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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
During the broadcast, NHK showed a graphic depicting the portraits of the yusho rikishi that hang from the rafters of the Kokugikan. Each side of the arena has 8 portraits meaning just over five years worth of yusho rikishi are honored in the venue. The yellow squares seen in the graphic represent Hakuho's career yusho, and with the dai-Yokozuna picking up number 18 yesterday, he'll occupy that left slot on the top row the next time the sumos come back to Tokyo. It's entirely conceivable as well that Hakuho could fill out that entire top row before anyone is prepared enough to wrest the yusho from his hands. He needs one more yusho to tie the all time record for consecutive yusho at seven, currently held by Asashoryu, but all indications are that he'll shatter that record, and it's my opinion that he could double it if he wanted to. That probably won't happen since there's more to sumo than meets the eye, but that has nothing to do with the 6 rikishi entering the day at 7-7 all winning.

Usually Clancy wraps up the senshuraku festivities, but with my pardner running an ekiden (road relay race) today, I'll gladly move into the day 15 slot to cover.

With the yusho having been decided the previous day, Yokozuna Hakuho's priorities coming into his bout against Ozeki Kaio probably consisted of 1) don't injure the veteran, and 2) don't let him sneak to the side. The result was a cautious tachi-ai from both parties where each settled for defensive tsuppari if that makes sense. With Kaio exerting all of his energy just to fight off Hakuho's grizzly bear slaps, he was nowhere near the belt and nowhere close to springing a kote-nage trap. It was just a matter of time at this point as Hakuho timed his shots to Kaio's face and upper torso as he waited for an opening. It came about six seconds in when he was finally able to secure moro-zashi, and with Kaio already close to the tawara, he just turned and willfully took that last step out for the anticlimactic finish, which of course was a microcosm of the basho itself. Hakuho finishes the tournament at 14-1 while Kaio falls to 9-6.

Ozeki Baruto saved his best tachi-ai of the basho for his bout against fellow Ozeki Kotooshu driving his chest into Kotooshu's face and knocking him upright just enough to where the Estonian actually gained moro-zashi, but the difference in this bout was the footwork. Kotooshu quickly shifted to his left in an effort to evade the hold, and Baruto wasn't fast enough to keep up resulting in his giving up moro-zashi by bringing his left hand up around Kotooshu's neck. From there, Kotooshu used the left outer grip gained at the tachi-ai to swing (dashi-nage) Baruto over near the edge and assume the lower stance. Baruto tried to dig back in, but Kotooshu was positioned too well keeping his arse far away from an outer grip by his opponent. Keeping the pressure on, Kotooshu was able to wrench Baruto upright and then just body him to the dirt leading with a right hand pushing down at the Estonian's chest. You could see that Baruto was the stronger rikishi, but Kotooshu bested him with speed and skill. The end result is a 10-5 finish for Kotooshu and 9-6 for Baruto.

I'm not sure how else to put this next bout, but Sekiwake Kisenosato thoroughly kicked Ozeki Harumafuji's ass in every way possible. The Kid stayed low at the tachi-ai and moved forward well causing Harumafuji to just bounce off of him to the left. Quick as a cat, Kisenosato followed up with a left ottsuke that turned the Ozeki off balance and upright. As Harumafuji looked to square back up with Kisenosato, he was met with a beefy paw to the jaw followed by another shot to the face that had the Ozeki pushed back just beyond the straw.  For good measure, Kisenosato added a dame-oshi sending Harumafuji into the first row of spectators leaving him in his wake. As Kisenosato headed back to his side and turned to bow, Harumafuji was still gathering his wits among the spectators. In a show of class, Kisenosato quickly rushed back across the dohyo to see if the Ozeki was alright, and though I'm sure his head was full of cobwebs after the beating he took, Harumafuji had enough sense to recall the Baruto sniffing salts and quickly got back on his feet and climbed atop the dohyo. Kisenosato not only moved to 10-5 with another shukun victory, but he collected a stack of envelopes with cash, and a sweet arrow for winning the kore-yori-sanyaku bout. Harumafuji ends his campaign at 8-7 meaning he's won about 10 total bouts the last two tournaments.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku's basho ended on a downer as he was schooled by M5 Goeido. The Father met the Geeku with a left shoulder right into Kotoshogiku's torso, and then moved to his left getting that arm on the inside of Kotoshogiku's right. As Kotoshogiku tried to square up, Goeido kept moving and easily pulled Kotoshogiku to the dirt leaving both rikishi at 11-4. Kotoshogiku's 11-4 was much more impressive, but how interesting that the Ginosho award winner was totally befuddled today by an M5 rikishi.

Komusubi Tochiohzan and M6 Gagamaru couldn't quite figure out if they wanted to shove or hook up at the belt, so in the midst of this indecision, Tochiohzan's experience in the division showed as he went for the body while Gagamaru went for the head. It's like boxing. Sure, you can perhaps get lucky and go for that killer head shot, but the target's too small, the neck is a swivel, and you leave yourself too exposed in the process. Tochiohzan's focus on the body paid off as he was able to use the inside position to scoop Gagamaru over to the edge and then finish him off with an oshi or two. Oh finishes at 6-9 meaning he will drop from the sanyaku while Gagamaru finishes just 5-10.

Komusubi Kakuryu entered the day with kachi-koshi in hand as he faced 7-7 M4 Homasho, so who can forgive Kakuryu for just fighting with the upper body today? The two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position, but with both Sekiwake returning to the position next basho, Kakuryu was literally fighting for nothing since he'll find himself at Komusubi for March. The result was an easy peasy yori-kiri win for Homasho who picks up kachi-koshi in the process.

M3 Tamawashi used a brilliant left paw to M1 Toyonoshima's throat at the tachi-ai to completely keep Toyonoshima away from the belt, but the problem was Tamawashi wasn't committed to a follow-up oshi charge, so the result was both rikishi using timid slaps to sorta feel each other out and ending up with a meter's separation in the middle of the ring. After a few seconds of flinching and faking, Toyonoshima jumped into moro-zashi, and as he drove Tamawashi back with vigor, he tripped him before the tawara clinching a difficult kachi-koshi in the process after that 1-7 start. Tamawashi finishes at 5-10, but dude fought well at the Hatsu basho.

M1 Aminishiki used his size advantage over M5 Asasekiryu to bully him at the tachi-ai and gain the right inside position. Shneaky wasted no time in using a scoop throw to hurl Asasekiryu to the edge, but he didn't quite finish him off. This gave Asasekiryu time to grab a firm right belt grip, so when Aminishiki grabbed a left outer of his own, the nage-no-uchi-ai was on, and it didn't disappoint. Both rikishi threw with vigor, and there was no wussy in these two today as they were both going to face plant to the dirt. Aminishiki' strength advantage and outer grip prevailed by a hair as Asasekiryu's mage and shoulder hit the dirt a millisecond before Aminishiki crashed to the dohyo himself leading with his grill.

Both rikishi end the tournament at 6-9, but the bigger issue here is when is the last time we saw a nage-no-uchi-ai in sumo? Those new to sumo within the last year probably don't even know the term. Translated directly, the term "nage" means to throw, "uchi" means to pull the trigger, and "ai" means together, or at the same time in this case. The "no" ties it all together, and the result is one of the most beautiful scenes in sumo: two guys with near identical grips sacrificing their bodies at the edge of the ring as they throw each other out. Only pussies put their hands down to break a fall, so in a true nage-no-uchi-ai, you literally sacrifice everything for the win. It goes back to Andreas' opening where he talked about the reasons for the declining number of kyujo rikishi. In the same vein, we just don't see sumo like this anymore because the rikishi just don't want it as badly these days. As Metallica lamented on their Black album, Sad But True.

M2 Tochinoshin and M3 Aran quickly hooked up into the gappuri migi-yotsu position, but it seems that Aran has been shying away from yotsu-zumo the last year, so Shin largely dictated this one standing firm for 10 seconds or so before lifting the Russian clear off his feet and setting him down just instead the straw where he bellied him back that last step for the well executed yori-kiri win. Tochinoshin finishes 4-11 despite his fine sumo today while Aran isn't much better at 5-10.

M2 Yoshikaze was too scrappy for M11 Shimotori using tsuppari to keep Shimotori far away from the belt, and then frustrating him into a pull attempt. Yoshikaze was waiting and easily pushed Shimotori down into a heap just beyond the straw for the yori-taoshi win. Yoshikaze finishes 4-11, which is better than Okinoumi could have done at the same rank in my opinion. Shimotori finishes and ee-gads 2-13.

You gotta love it when they award a guy the Kantosho because of a hot start from say the M13 rank, and then said guy gets paired with an M4 on senshuraku and gets his ass kicked. Twas the case today with Okinoumi who was too high at the charge walking right into a left frontal grip from Tokusegawa. The Mongolian switched to the left inside position and had Okinoumi wrenched up high and off balance to where he easily slapped him down to the dirt after a brief scuffle. Okinoumi finishes 11-4 and was sporting a sweet bloody nose during his Kantosho interview. Tokusegawa finishes a quiet 9-6, and next basho is his coming out as he'll officially fight from the jo'i.

M17 Toyozakura stuck both arms out straight into M6 Kyokutenho's neck, but he didn't even attempt to move his legs as if to try and drive the Chauffeur back. Kyokutenho responded by wrapping both of his arms around the outside of Toyozakura's and forced him back with kime-dashi ease. Kyokutenho still comes up short at 7-8 while Toyozakura at least gets out of the exhibitions with his 5-10 finish that will drop him to Juryo.

M7 Takekaze entered the day at 7-7 needing a win over M15 Toyohibiki. He'd get it with an ugly as hell tachi-ai where he stood straight up and then moved to his left committing on the immediate pull. Tsa good thing Toyohibiki had his head down the whole way (by design?) because if he kept his eye on Takekaze, he coulda sent him 20 meters up the hana-michi. Surprise, surprise, Takekaze gets win number eight. Toyo-Ibiki settles for 9-6.

M16 Tochinonada moved slightly to his left at the tachi-ai, but M7 Tosayutaka caught him square with his shoulder setting up a hidari-yotsu fight where Tosayutaka enjoyed the lower stance not to mention the right outer grip. Nada gave it a good effort, but he couldn't overcome Tosayutaka's superior position, which he gifted to his smaller opponent at the tachi-ai. So after surviving a scoop throw/wrench from Tochinonada with the left arm, Tosayutaka dumped him to the dirt with that outer belt grip. Tachi-ai fellas, tachi-ai. Tochinonada played himself out of a special prize at 9-6 while Tosayutaka comes up at 7-8.

M8 Kitataiki and M12 Mokonami were even steven at the tachi-ai, but a quick pull attempt from Mokonami gave Kitataiki the solid left inside position that would lead to his eventual victory. Parlaying his left inside with a right outer grip, Kitataiki went for an outer belt throw only to be thwarted by an inside leg trip attempt from Mokonami. Kitataiki countered beautifully, though, reversing gears and tripping Mokonami up soto-gake style turning the tables on Mokonami (8-7) and his initial trip attempt. I just love Kitataiki.  I'm also fond of his sumo abilities as he finishes 9-6.

M8 Tokitenku showed what he's made of henka'ing a 3-11 rikishi coming into the bout in M15 Kokkai. Tenku had the Georgian off balance from the start pulling first and then getting so deep to the inside that the yori-kiri win was inevitable. Tokitenku finishes one of the ugliest 6-9 campaigns I've ever seen. As for 3-12 Kokkai, I wanted to speculate on how he'll do in Juryo next basho, but the bigger question now is what did he do to warrant that big square bandage on his right butt cheek?

At 6-8 coming in, M9 Takamisakari played his part by feigning an inside position against M16 Sokokurai at the tachi-ai before immediately going for a half-assed pull. The 7-7 Sokokurai cleaned up from there with the simple oshi-dashi win, which of course earned him his kachi-koshi. Both dudes know how to play the game, and it's unfortunate that Takamisakari suffered make-koshi.

M12 Koryu offered a token stiff arm into M9 Wakanosato's neck and left it there until Wakanosato had firmly obtained the left inside position. From there, the hidari-yotsu contest ensued, which was of course won by Wakanosato who wrenched Koryu this way and that before pulling him down to the dirt via kata-sukashi. What's more surprising...the fact that both of these guys conveniently ended the day at 8-7 or the revelation that Wakanosato actually has a neck?

M10 Miyabiyama has looked awful this basho, and since M14 Kimurayama is, well, awful, the two treated us to an awful sloppy bout of oshi-zumo. There's no use describing the action, so it comes down to this: Kimurayama lives and dies by the henka, and since he didn't henka today, he lost. Both dudes finish 6-9.

M10 Hakuba thought about a henka at the tachi-ai (you could literally see him second guessing himself as he stood up), so in the midst of this indecision, M14 Wakakoyu caught him square in the neck and began pelting him with effective tsuppari mingled with the occasional pull attempt. For Hakuba's part, he just did his best to make sure his feet were aligned the entire bout resulting in an overwhelming oshi-dashi victory for Wakakoyu highlighted by a stupid pull attempt from Henkaba at the edge that earned him a flight into the first row. Wakakoyu finishes at 9-6 while my gut wrenches a bit to see Hakuba's 8-7.

And finally, with M11 Shotenro coming in at 7-7 facing M13 Kotokasuga, who obtained kachi-koshi yesterday, was it any wonder that Momma Cass just stood up at the tachi-ai and played teppo pole to Shotenro's oshi-dashi charge? Props to Shotenro on his hard-fought victory clinching kachi-koshi in the process.

See ya'll in the funny papers otherwise known as my post-basho report.

Day 14 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Well I've got a confession to make. You know of the long break Martin had to take from us and was even pronounced dead by Clancy during the Kyushu basho. It all happened when we made it to Tokyo in Aki. He was overly excited and hyperactive (oddly) from the awfully long flight, it was hot and humid outside, and I for one was feeling terribly sleep deprived (ever tried to sleep in a plane on a intercontinental flight?). We dragged our feet to the hotel that we had booked only to find out that it was about four hours too early for any kind of check-in. "You check-in four clock, you not member of club. Arigato. You check in four clock" and repeated more and more as I think they didn't know any other words in English.

I was fed up and tired, wanted nothing but shower, some food and a bed and now I had to wait another four hours before I could get to any of those. And the worst, in four hours would be the time Makuuchi starts. Martin, however, was overly excited and quickly logged on to the local comp and then declared we'll go eating and then to sumo. After a long deliberation about the bags we left them in the hotel and went for some lunch (it was freaking noon still so the jetlag wasn't helping either). After arguing for a long time about what place to take Martin randomly disappeared. I finally found a place, had some noodles in soya (yuk) and dragged myself back to the hotel. After idling around in the lobby and playing dead for four times one of the reception babes brought me a paper and smilingly showed it to me. It said "We understand, you tired. You check-in three clock". Great! Anyway while I was killing the time Simon showed up, we had a small chat and talked about the mysterious disappearance of Martin, but couldn't care less. So once I got to the room I showered, turned in an turned on NHK to watch sumo only to fall asleep at around Makuuchi dohyo-iri time.

The next morning a lot more refreshed, I went down for breakfast and still couldn't find Martin anywhere. I noticed a post on the forum from him that said he'd met up with Kitazakura the previous day and would be going to morning keiko to the heya, so I assumed he was there. However it turned out to be much much worse. When he finally showed up three days later he had a different shine in his eyes and he kept chuckling at random inappropriate moments. He also somehow never could find his metro ticket, but that might have been just his odd self. I was a bit worried, but as there was sumo on I quickly forgot about it except for the odd moments when he turned away and was quickly browsing through something I thought was his notebook or smth. While flying back I did get a peek at the notebook that he had and was surprised of it to be the One book. As far as I knew he was an atheist so I was surprised, but didn't have much time to ask as I was about to start watching "Like knight and day" on the in-flight entertainment system. Back in Europe Martin quickly left and that's almost the last I heard of him. We had all declared him dead and I really started to worry that I should have paid more attention to all the signs and that odd three day disappearance, but I think he's gone the bad way and joined some odd sect worshipping secret parts of the bible.

The reason I brought this all up was his link in yesterday's report. I know he claimed to still be an atheist, but that's probably a front he has to continue using, but that youtube link was probably some hidden message to all the contacts he made in this cult during his three day indoctrination trip somewhere in Roppongi or who knows where. Oh and he was adamant on swapping from his usual day fourteen routine to the magical Friday before the end of the basho. It's only now that I have read his report, seen the link and put together all the connections that I finally understood that it was Friday the 13th basho day that he was after!!! I mean for gods sake, look at the photo of us sumotalkers meeting for a beer in Shibuya. Well in any case you've been warned so let's go on to the sumo action.

Sakaizawa was oddly shown the door to Makuuchi today even though he's J3 and hasn't even gotten his KK yet. It seems Kimurayama thought badly about this as well as he turned Sakaizawa around and showed him back the door to Juryo.

Toyohibiki has been banging around like a guy fresh out of highschool even against guys he's had a badly lopsided record. His sumo looks again like it did before his retina decided to take a vacation and what had him all the way up amongst the jo'i. Koryu is a new lower M regular so one wouldn't hope for much from him and the majority of the bout was Koryu just taking the love and trying to keep himself inside the ring until just before the end he managed to shove Hibiki's paw to the side and mounted an attack himself getting Hibiki off his balance and over tawara. A surprise KK that stopped Hibiki's five bout winning streak.

Eleven days later and Kokkai is an expected 3-10 though I was surprised he won as many. Mokonami has looked average throughout and has a 7-6 record to show. From the charge the two locked into a yotsu battle that kept on going with neither guy really able to mount a charge. Having previous experience with Moe's long bouts I went and made myself some sandwiches and a cup of coffee and just as I was licking off the crumbs, Kokkai decided to go for a throw relinquishing the grip on his left arm, stepping back and hoping only to be read nicely by Moe who quickly gained moro-zashi and had Kokkai back and out. Kokkai is taking a jump to Juryo without a parachute and hopefully I won't have to comment on his bouts no more.

The fun fact here is that both Koryu and Moe reported walking down the hana-michi that they'll be going to plan their wedding receptions now that they have their KK. I have a suspicion it might only be one planning...

Wakakoyu charged hard raising Shotenro up and quickly jammed in the reverse pulling big shot down to the clay. This seems to be the norm for Shotenro this basho as Wakakoyu gets his KK and Big shot joins the 7-7 backscratch club.

The surprise next is that a fifth bout in Makuuchi slate features a Juryo guy. But then again you look who he's facing and you'll know you're watching an all Juryo bout here. Shimotori was ok to take up a tsuppari battle with Takayasu, but he'll regret it now as after a good 20s of face and neck slapping it was Shimotori who found himself attacking thin air and going for a somersault. Takayasu has his KK and probably needs one more for Makuuchi promotion while Shimotori at 2-12 is joining Kokkai in the elevator.

Miyabiyama is a disappointment. I guess it's time for him to hang it up when he gets to 4-9 from M10. Today the association gave him charity in Toyozakura though can't be sure it's that much charity these days as Kura has woken up in week two and actually started winning. Fatman decided to go slow this time (I mean real slow, slower than he usually is) essentially standing up in a stance that said "You only try motherfucker, just try". Toyozakura tried a few shoves, lost his balance, tried again and got shoved to the clay. This is an outcome as it should be, but ugly nevertheless.

Takamisakari has nicely lived up to his clown title even forcing the association to start considering an ass-swing-flyout kimari-te. Kotokasuga charged hard raising Robo up and quickly gaining moro-zashi from which it took exactly 1.27s for him to escort Takamisakari back and out. Both got a koshi.

Kitataiki was matched up against the Chinese Mongolian or Mongolian Chinese for the first time. Kitataiki kept on adjusting his knee bandage and doing false starts. When they finally got going it was a hidari battle that's not a favorite of Sokokurai and after a moments pause Kitataiki cemented it with a decent right hand outside and quickly deposited the Chinese erm Mongolian erm whoever outside the strawbale. Sokokurai is now doing a fine balancing act of being M16 and going to the final day with 7-7.

Next up we have the other M16, but he's in no danger of demotion as he's one of the wily veterans who kept us all having a hardon the first week and is now a decent 9-4. Takekaze has had a so-so basho where he did look great the first week, but not so much the second week. Takekaze deflected Tochinonada straight off the start and quickly followed up the attack from the side having nada back and out before he could even say WTF. Takekaze joins the BS club.

