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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 (Grokanohana reporting)
Hello and welcome to all you Heinlein fans. When a Yokozuna takes the yusho on Day 14, it no doubt causes the interest level to drop precipitously for some people on Senshuraku, which is a shame, because the early clinching ought to be cause for rejoicing. With nothing of significance at stake, the Yokozuna showdown can be an unscripted clash.

And that seemed to be the case today. Having blown any chance of taking his third yusho this year by losing on three consecutive days to guys he normally beats, Asashoryu was looking to keep Hakuho from walking away with a perfect record in this last basho of the year.  Hakuho flew out of the gate like a man possessed (possessed of the best sumo skills in the world, that is). Asa fended him off with an outstretched right arm while getting pushed back, but at the same time managed to snag the outside left belt and began what would be a bout-long flirtation with the inside right. But like most flirtations, this one would end up with someone smitten being smote. 

Hakuho sensed hed given away some bad belt and his zensho might be in trouble, so he pulled his left side backward out of Asas reach while adopting the dancing cheek-to-cheek stance. He then tried a quick beltless inside right hand throw, but Genghis stayed on his feet. Importantly the 14-0 man was able to grab a strong inside right belt just before Asa countered with his own throw attempt, which Hak expertly dodged by bending low and opening his stance up wide and perpendicular to the East Yokozuna, so he couldnt be toppled. Continuing to rotate away to his left and with his leading leg now under Asas, Kublai sniffed for a leg lifting throw which Asa denied by circling around to come cheek-to-cheek once again. With Hakuho keeping his left side back Asa could no nothing but fish for the deep inside right belt, but each time he tried Hak instinctively shimmishaked and Genghis came up empty. 

Frustrated by this inability to get what he wanted, Asa used his right to snag the front of the belt, technically "pubis grabis", and tried to do an old fashioned lifting walkout. Hakuho, yes, lets all say it in unison for the David Shapiro biggest stuttering bore billionth blighting time, "dropped his hips" (just how exactly does one "drop" ones hips? isnt it more a case of lowering them, or crouching?) leaned in on him and made that impossible. An exhausted Asa backed away and took a half-hearted drag on his foe, but that death grip of a right hand inside belt that Kublai had was confounding any hope for a pulldown throw.

Sensing that the twenty-four time yusho winner had shot his load, the younger and stronger Yokozuna abandoned his perpendicular stance and bellied up to grab the outside left belt. Now chest-to-chest, Hakuhos hands were a lions mouth to Asas baby springbok mawashi. After one failed throw attempt, Hak spent a few moments gathering his strength, then made the push to lift Genghis to the edge. Asa held firm at the ropes by resisting, but with his senpai between a rock and hard place, Hakuho said, Well, if you don't wanna go out quiet yorikiri and all, yer goin down with a spectacular left-hand uwatenage. And spectacular it was.

Mike will tell you all about the significance of this year and Hakuhos choke hold on number one in his post report, so lets move on to some other interesting bouts.

There WAS one person in Japan who thought Kotomitsuki, with his KK assured, would go all out and beat Kaio Legend, 7-7, and that was an eight year-old boy whom Mitsuki had bussed as an infant at the 2001 Aki basho after taking his one and only yusho. I should say one Japanese, because there are loads of foreigners (with the emphasis on "loads") who think Oswald acted alone, she really did come three times, and sumo bouts are never pre-determined. 

Signaling that he was ready to be armbarred, Mitsuki dutifully placed his left fist firmly down, waited on it for nearly two seconds (an eternity in sumo), then charged forward, nestling his left arm firmly beneath Kaios right pit. The Old All-Timer locked down on it while spinning the Sadogatake beya boy down in less than one second. Amusing it was to listen to Morita Hiro talk up the bout to build suspense, wondering aloud, "Is Kaio going to get his KK here?" 

It's a shame that there is no reasonable way for us to announce the bouts live here at ST. Excepting Murray the K, Doreen "Hes Got A Beautiful Sumo Face" Simmons, and Ross "3:16" Mihara, the NHK team, to put not too fine a point on it, bores me to tears. Id rather sell my children to Bedouins than listen to the lisping somnambulant knob Clyde, the atrociously educated Swenson (its length, width and heighT!!! ends in a "T" bud, not "TH"), the earnest but humorless Hiro (probably there mainly to keep an eye on the foreign devils for the English inept Bosses), and and and and and and that that that being said, the worst, uh, you know, uh, riKEEshi announcer, uh you know, in the game, uh today, David "Please Move Back To Sesame Street" Shapiro. Please dont misunderstand. Im sure theyre all good people, pay their bills, remember birthdays...but they suck a bag of dicks when it comes to helping make a day of sumo exciting to watch. But Im kind so Ill give them a hint: Don't take it all so fucking seriously! I know some of you only get one day to do each basho, but lighten up and laugh a bit, make the occasional humorous comments, and don't say the same dull crap time after time. Remember: SPICE!

Speaking of feminine hygiene products, NostraMartin was dead on about the Sekiwakes evil intentions today vs. Kisenosato, as he made the lamentably late Canadian henka lover Bernard turn in his grave (with a hard on) by leaping, no flying, nay Harrier jump-jetting out of the way at tachi-ai. Kak, Kak, Kak, you flaccid little bitch. Im a fan, but I truly hope they reward your Days 14 and 15 with a Maegashira 2. A deuce for a douche!

