, got his and moves to 3-0 in the process. He simply dominated Kitataiki with a more powerful tachi-ai followed by a quick, aggressive drive to turn the better start into a quick win.

I thought that the Wakakoyu and Okinoumi fight was interesting. It started as a pushing-thrusting battle, advantage to Wakakoyu in theory. But Oki-doki more than held his own while Wakakoyu attempted to pull too early and without setting it up properly. Wakakoyu then appeared to slip on a push with his left and simply fell into Oki-doki's arms -- again (theme alert!) with a pusher getting caught in a belt fight. Okinoumi doesn't strike me as a cerebral fighter -- more lizard brain, which is often helpful in sports to keep you from overthinking it -- but he knows what to do with an inferior mawashi fighter when he gets the opportunity. Oki-doki got a solid right hand grip and worked his man right out to move to 3-0. Wakakoyu is looking a little limp this time out and is 0-3.

Yoshikaze took advantage of a bad slip by Daido to win by okuri-taoshi -- rear push down. Starbuck did look pretty good in setting it up, but the finish was a total gift. (accidental, just to be clear).

Takayasu is looking really sharp this basho. His win yesterday over Wakakoyu was a fun bout until Wakakoyu ran out of steam at the end. Today, he quickly turned a pushing battle into a belt fight (aaaaannd … theme alert!) and bullied Shotenro over the tawara to move to 3-0.

Me watching Miyabiyama-Tochiohzan: "Miyabiyama is going to try a slap down. I repeat, Miyabiyama is going to try a slap down. Hoping that Tochiohzan will hear me here … nope." Tochiohzan needs to pull his head out of his ass and keep his feet under him.

Toyohibiki looked good today, pretty much dominating young gun Masunoyama for the push down win. Masunoyama was really pumped yesterday after beating Takekaze. He did that little chest puff out thing that the Yokozuna does after beating Baruto or similar competition. Note the difference in competition level, and you can see why the youngster has a ways to go.

Aminishiki pulled a 2/3 hence, shifting to his left, grabbing a cheap grip, and moving Tokitenku over and out. What goes around, comes around, he had it coming, or whatever similar cliché that you like.

I don't want to read too much into one bout, but it fits the pattern too well. Toyonoshima has lost a step or his confidence or both. Today, Takekaze had a fine Takekaze bout, pushing, dodging, and shifting. But that would not have been enough to beat Toyonoshima at the top of his game. Maybe a bit of a slip of the foot and maybe a little bad luck, but our little Tugboat who could appears to be low on steam.

Myogiryu is acting like he belongs up here with the big boys. He showed a little attitude with that dame-oshi over Homie yesterday. Today he took it Aoiyama, mixing some effective slap downs that got the bigger man off balance with a solid oshi attack right in those big blue mountain boobies. I like the swagger -- sumo really needs a guy like this.

Aran doesn't trust his forward moving attack. Perhaps rightfully so, but we may never know. Today he had a decent tachi-ai against Kisenosato but then whiffed on a right hand outer grip. At that moment, Aran gave up. He went for the pull with ZE-RO setup, and that's just suicide against a solid rikishi like Kise. The Kid proceeded to dominate the backwards-moving Bride to move to 3-0. There was a funny moment at the end where Aran kept thrusting even though he had stepped out already. All in all, it was a head scratcher for the Russian, but I think we all know to not expect better from him at this point.

Shohozan is quick but just doesn't have the power to really threaten Harumafuji. The Ozeki waited patiently as the little furball gave it his best pushes. When there was an opening, ex-Ama (3-0) moved like a greased Scotsman (there's nary an animal alive who can outrun one!), got inside, and quickly drove the Fukuoka native out.

Harumafuji is looking good so far, but his competition has not been strong enough to say more.

Kakuryu is also 3-0 after taking Tochinoshin out. Nothing special -- Kak is just better at getting a mawashi grip and using it. Oh and our final theme alert! of the day, but No Shine is a belt fighter anyway.

What an ugly match for Kotooshu -- I almost called yaocho until I saw it again at full speed. Goeido did well to get low and keep the action moving. It was too fast for Kotooshu to do anything useful, he ended up upright and moving backwards while lamely trying to slap at Goeido's thrusting arms.