Henkuba from M10 has gotten a whole whopping seven wins, some by henka, some by decent sumo, and Tosayutaka has pretty much a similar record except that I somehow have a feeling that he's done decent the past two weeks no matter that I can't recall any individual bouts. Odd… Henkuba did his usual and slid to the side, but wasn't able to quickly finish off Yutaka. Both assumed hidari yotsu position, but without letting the bout go on for too long Henkuba went maki-kae gaining moro-zashi and just as it looked he'd pulled it at a wrong time as Yutaka charged him towards the straw he pulled a nice shitate-nage throw sending Tosayutaka down. A henka as a start, but a decent finish.

I kinda feel sorry for Wakanosato, he went a nice 7-1 only to follow it all the way down to 7-6 today. Might be related to hearing about Mark in prison though so stop writing shit Mark erm with shit! Today it's a veterans meeting as the two met first time in 1999. Wakanosato charged hard, but forgot which hand he wanted on the inside going with the wrong one. Tenho locked Waka's inner arm and slowly forced the bout to the straw where Wakanosato mis-balanced and whiffed up sand. But in any case Wakanosato didn't look to have the power to move Kyokutenho back from the good stance he had initially. Another BS club member from this bout.

Now that everyone's taking a deserved break I was contemplating about the attraction to sumo these days and it's difficult to find. I mean the first week we had something of a veterans wake up week and something to look forward, Okinoumi has provided a small sideline track with good sumo and a good record, but overall the banzuke was decently put together this basho and this has lead to quite a slow basho with not much to look forward to. So if everything settles down to a regular work it might get awfully boring again unless someone can finally step up and keep beating Hakuho and keeping his basho overall as well in check (neither Baruto nor Kisenosato satisfy that condition on both accounts yet).

Guido and Tokitenku neither wanted the other to touch the mawashi (maybe it was exactly at the squeeze level that gave them tickles?) so they decided to do some small slapping and mostly keeping each other just at arms length. Goeido tried a pull first without effect, then Tokitenku tried it too, but there was an effect, namely Goeido charging and even a second pulling attempt from Tenku wasn't enough to avoid losing the bout. Nothing really interesting here. Goeido gets to double digits while Tokitenku might get double digit losses (though he'll be given Kokkai so unlikely).

Two Georgians now, both with losing records both not giving anything memorable from this basho except that they sucked. Their sole opportunity for something memorable was today end they whiffed on it… Gagamaru charged hard and got Shin backwards, but also gave him moro-zashi so shin had enough to keep Gaga in check. After a few moments pause Shin dumped Gaga down into a heap of wobbling fat. Yuck. The only thing that made me smile was Murray yelling "Wow, he's on a two match winning streak" about Shin.

The bout between Asasekiryu and Yoshikaze is best described as a grappling battle for opponents arms with lots of moving around and no mawashi involved. That is until the end when Asasekiryu forgot himself for a moment and had his arms high allowing Yoshikaze to charge in to moro-zashi and have Sexy back and out in a flash.

Toyonoshima has won five in row to keep the make-koshi at bay. The make koshi he should already have had all gone normal on day one. Today however he had a tough nut to crack as Tokusegawa knows his sumo and has been showing good results all around for a few basho already. The master of evasions title I think should be transferred from Takamisakari to Toyonoshima as today he was utterly manhandled by Tokusegawa going for the pushout only to forget that Toyo can be quite slippery if he wants to. Toyonoshima put on his ballerina shoes and danced on the tawara with a graceful pose while Tokusegawa was heard muttering "Oh no, not again".

Aran charged good and tried lots of things, but Aminishiki kept him center, turned him and shoved him and had him in manlove stance where he ran him towards the straw where Aran tried to turn around and stumbled on his own feet falling back first from the top of the dohyo all the way down to first row. OUCH. That just had to hurt as he fell a good 60-70 cm and landed flat on his back. But he did get up, did the bow and left… Both suck at 5-9.

Tochiohzan looked good in the first few days, then went on to a streak of sucktitude to end up facing Homasho today at 4-9 while Homey's looking for his KK. Homasho has had a good basho almost winning against Hakuho and then downing an Ozeki the next day. Today Ohzan showed good sumo again taking the initiative at the tachi-ai keeping his arms close and forcing Homasho back and out. One thing I like about Homey is his bow no matter if he wins or loses. But it's interesting to remember that Homey and Baruto got their first promotion to Makuuchi on the same basho and were ranked on the same line (Homey east, Baruto west). Then Bart had his knee fiasco with multiple basho and yushos in Juryo and is now an Ozeki while Homey's not even broken to Sanyaku once. Oh and the newcomer of the year award by the association went to Homey that year… I remember this because this was the first time I took the time to write Mike about what I thouth about the whole thing and he answered sharing the belief of the idiocy of that and from there on the relationship began...

Tamawashi threw Kakuryu away from himself with powerful thrusts three times, but on the third attempt Kakuryu slid and shoved and Tamawashi was on the clay. Kakuryu gets his KK and the sole upgrade he'll get is from west to east no matter if he wins tomorrow for both Sekiwake are already KK.

The first match of the day that was advertised throughout the day in parallel to Hakuho vs. Baruto bout is the next one between Kisenosato and Okinoumi. It's their first meeting as Okinoumi is a newcomer to the top division, he's shown good sumo throughout the basho and on previous basho. His own comments from the hana-michi were that he'd need to gain moro-zashi to have a shot at this. Oki got fifty percent of what he wanted as he got a left hand inside grip, but was denied the right. The two took it safe from there, but Oki had no gameplan beyond moro-zashi so it was all Kisenosato securing his grip and wrestling Okidoki out.

So to not have the Yusho decided on day 14 we'd now need Baruto to beat the Yokozuna, but before we need to cover a few other bouts of low importance. Well ok, the Kotoshogiku vs. Harumafuji one isn't low importance as Kotoshogiku's 10 wins so far are for sure a start to an Ozeki run, and his previous history with hairy one makes it even more interesting. And Kotoshogiku didn't disappoint by having Harumafuji moving only backwards and winning the bout in a mere 2 seconds. Harry was an idiot to try a slap to the face as Giku isn't Hak who gets out of balance by a simple face slap… Kotoshogiku faces Goeido tomorrow for a possible 12th win, but in any case he's now on a preliminary Ozeki run as 11 wins form Sekiwake will get you on one even though it's the first of three basho to keep an eye on him and he's yet to get three consecutive KK in Sanyaku.

Next up the grand farce of Kotooshu vs. Kaio, but luckily today they both had KK so … and at this point I watch the bout. Oshu came in low, Kaio shifted and grabbed the arm and went for a kote nage throw. I guess Osh deserved that as there was no need for yaocho today and the Bear can still sidestep. Oh well, that'll at least give Bart a shot at O1E tomorrow. Who ever wins will be O1E as all Ozeki except Harry are 9-5 after today (right, there's still Hak vs. Bart …) and Kaio loses tomorrow.

And the musubi-no-ichiban. Baruto vs. Hakuho. I'd love to see Baruto winning this, but unless he starts with the lightning tachi-ai and keeps the bout going he won't, and that's something he has to learn to overcome. Of course he's claimed to have re-injured his knee slightly so I'd not put too much hopes in here. But ok, enough of rambling about the bout before it's even began, let's see what the two have planned for today. The two locked into migi-yotsu (no matter that Bart had claimed he wants to go for hidari). And the bout looked to actually favor Baruto as he seemed to have a decent right hand grip while the Yokozuna only had one fold of the mawashi and that looked to be loose. After a heartbreaking minute of mostly waiting and some attempts by both, Hakuho finally decided he doesn't get a better belt grip so instead he let go with his right arm, lifted it to Bart's armpit and went for a beltless throw that fell the big Bartholomeus in a move that looked like Bart weighed only 20kg. Bart had his shot today as he had a better grip and kept the Yokozuna at bay, but slowing the bout down and waiting isn't gonna cut it. Ok, I'll give him credit for a few attempts as he tried to go maki-kae, but was blocked and during one of Hak's charges tried to use his left arm for a kubi-nage, but the balance was off. In any case with the win Hakuho takes the Yusho for 6th time in row equaling the great Taiho and only needs March tourney to equal the great Yokozuna Asashoryu.

It'll be Mike who'll have to really think up some good stuff for tomorrow for there is close to zip left to talk about for this basho, so I hope he at least can give a few points and takers about the cult member situation...

Day 13 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
With ticket sales at an all time low and Hakuho winning yusho after yusho, can you blame us for not giving much of a damn anymore? I mean, this is pretty evident when you compare the average report length now with that, say, 2 years ago (thanks for trying, Andreas, but one swallow does not a summer make...). There's nothing more I could say about the current state of affairs that hasn't already been beaten to death by my Sumotalk seniors, so I'll just slowly crawl on to the day's action.

Koryu and Wakakoyu went at it like a couple of kangaroos in heat pummeling their heads off over some bunch of females, until Koryu had enough of it and remembered he knew actual sumo at some point, lowering his stance, wrapping up his fat foe and driving him out from the rear. But the most entertaining part of the fight was Clyde Newton and his pronunciation of "Wakakoryu". Dude, repeat after me... Wa-ka-KOO-YUU.

11-2 Okinoumi was surprisingly fast at the tachi-ai, immediately wrapping up slippery Hakuba and getting a very solid right uwate, which he tried to use to deploy a throw. Henkuba managed to wriggle his way out of it, but turned his back to Okinoumi in the process and was promptly accompanied to his 6th loss. Okidoki stays on the theoretical leader board but will be fed to Kisenosato tomorrow and perhaps Kotoshogiku or Kakuryu on day 15, so expect Hakuho to win by a margin again. Oh, sorry, did I spoil it for you?

Don't look now, but the Fatman is in danger of falling to Juryo again... this time the old-fashioned, losing way. (Barely) standing at 4-9 after today's encounter with Mokonami, M10 Miyabiyama will have to win at least one more if he wants to keep his Makuuchi paycheck. Anyway, Okonomiyaki (7-6) easily withstood his flabby foe's toothless tsuppari and got a strong uwate and eventually finished it off with a throw after a rather boring stalemate. I'm not saying the writing's on the wall for Miyabiyama or anything, but I can't really remember when he last looked so bad.

No idea what Wakanosato (7-6) was trying to do charging so high against Toyohibiki (9-4), but the certain thing is he was steamrolled out of the dohyo in less than two seconds by Dejima's heir apparent. Both men ride losing and respectively winning streaks of 5 bouts.

Takamisakari looked like he was getting blasted right out of the dohyo by the more massive Kimurayama, but he recovered at the very last moment at the edge and slipped to his right, getting behind his less skilled foe and making him look bad. Kimura falls to make-koshi, but the Clown needs 2 wins in the last 2 days to escape a similar fate.

The Toyozakura-Tokitenku bout was conspicuously absent from the recording I'm using, but Toyozakura winning by oshi-dashi is a pretty damn good indication of how bad Tenku is these days. Both men share a make-koshi.

Tochinonada and Kitataiki reversed roles as junior and senior when Nada's tachi-ai was exactly nada, standing up like a gaijin from amasumo and getting hit hard and low by the charging man from Kitanoumi. Needless to say it was over in a matter of (very few) seconds. GG falls to 9-4 and can't be off the leader board soon enough. Mike's ex-mancrush rises over the .5 mark with the tsuki-dashi win.

I'd say these days that weight is pretty overrated in sumo, as the truly spectacular bouts usually involve lighter, faster and more agile guys. Today was a clear example of this, when Sokokurai and Tosayutaka fought for superior position, each with his own weapons. Tosayutaka charged low and fished for the left mae-mitsu and looked like he made his way into moro-zashi, but the man from Mongolia's enclave in China used his superior arm length to wrap up one of Tosayucroco's short limbs and attempt a kote-nage. Tosayutaka fought it off, though, and wormed his way back into a very deep double inside grip on the back of his foe's mawashi. He then stepped forward, got his body under his opponent's and hoisted him clean off the dohyo, walking a few feet and safely depositing him outside. Yutaka keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive, while Sokokurai falls to 7-6.

As bad as Miyabiyama might look this time around, Kokkai is even worse. You KNOW you have to rethink a few things when Takekaze of all people beats you soundly by an uwate-nage with amplitude after a very shallow uwate obtained after the tachi-ai. Kokkai sinks to 3-10 and will be recuperating in Juryo come Haru, while the fat Kaze could still get 8.

It looks like we're finally getting some fresh blood in Makuuchi, as Tochinowaka and Kaisei from Juryo got enough wins to be promoted. With slugs like Kokkai and the Fatman stinking up the division, you can't bring the new guys in soon enough. Back to the action, though, Shotenro used a powerful (and also slightly early) tachi-ai to halt Gagamaru's momentum and then immediately switch to reverse and pull him down by the back of the head in painful looking fashion. Big Shot improves to 7-6 while his fatter opponent makes his make-koshi official.

In what was a surprising first meeting of two veterans over 33 years old, Kyokutenho charged carelessly and allowed the smaller and lighter Kotokasuga to get moro-zashi. Yori-kiri was the official kimari-te in just a few seconds, but maybe more importantly, Tenho records make-koshi from a relatively low banzuke position. Bring up more young guys from Juryo, I say. Takayasu and Takarafuji can't get up here soon enough (yes, I know, I'm repeating myself).

Asasekiryu looked sexy for a change against yet another guy who can't get out of Makuuchi soon enough. Shimotori could not get any kind of uwate, so it was only a matter of time until Asa's ex-secretary finished it off by yori-kiri. Moo falls to 2-11 with the loss, while Asasekiryu improved to 7-6.

Goeido went 8-1 after his terrible 1-3 start and now looks like a serious candidate for sanyaku. But he definitely needs to improve some aspects of his sumo, as his last two wins were quite similar in luck and manner. It's good that he has the balance to stay in the air until a fraction of a second after his foe touches the outside of the dohyo, but it's conversely bad to get into that situation in the first place. Anyway, the loss sends Aminishiki to an abysmal 4-9.

It's kind of a pleasure to see Toyonoshima thrive against big and unskilled Europeans with sound technique and execution, despite obvious physical disadvantages. Against Aran today he charged right into moro-zashi, but as Aran is a big, strong bastard, Toyonoshima was careful not to overcommit. That way, as the Thug deployed the expected kote-nage, Toyonoshima was able to wrap his leg from the outside and quickly send him towards the tawara and over to his deserved 8th loss. Toyonoshima (6-7) stays in the theoretical sanyaku race, but will need to win his last two.

It dawned on me that I might have underestimated another Mongol in Tokusegawa (now when has THAT happened before?). The tall Mongol got his kachi-koshi today against Kakuryu (ironically), after getting the very, very slightly better position at the tachi-ai and settling into hidari-yotsu with his more experienced foe. There's no shame for the Kak in the yori-kiri loss, though, and he's gonna get a few more chances at getting his own 8.

Tamawashi was unsurprisingly sent to his make-koshi today by the ailing Tochiohzan. Despite that, it was refreshing to see the Mawashi expose Kaio for the slow and weak disgrace he's become a few days ago. Oh jumped the gun a bit, but got away with it, and simply kind of deflected his Mongolian foe's charge, getting behind him and escorting him out easily. Tochiohzan "improves" to 4-9.

Kotoshogiku soared to 10-3, thoroughly dismantling Homasho (now 7-6) after a hard and well-placed hit at the tachi-ai, and despite letting his retreating foe get both arms inside. The Geek stays in the theoretical yusho race, but Hakuho would have to be hit by a falling meteor for him to have a realistic chance.

I've just realized I missed the Tochinoshin-Yoshikaze bout (no fault of mine, though), but it's enough to say that both guys sport shiny 2-11 records after their affair today. Ouch.

In the next one, Baruto demolished Kisenosato after a lively moro-te tachi-ai. Despite getting a shallow moro-zashi, the Kid was unable to capitalize on it with a sukui-nage, as Baruto had already got a deadly right uwate. Bart improves to 9-4 with the uwate-nage win, while Kisenosato falls to 8-5. I guess he's gonna have to get consolation with the Shukunsho.

The next Ozeki bout was as much a dud as we were expecting, with Kaio slipping on his own after getting driven back from the tachi-ai by the younger and more "motivated" Harumafuji (now at *cough, cough* 8-5). Even Clyde Newton could be heard remarking that the way Kaio (now 8-5 as well, *cough, cough*) fell made no sense. Oh, it made sense, Clyde, it did.

As usual, Kotooshu fought the good fight against Hakuho, but only until the Yokozuna shook his hips and got the left uwate, after which it was akin to a no-show. I'm very sorry, but there really isn't much more to say about it. Well, ok, maybe it's worth mentioning that this time Kotooshu was actually yori-kiri'ed, which indicates he's not even trying anymore. The Bulgarian falls to a lackluster 9-4, while Hakuho stays on course with 12-1.

Alright, with the bouts out of the way, let me give my monthly speculation about the prizes. Shukunsho - Kisenosato. He definitely deserves it for kicking Hak's ass, yaocho or not (if it WAS yaocho, at least they tried to make it look good). Kantosho - Okinoumi. He was a breath of fresh air, now wasn't he. Ginosho - Kotoshogiku, the gaburi-yori fiend. With enough wins (read 12), he might also get the Kantosho. And start an Ozeki run.

M. Kadastik, PhD, is slated to comment on Baruto's victory over Hakuho tomorrow (you read it here first... yaawn), and I'll see you in Haru. Oh, before I go... I don't understand why Mike would want *me*, an evil atheist, to spread the good word, especially when his people have all the answers. I'll bet they can't sing like these guys, though.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
We have a dude who diligently contributes reports for us in Swedish named Stefan Häger. I've never met Stefan, but we both work in the same field, and we are both of course die-hard sumo fans. I get the sense that we are also both pressed for time since our conversation is limited to one or two lines in an email as Stefan sends me his reports, and as I sometimes reply back to him. From our brief dialogs, I think it's safe to say that Stefan is more of an optimist when it comes to sumo, and I am more cynical, so after day 11 when Stefan sent me his report as usual, I was a bit surprised that his one-line message to me simply read, "I wonder if Hakuho lost on purpose to create a little excitement and improve ticket sales?"

My reply to Stefan was that Clancy and I had a conversation after the day 11 bouts focusing on the exact same topic. NHK seemed pressed for time after the day 11 broadcast, so they didn't show replays of the bout, but during the intro today, they replayed the bout multiple times at different speeds and from different angles, and there's no doubt in this sumo expert's mind that Hakuho stood there like a punching bag, refused twice to grab an open belt, and surrendered to Kisenosato for the reasons Stefan speculated about in his question to me.

First, true to form, Kisenosato's tachi-ai was average and he completely left himself exposed on his left side. The pic at right shows Hakuho's right hand in perfect position to grab the inside grip he ALWAYS gets from the tachi-ai, but the Yokozuna refrained opting to bring his right arm up near Kisenosato's throat with the elbow extended outward (a move we have never seen before from Hakuho). Furthermore, look at Kisenosato's feet...they are perfectly aligned, which is the worst possible position in sumo. Don't think for an instant that Hakuho couldn't have taken full advantage of the Sekiwake. All of this resulted in a Kisenosato left ottsuke that sent Hakuho away from the camera and a bit off balance, but as the two rikishi instinctively looked to hook back up, this time Hakuho got his left arm well into the inside of Kisenosato's left side (pic at left), but he didn't go for the belt at all; rather, he opted to back out of the yotsu-zumo position and go for a few meager pulldowns that completely set him up at the edge of the ring, so uncharacteristic of the Hakuho who was 73-1 coming into the match.

Sumotalk was derived from emails between Kenji and myself where we picked out interesting points throughout the basho and commented on things we really liked and also on things we didn't like so much. I couldn't care less that Hakuho let Kisenosato win on day 11; I'm just calling things as I see them. The Sumo Association announced the morning of day 10 that the previous day saw the fewest tickets ever sold for a day of sumo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan since it opened its doors exactly 25 years ago. That broke the record set the week before on day 3. The Association would come back and revise that day 9 number, but the point is, Sumo is reeling, even in Tokyo. Something had to be done, so after Hakuho had separated himself by two full bouts at the end of day 10, he did something about it and allowed the pack to catch back up. Course, Kotooshu and Baruto would require just one day to screw everything back up, but hey, we still have Okinoumi!