Takekaze pulled Tochiohzan out with perfect timing tho the kimarite said pushout. Tochiohzan was hopping around like Gollum in this one, and got his ass handed to him as a result. Some of you think Im nuts for saying Takekaze was shopping for wins mid-basho, but I stick by my assertion that he was gifted by Harumafuji, Aminishiki, and by a four loss Baruto (THAT one was a laugher). He missed KK by two wins simply because even when you buy a few, you still need to win most straight up. And he didnt.

With both men coming in a decidedly un-horny 6-9, Bushu defended well vs. Homasho, who had the advantage right up until he missed on one push, Dolly got around him and shoved him out. (As an example of how inept Hiro is, he said, "Homasho defensive all the way in this battle, Bushuyama kept pushing and going forward". Go watch the bout. That description couldnt be more wrong.)

Geeku booked a spot at Sekiwake by taking no shit from sumos Michael Jackson, former Mongolian Kyokutenho. The Gloved One was unable to stop Dejima, I mean Kotoshogiku from getting double inside and bellying him out in a wink. Youd think that little white sock would help the Chauffer, and youd be wrong.

Almost beneath my dignity to describe the four bouts in the first half that held a 7-7 rikishi, and which steadily increased in obviousness until the Joker/No Shine bout, but here goes: Yoshikaze, screwed out of a prize but perhaps salving that pain with some caish from another-source (Professor Swenson said it was too bad he didnt get a prize because "he did so good"), was driving back Tosayutaka but for some reason decided to start pulling, then started pushing again and this time The Yukata figured it out and slapped him down for his KK; Tamanoshima had Kokkai back to the edge and about to be crushed out when Peter, with the fingers of his right hand resting on Kokkais belt, chose to not grab the belt and just settled back on his feet and eased up, letting Kokkai twist him down; Shimotori was able to somehow take Kakizoe out even tho Sweet Zoe had a double inside and Shimotori is no Kyokutenho, maybe its because pitbull Kakizoe acted the poodle, standing there and letting the 7-7 W15 lift him back and out; and finally in what was perhaps the worst acting job since Sofia Coppola in Godfather III, Tochinoshin contributed to his childrens college fund by doing an untouched drunken skydive to the dirt vs. Hokutoriki. Reminded me of what the fire fighters who visited our elementary school used to tell us kids if we found ourselves on fire: Stop, drop, and roll! All four bouts were a joke, but the last one was a classic never to be forgotten.

Mihara-sama giving ST a shout out made me want to do the same, so Id like to point out that Sumotalk is comprised not only of the regular writers, but also the many knowledgeable people on our forum. In fact, Arbo, Matra, Kadastik and Kungl all sprung from that well. These sumo loving maniacs are always making excellent points and analysis about all things sumo. For instance, one sharp dude pointed out to me that Kotooshu has largely abandoned trying to win exclusively with uwate moves because guys were onto him and making him pay cause they knew it was coming, and instead now wins often by boring but effective yorikiri pushout. Excellent point and not one Im sure I would have noticed. Even Mike, whose experience and sumo smarts makes the rest of us writers dribble "fear urine" into our skivvies just thinking about it, will on occasion mention something clarifying or enlightening he read on the ST forum. So word up, dudes!

Finally, Id like to explain the name thingy. Martin is one of the best sumo gamers on planet Earth (tho hed get his ass jacked on Venus) and for years has been pestering me to play one or nineteen. So in January I decided to join a super little game called, enigmatically enough, Sumo Game. I was not sure Id continue, and owing to the fact my name is well known decided to mask my identity. After the Hatsu basho I contacted Andreas, who summarizes Sumotalk forum members progress during the basho, and told him who I was. He came up with a clever gambit of making me, the lowest guy on the Sumo Game totem, and my progress a random challenge to Sumotalk players over the course of the year. Well, I played and it was fun and I enjoyed dominating like no one has before but Im too busy to continue and will retire as of now. Mike, Martin, Mario and Andreas, along with many of our forum fanatics, will continue to whoop collective ass. Try this game if you don't know it. Its fun, and educational, too!

Have a nice holiday season and drink responsibly (I can hear Mark now, "Okay, Im responsible for the drinking!").

Day 14 (Martin Matra reporting)
This basho pretty much turned out as I was expecting, so allow me to get right into today's action.

Mongol Tamawashi is returning from Juryo, where he captured the Yusho last basho, and so far seems to be doing pretty well. Today he capitalized on a hesitant tachi-ai from Takamisakari and got him good with a perfectly aimed thrust to the throat, sending him straight back and out with another push or two. As much as I'd like to tell you more, well, there just isn't anything more to say except for how utterly dejected Takamisakari looked after his lopsided loss. The Mawashi notches double digit wins and is looking good, while Takamisakari will have to do with only 8 for now.