Big Boy Bart, due to injury, appears to be trying to pick up eight wins by relying 100% on his size and upper body strength, instead of the usual 50-60%. So when the Lady Gaga steam train hits, what is he going to do? Answer: get pushed back in a hurry. Aaannd, try to slip to side while executing a throw, leading to an enormous amount of Euroflesh falling off the dohyo. Ewww. The first time around, this worked great. Or almost, anyway. I think that the judges correctly called a tie (Baruto's body dropping below the dohyo level at the same time as Gagamaru's leg touched the clay), leading to a re-do. The second time around, Baruto couldn't get a grip and couldn't shift his rotund aite to either side, so he gently stepped back and out for his second loss.

In the penultimate bout of the day, Homie, much like Shneaky before him, pulled a 2/3 henka. It worked in the sense that it created an even position between him and Kotoshogiku, where a straightforward bout would be a hard one for Homasho. Still, the Geeku looked to be in okay position until Homie grabbed a right outer grip, turned left, and pulled the Ozeki down to the clay. The Humper was trying a bit too hard to get in and under Homie and his balance wasn't quite there when the throw came.

And we end with some fresh blood for the Yokozuna in the form of Kaisei. Kaisei acquitted himself well in this one, using his size and strength to actually get Hakuho moving around. But Hak has better positioning, better timing, and better use of leverage. So when the moment came, Hakuho turned left and pulled up on the mawashi for the shitate-nage win.

It's still a bit too early to say much about Hak's sumo. The first day win over No Shine looked like vintage Hakuho, with good balance and strong grips (no injury complaints this time, it seems). The second day match with Shohozan was a little bit all over the place, but that's Shohozan's game. Today's was a solid, unspectacular win. We'll see how it progresses, but for now I will guess that it will be a show of dominance and at least 14 wins for the grand champion.

OK, I'm out. Back to Professor Mike tomorrow. See you again on Day 10.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The Sumo Association treated us to a decent day 1 matchup with Kisenosato and Myogiryu, and it looks as if they'll have the Sekiwake fight an Ozeki every other day just to give the semblance of an exciting bout of sumo here and there the first week. I'm really grasping at straws here trying to find anything to talk about, but there isn't a single rikishi beyond the Ozeki rank to challenge Harumafuji's quest for Yokozuna, and the sanyaku ranks are so bland that it's going to take another week or so for this basho to pick up.

We'll start with Ozeki Harumafuji who is thee story in Aki. Today's foe was M2 Aran, but the Russian hardly put up a fought. Harumafuji came out with a right nodowa that he didn't even need to execute fully because moro-zashi was there for the taking half way through. Harumafuji complied by grabbing the insurmountable position, and then it was just a matter of sealing the deal. He chose tsuri-dashi, which was a smart move considering his backpedaling in yesterday's bout. Harumafuji not only has to win 14 at least, but he really needs to put his signature on the content of his sumo. Today will help as he breezes to 2-0.

Yokozuna Hakuho easily withstood M1 Shohozan's tsuppari (I'll stop short of calling it a tsuppari attack) by timing a few good shoves of his own, and without using any de-ashi, he waited for the opening and then just threw Shohozan to the dirt with a left kote-nage about three seconds in.

Ozeki Kisenosato has looked the most impressive of any rikishi so far drawing two solid opponents the first two days in Myogiryu yesterday and M1 Kaisei today. I guess I should reiterate that the Kid has looked impressive after the tachi-ai. Today he was passive allowing Kaisei to push him back about two steps, but even Kaisei knew that it was too good to be true. Kisenosato finally dug in near the edge, and used tsuppari to knock Kaisei back to the center of the ring where he forced the two to align chests with the Ozeki enjoying the solid inside right position. From there, Kisenosato used his body perfectly to bump Kaisei upright as he swiftly forced him back and across, but I'd really like to see him set this kind of move up from the tachi-ai. He beat Myogiryu yesterday in the same manner, but he didn't charge forward hard at the tachi-ai to set up the win. Now that I think about it, none of the Yokozuna or Ozeki are goin forward hard, and why should they? No chance risking a henka when they know their opponents can't beat them anyway.

Another case in point was Ozeki Kotoshogiku effortlessly grabbing the right inside grip from the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochinoshin and just bullying him back and out in two seconds. No resistance whatsoever from the Private two days in.