I would offer up the left nut of one of my fellow contributors to know if Hakuho was asked to lose to Kisenosato, or if he did it on his own volition. I'll never get that answer, and I probably don't want to know the real truth.

What I do know is exactly how the day 12 bouts unfolded, so let's get right to it.

M13 Kotokasuga stayed low and hit M16 Tochinonada as hard as I've ever seen the Momma strike from the tachi-ai leaving Tochino nada chance to get an arm on the inside as Kotokasuga had the Gentle Giant shoved back and out for the wham, bam, thank-you ma'am win. At 9-3, Tochinonada will still be added as a token contender on NHK's leaderboard, but he's now just in the running for a special prize. Momma Cass evens things out at 6-6.

M15 Toyohibiki has begun to employ that useless tachi-ai again where he starts a half meter or so behind the starting lines. I guarantee you that position had nothing to do with his catching M12 Mokonami by the neck with both hands and shoving him out of the ring in a flash. In my opinion, you leave too much room in between you and your opponent, you leave too much room for error. Regardless, Toyohibiki is happy with his 8-4 while Moe's still got some work cut out for him at 6-6.

M16 Sokokurai used a nasty tachi-ai henka to his left against M11 Shotenro, and while it seemed the action came to a standstill in the ring as both rikishi were left separated for a spell, Shotenro was in no position to put up a fight as Sokokurai lurched into moro-zashi and picked up the quick and dirty win from there. I think the inferior rikishi won here as Sokokurai oils his way to 7-5 while Shotenro falls to 6-6 after dropping his third straight.

And speaking of bad tachi-ai, congratulations to M14 Kimurayama and M10 Hakuba for exhibiting the worst tachi-ai of the basho. Both expected the other to henka (how could they not?), so the result was an amateur sumo tachi-ai where both guys just stood straight up. Hakuba offered a lame right stiff-arm into Kimurayama's throat, which would have gotten his ass kicked against any other rikishi, but Kimurayama was a deer in the headlights shocked by the fact that Hakuba didn't henka. As Kimurayama came to, he offered a tentative right arm towards his foe, but Hakuba just yanked it to the side and assumed the hidari-yotsu position. Kim's feet were aligned so perfectly throughout the match that even Isaac Newton took note from the grave, so the force-out charge from Hakuba (7-5) was as swift and easy as they come dropping Kimurayama to 5-7.

Not wanting to break the streak of bad tachi-ai, M17 Toyozakura henka'd to his right against M9 Takamisakari, but since the Robocop isn't known for hard tachi-ai himself, he easily survived. Toyozakura showed that he has absolutely no substance to his sumo unable to capitalize on the henka and never once sending Takamisakari close to the ropes. In this whole ugly process of hide and seek, Toyozakura managed to actually get behind Takamisakari, but Takamisakari clearly thought if I'm going to take it up the arse, it's at least going to be from a rikishi with game, so as Toyozakura went for that first thrust from behind, Takamisakari slipped to the side and backhanded Toyozakura to the dirt for the ushiro-motare win. Takamisakari keeps kachi-koshi hopes alive at 5-7 while Toyozakura can't exit stage Juryo fast enough at 4-8.

Finally, a solid tachi-ai that saw M13 Okinoumi gain the solid left inside position against M8 Kitataiki, but Kitataiki struck first in this one using a left scoop throw attempt that set up a right outer grip, but Okinoumi superbly shook it off not by going for a right inside counter throw at the edge but instead shifting out of the uwate to his right and shoving Kitataiki down to the dirt in the process. I wasn't too high on Okinoumi coming into the basho, but no question the dude is hot. His sumo has also been fantastic, and he showed us a fine element of counter sumo today as he moves to 10-2. Kitataiki falls to 6-6.

Up next was my favorite moment of the entire tournament. M8 Tokitenku jumped the gun at the tachi-ai against M14 Wakakoyu, and instead of putting his arms into his opponent to halt is momentum after the false start, he unleashed a wicked left hari-te that connected squarely into Wakakoyu's face. The move was so uncouth that even Mainoumi declared with disgust in his voice, "that was completely uncalled for." Wakakoyu stared Tokitenku down for a few seconds as he should have, and then as the two reloaded, Wakakoyu jumped as soon as Tokitenku got down in his crouch and purposefully pushed Tokitenku by both shoulders so hard that Tenku nearly rolled off the dohyo behind him.

This was retaliation at its best, and it's exactly the kind of badass behavior sumo needs to appeal to the younger generation yet lacks because somewhere is this old-fashioned notion that these fierce warriors have to exhibit manners in a combat sport akin to girls dressed in their Sunday best. Both rikishi were so worked up at this point that they committed a few more false starts.

Anyway, as the two finally got it right, it was no surprise that Tokitenku henka'd to his right in an effort to show Wakakoyu who's boss, but my man Waka read it perfectly and caught Tenku solidly with an extended left paw sending him near the ropes where a few more tsuppari and a right forearm to the gut sent the hapless Mongolian across the straw for good. I can't remember when I've ever rooted harder for a rikishi to just kick his opponent's ass, and thankfully the sumo gods smiled down upon Wakakoyu (7-5) today. Tokitenku falls to 5-7.

Sadly, after the day's bouts, Takanohana, who was sitting in the head judges chair for this bout, called both rikishi into the judges room and reprimanded them for their behavior. I know self-proclaimed sumo purists (i.e. gaijin nerds) will scoff at my derision of this move, but sumo in its current state is going to shrivel up and die. The Association has got to get over itself and stop declawing the product on the dohyo and start appealing to fans who won't be dead in 10 years. Now, if they could only come up with something cute; something akin to stuffed animals like red and yellow birds for example. They could even put them in the booth with the announcers and post pictures of the yellow on one on their website!  The more I think about it, that just might do the trick.

M12 Koryu came out with a wild tsuppari attack against M7 Tosayutaka that did drive Yutaka back, but Koryu's feet slipping this way and that during the offensive showed just how little the impact was. Tosayutaka easily survived and waited patiently for an opening to the inside threatening a few counter pulls along the way. This nonsense continued for about 8 seconds before Tosayutaka (5-7) finally got to the inside and bulldozed Koryu (6-6) back and out.

Why M15 Kokkai would settle for a gappuri hidari-yotsu contest against M6 Kyokutenho I'll never know, but that's what we got from the tachi-ai. There's absolutely no way that Kokkai can win that battle, and it showed as Kyokutenho danced to a 5-7 record while Kokkai sealed his Juryo fate at 3-9.

M11 Shimotori stood directly in front of M6 Gagamaru, which was a huge mistake as Gagamaru used a left paw pushing into Shimotori's right teet and a right inside to keep Shimotori in close as he bodied him--and I mean bodied--over to the side and out. Gagamaru still has hope at 5-7 while Shimotori is hapless at 2-10.

M5 Goeido secured the left inside grip and a right frontal that was so deep against M9 Wakanosato it was nigh unto moro-zashi. At this point, Wakanosato could feel the prongs of the fork start to penetrate, so he backed up and pulled with some urgency, but Goeido's forward momentum was too potent, and he managed to force Wakanosato to step out before he himself crashed to the dirt. Was very close, but Goeido was the clear victor here as he picks up kachi-koshi at 8-4. Wakanosato has fallen and can't get up at 7-5 after that nifty 7-1 start.

M10 Miyabiyama has become as useless as a compact disc, and it showed again today as he lamely threw tsuppari at M5 Asasekiryu, but the shoves had zero effect. Sexy quickly used a right scoop throw to heave the Sheriff near the edge, and while Miyabiyama survived with a left outer grip and right paw pushing Sexy away by the face, Asasekiryu backed out of that attempt and just dragged the Hutt down by the belt with a right dashi-nage throw. Asasekiryu (4-8) was so brilliant in this one, let's revisit the pic that earned him the title of Secretary. Miyabiyama falls to 5-7, and I don't know how he hasn't lost his eight yet.

M7 Takekaze struck M4 Homasho at the tachi-ai, and then immediately moved to the side in order to steal the cheap kata-sukashi win, but Homasho managed a left hand on the inside, and that was all he needed as solid footwork kept him in the bout to the point were he was able to dictate the pace sending Takekaze clear off the dohyo with a solid yori-kiri effort. Homasho's been one of my favorite rikishi to watch this basho as he moves to 7-5. Takekaze falls to 5-7.

What the hell is going on back home in Georgia anyway to make Kokkai and M2 Tochinoshin suck so bad? Somebody better tell these guys that's exactly where they're headed back to if they don't get their asses in gear. Today, M1 Toyonoshima used a low tachi-ai to keep Tochinoshin away from the belt before pulling a confused Shin down to the clay two seconds in. Toyonoshima overcomes a horrific start to stand at 5-7, while Tochinoshin is content to add a horrific finish to his horrific start at 1-11.

M1 Aminishiki was so high at the tachi-ai that even the crowd at the Phish concert was in awe. It allowed M4 Tokusegawa to get his left on the inside and bulldoze Shneaky into the first row not to mention a make-koshi at 4-8. Tokusegawa keeps the pace at 7-5.

M3 Aran used a stiff arm at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochiohzan that was quickly erased as the Komusubi forced the action to migi-yotsu where Oh eventually got the left outer grip. After a bit of jockeying, Aran went for a failed maki-kae attempt that redefined the term "slow," and Oh took advantage immediately driving the Russian back and down for the yori-taoshi win. Or so he thought. In the process, Aran was able to evade just enough at the edge and twist Tochiohzan's knee to the dirt via a sweet left kote-nage an instant before the Russian touched down himself. The gunbai went in favor of Tochiohzan, but props to the men in black for calling a mono-ii here. Replays showed that Aran was indeed the winner in as fine a display of counter sumo we've seen since...well, since Okinoumi's bout 45 minutes earlier. Aran stays alive at 5-7 while Tochiohzan had such a sour look on his face walking back to the hana-michi, I think the 3-9 rikishi did indeed Oh Snap in the shitaku-beya.

The tachi-ai between Sekiwake Kisenosato and M3 Tamawashi was extremely awkward that saw the Kid looking for the left inside position while Tamawashi slapped at Kisenosato's neck. Kisenosato finally managed to turn The Mawashi to the side with the swipe of his left hand, and from there he shoved Tamawashi to the clay with relative ease. Kisenosato picks up his eigth win in the process, which also guarantees him a Shukunsho. Tamawashi has quietly hung in there at 5-7.

M2 Yoshikaze went for Sekiwake Kotoshogiku's neck at the tachi-ai, but the Geeku brushed that off like an annoying flea and seized the left inside position. From there, the Sekiwake ramped up into gaburi-drive meaning it was curtains for Yoshikaze, who gets beaten down to 2-10. Kotoshogiku, who flirted with the right the right outer but didn't need it in the yori-kiri win, rockets to 9-3 and will assuredly take the Ginosho.

Komusubi Kakuryu executed a solid tachi-ai and secured the deep left position against Ozeki Kotooshu. Kotooshu countered with the right outer grip and looked to dig in, but the Kak was applying the pressure upwards keeping the Ozeki way too high. Just when you wondered how Kakuryu would get out of this gappuri yotsu jam, he struck quickly committing on a left inside throw, and his position gained from the tachi-ai was so superior that he threw Kotooshu to the dohyo in extraordinary fashion saddling the Ozeki with a costly third loss. The difference here was the Kak getting in so deep at the tachi-ai that Kotooshu's tsuke-bito was seen slipping into a local drugstore to buy a home pregnancy test on their way back to the stable. Kakuryu skates to 7-5 with his best win of the basho and will surely find a way to pick up number eight while Kotooshu gets knocked out of the yusho race yet again at 9-3.

In our Ozeki duel of the day, Baruto came with a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai shoving both hands into Kaio's throat, but the crafty veteran swiped Bart's arm away turning him to the side just enough to where Kaio got his left arm deep on the inside of the Estonian immediately bodying him over to the edge. With Baruto upright and tiptoeing the tawara, Kaio took a page from Kotoshogiku's book and gaburi'ed Baruto back and off the dohyo for his kachi-koshi. And the strange thing is--or should I say the sad thing is, I don't believe this bout was fixed. Baruto finishes the day at 8-4 along with Kaio.

Which brings us to our conclusion featuring Ozeki Harumafuji who jumped forward and managed a stiff right paw into Hakuho's neck that completely stood the grizzly bear upright at the tachi-ai. It's one thing to get Hakuho upright; driving him back is another problem, and the Ozeki was unable to do it. Hakuho easily recovered and used tsuppari of his own to methodically drive Harumafuji back. Harumafuji first dodged to his left and then to his right looking for a cheap outer grip, but in the process his feet just slipped out from under him leading to as awkward a finish for a Yokozuna bout as you'll ever see. Tsuki-hiza was the correct call, and usually when you see this kimari-te, the guy that loses is in charge. Wasn't the case today, however, as that eighth win still eludes Harumafuji at 7-5. Hakuho gets back on the winning track and can afford to give one gift per basho but certainly won't give two. 11-1 is just a formality on his way to a 14-1 yusho.

Fratele Matra shares the gospel tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
I welcome you with a question. When was the last time that not a single Makuuchi wrestler went kyujo up until and including day eleven of a hon-basho? Please find it out for me, because I don't know. In any case, it feels like a rare occurrence. So why is everyone so healthy? Or let me rephrase this: Why do even the banged up ones feel healthy enough to stick around and take a shot at the odd additional win? It is my firm conviction that the reason for this lies with the absence of some metaphysical winning spirit, last stand determination or inner flame that is affecting the whole division.

Did you ever work with a group of people, where the majority wouldn't even try to invest more than necessary to the shared project? Did you then also witness how progress was slowed gradually, how routine smothered inspiration, only to find the outcome being a distorted caricature of the initial grand vision? I fully realize that I am taking the long shot here, but follow me through the ranks:

Below The One And Only you find a group of people we could call Grandmasters, but we usually don't. That is because they are merely keepers of their own grandfather rights. Fair enough. Then there is a layer of rikishi who are -- for a lack of a better phrase -- potential Ozeki candidates. But even if we entertain the notion that one of them could actually make it, our trust is regularly spat on by feeble performances right in the second basho of "a run". Accordingly, sanyaku privileges are passed around among the members of this group like a dead skunk. Mental instability is the keyword here. I am still laughing about myself, when thinking that I fell for the Tochiohzan hype, too. At least a little.

The touchstones for revealing the true value of the sub-Ozeki bunch are Aminishiki and Homasho. The first one is now running around on one knee for three years, but keeps threatening the Ozeki as such and the sanyaku ranks in general. The other brings a Juryo-grade tachi-ai and limited strategies but is still always on the brink of reaching at least Komusubi once. The sad thing is that the most talented Japanese rikishi are right at the core of this group. They are supplemented by bored Mongolians, aware of how much yak-butter can be bought with a Maegashira salary alone, and physically superior Westerners, who know as much about work ethics as the 35th Earl of Sluggshire.

Move to the rank and filers and expand your perception to the last year or so. Did we have exciting newcomers at all? In his year-end report, Mike somehow skipped the most promising one, but Tokusegawa has already arrived in the bored Mongol department. And all others? Could compete either at M7, J3, or even ms5, it doesn't really matter. Old furniture Futeno dropped to mid-Makushita just like that. Newbie Sagatsukasa entered Makuuchi, only to drop back to Makushita. Types like Koryu, Kasugao (who is about to take the Juryo yusho; the pain!), Bushuyama, Wakakoyu etc. are other examples of the almost total interchangeability of division personnel. Take Kakizoe. Struggling (often successfully) in all regions between M3 and his current J9. As the late TSG once put it: "Argh, the Makuuchi has become the Juryo!"

If I explain the current lack of absences with a generally low level of winning spirit (or let's call it aggression), then the admittedly refreshing performances of Wakanosato and Tochinonada can be perfectly well understood.

Ancient coal-miners invading cubicles.

To build up the tension for today's feature bout, another question: Who was the last guy not named Asashoryu to beat Hakuho in consecutive basho, and when was that? The answer is not exactly breaking news. It was Ama who managed to overthrow the Yokozuna even three times in a row between September 2007 and January 2008. Beating Hakuho in consecutive basho (and I'm only talking Makuuchi here) was never an easy task. The great Asashoryu did manage it four times all in all. Next to him and Ama, we find only a couple of other names: Chiyotaikai (9-11/2004), Kotooshu (9-11/2005), Tochiazuma (1-3/2006) and none other than Kisenosato (1-3/2007). However, the longest streak against Hakuho in Makuuchi does not belong to the other Khan or Ama. It is Kisenosato's Naruto-beya elder Wakanosato, who beat Hakuho for a full year, six basho in a row between September 2004 and July 2005.

Later more of that, let's check the gutter's tidbits first.

If you think about the real long bouts that you saw in the recent past, the one's where you had time to analyze Tubular Bells at quarter speed without missing much, the same names keep popping up. Asasekiryu is a specialist for that. Tokitenku another one, as is Mokonami. It is also very typical for the last third of a basho to see the odd two minute bout, because explosiveness has already eroded to hanging-in-there. Who I wouldn't have expected to participate in a longish stand-off is Sokokurai, who doesn't appear to be a stamina monster at first glance. However, when Mokonami's initial tsuppari onslaught failed and both men settled for a mawashi duel in hidari-yotsu stance, the quality of the Chinese was truly revealed. For it wasn't just a boring stand-off. Instead both men relentlessly tried to attack resulting in throw attempts and alternating hints at potential tsuri-dashi. In the end, it was Sokokurai's iron will that made him counter a final sukui-nage attempt by his already well-spent aite before mustering the last grains of energy for a spectacular yori-kiri win. A thoroughly refreshing bout, after which I am sure that Sokokurai will stick around for a while. Mokonami has stagnated recently, but I hope that he can still move up in direction of the meatgrinder ranks at least once.

In a contest of similar intensity and length, Wakanosato was looking to end his three bout losing streak that somewhat threatened to overshadow his 7 and O start. His opponent Okinoumi had achieved kachi-koshi the other day, so the elongated struggle came a bit as a surprise, as rank and filers are often losing focus after pocketing the magic eight.  Similar to the bout between Mokonami and Sokokurai, both men soon ended up with left hand inside grips. Okinoumi had the better upper body position, while Wakanosato enjoyed an additional outside hold on his opponent's mawashi. The epic struggle included various throw and counter-throw attempts and ended with a spectacular double nage, shitate against uwate. Even though the Yedi's were rightfully having a chat, the gyoji's initial call was confirmed, as Wakanosato's food touched down outside the ring a fraction of a second before Okinoumi's hand. Awesomeness in a sea of mediocrity. Wakanosato should get his eight still, while Okinoumi is now officially on the quest for kanto-sho.

Oh, and another thing that increases at the end of basho is the frequency of desperation-henka, as employed by Toyozakura against a suspiciously stoned looking Shotenro. Ugly.

I had written Tochinonada off half a year ago. I totally admit it. He looked old and spent. His current run is as surprising as it is refreshing. Against Mr. Timing he found himself to be on the lucky side, though. Tokitenku took the first opportunity to convert his opponent's imbalance into a pulling move. Fortunately, Tochinonada called in all routine circuits and literally pushed the action right to the edge. The former Sekiwake stands at 9-2 and is theoretically an applicant for a special price.

The fact that Hakuba can plunder and pillage in Makuuchi like he does tells a lot about the quality of the division. At least he had to work a little against Takekaze, as the initial shift alone wouldn't do. This is not pretty sumo, but I have to respect Hakuba's consistency in being successful with his questionable style.

Miyabiyama is the first former Ozeki not to retire after falling back to Juryo. The circumstances were special, so let's ignore that. However, after forgetting to use his single trick against Kyokutenho today, he is in acute danger of dropping out of the division in a regular fashion. And that simply would have to mean retirement.

These days, you never know which Goeido will turn up. Against the notoriously genki Kitataiki it was the no-nonsense variety of the multiple-personality share-house. With lots of determination (why not always?!) the future ex-former future hope demanded a left hand inside that was immediately used to force strong push sumo that ended in a quick and strong willed yori-kiri win. Lack of competition in the high Maegashira ranks could help Goeido to a Komusubi spot in March.

I totally don't understand Tochinoshin's performance this basho. Against Tokusegawa he gave the impression that he even wanted to force his opponent to accept moro-zashi. The Mongolian said thanks and, after a couple of moronic but oooh-aaah inspiring tsuri-dashi attempts, simply fell over his hapless rival. Tokusegawa has still a fair shot at sanyaku, while the Private may regroup in March (with a 12-3J from M9; you heard it here first).