Yamamotoyama finally did what he should have done from day 1, i.e. withdrew (using the flu as a pretext), but it took a monstrous fall in yesterday's bout against Aran. Kokkai is more than happy to get the freebie and now has to win on senshuraku to go 8-7. From what I've seen this basho, we may never see YMY (2-13) grace Makuuchi again – but before passing any judgment, let's see if he manages to recover from his injuries.

I was surprised to hear that Yoshikaze had never henka'd before this basho (not even in his amateur career). Being the quick, little guy he is, I bet he could win a lot using that dubious maneuver, so props to him for keeping it honest despite his size and weight disadvantage. Against Shimotori today Café charged quickly and retreated just as fast, pulling the clueless Moo down to his 7th loss in the blink of an eye. Not the most entertaining stuff from the 10-4 Yoshikaze, but a win is a win. In other circumstances, I might consider Yoshikaze in the running for a special prize, but with three others doing better, I think he might just be the 5th wheel this time.

Ossetian Aran (who thankfully got his make-koshi handed to him a while ago) was on his worst behavior again, shafting hapless Kimurayama with a nasty henka for the cheap hataki-komi win (well, if there's anyone who deserves it, it's gotta be him, but still...). The Thug "improves" to 6-8, while Kimura (4-10) will be writing us from Juryo in 2010.

Mongol Shotenro went in with no game plan in his match-up against the genki Tochinoshin (11-2 coming in) and paid the price. Big Shot kind of stood up at the tachi-ai and tried in vain to keep the charging Tochinoshin away from the belt. The long Georgian soon had both arms on the inside and was only temporarily held in place by an armlock Shotenro managed to get on his left. It was only a matter of time, though, and Tochinoshin eventually braced himself and pushed hard into the Mongol's pits, grabbed the back of his mawashi with both hands and lifted him two feet clean off the dohyo and deposited him safely outside the ring. That was fantastic stuff from the Private, who's going to get his first sansho after the stellar performance and is even in the cards for a sanyaku promotion. But I'd like to see him repeat this from the jo'i (or at least get a kachi-koshi). Shotenro is a quiet 8-6 and looks like he'll stick around the division for a while.

Korean Kasugao tried a henka to his right again, going for the quick kote-nage he so often employs, but I was glad to see Tamanoshima expose him for the fraud he is and push him straight out after getting that arm across the Korean's body. Tamanoshima does some damage control and is now at 4-10, while Kasugao (3-11) is on his way for the peace and quiet of Juryo (and I think he's gonna have some trouble there too, he's that bad--tomorrow's bout against Masatsukasa, who's 3-11 himself in Juryo, will be telling; if anybody cares, of course).

The tan man Mokonami had a strange approach to his bout against the more massive Homasho, opting to charge hard and go with tsuppari instead of attempting to get a mawashi grip (he's the better yotsu man of the two, and he knows it). Unsurprisingly, Homie brushed him off easily and used a hazu-oshi and a right uwate to have him pushed back and out in a second or two. Still, Homasho's performance this basho was under par (6-8). Moe is in for a small promotion at 8-6.

Veteran Wakanosato used a kachi-age to stop Toyohibiki's charge, then backpedaled and pulled the lunging Hutt to the ground, close to the edge. The MIB ordered a mono-ii in this one, but it wasn't even close, as Wakanosato balanced one of his legs in the air while keeping the other one firmly inside the dohyo until after Hibiki touched the dohyo with his hand. Both are already in make-koshi land.

In a battle of another two veterans of the division, size won out as Miyabiyama charged quicker and lower against ex-Mongol Kyokutenho, keeping him away from his mawashi and driving him back, only to backpedal just as fast and drag him to the clay. I don't see them denying the Fatman a Kanto-sho with 12 wins, therefore I think it's likely he'll win it, as he's facing struggling Toyohibiki tomorrow. Tenho is mediocre with 8-6.

The next one is probably the most interesting bout of the day, if only for its finish. Kakizoe met fellow small guy Tosayutaka in an affair with kachi-koshi on the line for both, and charged right into him from the get go, true to his style. The Gorilla tried in vain to get some frontal mawashi grip and when that failed he whiffed on a right hari-te and compromised his position, so Kakizoe soon had him with his back against the wall, getting both arms inside. Tosayutaka resisted being pushed out and managed to get his left on the inside, wrapped Zoe's head with the right and went for the now-or-never sukui-nage/kubi-hineri/utchari throw (it had something of all three), only to land a split second earlier. The gyoji rightfully gave the gunbai to Kakizoe, but I think a mono-ii should have been called (this one WAS close, much closer than Wakanosato-Toyohibiki earlier). Kakizoe earns his first kachi-koshi at this high rank in a while, while Tosayutaka will go against Café tomorrow for his own.

Asa's Secretary managed to get his kachi-koshi after an abysmal 2-6 start, against the Moon-in-the-man, who was 2-11 coming in. Asasekiryu got the deep left shitate right from the tachi-ai while denying the Hutt a belt grip of his own and methodically forced his much larger foe to the tawara and over, after surviving a decent kote-nage attempt.

Kotoshogiku got his 9th today by charging hard and getting inside on the right side of Takekaze, an opponent who surprisingly has a positive head to head against the Sadogatake guy. With that beam under his armpit, Takekaze had nowhere to go but out, to his 9th loss.