Ozeki Baruto secured the left inner at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Aoiyama and was in so deep he coulda got the left on the inside as well, but instead of mounting a straight back charge, he stepped right and easily felled Aoiyama with a right kote-nage throw. There's really nothing more to breakdown here. It's far too easy for the Ozeki this basho despite Baruto's "loss" yesterday to Kaisei. Baruto was limping badly during and after the bout, and while he should win five or so this first week, he's gonna struggle big time to even win eight.

Ozeki Kotooshu grabbed the easy left inner and right outer grip against M2 Gagamaru continuing our pattern here although it was Gagamaru who decided to mount a gaburi charge despite having no grip on the Ozeki's belt. Kotooshu humored his opponent by backing up a few steps, but he was in absolutely no trouble at all as illustrated by his felling Lord Gaga with an inside belt throw instead of the outer.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kakuryu looked to make things exciting against Sekiwake Goeido playing into the Father's hands by actually instigating a pull/push fest instead of a true fight at the belt. Goeido was more than happy to comply, so round and round the ring they went using weak pushes to set up more convincing pulls. The better tactician won in the end in this 15 second affair as Goeido is off to an 0-2 start.

Sekiwake Myogiryu picked up his first win against M3 Homasho by getting the right arm inside at the tachi-ai and then immediately aligning chests. Homasho loves to back outta this position, and he did try, but Myogiryu knew what was coming and simply drove his legs forward as Homie retreated. The result was Homasho with nary a pot to piss in as the Sekiwake scored the force-out win in about two seconds. I love how Myogiryu won today and how Kisenosato has been winning with the two rikishi looking to align their chests with their opponents and then use terrific de-ashi to sill the dill.

I almost dread to look for any bouts of interest in the Maegashira ranks, but let's at least address the 2-0 rikishi. First up is M6 Masunoyama who patiently waited as M5 Takekaze stalled at the tachi-ai, but it was no matter as soon as the two charged. Masunoyama used his superior strength and tsuppari to keep Takekaze off balance, and Takekaze couldn't even move laterally without Masunoyama squaring back up immediately keeping his foe in front of him through all phases of the bout. Took about 10 seconds to finally catch Takekaze square and thrust him out, but Masunoyama used perfect footwork in this one to completely befuddle Takekaze.

Okay, I'll allow myself to comment on one 0-2 rikishi just because it was M6 Tokitenku who failed in a keta-guri attempt against M7 Miyabiyama of all rikishi. The Sheriff had to know it was coming because these days a decent fart is usually enough to knock Miyabiyama over. With the former Ozeki shoving Tokitenku off balance before he finished his leg sweep, there was no way Tenku could recover as Miyabiyama just pulled him down a few seconds in. What really made this sweet was the fact that it was Tokitenku's 33rd birthday today. Congrats bro.

M8 Okinoumi survived a hidari-yotsu affair against M7 Shotenro who actually took charge early in this one but didn't use his legs sufficiently to knock Okinoumi across the straw. At one point Shotenro looked to have moro-zashi, but his attack was so damn high that Okinoumi easily got that left arm back to the inside, and after about 10 seconds of funny bidness playing defense, Okinoumi finally got serious and mounted a yori-kiri charge of his own. It worked the first time thanks to Oki's de-ashi as he moves to 2-0.

M8 Daido moved to 2-0 outlasting M9 Kitataiki in a drawn out affair that lasted over a minute. The two hooked up in migi-yotsu from the start and with Kitataiki maintaining a left outer grip, Daido was forced on the defensive for about 50 seconds until he finally used a right scoop throw to knock Kitataiki away from the belt resulting in a pull down win in the end.

M10 Wakakoyu thoroughly dictated the pace against M9 Takayasu using his tsuppari attack without really going for a single pull. The problem was, though, that Wakakoyu didn't have any de-ashi fueling the attack, and so Takayasu just stood his ground for a full 30 seconds when it became apparent that Wakakoyu was gassed. Like a prize fighter who is about to get knocked out, Wakakoyu finally leaned into Takayasu in the clinch that looked like the inside right position, but he had nothing left in the tank and so Takayasu threw him over half-assed with a left uwate-nage. Guess Takayasu deserves his 2-0 start after that bout.