While I was collecting my thoughts to report on the bouts with sanyaku participation, I was idly thumbing through the Sumotalk archives only to realize again and again what a genius Mark is. It's great to have you back on the rostrum. And I tell you an embarrassing secret. I think about you whenever I'm stealing info over at the other forum. They have a button there that I always use after checking the things of interest. The button says "Mark all posts as read". Every time I click it, I think it should be labeled "Read all posts as Mark".

After beating Baruto yesterday in an unlikely but entertaining fashion, Aran brought some inspiration to today's bout against the recovering Mongol Komusubi Kakuryu. In a rare opposition of planets, neither of the two tried anything dodgy or outright stupid, so both men ended up in migi-yotsu stance with Aran pushing the action. When Kakuryu's attempts at shitate(/dashi)-nage failed, he settled for a clever kime armbar in order to stay alive. Aran showed high awareness when he countered the Komusubi's maki-kae by one of his own. When the Maegashira tried to set up the force out win, Kakuryu again opened his stance, turning his aite with the back to the edge. Running out of ideas, Aran went for his usual tsuri-dashi lifting technique, which was instantly countered by Kakuryu wrapping his right leg around Aran's left. This turned out to be highly effective as Aran was unable to swing his opponent around, instead he slomo'ed backward and out. Quick thinking on both sides. If Aran would try, he could be really successful.

Tochiohzan had to go into a rematch against Yoshikaze, who he would have clearly beaten in the first go, if he wouldn't have put down a wimpy hand to soften his fall. Then he got his ass totally handed to him. In cartoons the speech bubble would now show a (...).

Hearing Baruto talk about lack of motivation only one year after his promotion to Ozeki is bad news. When Mario reported that the big man had just longed to get home to Estonia, I thought -- no -- I hoped he would return with a spring in his sumo. Seeing his losses of the basho makes me concerned again. He is clearly good and strong enough to stick to his rank as long as he pleases and injury keeps away. But instead of rocket tsuppari and clever throws, he is too content with upright bear-hug tachi-ai and power-techniques. And he is being figured out. Red hot Kotoshogiku knew that he couldn't just overrun his larger opponent, so while he couldn't avoid giving away a left inside grip at the tachi-ai, he cleverly pirouetted away from the Ozeki to deny him the chance on capitalizing. When Baruto had difficulties to catch up on events, the Sekiwake went for the lightning maki-kae, i.e. moro-zashi, i.e. hump the barrel out of the ring. Excellent stuff from the Geek, who has four more days to build the foundation of an Ozeki-run. In any case, a gino-sho should be in reach.

Kaio's loss against Tamawashi was embarrassing, so that is that.

Mike will have to throw another bout picture into the bin, as I also don't want to lose many words about the Kotooshu/Harumafuji bout. The Bulgarian didn't let yesterday's loss into his mind and managed to slip to his counterpart's side and back in an uneventful affair. Osh stays in the yusho race, while Harumafuji has four more shots at staying Ozeki.

The feature bout. Staring at the match over and over again (replays were unfortunately not shown), I'm still trying to figure out what happened. The guy that looked like Hakuho started with a shoulderblast but was deflected to the side by Kisenosato's left arm to his right armpit. The Sekiwake tried to convert the momentum into an instant throw, but the guy that looked like Hakuho somehow managed to duck out of that, compromising his balance in the process. Being denied a grip while regrouping, the guy that looked like Hakuho again overcommitted, triggering a short pulling attempt that soon turned into a volley of tsuppari. The evasive action plus pull attempt of his own failed, which made the guy who looked like Hakuho set himself up for the oshi-dashi defeat. Now, I read that Hakuho has been victim to cold symptoms and slight fever during the basho and that he got some Mongolian style treatment which probably involved sour milk, mud baths and some such. Anyway, his loss against Kisenosato seems so unlikely in all elements, that I have to come to the conclusion the treatment has failed. Technically, Hakuho committed three mistakes. First, his first right step after tachi-ai was too wide, producing the initial imbalance. Secondly, the recovery charge was also over-eager. Thirdly, the evasive action at the end was poor at best. Three such mistakes by Hakuho in a single bout is a rare animal indeed. Compliments to Kisenosato, who didn't take the pull-me-down bait but instead settled for tsuppari and forward momentum. By the way: this was only the 99th Makuuchi loss for the Yokozuna.

Tomorrow's bout of Harumafuji against Hakuho might be interesting in the context of today's events, so stay tuned when Mike explains the rest.

Day 10 Comments (Oscar Gutiérrez reporting)
Europe comes back to report on day 10 of the 2011 Hatsu Basho here on Sumotalk. Gotta tell you I've been pretty busy these days, studying why the things the experts predicted yesterday don't agree with what's happening now in the world. Global economy they call it. Alas, the solution to everything is so simple...reduce salaries. So this means I have to start paying to report sumo? Mike kindly refused to accept it and then, I finally caught a break to take up again some hobbies apart from the sumo world, namely developing my groundbreaking theories about the belly button fluff. So, if yesterday's report came to Mike with a suspicious toilet smell, this one came with a big ball of the raw material my doctoral thesis is coming from. His name is Heineken, just like his father.

So here we are, finishing the second third of the basho (why the english language uses the same word for ordinal and partitive escapes me). That means Hakuho has the yusho already wrapped up (spoiler alert? you already knew that, didn't you?) and I'm starting to guess that this 6 in a row have nothing to do with Kitazakura's farewell to the sport, but with that of another rikishi, with a little bit more hair, more badass and more mongolian. We miss you.

Two that certainly will not be missed are the contestants on today's first bout. Toyozakura tried to get into a yotsu battle with the "almighty" Koryu using a left inside grip, but the mongolian yanked that arm and pushed his owner to oblivion to even his record. Meanwhile, Kitazakura's younger brother is one loss away from a trip to juryo, from where he may not come back any more.

Cute Okinoumi took care of again-increasingly-hot Shot, who's in the best shape since he lost a knee some two years ago. Okinoumi took Shot's charge like a man and got a left under the Mongolian's armpit to show for that. He then used his right hand onto the back of the neck of his aite's, but Cutie has a long way to get to grizzly status. Still, the move paid off, rewarding his author with moro-zashi and an easy yori-kiri from there. So Okinoumi wraps up his kachi-koshi and is first on the line to get a kanto-sho if he continues at this pace, while Shotenro is not too worried with his 6-4.

Shimotori seems injured and is certainly stinking, but today he absolutely manhandled Sokokurai when he got a dual grip. It tells you something about the sucking level, doesn't it? Moo gets only win number two and the chinese has the same wins than losses. The sumo world could use these spots in maku-no-uchi for some young guys like Tochinowaka or Takayasu. Just saying...

Miyabiyama seems to be physically melting by the minute. I mean, watch him, he's like that ice-cream cone you buy for your girlfriend and ends up on her arms and dress for her fear of it going "straight to her bum". Today he fended off doppelganger Wakakoyu for awhile, and the bout ended the only way it could have, with a face in the dirt. It was Wakakoyu's (I recognized him because he was the one with less bandages), who is OK at 6-4, while Flobby's record mirrors that, and that's not good news for the former ozeki being this low on the banzuke.

The Pretender Hakuba and his tachi-ai shenanigans have finally been figured out by almost everybody. Kotokasuga, not the most powerful guy in the division by far, simply kept Henkuba in front of him and shoved him out in mere seconds to even his and his aite's records.

Toyohibiki charged like a bull into Takamisakari's chest knowing that Robocop wouldn't get out of the way. The Hutt followed that with good ottsuke and nice de-ashi not giving Takamisakari the chance to pull off one of his miraculous comebacks. 6 wins for Hibiki and only half of those for the clown, who's not expected to be interviewed.

In a battle for kachi-koshi between two highly praised blue-collar veterans, Tochinonada got the best of Wakanosato despite practically conceding moro-zashi out of the tachi-ai. Nada knew he had "nada" time to lose and pivoted as if he was 10 years younger while wrapping one of the chubby arms that were looking to suffocate him, winnig via kote-nage. It'd be good to see these guys getting some appreciation by the Kyokai, but I'm afraid that's not going to happen.

Kokkai looked to neutralize Mike's man-crush Kitataiki by getting his left on the inside and denying the Mongolian the migi-uwate, but Kitataiki demanded it so strongly that the Georgian couldn't prevent it, so he tried to get some space to work with. Kitataiki then tried to show him the door, but Razor rebuffed him with a kake-nage attempt by hooking his left leg inside the Mongolian's right one. Still featuring the powerful uwate, Kitataiki took a breath and forced the issue a second time, only to receive the same counter move, but without the element of surprise, the Georgian was crushed onto the clay. Kitataiki is 6-4, and Kokkai is only a win away from make-koshi and will need at least 4 more wins and some banzuke luck if he wants to avoid falling to Juryo for the first time in his career.

Kimurayama henka'd everyone's hopes and charged straight up against Tosayutaka. Then, henka'd again by going for the pushing win instead for the pulling one and did he get it emphatically. Oshidashi for his 4th win, Tosayutaka's struggling and has only 3.

Gargantuan-maru and Mokonami gave us our money's worth (well, I'm not paying anything, but I guess my time is worth something). The Mongolian managed not to get sucked into Radio Gaga's arms at the tachi-ai and used his superior mobility to get around that huge body (and man, that's difficult) and push him uwate-dashi-nage style, but the Georgian refused to go so easily and turned around as quickly as nature laws allow him to, taking the bout to hidari-yotsu. After a hard struggle with the belt and some belly shoves by Gaga (and that's some belly), Mokonami got his uwate and waited patiently. Gagamaru started to look as if he could collapse any moment of a heart attack, so he just stood there, leaning his 200 kg on the Mongolian and told him: "yorikiri me if you can". Mokonami did, and I think Gagamaru will be somewhat pleased with the result, as he managed not to fall to the floor from pure exhaustion. 6-4 for Mokonami and mirror record for Big Round.

Asasekiryu and Tokitenku had a short bout by their standards, that's it, less than two minutes. Sexy got a firm left grip from the tachi-ai, buried his head into Toki's chest and with that superior position...did nothing. Finally realizing that Tokitenku wasn't going to die from boredom (but maybe I was), he forced the issue a measly 30 seconds into the bout, and Tokitenku tried to show Kokkai how you perform successfully that kake-nage. Still, Sexy managed to survive one-legged, and crushed Toki to the dirt with his uwate. After a bad start from both, they have hopes for kachi-koshi, Sexy with his 4-6 and Tenku with one win more.

Takekaze did his best Takekaze impersonation with the hit-and-go that unbelievably caught Tokusegawa by surprise. That's high smarts, boy. Both men are even stevens.

In the next one, the Chauffeur couldn't hug Tamawashi, so he decided to go hug a lady on the first row. Tamawashi showed some strength as it's not that easy to keep Tenho off the belt and is not getting embarrased at all in the jo'i sporting a 4-6 record. Kyokutenho's not good this basho at 3-7.

In the mini-bout of the day, Toyonoshima avoided make-koshi once more quickly shoving mono-win Yoshikaze out.

Tochiozan also survived to fight another day starting low and getting on the inside of Aminishiki, whose desperation hatakikomi attempt didn't work. Having faced all the sanyaku already (except for his heya-mate Harumafuji, of course) and with a 4-6, Eel still has hopes of shneaking his kachi-koshi.

Sissy-bout of the day: mono-win Tochinoshin henka'd Kakuryu (really?), but the Mongolian is sort of familiar with this strategy and didn't get fooled. Tochinoshin, maybe embarrased, decided to make up for it and attacked with everything. Some wild swinging of arms followed (there was an invisible swarm of bees or something?). When Kak, who was all pull today, seemed lost with his heels on the tawara, he pulled (told ya) the miraculous comeback tiptoeing over the straw and pulling (just as I said) the hapless and hopeless Georgian past him. Kakuryu is 5-5 and he'll pull (again) out his kachi-koshi one way or another.

Grizzly bear Kaio performed the hit-and-go on Kisenosato. Again. I just don't know if this is yaocho or Kisenosato is that careless, but I'm getting progressively inclined to the later. The Godfather is one win off his goal and the J-Hope is only 6-4 with the meat grinder to follow.

Long gone gambler Goeido was welcomed back by Harumafuji to the big boys' playground with an instant ass-whooping oshi-taoshi that made Goeido roll all over the place. Still if I remember right, less painful than the okuri-tsuri-otoshi the former Ama delivered to the kid on his promising maku-uchi debut basho. 7 wins for HaruAmafuji, only 6 for Goeido, who was expected to have many more having faced only middle-class maegashiras till today.

Kotooshu came with only one loss at the hands of struggling Tochiozan, and today's bout showed what he's up to. He could maybe have dreamt of arriving with that sole loss to face Hakuho on day 13 and pull the upset, but instead, his frame of mind is "I already got my 8, and I don't give a damn". Homasho simply stayed low and subsequently pushed the prideless ozeki out evening his record on the process.

Now, if I tell you the Baruto-Aran affair ended on tsuridashi, you'd know for sure who won, right? Wrong. Baruto started with his tsuppari attack and Aran welcomed him wrapping him up into moro-zashi. Now, Baruto pulled a miraculous harima-nage last basho against this same foe, so he's dangerous even in a higly unfavourable position that today featured a right Baruto-uwate (over-the-shoulder uwate) and a choke hold with his left arm around Aran's neck. I wonder how on earth he does get into those positions. Thug didn't make a fool of himself and instead made a fool of arguably the second best rikishi in the sport today, handing him his second loss of the basho by lifting him up over the tawara for the Baruto-like win. Aran is 4-6 and will try to get his kachi-koshi by any means.

Finally, on the musubi-no-ichiban, Hakuho faced Kotosogiku, who should be a father rather soon as he's been humping everything that moved this basho. The uber-yokozuna got his 25th win out of 26 contests with Giku by denying him any kind of inside position and forcefully crashing him to the ground without breaking a sweat. Third loss for Kotoshogiku, who's only one win off the pace for the jun-yusho, that's telling. 23 consecutive wins for Hakuho, who tomorrow is facing the streak-stopper, so he will try to kick ass and show the kid who's boss.

As I won't be seeing you more this basho, let me pencil in my predictions:

Yusho: ermmmm, Kitakachidoki.

Jun-yusho: a bunch of undeserving guys with 11-4.

Shukun-sho: error 404.

Gino-sho: the leg-humper.

Kanto-sho: Okinoumi.

Andreas (whose surname I can't pronounce withouth choking) will inform you of tomorrow's events with German efficiency and will try to entertain you in the process.

Hasta la vista.

Day 9 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
I am truly sorry I haven't been able to report as much as I know each and every one of you would like. I had been trying to keep the reason a secret but I now feel the world needs to hear my story. Champion my cause loyal readers, for even if it's too late for me, and I am all but certain it is, you will be helping the next person from miseries uncountable.

I write you tonight from a cold and lonely prison cell. I have been in here for weeks ... months I suppose.

It all began one crisp Fall evening. I had been volunteering at a local orphanage for blind kids. I whistled as I strolled home, lost in the feeling of fulfillment that only comes from helping little retards. As I stopped to pat a stray cat, a police car turned the corner and drove along side me. I stood up and gave a deep bow, as I know all of you would do, and thought about how lucky I was to have these good men watching my back. The car abruptly stopped and I felt a shiver of excitement, knowing I was going to have a chance to practice my Keigo.

I began with an energetic "kitekudassate arigatou gozaimasu". And threw in another bow for good measure.

The warm greetings and "ride along" I was hoping for were no where to be found. The officers response of "Gaijin Tourokusho wo yareeeeee" took me well and truly off guard.

The Gaikokujin Tourokusho (Gaijin Card) is a card all foreigners in Japan are supposed to carry at all times to prove that we are here legally. It's that whole guilty until proven innocent thing that some of the southern states are dabbling into these days.

The problem was that I had been in such a rush to get to the orphanage before the cookies I had baked cooled down, that I had forgotten to grab my wallet. I explained my silly-willy little oversight to the officers and was saying that I would be happy to go get it for them ... until the sticks came out and the merciless beating began. The next few minutes were a blur of pain, blood and mud. I awoke days later in this very cell.

I have seen no lawyer and have no idea what they intend for me. I guess an issue as serious as failure to carry one's Gaijin Card is bigger than due process.

They do let us watch NHK for a few hours most days. Sumo is popular in here, especially amongst the guys with all the pretty tattoos. The problem is, I am forbidden contact with the outside world so I have had no way to tell the world of my plight or report on sumo.

But I can be silenced no longer. I need to be heard. This report I am writing with my own feces on toilet paper. In the morning a leaving paroley will insert it into his most intimate cavity. I can only pray it gets from there to Mike's hands.

Hakuho out in front and fighting his own brand of consistent sumo ("perfectly dull domination") is a fantastic recipe for a big bowl of empty seats and that's what was served up today. But even when the Yusho seems decided on day one, there are always a few sub plots to keep things interesting. The unexpected spark so far this basho, at least for me, is the way a couple of the old guard have upped their game and had what is probably the best week one of either of their careers. At 36 and 34 years young, Tochinonada and Wakanosato both come into day 9 just one loss behind Hakuho, and they have done it with the type of blue color sumo that they have been offering up since Hakuho was slurping curdled goats milk in Daddy's split level gir.

The first of these two cornerstones to ascend the dohyo was Tochinonada. Yesterday Nada dropped his first of the basho to Shotenro, but it looked like today he would get things back on track as he found himself with 2 arms inside on Okinoumi off the tachi-ai. But Oki responded really really well and locked up Nada's arms, denying him even a sniff of musky mawashi. Moro-zashi now compromised, Nada couldn't free his arms from where they had fought so hard to be, and they young Oki was able to control and maneuver him into a kime taoshi loss.

Not very long ago I had occasion to have dinner and drinks with Wakanosato. Wakanosato is a really cool dude. He is kind, honest and a lot of fun. Sato was holding his own with Dai-waiians all those years ago, and he was still right there at the top to earn the respect of Asashoryu and Hakuho. But still, face to face, he was personable and all together humble. He "claimed" to not know of, but I suspect they are told they have to say that. He was REALLY fascinated with being "The Barometer".

With my new found Wakanosato bond I have been following his basho extra close, and I was excited for him to win one for me so I could gush over him in my report. But it just wasn't to be this time around. Against Gaga, Sato looked so small and while he did get off to a good tachi-ai, the Georgian absorbed it and chugged forward, pushing my buddy out with none the fireworks and fanfare I had been hoping for :(

So they both lost. None of us were thinking of these 2 as Yusho threats. But it's just nice to have the elders around to to keep the younger rikishi on their toes and show them the pride and dignity that should accompany the office.

So, after a crap start Goeido is coming on strong. Today he got Tosayutaka so concerned with what he was doing at the belt, that he didn't see the trip coming that planted him so hard on his ass. Really pretty stuff.

It always tickles me when we get an entertaining match from two guys with deplorable records. Aran and Yoshikaze went at it with a little tsuppari battle. Yoshikaze using a lot of head movement and Aran throwing in the occasional pull just to keep things interesting. Aran's swings had bad intentions on them but Yoshikaze kept his head about him. As The Bouncer leaned in to swing one of his haymakers, Kaze slipped to the side, grabbed an arm and threw The 5th Baldwin Brother wildly off the dohyo. Ass over teacart. That is just win numero uno for struggling YK.

Aminishiki reminded Kakuryu that he still had a thing or two to learn about crap sumo. Nishiki stood him up with a stuff tachi-ai and then pulled him down. "Come back to the dark side"

Two more guys who are stinking up the Kokugikan are Tochiohzan and Toyonoshima. And this was not to be one of those battles of attrition between down on their luck rikishi that "tickle" me so. Because even if Kak won't, Toyonoshima will heed Aminishiki's calls. Seeing how easy it was for Nishiki, Tugboat did the exact same thing; the push to the pull to the "W". "There is a disturbance ..."

Kisenosato and Tochinoshin both have a couple more losses than they should at this rank and at point in the basho. Today Tochinoshin took a wide side step off the mark but flailed to grap Kissys mawashi or do anything else to gain an advantage. Blinkey reacted well, squaring up and using a couple tsuppari to get onto Shin's belt. At the belt Tochinoshin was thoroughly out classes as Kisenosato easily forced him out. Shin is still stuck at one win while Kisenosato creeps up to 6.