Riding a 6 bout losing streak (mostly close calls, but still), Aminishiki was all offense right from the hard initial charge, but that was until he met the brick wall called Bushuyama (also 4-9 coming in). Aminishiki tried in vain to move the Hutt, so he ultimately resorted to a series of pulls and evasions to the side, which were quickly read by the late bloomer, who stayed on his feet until Sneaky was safely out of the dohyo. Despite his losing record, Bush should be satisfied with his good performance this high on the banzuke. Aminishiki, on the other hand, should rethink his strategy.

Kisenosato charged slightly early against Tokitenku and slapped him hard with the right, setting up the hidari yotsu position and grabbing the decisive right uwate. At that point, it was only a matter of seconds before the immobilized Tenku was forced peacefully across the straw. Kisenosato looked pretty good in this one, but his opposition wasn't exactly jo'i material. 6-8 is still a disappointment. Tokitenku is 5-9.

Estonian Baruto (whose Ozeki run is currently on hold after 6 losses already) stood up at the tachi-ai and received Hokutoriki's thrusting tachi-ai, but he easily deflected the yotsu challenged Jokester and grabbed the left uwate which he used to walk his foe over the tawara without much argument. In theory, a 9-6 now coupled with the 12-3 last basho would keep Baruto mathematically in the run, but his Hatsu performance would have to be something spectacular (a 13-2 with a victory over a Yokozuna is what I have in mind), because this basho his sumo was anything but Ozeki quality. The Pretender is getting his make-koshi tomorrow at the hands of 12-2 Tochinoshin (preferably by a painful looking throw).

One thing his opponents must hate about Kakuryu is that despite not using the henka as much as others (ahem, Aran, Kimurayama, are you listening?), when he does use it, he usually masks it well so they never see it coming. Talk about a poker face. Today's victim was Tochiohzan, who recklessly lunged forward only to find air where Kakuryu should have been. In the meantime, Kakuryu was at his side grabbing his mawashi and throwing him to the ground. The evil Mongolian slithers to his 6th win and will probably do his worst tomorrow against Kisenosato with his comfy, well-paid sanyaku spot on the line. Oh will be doing some regrouping in mid Maegashira after his 9th loss, but he'll be back for good at some point.

Desperate for his 8th, allegedly injured Harumafuji lunged forward like a cannonball and almost took Toyonoshima's head off. The Mongol grabbed an immediate right uwate, but the smaller Toyonoshima had both arms inside (shallow grip on the right) so he deployed a quick sukui-nage, using his leg to try and trip Ama at the same time. This would certainly have worked against Kotooshu, but Ama easily avoided the trip and used his solid uwate to throw Toyonoshima to the ground, even staying on his feet afterwards. With a great 11-3 record, Toyonoshima is in for a prize, while Ama staves off kadoban once more after a weak 3-5 start.

Goeido (5-8 coming in) opened a major can of whoopass on record-chasing Ozeki Kaio by charging slightly to his right, looking for the cheap uwate, failing to get it but recovering and just bodying Kaio out despite a late pull attempt. Go's short and sometimes dangerously loose arms (he gives moro-zashi a lot, despite being pretty good on the inside) are a great disadvantage at the moment, and he won't go too far until he addresses that problem. Kaio will get his freebie tomorrow from 8-6 fellow club member Kotomitsuki.

Speaking of Ozeki and clubs, did anyone notice how Asashoryu always loses to them in groups? Well, it's happening again this basho. After a great 11-0 start, showing determined and strong sumo, Asashoryu all of a sudden drops a couple to Ama and Kotomitsuki, who both just happened to be needing a win or two to be sure of kachi-koshi. I'm not saying he sold the wins for cash, but his motivation was definitely on vacation during those bouts, as it was today against Kotooshu. To hell with it, he didn't even slap his mawashi before the bout too hard, nor did he grunt. And the bout itself was a classical example of sumo with no strategy or purpose. Asashoryu just lunged forward and, after being readily deflected, just stood there "trying" to keep the long Bulgarian at bay, away from the mawashi. In a rare moment of lucidity, the Ozeki "brilliantly" pushed upwards at the arm that was pushing at his shoulder and Asashoryu immediately welcomed him deep inside (ohh, that sounds so wrong) by "grabbing" his head. Needless to say, from that position Kotooshu couldn't lose to anyone, so here's loss #3 for Asa. To as many Ozeki.

OK, let's take a step back and analyze. Asashoryu is rich, famous, etc. so he doesn't really need cash from a bunch of half assed Ozeki. But he's also past his prime, and these Ozeki, bad as they may be, can definitely beat him on a good day. So, in order to maximize his Yusho count, why not let these guys beat you once every few basho in exchange for rolling over all at the same time, when it matters? There is, of course, the alternative theory Dr. Kadastik published in his day 13 report, involving brains and flatulence, but it requires correlation of the occurrence pattern (they tend to like company, it seems). Anyway, Heisenberg made it pretty clear that there will always be uncertainty in these fancy scientific theories (for those of ya who have no idea what I'm talking about that means: we can't know for sure).