Love to see me some M11 Wakanosato off to a 2-0 start. Today's victim was M12 Takarafuji who just gifted Wakanosato the left inside position from the tachi-ai, and the Crocodile quickly parlayed that into moro-zashi driving Takarafuji back and across without argument.

Okay, M12 Chiyotairyu is only 1-1, but he's the last guy you want to duck down low against. M13 Asasekiryu made the mistake today from the tachi-ai, and Tairyu complied with a forceful pulldown a few seconds in.

I know it doesn't seem possible at first, but give me a few days to figure out how to spell "slow" using the letters
K-I-M-U-R-A-Y-A-M-A V-S T-E-N-K-A-I-H-O.

M15 Sadanofuji is also 2-0 after schooling M14 Asahisho using a more-te-zuki tachi-ai and keeping his hands at the rookie's neck completely befuddling for a few seconds before literally bitch slapping him to the dirt with the left hand to the face.

And finally, M16 Takanoyama picked up a win on just the second day of the basho. Course he used a tachi-ai henka to his left against M15 Fujiazuma to do it trying a kote-nage first and then grabbing the left outer and just spinning Fujiazuma around and around before dumping him with a dizzy-nage. Takanoyama is just 1-1, but I think he's got a great shot to kachi-koshi this basho, not because he's come of age in the division but because he's figured out early that he can pick up cheap wins with henka.

Matt spells me tomorrow, and as Simon says, "good lad."

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Prior to a basho whenever a rikishi is vying for the Yokozuna rank, the Association will usually establish a number of wins necessary to achieve promotion (called meyasu). This isn't done formally like the release of the banzuke; rather, one of the directors will speak with the press and reveal the requirements. This basho the honor was given to Kokonoe-oyakata who didn't give a number of wins at all. Instead he set forth three requirements that Harumafuji would need to fulfill in order to even be considered for promotion. First, no dame-oshi (extra push of your opponent after he's already out of the ring); second, no tachi-ai henka; and third, the Ozeki would have to establish a style. What Chiyonofuji meant by that third requirement is that Harumafuji would have to pick a style and win a majority of his bouts using it. In the case of the Ozeki, his most effective style is the nodowa tachi-ai followed by a vicious pushing attack, but he could also choose to fight from the front of the belt and work his opponents out using his superior technique. Regardless of what method(s) Harumafuji chooses, he's got to dominate his opponents with sound sumo.

I found it a bit surprising that no set number of wins was given, but the more I think about it, Harumafuji winning a ton of bouts in any given basho isn't difficult at all given his watered down competition. Putting it another way, when was the last time an Ozeki was kadoban? I think Kotooshu withdrew from injury a year or so ago, but who was the last Ozeki that went kadoban? It really doesn't happen anymore, but who can forget three or four years ago when it was rare to have a basho when an Ozeki wasn't kadoban? For as many longevity records that Chiyotaikai and Kaio set, they were the kings of kadoban. Tochiazuma pulled his weight as well before his retirement, and even the foreign Ozeki were guilty of failing to win eight bouts as an Ozeki.

The reason that Ozeki don't go kadoban anymore despite six of them on the board (plus the Yokozuna) is because the competition among the jo'i (the top 16 rikishi on the banzuke) is plain and simply weak. Due to the yaocho scandal that forced the Association to cancel the 2011 Haru basho and 17 sekitori to retire, a huge void was created that had to be filled by inferior rikishi. The past year we've gotten used to the new faces in the division and several of them have even showed flashes of brilliance, but only one of the newbies has been able to crack the Sekiwake rank in Myogiryu. And as much as I love me some Myogi Bear, he is not a seasoned Sekiwake. The bottom line are bodies who fill the sanyaku rank, but the huge divide that exists between the Yokozuna/Ozeki and everyone else is creating rather boring basho. It used to be that I could do without the first half of Makuuchi bouts and be just fine because the second half always contained great matchups, but now it seems that there really aren't those classic matchups until well into the second week. Perhaps that's why the Sumo Association gave us Kisenosato - Myogiryu on day one, but before I get too ahead of myself, let's get to the day 1 action going in reverse order since I don't have much to say about a lot of the Maegashira bouts.