Kotooshu and Tokusegawa also went straight to the belt and Tokusegawa looked even more lost than Tochinoshin. Shoe got in tight and powered his opponent backward, even picking him up for a moment. Great stuff from the Ozeki.

  In the same way that I am often impressed by bouts that look abysmal on paper, more often than not what promises to be the bout of the day leaves me confused, disappointed and deflated ... like a date with a really good transvestite (tricky dickey). Luckily two of my favorite rikishi, Harumafuji and Baruto rose to the occasion today. Most people accredit Ama limping around to his bum knee, but after today I'm wondering if it might not be because his balls are just two damn big. Today the Mongol came out and went head to head with colossal Bart in a tsuppari battle. And he was winning it! He shoved Bart back to the straw line and Bart's knees seemed to give. But somehow Bart recovered, he stood tall again and forced the action back to the center of the ring. And then, just as the excitement was unbearable ... the warden shut the TV off. And man was he pissed! I had been working night and day on an escape plan that was as intricate as it was dangerous as it was sexy, but one of the guards has stumbled upon it. They don't know it was me digging the hole, but it looks like we are all going to be on "lockdown" for a very very long time.

So I didn't see how the Ama/Bart fight ended. But as you know I am a sumo "expert", so I will use my expertise to surmise that, in all likelihood, Bart won by pile driver. Bart stays deep in the race with just one loss.

You know sumo is in trouble when when Kaio is getting his wins honest style. Note: an "honest" win and a quality win are 2 very different animals. Today Kaio gave us the nastiest push/pull of the day (year!). As he did it he was heard to mutter ' "And now young Giku, you will die".

Homie has never beaten Hakuho, or any other Yokozuna for that matter. But he doesn't seem to have given up just yet. Today Hakuho started with some well placed tsuppari that had Homasho back-peddling. Then Hak went inside with a right. But before Hak could work his grip in too deep, Homie gave a jerky pull attempt that nearly fell the Yokozuna (You could actually make a case for a mono-ii here because the Yokozuna's hand brushed miiiiiiggghhhttttty close to the clay). With Hak off balance and turned sideways an overly excited Homasho sprinted in to finish him off. But Hak's recovery time is somewhere around 0.00003 seconds, and, by the time Homie could move 4 feet, he had squared up, evaded to the side and readied a pull that would send Homasho bouncing off the dohyo. Both guys showed some strength and some weakness in this one. But Hakuho's recovery was the real story here.

My stool grows dry and crumbly. I think I need to warp things up...

Your homework will be checked by Oscar tomorrow ... and h e is a "grouchy" one so you'd better have it done...

-Use all the ignorance, awkwardness and alcohol at your disposal to Gaijin Smash the stupid card carrying regulations and get he the Hell out of here. Letters, sit ins, drunken orgies ... do whatever it takes!

-Hit the gym. Try some boxing, ju-jitsu ... whatever! SERIOUSLY! When your time comes and you end up in here, it will be to late to learn that in life there are perps and victims (and yes I am talking about forcible lube free man love). Palates, roids, doesn't matter. Do what ever it takes to position yourself to be a "pitcher" and not a "catcher".

-Tomorrow be sure to enjoy the Tochinonada/Wakanosato and Harumafuji/Goeido battles.

-Have a happy, safe and profitable New Year.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Occasionally Ill go back and read through a few archival reports, mainly to make myself laugh over how badly I got it wrong. Yesterday, while researching the dire situation facing children in high-income households, I happened upon the 2006 September Aki Basho reports (way back in the Simon/Bernard/George era and the last basho before Martin joined Sumotalk). In it, I found this gem from my Day 15: "Depending on how overwhelming Asa remains, Hakuho will be a Yokozuna by the end of 2007 at the earliest and the start of 2009 at the latest. Even then, don't expect an Asashoryu like career at the top, all yusho 13 wins or higher, six in a calendar year, 11 out of 12, et cetera. Asa is a predator, a freak of wrestling nature, and Hakuho isn't."

Can you believe that? I was actually using apostrophes! Oh yeah, also that little bit about Hakuho not becoming the dominant rikishi Asashoryu was.

Now I am as unlikely a stats geek as youd care to meet (though I am pretty awesome at number crunching), but I dug up some for yall just to illustrate how dominant Kublai is and how wildly mistaken I was. In four full years, from Hatsu 2007 through Kyushu 2010, Hakuho lost 35 times in regulation. Out of 360. For those whom math is not a strong suit, thats easily less than 25% of the time (and for a comparison with a random Ozeki, Kotooshu lost 34 bouts LAST YEAR). Furthermore, hes lost only 28 times as Yokozuna, out of 323 bouts. Again, less than half. And it only gets more leviathanic. In the last 2 1/2 years, in 233 bouts (counting through todays bout), he has lost a scant 11 times! Uh huh, you read it right. Dude wins over 68% of his bouts!

True, at the time Hakuho had a tendency to lose to those not named Asashoryu, which prompted me to also write this in the report: "I think Hakuho will be a dai-Yokozuna, maybe 15 yusho or thereabouts, but he really needs to start seeing others as just as big a threat to his goals as he obviously sees Asashoryu." While Asas suspensions and then forced retirement certainly show up in his ass kicking stats, its evident that Hakuho did indeed start taking everyone as a serious threat. And that I had my head up my ass.

With that mea culpa now forced down my gullet, lets move to the first match, a tussle between Wakakoyu and Toyohibiki, both men at 4-3. Started with a nice little noggin mashing tachi-ai, of the type that seem relatively harmless on the boob tube but in person give the sensitive spectator a headache. Neither man "won" the initial clash, and after some aggressive shoving by both, Toyohibiki came forward for the kill, but Wakakoyu evaded and slapped and the W15 found himself palms to the dirt wearing a frustrating countenance. Oh Toyo boyo!

Kotokasuga made quick work of Sokokurai with a belt grip from the beginning and a straightforward shove out win.

Koryu and Mokonami ratcheted up the action with a classic belt battle, which Mokonamiyaki won with a decent twisting throw at the edge to move to 5-3.

Tochinonada looked to remain unbeaten vs. Shotenro, but a hurricane of a tachi-ai pritnear blew the Gentle Giant out of the ring. A perfunctory follow up shove was all the Mongolian needed to take the fifth, but GG made it interesting by doing a balancing on the edge act while Big Shot nearly fell out first. In the end the winner won, and Hakuho could be heard breathing a sigh of relief at finding himself in sole position of the lead.

Shimotori came in a little too urgently, and Toyozakura adroitly held him up and then pulled the rug out, leaving Shimotori in the splits position looking cool (I wish I was that flexible) but at 1-7.

Two famous former wrestlers were providing commentary today, Yellow Bird and Red Bird. Both had good careers near the top, and both fowl had a few chances to become Yokozuna with one yusho, but it never happened mainly due to the presence of Asashoryu and Hakuho. (Tochiazuma nearly did it in Osaka 2006, the basho before Hakuhos first ever Yusho, but lost to Aminishiki in the first few days and Kaio later and finished 12-3, out of the 13-2 playoff between Hakuho and Asashoryu, both of whom he beat that basho. Tantalizingly, agonizingly close. Dude never won more than 10 again and retired the following year in Osaka.) Im sure seeing them in the booth was bittersweet for JPese fans, who have little hope for a JPese Ozeki in the near future, to say nothing of a homegrown Yokozuna. Mmm, homegrown.

Kokkai was able to recover from Hakubas drearily predictable henka, but Henkuba had a secure front belt grip and used it to manhandle the Georgian out. This basho marked the start of Kokkais eighth consecutive year in Makuuchi, but this could have been the nail in Kokkais Juryo demotion coffin, for he sits 2-6 and looks as out of place as a chicken leg in North Korea.

Kimurayama used a hari-te face slap at tachi-ai on Wakanosato, and had about as much affect on the proceedings as singing along at an Anthrax concert. The Croc used those stubby arms to keep Kim-chan centered and just drove him out for his 7th win.

Takekaze wanted nothing to do with Okinoumi, jumping away at tachi-ai like a nervous crab. The E13 was all over the gambit, and after nearly getting the lil guy into a headlock was able to lock up the arm and grind Takekaze into the clay.

Miyabiyama got his head handed to him by Tosayutaka in a pushing bout that used to be MiFlobbys forte. My how the mighty have fallen. Both grapplers are 3-5.

When Kyokutenho and Tokitenku hook up, its nearly always entertaining, and they lived up to their billing today with some macho yotsu belt sumo. As their exertions centimetered them toward the edge, Tokidoki used a big old leg into the crotch to trip his cousin down and out, so hard that they both fell on some poor rich guy in the front row. Fat men on a fat cat. Whos laughing now, Rockefeller?

Last tussle of the first half featured Takamisakari and Gagamaru. Anyone who fights Bean knows two things: Dude stays in front of his foe for the most part, and there is heap big wampum for the winner. With this in mind, Butterball simply extended his arms and rolled forth, like a barbarian horde, and overran the hapless, helpless, feckless E9. Then he squatted down, swiped up the baksheesh like Yogi Bear, and awa-a-a-a-y he go.

Asasekiryu went for the quick kill by henkaing Kitataiki, but the E8 kept his wits about him and made it into a match. After a half minute of belt pulling, they both suddenly lost their grips and it became a shoving battle. Sexy recovered the belt and this time was able to ram him out.

A sacrificial first week lamb at W2, Yoshikaze was hoping hed catch Goeido on one of his off days and finally win this January. Though he gave it the old Nihon Sports Science University try, twasnt meant to be as the Father used a series of up and under the chin blasts with his head and hands to finally get Starbuck off balance enough to hammer him back and out. Day Four 1-3 Goeido finishes Day Eight 5-3.

Both men shifted to their left at tachi-ai, but Shneaky was able to round back on Tochinoshin more quickly and caught the E2 standing straight up and perpendicular, which is a euphemism for "dead" in sumo. Have to wonder if hes injured, because he has been not only No Shine, but No Clue, No Sack, and No Game. Still, this guy was a runner-up in Nov. 09 when he was twenty-two, and just last May beat four Ozeki on four consecutive days. He should be able to bounce back.

There are times when it seems the sumos are in rhythm to things going on in the outside world, and yesterday was a perfect example as Kakuryu, who has for the most part removed the henka from this repertoire, turned back the clock by welcoming back his nemesis Maachin Matorinmoto with the mother of all henkas. Only the fact that Kaio was the victim made it palatable. Newer fans to Sumotalk may find it difficult to believe that Martin does not like him, cause in his photo he looks for all the world like a huge Kak lover, but its true.

Today Kakuryu had no need to evade, as he is more than strong enough to hold fellow Komusubi Tochiohzan at arms length, then pull away the supporting beams and watch the building collapse. A controlled demolition that left the Kak standing turgid and proud, after walking his first week Komusubi gauntlet, at .500, and Tochi Oh Snap in the rubble at 2-6.

Kotoshogiku has been a pleasant surprise this time out, not only winning but winning with élan. Today he took all that Toyonoshima could dish out, but the similarly shaped but smaller Tugboat could not budge the barge that is Geeku, and as he wormed and wriggled, Geeku overwhelmed him with yet another yori- win, but this time -taoshi, not -kiri, which means he got flattened out and not simply shoved out.

One of Kisenosatos problems is that while he is a large man, he thinks hes bigger and stronger than he is. Yes, I like man up sumo and I appreciate him not evading and pulling hijinks, but that doesnt mean he needs to go chest to chest with Kotooshu, one of the few guys who is clearly his superior in the strength department and close enough in the technique department to defeat him. Today he essentially walked right into a double belt grip, letting the Ozeki dictate the bout. Hed be better served hitting to get Kotooshu off balance and then separating for a second, then moving in at an angle while sliding his feet around. Kotooshu panics when his foes do that. He loves it when they come straight on, as well he should, being the cliffside of a human that he is.

It also didnt help that Kotooshus belt had been wrapped by a team of bedridden seniors from Hospice Prefecture, so that when The Kid tried to lift up on it, it slid nearly up to Kotooshus pits (the very same pits that Yoshikazes head was so amusingly vice gripped in on Day 7). Meanwhile Kisenosatos crew had wrapped his as tightly as an epidermis, which the Ozeki used to twist and force the obstreperous Sekiwake out. Kisenosato will be a daily point of interest as we watch to see if he can snag three wins from the top guys to get his KK, while Kotooshu continues the tease for his fans this time into Week 2 at 7-1.

The first fighter of the Makuuchi day, Toyohibiki, starts some distance back from the white line, enough so that he has a rep for it. Today, Homasho started from somewhere near the beer concession stands vs. Baruto. Hyperbole this is not. Homashos feet were closer to the tawara behind him than Barutos feet were to his own line! What this led to was Baruto rising up and taking a kind of hop, skip and jump into Homashos face with his right shoulder, and what this led to was Homasho getting his dumb ass kicked "good and proper," as my granpappie used to say. Biomass stays one back of undefeated Hakuho, leaving the optimists among us with another day of hopeful giddiness and the realists with a resigned indifference. Still, the possibility of one of these big Ozeki getting lucky and beating the Yokozuna is better than none at all.

Sumos Brett Favre had a fight on his hands as strongman Aran made up his mind to not go gentle into that good night. The E3 got his hand in on Kaios belt and started lifting up. Kaio hunkered down and waited for an opening, and in time (and who knows better than Kaio about time?) it came. The Ozeki snagged a right hand outside and the crowd collectively gushed as they knew what this meant: Green Bay was driving for the go ahead touchdown! Aran could feel as well as hear the momentum shift and tried to move in close and lift up, but Kaio must weight 25 stone if he weighs a tuppenny, and with his foe close now, he swung him around and drove him back and out.

Weve said it before only to be proven wrong, but at 5-3 Kaios Week 2 looks indeed perilous. Three of the men he ought to meet are now 7-1 and one 8-0, which means if they continue winning they might not be at all in the mood for letting up a tiny bit for their senpai. Then again, even the 7-1s know that theyre about as likely to beat Hakuho as an Englishman in Japan by way of Australia is likely to be smarter than the fantastic Dr. Kadastik, so maybe therell still be a little Christmas cheer left for Father Time.

At 5-2 coming in, with a few impressive wins under his belt and a distinct weight advantage, my senses were on edge hoping for a spectacular bout from Tokusegawa Harumafuji (lights out in annihilating Toyonoshima and pathetic in that crazy loss to Tamawashi). Didnt happen as HowDo was lightning quick out of the gates, getting up and under his countryman and lifting him into the air. Not many guys can pick up someone who not only weighs 156kg, but weighs 30kg more than himself. Throw that Day 6 loss out the window and wed have three 7-1 Ozeki (which, for those of you who are newer to sumo and have seen only the Watered Down Ship years of ineffective Champion bunnies, is the expected norm).

Back in the Asa Era, writing about the Yokozuna bouts was always fun, even when he was mopping the floor with everyone, because Asa, like Andre Agassi, always brought some color and excitement to the proceedings (which the purists loathed and I, embracing sumos own declared mandate of infusing the sport with foreign rikishi, and by extension foreignness, loved). But Hakuho, Asas equal if not superior, plays the Pete Sampras role by bringing dully perfect (and perfectly dull) domination. Yes, we should change his nickname to The Panther cause he has become such a sleek, swift killing machine, one who allows his foes little maneuvering room and even less room for hope as he pounces, but my heart just does not get a thumpin when I watch him dine.

Today he toyed with Tamawashi, slapping him at tachi-ai, then once again, before not so much running him out as running toward him and making sure he left on his own accord. The other rikishi are frightened and intimidated by this man, and I think hes great, but after the bout I looked down and discovered that my dick had become an innie.

Monday aint so dreary when you got Mike banging away at the keys for yall. I shall return on Day 15 for the dénouement.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
It's good to be back here after a long and unexplained absence*. In case you don't remember me, I'm that guy from Romania with the funny accent and the obsession for cryptic kimari-te. I welcome thee, then, to day 7's action, starring yours truly and a bunch of fat guys in funny-looking loin-cloths.

Last and certainly least, Wakakoyu absorbed Toyozakura's weak, upper-body driven tsuppari only to time his shift and pull the slimmer Zakura to the dirt. Toyozakura is obviously out of his league at 1-6. Wakakoyu is a quiet 4-3.

Toyohibiki never really gave Kotokasuga any room to breathe, constantly keeping him in front and pushing him out after surviving the token pulling attempt. Hibiki is 4-3, while Kotokasuga is taking his time preparing for Juryo.

Okinoumi survived a little scare in the beginning of his bout with Kimurayama, getting pushed to the edge, but he used his long reach (and Kimura's flawed sumo technique and low mobility) to lock his foe's arms in front of him by pushing under his armpits from the outside (if you can imagine). The straight oshi-dashi job ups Okinoumi's record to a decent 5-2, while Kimurayama falls under the .5 mark and ever so closer to Juryo.

Tochinonada improved to a stellar 7-0 with a convincing demolition of Mokonami by uwate-nage after some hesitation at the tachi-ai. The Mongol looked to be in the driver's seat, but sharp footwork from Nada allowed him to evade at the edge and work his way to the side of his dark foe and get a really deep grip on his mawashi. After another second or so of struggling, Moe was dispatched by as nifty a throw as you'll see. Mokonami still needs to find his groove at 4-3. Tochinonada will definitely cool down in week two, but for now we should just enjoy the ride; it's good to have you back, old man.

Next up, skill won against mass, as technician Sokokurai withstood Koryu's storm-in-a-teacup attack, stopped his advance, locked his left arm when Koryu got close and yanked him by that locked arm clear off his feet, to improve to a nice 5-2. Koryu is 3-4.

It's almost painful to watch Kokkai fight - riddled with injury or just burned out and longing for home, his "sumo" is just... bad these days. Luckily for him, today's opponent was equally useless Shimotori. The white Georgian wisely denied Moo the left uwate at the tachi-ai, so the two settled in the center of the ring exchanging right inside mawashi grips. After some wrenching and squirming, Kokkai was the one who managed to grab the uwate, and the yori-kiri duly followed. With a combined 3 wins between them, the two guys seem to be headed for Juryo.

A good indication of how weak and old a rikishi has become could be that he miserably failed to push Hakuba around. It's even more shocking if that guy is Miyabiyama. Henkuba didn't try any funny business at the tachi-ai, taking it like a man. The Fatman survived a meek tottari attempt, but he couldn't do much more than flounder, as Hakuba quickly understood he wasn't going to be dominated physically. Hakuba patiently waited for the inevitable pull, and then methodically capitalized on it, humiliating his much larger foe by an oshi-dashi with attitude. Both men sport a lackluster 3-4 record, but that says a lot more about the Fatman than about Henkuba.

Rejuvenated Wakanosato continued his lopsided domination of Takamisakari, hitting him hard, working his way into moro-zashi and finishing him off quickly with a powerful scoop throw. Croc soars to 6-1, while the Clown falls below the 50% mark at 3-4. Like in Tochinonada's case, it's very inspiring to see these old guys do well again. Let's just hope they keep it up during the second part of the basho.

Tokitenku got a bit lucky after a half-failed left hari-te that left him exposed to Shotenro's charge. However, Big Shot characteristically rushed it and allowed Tenku to slip to the side and grab the back of his mawashi. The throw was called okuri-nage, but I think it was as unclear as it can be. Anyway, Tokitenku improves to 3-4, while Shotenro cools off a bit at 4-3.

And while we're talking about old and slow, Kyokutenho easily gave up moro-zashi after an upright tachi-ai, allowing Kitataiki to eject him from the dohyo to his 5th loss. Kitataiki gets his 5th win.

Asasekiryu sunk to 1-6 when, despite his longer arms, he failed to keep the stubby-armed Tosayutaka from his mawashi. Tosayutaka improves to 2-5 with the yori-kiri win.

Goeido recovered from a poor tachi-ai, avoiding giving up moro-zashi with a quick, keep-your-wits-about-you maki-kae. You knew Takekaze was dead meat when Goeido grabbed the left uwate, but it didn't have to be boring, as Goeido reaped Takekaze's right leg from under him for the subtly technical soto-gake win. Goeido is a rather disappointing 4-3, while Takekaze shares the same mark.