Enfin, moving on to the last bout of the day. Ozeki Kotomitsuki greeted Hakuho with a powerful tachi-ai, immediately demanding the left outer he prefers. After some maneuvering, the two settled in the center of the dohyo, with Kotomitsuki now having a grip on the inside, too, but Hakuho promptly shook that off with his great hip movement. With another powerful jerk, the Yokozuna broke off the uwate and got one of his own. At that point it was only a matter of time... or was it? With Hakuho to Kotomitsuki's side, the dashi-nage was sure to come, but it failed and Kotomitsuki actually flirted with moro-zashi afterwards. Hakuho moved quickly enough to deny it, so they went into another stalemate. Kotomitsuki made some wrenching of his own, regaining his long lost uwate, so now the two had double grips. Hakuho tried to force Kotomitsuki back, and Mitsuki tried to respond with a tsuri-dashi, but he could only lift the Yokozuna a few inches above the ground. When he put him down again, Hak finally deployed his deadly uwate-nage. This was as good as it gets from the two. With the win, Hakuho puts a fork in this Kyushu basho and also breaks Asashoryu's record for most wins in a year. Kotomitsuki is out of the woods at 8-6 and will be lending Kaio a hand tomorrow.

There's little more that could be said, except the usual day 14 shot at the sansho. As usual, there will be no Shukun-sho, as the Yokozuna have been unbeatable for anyone ranked below Ozeki. The Kanto-sho will certainly go Tochinoshin's way, and perhaps even Miyabiyama or Yoshikaze might get one with another win (the latter rather unlikely, but, like I always say, they have their own obscure criteria). The Gino-sho will likely go to Toyonoshima.

Be sure to be back tomorrow, when Clancy comes out of the closet.

Day 13 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Just three days to go until the final bout of the year, just three days till Hakuho clinches the Yusho (well it's actually already clinched, just needs to be played out) and just three days until the low period of the between the bashos starts again with people talking out of their arses about evolution and what not. Oh well, at least we have three days still and hopefully three eventful days at that. The Yusho race itself was decided yesterday when Asa brainfarted and the rest of the excitement was also put on hold when everyone else fell back a few wins, Baruto screwed up his Ozrun and Yoshikaze started losing. But let's see, maybe we can suck something out of the pens for the final homestretch. 

So we kick off the action with the serious underperforming Korean fighting the ex-Japanese-next-Yokozuna Toyohibiki. The ex of course came blatantly obvious again when Hibiki charged for the mawashi. This is a bit odd considering belt fighting is something that's not his strong point and a serious oshi attack would have given him the victory in seconds when one interpolates Kasugao's previous bouts. However, once the two locked to migi-yotsu, it was Kasugao who did all the driving and pivoting to send Hibiki out of the ring in just a few seconds. Hibiki gets his MK official while Kasugao is now at 3-10 and any extra win just softens the fall. 

The Mawashi met the youngster Tosayutaka and being an oshi guy came with a both hands to Yutaka's throat and then immediately went to playing grab your opponents booby. Yutaka got so excited that he allowed the fondling to happen while being backed to the tawara only to remember that there are hundreds of people looking so he quickly leaned in to whisper to Tamawashi's ear about this startling fact. The Mawashi quickly decided to end this atrocity and pulled himself back and out of Yutaka's way, but forgot to warn Yutaka of this in advance who being overcommitted on the leaning just fell forward. Well they can meet up after the shower again in a more private place.

The Fatman is doing what he is supposed to do at this level, reap together the victories. He met Shimotori's charge well and kept his wrists nice and tight and thrust Shimotori upwards. As Shimotori leaned in on the thrusts Miya just put his left hand on Shimotori's right shoulder and helped him be put down. Well at least down to the dohyo with a thrustdown. Fatman is at double digits and will probably need one more win to maybe be eligible for a special prize as being an ex-Ozeki ups the requirements. Shimotori needs one more in the next two days to KK and he'd better if he wants to stay in the top division (though with some luck 7-8 might keep him too, but it's risky).

A yummy match on paper at least is the ex co-leader Yoshikaze who has been looking very exciting this basho again meeting the technical Mokonami. Oh and to those of you like Clancy who didn't get the irony of decaf...well now that you know it's irony go back and read day six report again. Espresso is a pusher thruster while Mokonami is a belt technician, so two different techniques and two well performing guys means that who ever gets to his element from tachi-ai is the one who is the favorite. As the two charged Yoshikaze immediately went for his slippery slapping attack, but to his disadvantage Mokonami did manage to get his right paw to espressos front of the mawashi before the thrusts became effective. No further pushing or pulling could shake that grip, which he used to escort Cafe back and out. Quick and easy win giving Mokonami his KK, and I'm pretty sure he'll stick around the top division for a while. Decaf still needs wins to possibly get a special prize and has two days still to get them, but he'd better stick to espresso again. 