I'll start with Ozeki Harumafuji first who was paired with surprise Komusubi Aoiyama. The Ozeki bounced the Komusubi back from the tachi-ai a step, but Aoiyama used his bulk and a good right shove to actually knock Harumafuji back on his heels a bit. With neither rikishi really using their lower bodies, Harumafuji was able to secure the left arm on the inside and then wrench Aoiyama back and across for the win, but it wasn't spectacular. There was no dame-oshi nor a henka, but Harumafuji did not establish a style in this bout. He doesn't have to do so everyday, but if he continues to do sumo like this, he'll literally need 15 wins to force the Association's hand.

In the day's final bout, Komusubi Tochinoshin actually henka'd Yokozuna Hakuho, but when you don't have any game like Tochinoshin, your tachi-ai henka suck as well and so Hakuho was easily able to recover and grab Tochinoshin with the inside left and outside right. The Yokozuna actually prefers the right inside and left outer, and after gathering his wits from surviving the henka, he got his favored position by throwing the Private off balance with a right belt throw. Now with the Yokozuna securely on the inside with his right and a left outer to boot, he wrenched Tochinoshin this way and that forcing him to back across the straw in short order.  Last basho, Hakuho's sumo was full of pull attempts and questionable moves that I believe were intentional, but I think in this bout, his instincts just kicked in after being henka'd resulting in his perfect execution.

The best matchup of the day was the aforementioned bout between Ozeki Kisenosato and Sekiwake Myogiryu, and while the bout was short, it didn't disappoint. Kisenosato used sort of a left kachi-age at the tachi-ai not driving his forearm up into Myogiryu's grill but using it to keep the Sekiwake away from any inside position. After Myogiryu failed to really budge the Ozeki back, the two assumed the hidari-yotsu position, but the Ozeki had the clear advantage with both rikishi's chests aligned. If you're Myogiryu, you want to create separation with your opponent preferably with a fierce oshi or two from the tachi-ai, but it didn't happen today, and so with no momentum, Myogiryu couldn't' fend off the Ozeki's methodic force out attack. Not exactly o-zumo, but it's a great start for Kisenosato.

Last basho I was more frustrated with M1 Shohozan than any other rikishi due to his stalling at the tachi-ai and attempts at sneak attacks. Today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, Shohozan was actually ready early while the Ozeki took his sweet time. When the two finally did clash, Shohozan was too open and too upright allowing Kotoshogiku to plant his left arm squarely into Shohozan's girth and then drive him out in two seconds flat using perfect de-ashi. Shohozan clearly does not belong at this level, but getting back to my intro, someone had to fill the void vacated by the 17 sekitori forced to retire.

While not as impressive as Aminishiki's, Ozeki Baruto was definitely sporting his bedroll wrapped around his left knee. I never did read in pre-basho keiko reports what happened to the Ozeki, but he is nigh unto immobile in the ring. Today against M1 Kaisei, the Brasilian rammed his right shoulder into the Ozeki's torso driving him back from the start. Baruto used his long left arm to grab the left outer grip, but he was all arms and no legs. As a result, Kaisei used his right inside position to immediately force Baruto straight back and out of the ring. As he was driven back, Baruto countered by trying to pull Kaisei down by the back of the belt, and it actually worked, but the momentum was so much in Kaisei's favor that the gyoji ruled for the M1 even though replays clearly showed that Kaisei crashed down to the ring before Baruto stepped out. No mono-ii was called, and I didn't have a problem either because Kaisei thoroughly dominated this bout.

Ozeki Kotooshu looked to grab the inside position and left outer grip against M2 Aran, but the Russian clearly didn't want to the belt fight, and so he kept his hips way back and hunkered down forcing the two rikishi to grapple a bit by pushing at each other's shoulders. With Aran unable to move forward, however, Kotooshu used his experience to eventually work his way into the solid right inside position with the left outer to boot, and it was curtain for Aran who just gave up and allowed Kotooshu to walk him back in short order.