The match of the day award goes to Tokusegawa-Gagamaru, if only for the spectacular ending in spite of the weight difference. Despite whiffing on a hari-te and exposing himself to Gagamaru's attack, Tokusegawa resisted at the edge and gained an advantageous grip. Gagamaru forced the issue, pushing for the yori-kiri, but Tokusegawa pivoted valiantly and committed to the throw, heaving the 190kg Georgian clean onto his back before falling on top of him. Trust me, folks, it don't get much better than this. The Mongolian improves to a perhaps not so surprising 5-2, while Gaga falls to a listless 2-5.

Tochinoshin finally stopped the rot after narrowly dodging the bullet against Homasho. After a forearm blast at the tachi-ai (which barely budged Homer, I might add), Shin struggled to get some kind of mawashi grip, but was systematically denied. Frustrated, the Georgian attempted a dubious sort of headlock, which only left him out of position. Unfortunately for him, Homasho failed to capitalize, because Shin stopped his charge at the edge and finally worked his way into migi-yotsu. From that position, it was only a matter of time. Homasho should be kicking himself for losing that one as he falls to 4-3. Shin could still get kachi-koshi, with Hakuho and all the Ozeki out of the way.

Don't look now, but Kotoshogiku of all people is 6-1. True, his schedule as a Sekiwake is far easier than a meatgrinder guy has (just ask Tochinoshin), but all of his wins have been by yori-kiri, which is a pretty good indicator of his form. Today's win vs. Aminishiki was equally dominating, with the Geek grabbing the right uwate from the tachi-ai, planting the other fat arm under Sneaky's pit and pushing him straight back and out. Aminishiki sinks to 2-5, if anyone cares.

Kisenosato improved to 5-2 with a thorough demolition of Toyonoshima, hitting him hard, pushing him away and taking him off balance with a mighty paw to the head. Oshi-dashi was a mere formality afterwards. Toyonoshima crashed and is still burning at 1-6, but that's normal, considering his schedule.

Baruto kind of just stood up at the tachi-ai, maybe fearing some Mongol evasion, But Tamawashi did little to capitalize. The Estonian pushed things to the edge, but The Mawashi deflected his charge and got dangerously close to getting inside. Baruto, however, didn't panic and just yanked hard on his forward leaning opponent, sending him crashing to the clay face forward. Who needs sumo skill when you're this strong, right? Bart improves to 6-1, while Tamawashi is sporting a respectable 3-4, considering his rank.

Kakuryu greased Kaio (and I can't say I'm TOO unhappy about that one) with a lightning-fast, pinpoint-precision, generous-amplitude Father-of-All-Henkas, which allowed him to get behind the old guy less than a second into the bout. I was left staring at the replay in awe – I woke up, though, just in time to see Kak squirming in the interview room; hilarious stuff. It's amazing the guy actually came clean and admitted it was premeditated. Not that anybody who's been following sumo for more than one day would believe him otherwise... Kakuryu picks up his 3rd consecutive win and is a favorite for getting kachi-koshi. Kaio falls to a business-as-usual 4-3, and I *think* he'll get his 8.

Ex-Ama took care of business against the Thug, Aran, but not after some struggling. Despite what Ross might have said on the broadcast, Harumafuji didn't really look "in control" throughout the bout, advantageous position and all. When you're that small, a small misstep will cost you dearly, especially against a bigger, stronger guy (see the losses against Tochiohzan and Tamawashi). Anyway, our Ama hit his man hard and demanded the left mae-mawashi while keeping Aran away from the uwate on the other side. Feeling the pressure, Harumafuji risked a bit and freed his right hand to pull on Aran's head, getting him critically off balance. He then managed to get the right back in and finish it off by yori-kiri, getting his 5th win. Aran falls to 3-4.

In the strangest bout of the day, Yoshikaze charged way, way low, a la Mainoumi, and managed to get right under Kotooshu, probably looking for moro-zashi. Unfortunately for him, Kotooshu managed to slip his left hand under little Kaze's armpit AND wrap his head from the outside in the process. With the solid uwate on the right, Kotooshu took his time and got into position nicely, flattening the bothersome Yoshikaze by uwate-nage and landing on top of him. The big Bulgar is 6-1 if you need him, but look for a meltdown in week 2. Yoshikaze is winless so far.

In the musubi-no-ichiban Hakuho made good on an early pull attempt by Tochiohzan, keeping his feet under him after slipping a bit and getting the job done by yori-kiri to go up to 7-0. Oh falls to 2-5, but I expect a comeback later.
I'll be back on day 13, but tomorrow Clancy will try his best to impersonate Clancy.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Riding Kenji's wave, allow me to add a few comments of my own on the recently-retired Tosanoumi. Newbies to sumo will surely wonder why the love-fest for this guy anyone has barely heard of, but they don't make 'em like Tosanoumi anymore. If they did, such phrases as yusho-arasoi and mae-ni-deru-sumo would be restored to the sport, and we wouldn't have Homer Simpson calling out from the stands each basho, "Bor-ring!" Tosanoumi made his debut in the Makuuchi division in Nagoya 1995, a time when Kenji and I were bumping around Fukuoka and enjoying an era of sumo that produced banzuke so strong that even the gods spoke in whispers. In the midst of this environment, a college kid name Tosanoumi entered sumo's Makushita upper ranks in March and found himself ranked in the sanyaku less than a year later. I can still vividly remember the 1995 Kyushu basho where Tosanoumi picked up his first two kin-basho against Takanohana and Akebono on days 7 and 9 of the tournament not to mention the Shukunsho and Ginosho awards.

And while I appreciated Tosanoumi's longevity, fighting style, and tenacity in the ring, one of the most memorable Tosanoumi moments for me was far less obscure. On day 9 of the 2005 Aki basho, Tosanoumi faced upstart Tokitenku. Both rikishi approached the starting lines and each placed their left fists to the ground. After a few seconds, Tokitenku felt the timing was right and slammed his right fist to the dirt and charged. Tosanoumi's right hand was still a good 40 centimeters above the dohyo, and he didn't even flinch as far as making it look as if he was ready to go, but the referee called out nokotta, nokotta meaning it was game on. Tokitenku rode the momentum to an easy push-out win, but everyone in the arena was looking over at the head judge waiting for him to call the bout back. Well, everyone but Tosanoumi. When it was evident that the bout would stand, Tosanoumi climbed back onto the dohyo, gave Tokitenku a deep bow, and then got his ass off of the clay and headed for the hana-michi. Not a single look at the referee, not a single look at the head judge, and no exaggerated looks of despair after being robbed. It was the best display of class I have ever witnessed atop the dohyo, but it totally summed up Tosanoumi. Sumo these days would be unbelievable if everyone gave a damn in the ring as he did, so it's no wonder Kenji spent over half of his report talking Tosanoumi up and down instead of the crap too many rikishi these days exhibit on the dohyo under the guise of sumo.

And since I can't get enough of crap on the dohyo, let's get right to the bouts starting from the bottom up!!

M15 Toyohibiki is trusting in his sumo this basho using super tachi-ai to drive his opponents back from the get-go. Today against M15 Kokkai, he used hidari-yotsu and a high right armbar to immediately drive Kokkai back and down softly onto his ass. When a rikishi crumbles at the edge as Kokkai did today, you know something isn't right. The Georgian made an exaggerated effort as he walked down the hana-michi to stretch his right elbow, but regardless if that is the real problem here, Kokkai (1-5) is circling the drain. Toyohibiki evens things out at 3-3.

M14 Wakakoyu used a flurry of tsuppari to keep M16 Sokokurai as far away from the mawashi as possible, but they weren't shoves meant to win...just to keep Sokokurai away from the belt. About 8 seconds in, Sokokurai finally finagled his way inside and actually had moro-zashi, but it was too light allowing Wakakoyu to back out quickly and slap Sokokurai down as he retreated. From the hana-michi, Sokokurai indicated that he thought he had won as soon as he got moro-zashi, but like a guy whose Viagra has worn off, he just couldn't finish. He'll still take that 4-2 record though as Wakakoyu improves to 3-3.

M17 Toyozakura knows he can't win in this division, and that's manifest by his tachi-ai going this way and that (Hakuba's ears just perked up). Today he moved to his left against M13 Kotokasuga but still managed to get his ass kicked as Kotokasuga read his every move and powdered him off in three oshi-dashi seconds. Momma Cass is singin' again at 3-3 while Toyozakura is 1-5.

M16 Tochinonada secured the left inside grip from the tachi-ai against M12 Koryu and immediately backed up going for a left scoop throw that saw Koryu thrown to the dirt like a rag doll. That doesn't happen if Koryu's tachi-ai has more beef to it. I did manage to cough up a bit of phlegm when Iwasa Announcer mentioned "yusho-arasoi" as Tochinonada delivered the chikara-mizu to Shimotori. Kitanofuji just about did too and playfully questioned his partner in the booth as if to say as nicely as one can, "ain't no way in hell that's happening." Still, Tochinonada is out to a 6-0 start. Koryu's 3-3.

M11 Shimotori was high at the tachi-ai and wasn't driving at all with his feet. When a rikishi takes five steps and manages to move his opponent back one, there's no substance to his sumo. M14 Kimurayama showed that with a nice paw to the neck and a series of effective oshi that has Shimotori pushed back in out in mere seconds moving to 3-3 while Shimotori falls to 1-5.

M13 Okinoumi jumped into hidari-yotsu so fast against M10 Miyabiyama there was no time for the former Ozeki's lumbering tsuppari. Okinoumi went for the force-out charge faster than you can say "Miyabiyama used to be an Ozeki?" leading with the right outer grip and picking up his 4th win in the process. Miyabiyama went along with yotsu-zumo instead of trying to shove his way out of it; thus the loss as he falls to 3-3.

Both M12 Mokonami and M10 Hakuba moved a half step to their left at the tachi-ai creating an awkward start where the two circled in the middle of the ring feeling each other out for a few seconds before finally settling into hidari-yotsu. After a brief pause, Moe fished for and got the right outer grip and easily manhandled Hakuba (2-4) back and out from there improving to 4-2..

If any television producer is looking to record canned laughter, recording the crowd after an M9 Takamisakari false start would to the trick. M11 Shotenro followed with his own obligatory false start, and you thought the two were done, but Takamisakari jumped the gun for the third false start. The reason I've wasted so much time talking about that is the on the fourth attempt, Takamisakari was as timid as Dungeons and Dragons guy when a girl enters the room, so Shotenro just shoved him back to the edge and bellied Takamisakari across that last step to make it yori-kiri. Shotenro is showing a bit of that old form that propelled him to the jo'i at 4-2. Takamisakari is 3-3.

M9 Wakanosato secured moro-zashi quite early in his clash with M8 Kitataiki using a nice slap to the face to set it up, but the dual inside position didn't include a belt grip, so Kitataiki was able to worm out of it by backing away and then moving laterally. Wakanosato just couldn't keep up allowing Kitataiki to turn the tables at the edge and force-out Wakanosato for the come back win. It spelled Wakanosato's first loss while Kitataiki improved to a not so shabby 4-2.

Finally able to pick on someone his own size, M7 Takekaze dominated the tachi-ai against M7 Tosayutaka earning the hidari-yotsu position with the right outer cherry on top. He moved Tosayutaka back and to the edge, and when Tosayutaka countered with a kubi-nage throw, it made for a spectacular scene as both rikishi went down head first at the edge together. Takekaze's left scoop throw proved the a hair as Takekaze improves to 4-2. Tosayutaka is yet another Maegashira rikishi at 1-5.

M6 Gagamaru was so high at the tachi-ai against M8 Tokitenku that even Miley Cirus looked up from her bong. Tokitenku secured moro-zashi without even trying, stepped to his left to avoid the Hutt's girth, and easily threw Gagamaru down with a shitate-nage. Both guys are struggling at 2-4.

M5 Goeido got the left inside at the tachi-ai against M5 Asasekiryu but executed as slow'a maki-kae as you care to see thanks to a lower body that was completely out of position to do so. Asasekiryu immediately drove Goeido back, but the Father had enough sense to slip to the side at the last second and throw Asasekiryu down to the dirt with a right scoop throw, evidence that he did finally get that right arm to the inside. Twas dangerous, but he'll take that 3-3 start. The Secretary has really been harassed this basho at 1-5.

M4 Tokusegawa and M6 Kyokutenho hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Tokusegawa signaled the changing of the guard here breaking off Tenho's outer grip and setting up his own yori-kiri charge. It was a methodic win for Tokusegawa who improves to 4-2 while the Chauffeur is the inverse.

M1 Aminishiki just pounded M2 Yoshikaze upright with two paws to the neck at the tachi-ai, but as he is wont to do seemingly every day now, Aminishiki immediately switched gears and backed up pulling Yoshikaze down to the dirt while dangerously tiptoeing the tawara. A mono-ii was called it was that close, but gunbai to Aminishiki for the hataki-komi win. At 2-4, though, there's not much for the Shneaky camp to get excited about. Course there's Yoshikaze and his 0-6.

Komusubi Kakuryu vs. M1 Toyonoshima was a scrappy affair for sure, but I would have liked to have seen at least a belt grip in this one. The Kak set the pace with a nifty nodowa from the tachi-ai and was content keeping this one away from the mawashi. Toyonoshima was clearly uncomfortable with the slapfest and tried to escape out of it this way and that nearly pulling Kakuryu off balance at one point, but Kakuryu completely dictated this one shoving the Demon's Ozeki candidate out in the end. Toyonoshima has now lost five straight after besting Baruto on day 1. Kakuryu is within shouting distance of kachi-koshi at 2-4.

Sekiwake Kisenosato and Sekiwake Kotoshogiku hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position that saw the Geeku immediately gaburu his counterpart back to the edge. Kisenosato withstood that first volley, but Kotoshogiku was hunkered low with his arse back too far for the kid to grab the outer he needed to win. It wouldn't come, so on the second round of dryhumps, Kotoshogiku bullied Kisenosato back and out for the win. Kisenosato looked a bit listless in this one, and the problem is that the Kid must have an outer grip in order to win. Kotoshogiku wisely took that away from his opponent and was rewarded with the easy win as he moves to 5-1. Kisenosato is still 4-2, but Sekiwake have to really stock pile the wins in week 1.

M4 Homasho used a persistent tsuppari attack to Keep Ozeki Kaio upright at the tachi-ai forcing him to leave his comfort zone, which meant moving around the ring to look for an opening. The two finally settled in hidari-yotsu, and Kaio eventually got the right outer grip, but the Old Gray mare was just too worn out to do anything by now, so Homasho easily threw him down to the dirt with an inner belt throw. when's the last time Kaio lost that way when he had the right outer grip? I commented on Kokkai's soft fall earlier, and Kaio's fall was just as timid. It's a clear sign that the guys shouldn't be fighting in this division. Both combatants finish at 4-2.

Ozeki Harumafuji was content to use light tsuppari against M3 Tamawashi to feel his opponent out and look for an opening to the inside, but when he didn't get it about four seconds in, he committed himself by grabbing Tamawashi's arm and retreating, but Tamawashi managed a wild left push that was a stab in the dark, but it found it's mark sending the backpedaling Ozeki clear off the dohyo face first into Baruto's crotch. I was concerned that Harumafuji may have lost consciousness due to the hard fall, but the sniffing salts woke him right up, and he thankfully bounced back up to the dohyo bowing to his second loss against four wins. Don't look now but Tamawashi is 3-3.

Ozeki Kotooshu and M2 Tochinoshin hooked up in the immediate gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both had right inside belt grips and left outers. Kotooshu was obviously leading this dance, which lasted for about five seconds before the Bulgarian easily dumped Shin to the dirt by the left outer belt grip. After an extremely shaky start, the Ozeki has managed a 5-1 record. Tochinoshin is winless, and his being the youngest guy in the division is no longer an excuse.

Ozeki Baruto displayed an awkward hari-zashi tachi-ai getting the left arm on the inside against Komusubi Tochiohzan, but it was so shallow that he immediately switching to shoves to compensate. In the meantime, Oh managed moro-zashi, but he was so upright that Bart grabbed him around the neck with the left arm and used a kote-nage stance grip with the right to twist Oh down at the edge. As Baruto stepped off the dohyo, he had that silly grin on his face indicating he knew the sumo was very sloppy, and it was. Still, Tochiohzan (2-4) is struggling mightily this basho, so Baruto escaped making it look easy, but this kind of sumo will not cut it in week 2. Bart's a cool 5-1.

Yokozuna Hakuho executed his usual staunch tachi-ai that saw him get the right inside position while he fished for a frontal grip with the left. When M3 Aran shook off those advances, Hakuho went for a quick pull attempt as he is wont to do, but the Russian was so befuddled as it was he couldn't capitalize even if it was just getting back into the bout. Hakuho got serious at this point and demanded moro-zashi again getting little resistance from Aran who was backed up and across the straw without argument. Aran falls to 3-3 and wanted no piece of the Yokozuna from the beginning. As for Hakuho, he's just doing his thang at 6-0. The Yokozuna should of course finish this and nearly every basho at 15-0, and if he can stay perfect in January, he'll already be sitting on 28 straight wins.

Well, looky here. The prodigal son returns tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments Kenji Heilman reporting)
Happy New Year. When Mike proposed day 5 for me to cover this basho, I didn't think anything of it. Just another day in another basho of providing Sumotalk as we have now for years. I'm sure Mike didn't think anything of it either. But when I was finally able to put life on hold today and watch the recording, I realized the full irony of the situation. The guest analyst for day 5 was Tategawa Oyakata, better known to most of us as Tosanoumi until last month when he retired after 16.5 years on the dohyo. What matters here is that, save for the year or so I didn't know of him when he was climbing through Makushita and Juryo in '94 and early '95, I've claimed Tosanoumi as my favorite rikishi since his famous Makuuchi debut in July of 1995. Like the state of sumo since then, the state of Sumotalk has evolved quite a bit since its inception- namely the diversification of our contributors so that you don't have to listen to the Mike and Kenji show for 15 days. And so we have a situation where I'm covering only one day this time, and how fitting that it's the day they spend breaking in 'ole Tosanoumi to the analyst chair. I don't go on tangents much, but today you'll have to excuse me as I give Tosa his props ahead of the normal commentary which I'll touch on at the end.

Famous Makuuchi debut in 1995, you ask? In a pretty useless but interesting piece of trivia, Tosanoumi is the only rikishi in the modern era to be matched up against an Ozeki on the first day of his Makuuchi debut basho. After having gone 14-1 at Juryo-1 (and winning that division) in May of '95, Tosanoumi was slotted all the way up at M-7 for his debut campaign and grabbed headlines when the pairings for Nagoya matched him up with then Ozeki Wakanohana on day 1. The bout itself ended in an uneventful hiki-otoshi loss for Tosanoumi, but he had arrived in the media and in the hearts and minds of fans by then. From that point Tosa would carve his niche in sumo with his clean, smash mouth style of oshi-zumo, producing out a body of work that includes some pretty impressive stats:

- 80 basho at Makuuchi, including 20 at Sanyaku. - 11 Kinboshi, including a string of 6 in 4 basho from Nov '98 to May '99 when he defeated Akebono once, Takanohana twice and Wakanohana three times. The 11 career Kinboshi ranks 4th on the all-time list. - Returned to Makuuchi at age 38, oldest to ever do so after having fallen to Juryo.

But the image I'll probably never forget about Tosanoumi is the tape I saw of him doing keiko in his prime, between basho in the late 90's. During a series of reps, Tosa launched a tachi-ai against a stablemate that sent them both out of the ring and clear through the temporary wall of the practice facility. This is what I loved about Tosanoumi. He brought it each and every time with a blue collar, lunch pail mentality. He didn't have the most talent. He wasn't the most graceful. But he worked hard. And hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. You knew what you were getting with Tosa, which was a noggin under your chin and two hands in your armpits at every tachi-ai. With it came an honest grunt and relentless pressure until one man fell- you falling backward or him falling forward. But he was always going down hill. If he fell forward for a loss, so be it. As for him, hiki-otoshi or hataki-komi were not part of his vocabulary. How refreshing. And thus he is my second favorite rikishi of all time, behind only Hokutoumi who was cut out of the same mold.

Anyway, was there sumo on this day 5 of Hatsu basho 2011? Oh yeah, let's touch on that before I let you go (and I do mean touch- I'll let the other boys write a book on the bouts later)...