Aran winning was something that even a suckling babe could have predicted today, but what I did not expect was the form of it. I assumed Aran would come with some tsuppari and move around to YMY's side, but instead he crashed into the mountain and locked into a yotsu battle. And the baffling thing is that although not overwhelmingly, but he did manhandle the 250kg of flesh moving him sideways to the tawara, over it and out. While going out YMY managed to trip on the tawara and go down on the side of the dohyo and then fall to the ground with a thump that caused all of the earthquake alarms to go off. While the MIB ran around to get an understanding how to turn off the alarms I was laughing at Ross (there you go Mike, I said it) and will from now on adapt a new term in our daily reporting: a YMY eclipse. To understand what this means just look at the bout from the main camera as Aran is at some point utterly eclipsed by YMY. 

Once the alarm was quieted down we could continue with two guys already MK. Homasho who is a puzzle to me as he used to look good until he decided to board the elevator between mid and lower Maegashira. Kimurayama is an expected MK candidate with his low selection of moves (ahem, henka to left anyone?) on the other hand. Homasho came with a decent charge, yet he didn't get any belt so the two went for shoves, but the ones from Kimu had no power attached to them so it only took a few blinks of the eye for homey to get his left to the inside and escort Kimu back and out. Yawn.

We've already had the Takamisakari KK interview, so he's already reached his goal for the basho. Even if he lost all the rest he'd still have done his due (he anyway meets all the clown requirements). Kyokutenho, even though old, has done good sumo with a nice 7-5 score coming in. The charge went for Tenho, who immediately got a left outer grip of the mawashi and kept his right arm in the armpit of Takami. From there he just kept going moving Takami back and out keeping his hips low and his balance in place, which also kept clown from doing one of his miraculous recoveries on the tawara. Both guys left the dohyo with KK. 

One of the weird things about Wakanosato has been the way he's been able to turn a sure win to an ugly loss. He has had at least three occurrences of that recently and Shotenro was not an easy opponent to meet. But Wakanosato failed to deliver and the moment he got a good grip from the tachi-ai he kept his head on straight and worked the younger man calmly back and out. Waka kept his balance and kept shot upright allowing him to not use his belt grip for anything useful and that with not brainfarting like so many other times did the trick today. 

The angry furball has looked good in some bouts, but he has had trouble with others. Today Asasekiryu met him well with his left shoulder and got immediately a nice right inside grip. Kakizoe panicked and tried to backpedal and throw Asasekiryu with his left arm, but all it did was give Asasekiryu a better position with Kakizoe out of balance so it wasn't a big surprise when zoe was backed and folded out the dohyo. Both need one more to keep their ranks. 

The two chosen to close the action of the first half didn't really get anyone hot and wet as they paired our inconsistent corporal Kokkai to an obviously injured Iwakiyama. Kokkai has managed to keep himself alive in the lower echelons balancing on the brink of MK with Iwakiyama going for some damage control with already ten losses. Kokkai jumped to his right from the tachi-ai and caught Iwaki a bit off guard, but failed in the slapdown. He did however get lucky, that Iwaki came with his elbows as high as he did as Kokkai suddenly found himself in moro-zashi even though that definitely wasn't what he had planned for. But you take what you get so he humped Iwaki back and out without any fanfare. With that injured back Iwakiyama couldn't pull off his usual trips and twists that get him out of situations just like these, but at least from M4 he's likely to remain in the division no matter what happens. Kook is happy as a child as he postpones his MK for another day. 

As the second half kicked off we had a classic Hokutoriki win as he came with both arms to Tamanoshima's neck and kept them there and moving Tamanoshima back no matter how much Tama struggled. Usual, slow, powerless yet enough to win and send Tamanoshima to double digit losses. 

A mouthwatering battle that I was looking for is the next one. The gods of sumo paired a KK Kotoshogiku against a double digit winning Tochinoshin. Both went for migi-yotsu with Tochinoshin getting the better grips. Kotoshogiku did get a right outer grip, but no left hand grip and his body placement was only good for defense. Every single attempt by Giku to attack was met with Shin neutralizing it. Shin nicely weathered all of the attacks and in the end used both his arms as well as rest of his body to throw Kotoshogiku with a strong uwate-nage. A very solid bout from Tochinoshin, who did everything right and is bound for a special prize and jo'i promotion with 11 wins in 13 days and two more to go. Kotoshogiku has his eight, but I expected him to have it easier with shin. 

I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked at the face-to-face record for Toyonoshima and Takekaze. Well Toyonoshima is a belt fighter while Takekaze is an oshi sumo guy so in normal conditions he has some advantage over Toyo, who as a mawashi expert needs the mawashi to make a difference and if he can keep him away from it, then he's the one ruling. However today Toyo decided to change his strategy and instead of giving his all to get the belt, he instead went for oshi sumo and that surprise just blasted Takekaze away, who didn't have anything to throw back at Toyo while being escorted back and out. And that's another 11-2 score in just as many consecutive bouts. Takekaze can breathe more easily next basho as he drops to lower Jo'I or with one more loss even out of it. 

Goeido met Bush straight and nice, but failed to get a good grip so he instead swiped Bush's arms away when the two separated for a microsecond sending Bush off balance. That small loss of balance allowed Go to get back into the bout and move in for a hug. Having Bush in a nice hug he locked his arm and pivoted to a kote-nage victory. Simple, effective and a victory. No surprise from Bush to me today though there have been plenty before. 