Ozeki Kakuryu secured the early left inside position against M2 Gagamaru and showed surprising strength by disallowing Gagamaru to gain any forward momentum despite having their chests aligned. And while Kakuryu was holding his own against Lord Gaga going teet to teet, there was no way he was just going to bully him back and across by yori-kiri, so he took a quick step back and to his right dragging Gagamaru forward and down with a nifty uwate-dashi-nage throw. Yes, Baruto did lose today due to his injured left knee, but none of the other five Ozeki were in any trouble at all, and so expect the same results the rest of week 1.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Goeido was henka'd slightly by M3 Homasho who stepped wide to his left looking for the cheap outer grip. It wasn't a severe henka, and a solid rikishi would have been able to recover and win the bout, but Goeido's answer was to panic and bring his right arm from the inside and place it up high around Homasho's neck. The result was Homasho's ill-gotten left outer grip from tachi-ai turned into an insurmountable left inside grip, and with Goeido still trying to gain any footing, Homasho just lifted up wit the belt grip and dumped the Sekiwake across the straw in less than five seconds. I'll give a rikishi a pass once or twice when they do what Homasho did today stepping out wide to grab a cheap outer grip, but the more glaring aspect of this bout was Goeido's tactical mistake of abandoning a decent inside position for a neck grip. Horrible move on his part.

Let's touch on a few Maegashira bouts starting with M3 Toyonoshima who stayed low against M4 Aminishiki getting the left arm on the inside and using his right paw to push Aminishiki upright and out of the ring in two seconds flat. The only reason I mention this bout is because Toyonoshima is experienced enough to run roughshod through his fellow Maegashira and even the Komusubi and one Sekiwake.

M6 Masunoyama is clearly superior to M7 Miyabiyama, but what impressed me in their bout today was Masunoyama's ability to use his legs to prevent being pulled down by Miyabiyama. The Sheriff is so tired these days that all of his wins can only come by a surprise pull down, so to see Masunoyama use solid footwork to keep pace with the veteran rikishi was a good sign. Masunoyama didn't exactly deliver a crushing blow in this one, but Miyabiyama simply ran out of gas about six seconds in and crashed to the dirt out of exhaustion. Dude's not even running on fumes anymore.

M8 Daido looked impressive against M7 Shotenro grabbing the right inside from the tachi-ai and refusing to give it up keeping Shotenro in tight with a bear hug. When Shotenro went Goeido and tried to fiddle with Daido's neck, the Dough easily forced him back for the win.

M8 Okinoumi just stood his ground and let M9 Kitataiki walk right into moro-zashi. Still, with Kitataiki the one moving forward, Okinoumi had to give up some ground and put on the brakes near the edge, but once he halted Kitataiki's movement, he turned the tables straightway using his moro-zashi to bully Kitataiki out of the ring with some oomph.

M12 Chiyotairyu wasted a gift from M11 Wakanosato who sorta jumped straight up from the tachi-ai, but with no de-ashi from Chiyotairyu, Wakanosato was able to escape to his left and slap at Chiyotairyu who just stumbled forward and to the dirt of his own accord thanks to horrible balance and poor footwork. The reason I even bring this bout up is because Chiyotairyu looked so dominant when he first entered the division, but he's totally taken himself out of his game with a penchant for pull sumo. What a waste.

Makuuchi rookie M14 Asahisho was cat quick against M13 Tenkaiho (but then who isn't?) popping a right nodowa into Tenkaiho's neck before the Hutt even came out of his crouch. The rookie kept the pressure on driving with his legs, and so Tenkaiho was forced to move laterally in an attempt to shake his opponent off. The move almost worked as Tenkaiho tried a retreat pull at the edge, but as Asahisho was being pulled down, he braced his fall using his left hand pushing in at Tenkaiho's right knee, and so with Tenkaiho unable to pivot to the side, he was forced back off the dohyo giving the rookie an impressive tactical win. There's no use getting too stiff over Asahisho with the horrible competition at this level, but it was a good start nonetheless.

And finally, M15 Sadanofuji was not going to make the same mistake against M16 Takanoyama that happened last basho when he inadvertently stepped out in his force-out attempt of the Dummy. Sadanofuji latched onto the right outer grip from the tachi-ai and then didn't move an inch until he was sure he had Takanoyama neutralized. The white and nerdy Takanoyama was busy fighting off Sadanofuji's left inside attempt, and so Sadanofuji got biddy himself pinning Takanoyama in close with his bulky right thigh as he drove him back with that right outer grip, and Takanoyama had no room to maneuver or counter as he was flung back and across the straw.

Looks like I'm back again tomorrow and expect more ho-hum sumo until week 2.









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