In a bit of poetic justice on the day Tosanoumi cut his teeth as an analyst, 2 Makuuchi veterans Tochinonada and Wakanosato, both in their mid 30's, accomplished something today that neither had done before: Start a basho 5-0. M16 Tochinonada, who happens to be tied for 2nd all time with 12 Kinboshi, beat Wakakoyu while M9 Wakanosato readily handled Hakuba. These guys won't be in the conversation next week, but it's nice to see them achieve such a milestone so late in their careers.

Previously unbeaten Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (4-1) gave up moro-zashi to Komusubi Kakuryu (1-4) and couldn't overcome it, dropping his first bout.

Kisenosato (4-1) killed the left hand that technician Aminishiki (1-4) wanted to use, leading to a tsuki-otoshi win.

Tochiozan's bullish stance not to let Harumafuji in on either side improved his ledger to 2-3 while adding a blemish to the Ozeki's at 4-1.

Kotooshu took control early against Tamawashi (2-3), improving his record to 4-1.

Baruto won a migi-yotsu gappuri classic on the belt against fellow gaijin Tochinoshin. Baruto keeps pace with his peers at 4-1 while Tochi drops to 0-5.

Kaio, with a spring in his step defying his 38 years, blocked Toyonoshima from getting inside- especially on the left- and prevailed with a spirited oshi-dashi to go 4-1. Toyo is struggling at 1-4.

And finally, the boss Hakuho made short work of Yoshikaze in a quirky bout where a hataki-komi "almost worked", having brought Yoshi's hand to within inches of the clay. The action stopped for what looked like a brief second, then the two resumed after realizing the bout was still on. Almost immediately though, Yoshi fell forward again resulting essentially in a double-take hataki-komi win for Hakuho. He is 5-0, Yoshi is 0-5.

I'll leave you with Tosanoumi's general advice for longevity: Work a little harder, but don't overdo it. I love the beauty of a simple quote like that. Please apply to the endeavor of your choosing; I think I will. Props to Tosanoumi on a long and fruitful career. You inspired many.

Day 4 Comments Andreas Kungl reporting)
Currently, my thoughts revolve about layouting problems, stock market movements and the question if knowing for sure what you don't like is equal to having prematurely reached old fart status. With my brain capacity occupied suchwise, insightful findings about sumo are rather pushed to the odd dark side alleys of my lobular grid. But Hey! That's fine, because it takes me about three more lines to predict the outcome of the basho: Hakuho will take the yusho 15-0 (or 14-1 in case of a fluke). The "dominating" Ozeki will either be Baruto or Harumafuji -- my money is on the latter. Everyone else will just perform within limits of statistical variation. Thank you. Next basho please.

In the meantime, though, I will point out the day's formally important bouts. But let's begin with the rank and file medley, starting somewhere in the middle of the first half.

### Shotenro committed what felt like 16 matta before pushing Shimotori off with determination. Hanaregoma-rijicho was reported to have sharpened his shuriken. ### Koryu throttled Hakuba in a fashion that would have earned him five years without probation (death penalty in the US) if he maintained a website for publishing secret documents. ### The winning technique in the bout between Takamisakari and Miyabiyama was called yori-kiri, so it's up to you to figure out the winner. ### Kitataiki rightfully punished Tokitenku for some awful pulling sumo by chasing him around the dohyo and off for good. Kitataiki sez: Slowliness is close to genkiness. ### Wakanosato and Tosayutaka are physically so similar that experience counts double. A strong-looking veteran took care of his youngster opponent (who kicked, spat and screamed for sure). ### Kyokutenho can always handle the big fat opponents, so Gagamaru was welcomed, stopped, turned and disposed of. ### Takekaze won in a fashion that cannot be described while staying sane. The Secretary is now officially of the shrill elderly variety with fake hair and boobs and too much make-up. ### Sanyaku hopeful Tokusegawa fell back to his I-have-talent-why-concentrate? ways by standing up a bit too optimistically against career Maegashira Homasho, who managed to not fall on his face when having his opponent served on a silver plate. ### At M5 and 1-3 Goeido looks to me like an ex-Sekiwake who snapped because of all the expectations of the public. Asashoryu left too early for him to understand the meaning of infraredsensorguidedmultiwarheadcarryingmissile10metersawayfromwellheatedtarget-like determination. ###

In the day's first clash of sanyaku rikishi, Sekiwake Kisenosato took Komusubi Kakuryu's false start bullcharge like a man. The second attempt was no less forceful, as the Kid got thrown back a meter before he managed to turn the momentum, driving powerfully forward himself. Stancewise hidari-yotsu became the mode of choice, with Kisenosato in the driver's seat. Two or three attempts of quick yori-kiri were countered, though, with the Mongolian first threatening the outside throw, then hinting at a shitate-nage. However, the Sekiwake's determination was not to be defied. After an intensive and attractive struggle, the higher ranked rikishi prevailed. I didn't see Kisenosato's loss the other day, but I hope it was something he can mentally put aside, for The Force was strong with him today.

If Goeido (the former future Yokozuna) can snap, Tochiohzan (the former future Ozeki) merely bends, he is yet so softish. That's no good news in a match-up against a surprisingly focused and genki Kotoshogiku, who transformed the trademark steamhammer tachi-ai into the trademark hump-assisted yori-kiri. Three seconds to guide those dreams back to bleak reality.

Aran, oh Aran... You are not very good at sumo. But you are big, mean and strong. This helps against weaker and smaller opponents. You are also thuggish and not beyond employing questionable tachi-ai tactics. This helps against the big and weak-willed. Now, in which category would you put Kotooshu, I ask you? Yes, Aran, he‘s a big mental girl. So you understand that it is not a good idea to go and try best him with an honest tachi-ai relying on pure sumo skills after that? See, you learned something today.

Baruto's new mawashi somehow looks like it has been mawashied too hot, if you allow me this disgusting play of words, that -- strictly speaking -- is not even that. I welcomed the darker color he had chosen after his initial baby blue. The new (white?) one is IMHO a sign of regression. Light color on a white guy? He looks a bit naked. Questions of fashion aside, I am happy to announce that the Ozeki dodged the bullet called Shneaky after surviving an un-surprising sideshift tachi-ai and staying un-punished for several ill-advised pulling attempts in the vicinity of that. In the end, Aminishiki divebombed the empty brocade zabutons, while the Estonian lifted his leg, whispering Olé. A bout full of un-s and ill-s.

If Kaio's win against Yoshikaze was legitimate, it shows what the old bear (or is it mare?) can still do with the power of his arms alone. The retreat/pull/retreat part is now standard repertoire. But if this doesn't work by itself, he often seems to able to convert an opponent's imbalanced position immediately into a pushing motion, possibly supplemented by hints of elbow breaking throws. Shooting out of the hip would be the analogy. Kaio = whatever.

Kyushu yusho hopeful Toyonoshima (say it quickly ten times) has to get used to real competition once again. From the two tournaments after his gambling suspension, he brought along a record of 28-2 wins, a Juryo yusho, a Makuuchi jun-yusho, a gino-sho and a kanto-sho. However, if you cared to look at his position before the involuntary holiday, you‘d find him exactly at today's M1E. His result in May 2010? A pale 5-10 and struggling. It will be a tough basho for the undersized former future ex-ex-Ozeki candidate. In the spirit of this thought, Harumafuji throttled the Maegashira with alternating one-handed chokeholds that would have earned the Ozeki a $10 fine in certain Arabian countries if Toyonoshima was female and they were married to each other (Afterwards, Toyo would also be whipped by government officials for disobedience). The last push to the throat conveniently converted into the oshi-dashi win.

Of course, Tochinoshin wouldn‘t win against Hakuho, so that is that.

Kenji's word is what counts in this venue same time tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
New year, new hopes, new scandals. Oh there will be scandals as there always were and always will be as the non-educated gang continues to steam on. But there might be infrequent small rays of light in their decisions. At least it'll be for some sumo fans and rikishi families as Murray mentioned on today's broadcast, that the Kyokai is reconsidering its stance on banning 2nd floor people from the first floor during the morning. I say it was instantiated only to piss off me and Martin on our road trip to Tokyo and then just to save face, they put one more basho up with the farce...

Anyway let's hope it'll be a decent year with some sumo related big and decent news (i.e. a new Yokozuna, a new Ozeki etc), but I wouldn't be too hopeful. In any case, let us start today's yammering with a Chinese having a closer look at a veteran. Tochinonada met Sokokurai straight on with both clashing with crossed arms in front of their chests and continued with Nada just using his arm power to swing the Chinese to the clay with enough force to make the opponent's wheels go spinning in the air. And that from no belt grip. Nice. Nada continues undefeated while Sokokurai gets his first loss. I sure hope the rest of the bouts come up good today...

The retina-less Yokozuna hopeful (riiiight) didn't have his wheels greased on day one, but he did yesterday, and the grease is still going with him avoiding Toyozakura's sidestep and after a few shoves hugged Toyozakura close and walked and pushed him out. Quick work for Toyohibiki who improves to 2-1 while Toyozakura keeps his run on going for that decent 0-8 start.

The Demon Kakka surprisingly said that Wakakoyu should be a man that makes it to sanyaku, and today we found out Murray doesn't share the belief. Well today he can't really show future promise with a one legged out of steam ungreased Kokkai, unless of course he loses. Wakakoyu came out with a great nodowa that had da Cock up and backing away, but like Baruto on day one he got too excited and committed to a push while forgetting his feet and with such over commitment, he was just bound to be slapped down by Kokkai. Oh well, the world is slowly getting back to where it should be...

Kimurayama didn't henka to the left, now that's a surprise. Anyway Kotokasuga kept on slapping away, but didn't really have any power behind the slaps and no way to reach the belt. His footwork didn't help either. Finally Kimurayama decided to go for the pushing and shoving attack himself, but forgot that opponents tend to slip away at the edge, so without a decent grip he pushed hoping for a miracle and found himself on his knees staring at a happy Kotokasuga who got his first win.

Next off one of the younger hopefuls, Okinoumi, took on a slippery Koryu. Okidoki would have won yesterday had the bout not been stopped in tracks by the chief shimpansee, but he should have won it in any case. Both are 1-1 coming in and I've got no feel as to what their real state is these days. But if the trend continues, then the guy on the west side wins (all the other wresters have so far). Okinoumi gained moro-zashi straight up, but not deep enough to reach the mawashi, but deep enough to manhandle Koryu around the dohyo and out.

Moe and Shimotori had to try the start at least twice for one wouldn't want to waste the opportunity if one has already shown up, right. On the second attempt Shimotori got the right inside grip, but Moe kept his ass far and his right arm extended to keep Shimotori upright and away from the grip. He then used his shallow left hand grip to keep Shimotori away, and just as Shimotori adjusted his arms mounted an attack that took Shimotori out. Mokonami's 2-1 while Shimotori is 1-2. It's anyway too early to tell anything here.

Wakanosato has started off with a great two wins, but against Big Shot he's facing his first serious opponent. But history wise it's been all Mr. Waka who quickly got his arms inside and kept the grip tight and strong not allowing Shot even wiggling room as he escorted him back and out. Great stuff from the Barometer who goes 3-0, something that hasn't happened in quite a while. Shotenro needs to think about his life more.

Henkuba was given a clown to play with. And what a playing that was. I have just no words on how to describe this awkwardly weird bout (usually ones involving Takamisakari are, but this was plain weird). The two met at an angle making both rotate, they then separated and came at each other with open arms only to have a girlish slapfight for a moment or two. Takami then charged in and got a good grip of Hakuba only to have him wiggle out from under the Clown and accidentally down him with kubi-nage (I doubt that was an actual plan, his arm just happened to end up on clown's neck). Weird.

The Fatman is slowly degrading as he's feeling less and less dominating as he drops and drops... Fatman again almost lost it today to Tokitenku as he was met and then suddenly saw only air in front of him, but oddly enough he managed to catch his momentum today and then managed to fight off Tokitenku's attempts at the edge. Oddly enough Tokitenku decided to PUSH fatman out instead of pulling him to the clay allowing Miyabiyama to just slap Tenku's hands away and send him stumbling to the clay.

Next up the fatter Kaze, who manhandled Kyokutenho yesterday to my big surprise, got not so slim Kitataiki for today. After beating Tenho, Kitataiki should be trivial, right? Well that is exactly as it went when Takekaze caught Kitataiki, grabbed his arm and sent him going with a kote-nage like throw (like because Kitataiki never fell, just ran out).

And the last bout before the pee break has Lady Gaga fighting his Yukata and after a long tsuppari fest he can go and clothe himself while Tosayukata erm Tosayutaka goes to lick his wounds at 0-3.

Kyokutenho walked straight into Goeido's migi yotsu grip and unable to get a left outer himself didn't have all he needed to counter Goeido's strong throw with the left outside grip. Goeido finally picks up his first win and does so decently. I have no clue what he was doing the first two days, but then again most guys were acting seriously weird those days. Might have been all the booze from new year celebrations...

Asasekiryu got his favorite low stance and good grip, but Tokusegawa has definitely improved over the past few bashos and having migi-yotsu grip didn't allow Asasekiryu the room he needed for his usual tricks. Tokusegawa instead used his own grip and great power to slowly work Sexy back and over the tawara. There wasn't a moment where Sexy had a shot, which shows you either how low Sexy has fallen or how much Tokusegawa has improved. I think he belongs in the region he's in now as he goes 3-0 while sexy falls to 1-2.

Aran pulled a henka, but didn't compromise Homey in the process. A longish tsuppari struggle followed, but didn't have much punch from either side until Aran got away from him during one thrust and as he charged again got evaded and slapped down by Aran, this time successfully. Ugly bout, but those involving Aran often are. Too bad he can't win straight up against guys like Homey. He did skirt with Sanyaku, but I doubt he's gonna be around here much with such sumo.

Kotoshogiku had a good basho last time, which usually spells doom for this basho, but instead he's come out guns blazing and beaten his two first opponents straight up going 2-0. Could this be a breakout basho for him finally? I doubt it, but let's recap when I report again next basho. That's assuming of course he humps The Mawashi to oblivion first. Yeah, you guessed right, he did go to hidari yotsu grip from get-go and then let his inner dog do the rest.

Kisenosato hasn't had it easy the past few days even though being the one who stopped Hak's run, he should have. Today against Tochiohzan neither one initially was able to get a grab at the folds enough. Kisenosato played around with one for a moment, but a shake of the ass by Poo quickly released it almost sending Kise off balance. Kise then switched gears and went with an oshi attack that proved a lot more efficient keeping Ohzan dead center and slowly working him backwards and out. But I don't like the fact how much he struggles in his wins these days, he'll have his usual 8-10 wins with no future plans.

Ah, finally Baruto's match. I'd have to say his silver/tin mawashi looks better than his blue one, and his new year promise of a Yusho this year seems also a good one. When he was here in Estonia in December he also said that his goal is to be Yokozuna at some point, and he just lacked the motivation in 2010 with not having been home for so long. He now had two weeks in deep snow and hopefully is well rested and motivated. His day one charge was superb, the follow-up had problems, but let's see him calmly walk to 12-1 before meeting Hakuho. Today Bart started with a small slap to Yoshi's face and then immediately went over the back with the right hand and blocked Yoshi's shoulder with the left. Yoshi was on the inside, but he'd rather be running around Bart to have any shot at winning. So when Bart moved the arm from blocking to hugging it was all over for Espresso who got walked back and out in a calm fashion.

The young Georgian went to the forest to catch himself a Bear, and even though he wrestled the Bear with a good left hand inside he couldn't match power with the Bear's right paw that kept him on the toes going backwards until he lost his balance and fell. Today Kaio won without losing money, and Tochinoshin has to keep on going no matter what happens in the first week. But he should have won against Kaio today if he really wants to break through.

Harry needs his eight. Well he's been showing sumo that doesn't betray an injury anymore so he's likely to get the eight, but I seriously doubt he'll be good enough to challenge anything serious. Today he had his first real test in Kakuryu. After an initial struggle for grips, Harry got a good and deep hidari yotsu grip while Kak only had a left inside. After a moment's pause and settling, Harry mounted the charge that Kakuryu couldn't counter without his right arm having any grip. Harry is 3-0, but those have been three close wins so let's see how his ring rust dissolves and what he can do when he's no longer facing light opposition.

And now for the bout of the day (for me at least) in Kotooshu finally again meeting his second nemesis Toyonoshima (he already met Aminishiki and won surprisingly enough). Toyo's not looked bad at all with a slippery win against Baruto and then getting on the inside of Hak (though Hak was never in danger), but he knows how to play Kotooshu's buttons, so it has to be a good match. To win Toyo usually needs to get on the inside to set up a throw while Kotooshu would rather have him at an arms length. Kotooshu went in today with his arms blocking any kind of inside and kept Toyo away from himself. He then quickly mounted a charge managing to get Toyo parallel to the ground crashing out while Oshu stumbled over him out too. It looked easy enough until the MIB got up and went to discuss. Then during the replay it was visible that while Toyo was bending over Osh's foot sent up a spray of sand and it looked that Toyo might have pulled off a surprise recovery until the MIB announced gumbai-dori and Oshu the winner. A second closer look at the replay showed that Toyo's heel touched the sand on the outside only fractions of a second before Oshu did the sandspray so he did win it, but only by the skin of his teeth. Not the kind of match I had hoped for to be honest.

And finally musubi-no-ichiban with Hakuho taking care of the business today against Aminishiki. Aminishiki tried a henka'ish start, but the Yokozuna wasn't fooled grabbing Ami's mawashi and pivoting him around sending him out in such a force that he barely missed the water barrel and ended up in the 7th row. Business as usual as Hak puts on his yukata and has a look of work well done.

That's all for the day, which was the first reasonable one this year where most of the favorites actually ended up winning. Andreas will rub you tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Perhaps the biggest word in the Japanese language that contradicts itself is tarento. The word is classified as gairaigo meaning it's derived from a word from another language, in this case the word "talent" from the English language. A tarento refers to a TV personality in Japan, who happens to find themselves on television not because they actually have talent, but because they look different from your average member in society. For the majority of talents in Japan, they have achieved their status because they are drop-dead good looking (in the case of chicks, add a fake settuh hooters, and their status as a "talent" really soars). Besides good looks, other talents have managed to break into the industry for other quirks like cross dressing, a silly haircut, an obnoxious voice, or a combination of such things that would get most working members of society shunned in a heartbeat.

In nearly every case, a person who is considered a "talent" capitalizes on his or her good looks or some other gag to cover up the fact that they actually have no talent and are on television because they stand out from the typical rank and file members of society. The whole reason I even bring this up is because there is a typical talent who will frequent the sumo broadcasts about once a year. His name is Demon Kakka, or the artist formerly known as Demon Kogure, and if you caught the broadcast today, you know exactly who I'm talking about. The "Demon" (pictured at right) actually got his start 25 years ago or so in the music business as the vocalist for a shock heavy metal band called Seikimatsu (means end of the century with a nuance back then to end of the world). Each member of the band portrayed demons using heavy facial makeup and outlandish costumes, all in an effort to cover up the fact that their music for the most part sucked.

Once music fans got bored of the act, the members of Seikimatsu had to reinvent themselves, and Demon Kakka has proven to be the most successful. The dude has a great voice, he's very well articulated, and he's a really intelligent guy who actually graduated from a prestigious university in Japan. Since there are a whole helluva lotta guys in Japan who are intelligent, well-articulated, have good voices, and have graduated from prestigious universities, Demon Kakka keeps the make-up and outrageous costumes on, and bingo, he has now separated himself from the norm in society to talent status.

Anyway, for as long as I can remember, Demon Kakka, a huge sumo fan, has been invited once or twice a year to participate in the NHK broadcasts. I've tolerated Demon Kakka over the years because I get his act, and I appreciate his passion for sumo, but dude is largely over-rated as a sumo analyst (Sumotalk critic, scoff here). He's never offered me any insight into the sport, and I've perceived him as someone NHK can bring onto the broadcast a few times a year to literally add some color to the normally stoic atmosphere. After today's broadcast, however, Demon Kakka has finally worn out his welcome.

Along with Demon Kakka, NHK also invited the former Takanonami and Dejima to join sumo's best announcer in the booth, Fujii Announcer. Since I love to search YouTube for videos of multiple dudes cramped into tight places, I was a bit disappointed that NHK moved the four guys out of the normal broadcast booth and into a makeshift set they set up in the spacious interview room of all places, but such is life.