Before the basho I really hoped Kisenosato to kick ass and cause plenty of upsets affecting the basho in general. But instead he's been struggling and today was another perfect example of it. I mean he met Tochiohzan who already was MK coming in and at M4 had avoided all of the top dogs yet all Kise did was come with some womanly thrusts that didn't budge Oh Poo at all allowing the lower guy to work himself to moro-zashi. And giving Tochiohzan moro-zashi is very dangerous as many have learned to their regret. One could see the loss dawning on Kise's face when he understood into what kind of crapdump he's gotten himself into so no surprise he got moved back and out in no time. So both Komusubis have losing scores and are vacating spots for guys like Toyonoshima and likely Kotoshogiku or possibly Tochinoshin. 

And as the next contenders came to the sacred ring we had another possibility for sanyaku spot opening with Kakuryu on the brink of MK. Tokitenku already being MK now just needs damage control to remain close to the Jo'I. After psyching each other the two Mongols locked into migi-yotsu. After an initial push attempt by Kakuryu the two got into a stalemate at the center of the dohyo, from which Tenku went for a leg trip. That itself didn't fall Kakuryu, but it did get him slightly off the balance allowing Kak to be pushed to the tawara where it took a century for Tenku to get Kak out, who really really fought and balanced on the tawara way longer than anyone (guess even Kak himself) ever had expected. But after that legtrip the victory was Tenku's. 

Well when we met a week ago Bart's Ozrun was looking a bit shabby, but by now that we meet again it's already toast. Sure, he could go 12-9-13, but that's not likely. And his usual sluggishness gave Aminishiki the immediate moro-zashi that in most cases would mean an immediate loss. However Baruto has developed a resilience to some extent by locking his opponent's arms high without himself being in totally unusable conditions (he is bloody high you know). Aminishiki did try for a legtrip immediately, but didn't even come close. He then tried to twist Bart around himself hoping to get him off balance, but Baruto reacted well in immediately locking with his leg to Aminishiki's enough to hamper Ami's move and keeping himself in the bout. The two then stalemated for a while with Baruto not having many attack vectors possible and Aminishiki worried about his arm connections to his body. As they waited it dawned on Baruto that Ami probably expects him to try to muscle him back and out from that grip so he instead used those armlocks to twist Ami around and down. A smart move after a total fu**up in the beginning. After seeing the NSK banned movie "Baruto - Lost in translation" and talking with the author who has been around Baruto for years now I can understand some of the background to why Baruto is performing as he is at different times and have to give him props for hanging in there and still delivering, but I sure hope the situations resolve and he can get back to some serious ass kicking. 

With two Ozeki still out of KK meeting it is likely that the Ozeki backstcratching club gives the win to the one having the worse record, this time being not Kaio, but instead Harumafuji. Then again, in normal situations one wouldn't even doubt that Harry should take Kaio straight on. As the two met neither managed a grip so a shoving fest ensued during which Kaio had for a short moment a sniff of armlocking Harry, but the latter quickly pulled himself free as you don't really want Kaio to sniffing anywhere close to your arm. With some more thrusts Harry set up a nice moment where he could pull Kaio around himself while the oldie was out of balance and getting behind the bear decided the bout as it's bloody hard to recover when you let the opponent get behind you. I'm not even sure this was yaocho as it looked usual Harry sumo with plenty of shoving and speedy evasion moves, but Kaio might not have gone full out knowing there are two more days for KK. 

And we get to the two nice bouts at the end with both Yokuznas meeting guys that could actually beat them. Kotooshu has done upsetting before, but even though he looked good in the beginning of the basho he's been winding down ever since he got his eight. It looks lately that we would be getting a lot more interesting bouts if they were to match the top dogs against each other in the beginning of the basho (I know it takes the suspense out of senshuraku and week two, but...). Now that Oshu has nine wins he doesn't really need the wins, but taking a Y scalp still gets him aroused somewhat. As he absorbed Hak's charge (he sure wasn't doing the charging that much) he did get a lucky right inside, left outside grip even though the outer one was quite far back. Now the tough part was that Hak got the same grip and a way better outer one, so Kotooshu quickly locked Hak's right arm instead of hanging on to the belt. Hak immediately went for an uwate-nage attempt, but Oshu's balance was too good and pulling that move Hak did compromise enough that Oshu managed to wiggle his left hand inside too. Now theoretically in moro-zashi grip (theoretically as only his wrist showed in the armpit and wasn't anywhere close to the belt) Oshu was in a good position and Hak was off his plan A. Hak did what he could by staying low and leaning into Oshu effectively negating the benefits of moro-zashi. To get out of the stalemate, Hak went for an uchigake legtrip that itself didn't work, but it did get Oshu off balance enough that Hak could pull a maki-kae on his left arm, get it to Oshu's armpit and immediately go for a beltless underarm throw. Not his A game, but close enough as Hakuho pulls even with Asashoryu on most wins in a calendar year. Any further win down the line this basho would put him the sole leader and we all know that this is going to happen already tomorrow. 