The broadcast began with the usual 15 minutes of time to kill, so Fujii Announcer brought out a magnetic banzuke board and asked Demon Kakka to formulate his dream banzuke. The Demon's first move was to place Kaio in the West Yokozuna slot, and what's even more ridiculous, dude was serious saying in the past they have promoted guys to Yokozuna even though they didn't win two basho in a row, so he reasoned Kaio could be slotted there as sort of an honorary Yokozuna. NHK is such a professional organization, and their sumo broadcasts are so polished, so to see Demon Kakka come up with such a retarded banzuke (that included Toyonoshima as an Ozeki and Wakakoyu as a Komusubi) really tainted the day from the beginning. Luckily, it'd get worse.

During the day's final matchup, which featured Hakuho and Toyonoshima, at the point in the bout where Toyonoshima gained moro-zashi, I hear this excited "Ohhhhh!!!!!" overshadowing Fujii Announcer, which was Demon Kakka screaming out in excitement at Toyonoshima's position. I'm not quite sure which was the worst of the following cardinal sins of broadcasting committed in that moment:

- the color guy shouting over the person calling the action
- a dude in the booth actually rooting for a particular rikishi (even the guys who call Japan's Olympics events were embarrassed)
- the NHK producer failing to turn off the Demon's mic

Regardless of which act was more embarrassing, NHK needs to say sayonara to Demon Kakka who is now detracting from the professionalism of the broadcast more than he is contributing. And speaking of contradictions, I chortle when I think of the Sumo Association, which is so by-the-book, allowing this misfit to stand in on Fujii Announcer's interviews of winning rikishi causing the rikishi to laugh, smile, or lose a bit of composure as the Demon addresses them. Where's Demon Uchidate when we need her?

To compensate for putting most of you to sleep with my little rant, let's start from the top and work our way down starting with the rematch of last basho's playoff featuring Yokozuna Hakuho vs. M1 Toyonoshima. Hakuho dominated the tachi-ai gaining the right inside grip where he immediately bodied up to Toyonoshima and began nudging him back. In the process, Toyonoshima slipped to the side and actually managed a maki-kae causing me to scream out, "Ohhhhh!!!!!" with Toyonoshima now in the moro-zashi position, but Hakuho was in complete command never adjusting his charge and using his left arm to easily throw Toyonoshima to the dirt via kote-nage at the edge. As they showed the replays of the bout, Demon was adamant that Toyonoshima had a shot after gaining moro-zashi, but the bout was so decisive in favor of Hakuho, that the freak was merely trying to justify his climaxing in front of a national audience. Regardless, Hakuho cruises to 2-0 while Toyonoshima is a swell 1-1.

Ozeki Baruto exhibited a lazy tachi-ai that was a half second late enabling Komusubi Kakuryu to get his left arm on the inside, but the Kak failed to disallow Baruto the same position on the other side, so the Ozeki hugged his opponent in tight, firmed up his right outer grip, and then just hoisted the Kak clear off his feet and walked him over to the edge setting him down a step beyond the straw in as fabulous of a tsuri-dashi as you please. In order to beat Baruto, you have to gain moro-zashi or get him completely off balance like Toyonoshima yesterday. Baruto's tachi-ai was late, and he did provide a brief opening, but Kakuryu failed to capitalize sending the Komusubi to an expected 0-2 start. Baruto evens things up at 1-1, but his sumo has been very shaky the first two days.

As bad as Baruto's tachi-ai was, Ozeki Kotooshu's was even worse, and that's being nice. Against Komusubi Tochiohzan, the Ozeki's was higher than Snoop Dog at the tachi-ai gifting Tochiohzan the moro-zashi position from the get-go. And Tochiohzan took full advantage driving the Bulgarian back to the edge and throwing him down to the dohyo via yori-taoshi in insulting fashion. One of the biggest knocks against Kotooshu (1-1) through the years is that he loses as an Ozeki never should (i.e. gets his ass kicked).  And is it just me, or does Kotooshu look as if he's enjoying being manhandled a little too much?  As for Tochiohzan who improves to 1-1 himself, he showed with today's sumo that he is fully able to capitalize on a botched tachi-ai from an Ozeki...thus his current separation from Kakuryu.

Ozeki Harumafuji implemented his catquick tsuppari tachi-ai going for M2 Yoshikaze's neck from the gun, but Yoshikaze survived the onslaught getting a dangerous left arm on the inside to boot. With the Ozeki having exerted that initial burst of energy, Yoshikaze now controlled the bout with his inside position and began forcing Harumafuji back towards the straw. If this was the Harumafuji of the last year or so, I believe he would have resigned himself to his fate, but the Ozeki willed his way back into this bout with a left counter scoop throw that halted Yoshikaze's charge just enough to where the rikishi were back on an even keel. But Harumafuji wasn't satisfied and straightway executed a maki-kae so fast that even Usain Bolt stopped to watch as the Ozeki used his moro-zashi position to completely decaffeinate Yoshikaze's upset quest, force him back to the edge, and then boost him across via tsuri-dashi. This was close, but Harumafuji gladly takes the win and moves to 2-0 while Yoshikaze drops to 0-2.

I was listening to a sermon in church yesterday focusing on the Sermon on the Mount, and the key scripture that stood out to me was one in Matthew I think that goes, "The henka giveth, and the henka taketh away." And that was certainly the case today in our final Ozeki bout as M1 Aminishiki moved to his right sending Kaio into no man's land. Before the Ozeki could recover, Shneaky grabbed a cheap mawashi grip and shoved Kaio out from behind in a flash. Granted, Kaio's henka are far better masked than this one today, but the Ozeki really has no complaints. Both rikishi are 1-1 after the ugly affair, and despite Demon Kakka providing an unnecessary presence in the interview room, Fujii Announcer put the pro back in professionalism by bringing Aminishiki in and questioning him straightway about the henka.

One of the best chess matches of the day occurred between Sekiwake Kotoshogiku and M2 Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin won the tachi-ai, which resulted in the migi-yotsu position, but Tochinoshin had his right shoulder pushing into Kotoshogiku's torso keeping the Sekiwake well at bay. The problem with the tactic was, however, that Tochinoshin's left arm was so far away from a right outer grip on the Geeku's belt that the youngster looked unsure of how to proceed. During such deep thoughts, Kotoshogiku did the thinking for him by wrenching his way in tight to where the two combatants' chests were now aligned giving the stubby veteran the advantage, which he would not waste. Kotoshogiku knew exactly what to do as he dry-humped Shin across the dohyo and out for the nice yori-kiri win not to mention 2-0 start. There wasn't a whole lot of action in this one, but it was fun to watch Kotoshogiku try Tochinoshin's patience before schooling him in the end. Tochinoshin needs to rethink a few things at 0-2.

Sekiwake Kisenosato frankly lost the tachi-ai in his bout against M3 Aran, who exhibited some nice tsuppari and stayed low to befuddle the Kid. Kisenosato countered with a few hari-te mingled with tsuppari of his own trying to create any sort of opening to the belt, but with both rikishi hunkered down in lower stances, you just knew the evasion from Aran was coming. Kisenosato survived the first volley, but Aran just kept sliding to his left pulling the Sekiwake down in the process by his extended arms. I consider Aran a belt fighter, but against a superior belt fighter like Kisenosato, I can hardly fault him for looking to pull in order to clinch the win. As for Kisenosato, the majority of his bouts are lost at the tachi-ai where he's not exactly a go-getter. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M4 Tokusegawa opted for a hari-zashi tachi-ai using the right hand to slap, but M3 Tamawashi shifted ever so slightly to his left leaving nothing for Tokusegawa's own left arm to grab onto. With Tamawashi shifting and Tokusegawa dangerously losing his balance near the edge, the superior rikishi in Tokusegawa was able to pull his man down to the clay before being shoved out of the ring. Ugly sumo for the most part due to The Mawashi's shift, but a great recovery from Tokusegawa who is 2-0. Tamawashi falls to 1-1.

If sumo had a middleweight division, the M4 - M5 Goeido bout today would be one of the featured bouts of the tournament. As it was, today's contest turned into a scrappy migi-yotsu affair where Goeido's rush to force Homasho back and out in a flash was executed too sloppily resulting in moro-zashi for Homasho at the ropes. Goeido nearly had his gal where he wanted her at this point, but nothing reeks of counter sumo more than moro-zashi at the edge, and Homasho was able to turn the tables and drive Goeido clear across the dohyo for the yori-taoshi win. The key in the bout was Homasho's left thigh positioned perfectly to the outside of Goeido's right leg. With the threat of kiri-kaeshi, Goeido wasn't able to commit on his final force-out attempt, and Homasho further used that left leg brilliantly to force Goeido back and down so quickly. Haste made waste for Goeido at 0-2 while Homasho moves to 1-1.

M6 Gagamaru was a half second late at the tachi-ai, which allowed the tactician, M5 Asasekiryu, to burrow into the lower hidari-yotsu position and raise Gagamaru up way too high for his own good. Chest to chest, there's really no way that Asasekiryu can beat a behemoth like Gagamaru, but with the lower stance, it was a piece of cake for the Secretary who scored the nifty yori-taoshi win. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M6 Kyokutenho was lazy daisy at the tachi-ai against M7 Takekaze, who stayed low and waltzed right into the moro-zashi position. Kyokutenho tried to dig in wrapping both arms tightly around Takekaze's upper arms (the kime position, fitting with Takanonami in the booth), but before he could start a'wrenchin, Takekaze simply backed up pulling Kyokutenho to the dirt in the process via a shoulder slap. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M7 Tosayutaka won the tachi-ai against M9 Takamisakari and had him completely off balance as he drove the RoboCop back, but as he does so well, Takamisakari uncannily managed to obtain the migi inside position to right the ship at the edge, and with Tosayutaka exposed a bit from his force-out committal, the gangly Sakari latched onto a left outer grip turning the tables as he inched Tosayutaka over to the edge where he felled him with a spectacular outer belt throw. Takamisakari moves to 2-0 with the comeback win, but more importantly, they pulled him into the interview room for a day 2 treat!! As much as I've been harping on Demon Kakka today, that interview wouldn't have happened if it was business as usual with today's broadcast, so I guess the Demon is good for at least something. When was the last time an M9 was interviewed after beating an 0-2 M7?

M8 Tokitenku offered a stiff arm at the tachi-ai, but M9 Wakanosato just ducked right under it threatening moro-zashi. Tenku looked to get the hell outta there at that point, but Wakanosato read the move like a porno manga in the hands of a Japanese 7th grader easily shoving the retreating Tokitenku out moving to 2-0. TokiDoki falls to 0-2.

M10 Miyabiyama used the lumbering tsuppari to drive M8 Kitataiki back in a glance, and as Kitataiki evaded looking to pull the Sheriff off balance, Miyabiyama used decent footwork to survive the counter attack and keep himself in a position that was good enough to pull Kitataiki to the dirt while Miyabiyama was moving laterally himself. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M10 Henkaba lived up to his name moving to the left against M11 Shimotori, and although Shimotori was able to offer a stiff arm to try and keep Hakuba at bay, the Mongolian oiled is way into moro-zashi taking care of his yori-kiri bidness from there. Both dudes are 1-1.

M11 Shotenro has been on a roll of late, and M12 Koryu knew it, so in a classless move, he henka'd to his left knocking Shotenro to the clay in a half second. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M12 Mokonami gained the early left outer grip at the tachi-ai against M13 Kotokasuga and wrenched the Momma so tightly with that outer grip that Kotokasuga's right inside position was rendered useless. Mokonami followed up with a quick force-out charge from there that set Momma-Cass-uga up for a tsuri-dashi. Great stuff from Moe who picks up his first win while Momma Cass is still stuck on the doughnut. Mmmm...doughnuts.

It took just two days into the tournament for the head judge to ruin the outcome of a bout. M13 Okinoumi charged hard into M14 Wakakoyu and was driving him back to certain death when the head judge raised his arm stopping the bout. Apparently Wakakoyu didn't pound both fists to the deck hard enough (looked to me that it was legit), so a rematch was called for. As expected, Okinoumi was a different rikishi using flailing tsuppari at the tachi-ai, which isn't his game. Wakakoyu capitalized timing a perfect pulldown to send Okinoumi to the clay and to his first loss while Wakakoyu skates to a 2-0 start.

M14 Kimurayama didn't henka and was far too passive at the tachi-ai opting to wait for an opening to evade against M15 Toyohibiki, but Toyohibiki's tachi-ai was too solid, his tsuppari too potent, and most importantly, his de-ashi were sound as he bullied Kim back, to the side, and out in four seconds or so. Wasn't even close as the Nikibi picks up his first win in the division since last May. Kimurayama falls to 1-1.

M15 Kokkai's sumo of late should be aptly labeled "desperation" sumo. Dude's gripping this low in the ranks, and it's showing in his timid sumo. Today against M16 Tochinonada, he agreed to a hidari-yotsu contest from the start, and even when Tochinonada whiffed on two scoop throws with the left hand creating separation, Kokkai dove right back into the hidari-yotsu position. In the end, Tochinonada won the bout via oshi-taoshi in the center of the ring pushing Kokkai down with one hand from the side signaling Kokkai had zero lower body working for him this bout. At 0-2 and at the M15 rank, Kokkai SHOULD be flustered. Tochinonada's 2-0 if you need him.

And finally, if Wakanosato was the barometer years ago measuring whether or not a jo'i rikishi was worthy to yusho, Toyozakura is the Makuuchi barometer rikishi today meaning if you can't beat him, you don't belong in Makuuchi. Well, I'm proud to say that M16 Sokokurai passed the test easily surviving Zak's moro-te-zuki tachi-ai, showing great patience with defensive tsuppari, and then shoving the M17 out with little fanfare upping his record to 2-0. Toyozakura is an expected 0-2.

Mario dons the face paint and puts feathers in his cap to get your attention tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Welcome to the year (insert whichever chrono-paradigm you hold dear), crime stoppers! It is my great pleasure to be addressing you from Japan as the Hatsu Basho gets underway.

The redoubtable English statesman Churchill once quipped about Americans that they can always be relied upon to do the right thing...after theyve exhausted every other option. It seems to me that the sumo world follows the same logic. Im not quite sure if theyre there yet, but as Mixmaster Mikenstein outlined in his pre-basho, they are moving in that direction.

What got them started on this road to riches was finally jettisoning the albatross around their necks, Yokozuna Asashoryu. As most of you know, I was overjoyed to see him go, what with his cocksure attitude, and his cloyingly chummy way with fans, his passing up on a Japanese bride, and his insistence on winning. In fact, I took a stroll past his former haunt the other day, and snapped these photos. My, how the mighty have fallen.

Normally I start from the ground up, but I was licking my chops at Hak/Kak (NOT because there was the possibility of an upset, but for the rhyme alone), so Ill begin in the firmament.

Coming in 0-for-lifetime vs. Kublai, Kakuryu was hoping for some magic a la Kisenosato in Nov. Alas, the pixie dust was in short supply today as he charged in and was immediately armbarred by the Yokozuna, who spun him around and placed a paw on his face, then chest, and it was time to watch the bow twirling. I would love to be able to report more, but thatd be padding, and I dont do padding. Never have, never will. Cant stand it when someone uses fluff or distraction to make their reports longer. Definitely NOT the kind of thing that youll ever see me doing. No sir, no way. Its beneath me, the mere idea of filler. I wont stoop.

In the penultimate clash, the once great but now a stale tale of an Ozeki Kaio, who galumphs into the ring with the closest thing to miasma surrounding him as youll find in sumo, took on Tochiohzan, demoted only one spot to Komusubi (despite his atrocious seven day mid-basho pratfall in Nov.) Tochiohzan went straight in, keeping his elbows tight and half cocked, knowing the Ozekis predilection for pulling on a foes arm, but this let Kaio slam him with his own, fully extended pipes, which though old, are still solid. On Oh Snaps fourth or fifth attempt at getting inside, Kaio scored a shot to the side of the Komusubis face, causing him to lose his balance and stumble to his left, where he knew the jig was up and fell to his teats. Nothing shady in this one unless you think that eschewing a sounder, laterally shifting strategy against the old man is shady. Chalk it up to what I call "a personal preference for Ozeki deference." After all, sumo is not a sport; its a culture, and rikishi are nothing if not cultured.

If any bout on Day 1 was fertile grounds for an upset (if we can even label it an upset) it was Baruto vs. Toyonoshima. Baruto has difficulty keeping up with smallish men, and none of the tiny ones are stronger or slicker than Tugboat. After sloughing off a full frontal facial assault by the Biomass, Toyonoshima made his intentions clear by trying to get an arm to tug on, all the while keeping his feet in constant sideways motion. Baruto came forward after his prey nicely at first, but finally succumbed to the (false) notion that he had the M1 backed up to the edge enough where a lunge would do the trick. Turns out Tug had just enough room to slip away, while slapping down on the forward tumbling Big Bumpkins pumpkin. Baruto had the choice of falling out on the hard edge of the dohyo and landing square on his coqnballz or doing a fliproll and landing on his keister. He chose ass and the crowd was rewarded with a big ol kaboom as he nearly obliterated one of the MIB.

The other M1, Aminishiki, had just been robbed of a tori-naoshi (do over) by the aforementioned Men In Black as he and Kotooshu tumbled out together. Course, the decision could have had something to do with Shneakys henka and subsequent backward pulling sumo. Regardless, Kotooshu dodges the opponent who is for him the biggest bullet each basho. Could this instill some confidence and portend great things? Give me a .33 break!

Harumafuji blasted Tochinoshin to the edge, but the larger man resisted and forced the action back to center. The Ozeki used his belt grip to move them both around, and when No Shine (in a poor, high position) made the slightest move to grab a belt for himself, drove forward and backed him out.

Kisenosato used cheap tachi-ai tactics on Yoshikaze, deflecting rather than taking the much smaller man straight on. Once out of sorts, Starbuck was easy shovings for the Sekiwake. Maybe thats how Kisenosato gets past his first day jitters, but it was shameful nonetheless.

Aran surprisingly held off Kotoshogiku for a while after the Geeku had gotten his favored inside grips and started the belly bumping. But nothing good lasts forever, and when Aran chose to do something other than stand there and resist the force he was up against (namely reach for a belt), Geeku smartly sensed it and crushed him out.

With neither man getting anywhere near a belt in a short, frantic match, Tamawashi eventually gave Homasho a timely slap and sent him down.

Goeido came in low and hard vs. Tokusegawa, but the Mongolian nearly swung around and tripped the M5 at the edge. Instead, Father Goeido Sarducci forced it to the middle of the rounded square. Tokusegawa had two hands on the belt now, and Goeido one, and as they both tried to throw, two beat one. Nice win for the gai, who will finish his first full year in Makuuchi on Senshuraku.

Asasekiryu and Kyokutenho locked up in a good old yotsu-zumo bout, but Sexy didnt have the strength to do much, and the Chauffer wore him down and set him by the curb.

Takekaze made the decision to man up on Gagamaru (perhaps because Yoda and his lady had just entered the building), but most guys would rather access Google Images and enter "horrific wounds" in the Search box than stand in front of Lord Gaga as he tried to move forward. Takekaze managed to walk away, but got flattened like gum on a sidewalk. (By the way, I do not recommend entering that phrase in Google Images--trust me).

Kitataiki rode Tosayutaka out of town on a rail and Takamisakari got around behind Tokitenku and eventually twisted him niftily into the dirt.

In a bout that used to occasionally have yusho implications, former sanyaku anchors Miyabiyama and Wakanosato went dough to dough and the Croc used his stumpy lil arms to set up the E10 for the slapdown win.

Shotenro defeated Hakuba (who surprisingly did not henka and ergo unsurprisingly got his ass kicked), Shimotori worked Koryu out, Okinoumi had an impressive rout of Mokonami, Wakakoyu got lucky vs. Kotokasuga, and Kokkai further demonstrated while hell be leaving Japan soon enough (to make room for another European perhaps, one who speaks Romanian, nest-ce pas?)

Finally, Toyohibiki gambled on allowing Sokokurai get his belt, which spelt death for the Makuuchi returnee, and veteran Tochinonada taught youngster (by two weeks) Toyozakura its not nice to fool with Mother Nature!

Ill pop up on Day 8, and if I see my shadow, it means Ill be back on Day 15 as well. Mike puts it in your pipe and smokes it tomorrow.




















* He'll also try to convince you I was out hunting raccoons with the slingshot my great-great-grandpa left me, but you know better... right?  (back to the top of the report)











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