Now one thing I'd like to say before the musubi-no-ichiban bout is that even though we have our own yaocho preacher in the house, I think Asa just brainfarted yesterday. He should have expected the henka, but didn't, and Harry is a bloody fast weasel so using the cheap belt grip he got he could easily pull off that quick win. So with Asa one win back we no longer have the neat 14-0 face-off option for senshuraku, and we all knew that this Yusho is Hak's (a zensho at that is my bet) who knows how the rest of the bouts go from now on. However Kotomitsuki has still days to go to get his sole win for KK, so I don't see a reason why Asa should fold; however, I can believe Kotomitsuki being able to pull off an upset all by himself, he just doesn't do that regularly enough to be predictable. The two charged quite in sync (always a surprise in bouts involving Kotomitsuki) trading a few shoves at first. After about 3-4 seconds of shoving and pushing opponents arms away they locked into migi-yotsu (there's been a lot of that today, have you noticed?). Mitsuki knowing that Asa is quick and delaying will only work into the Yokozuna's hands immediately pulled Asa close and upright trying to get his right arm deep inside and as Asa countered that he immediately tried to throw Asa with his left uwate. That didn't fall the Y yet it did get Asa sideways at which point Mitsuki went low keeping Asa at an awkward angle and without a good and usable grip and putting his head below Asa's chin kept him at bay. As is usual for Mitsuki, he started to pivot around to keep Asa off balance and from trying anything while fishing with his right arm for the belt. Asa kept his right arm in Mitsuki's belt (not really useful in that position) and kept his left around Mitsuki's right fist to fight off that belt fishing. A short stalemate ensued as Asa had no offensive move available and Mitsuki prepared for the kill. This is now where things get fishy and Martin stiffened up as Mitsuki then suddenly grabbed Asa's belt with his right hand while Asa let his wrist go and immediately escorted Asa back and out. The replay showed that just as Mitsuki charged (well he prolly charged because of it, but it was within microseconds) it was Asa who wanted to go for the belt with his left arm to get back into the fight. That mistake or brainfart or yaocho or what not was the final straw to his loss, but the bout was Mitsuki's from start to end as Asa was on the defense ever since they clashed at the tachi-ai. With two losses back and two days to go we can safely say congratulations on you Yusho Hakuho and considering the situation it is my guess he'll go zensho beating Asa's most wins record by two and making it at 86-4 near impossible to beat. 

Now you know our resident Yaocho preacher and you can imagine how high he got from the back to back losses and Yusho decision on day 13. His eyes blazing and voice fierce he ran around the hotel rounding on everyone who he could get his hands on explaining all the arm and wrist movements and what could or should have happened and how it didn't yadda yadda yadda. Now this is the usual behavior around here, but I'm mentioning it here because he got so excited that he got jumping around and managed to spill our drinks there were being brought in by a nude waitress who got so scared she ran away. So no drinks and no eye-candy, darn you Martin!!! You better make it up tomorrow.

Day 12 (Mark Arbo reporting)
How hangs it gentlemen? Since I last reported I have spent little time not at the Kokusai Centre, and I'm not sure my liver will ever fully recover. But I am enjoying the basho, and I hope all you are too. For a few days there in the middle, Sumotalk writers were kind of wallowing in their own filth, complaining about how the Yokozuna were too good and everyone else sucked balls. Now, I love bitches, but I hate bitching ... it's a conundrum wrapped in an enigma. But now our perspective has been corrected and we are seeing the joy of watching two dai Yokozuna trying to outdo each other and and a few guys having the basho of their lives hanging around on the leader board.

There was some good stuff that went down today too, so let's get right to it...

Along with everyone else in lower Makuuchi, Ojii San Tochinonada got a good running start at The Organism (he sure aint gunna henka), stepped to Yama's side and pushed him out . It's like there is a "How to beat me" manifesto tattooed on his prodigious paunch. As I told you his first basho in the division, the days of Big Boy sumo ended with the Mongols. Twin Peaks needs to get himself a catch phrase and a McDonald's or a Slimfast or some sort of endorsement deal cause the best he should be hoping for in Sumo is another Jonidan yusho. Oshiridashi!

Still recovering from that horrific tanning bed mishap, Mokonami somehow allowed Shotenro to put him in a tight headlock. Do you think a guy could submit in sumo? "Tap out", if you will? Cause this looked a lot like a Guillotine Choke from MMA.  I guess it was also the perfect chance to try the allusive Izori.

Mocha-Chai-Soy Milk-Latte-With-A-Half-Pump-Of-Vanilla picked up just his 3rd loss when he couldn't handle the aggressive and determined tsuppari attack of Miyabiyama. Yoshikaze did his best to get something going but the Kei-Truck would not be denied. Both these M9s have really exceeded all expectations this basho and deserve a good quality hug from a well meaning (endowed) young lady.

Speaking of exceeded expectations, Tochinoshin stayed on the leader board when, after a brief lock up in the centre of the ring, he picked up Takamisakari, spun around, and deposited him outside the ring. Takami is as hard to finish off as they come, but Shin is shining like a Sekiwake...and much shiner than the Ozeki.

Shimotori bested local boy Homasho at the belt and is on the verge of the KK that ensures he stays in the division. Homie, on the other hand, has made his MK official. 

Both trying to stave off their own loosing record, Kokkai started out with a cheap step to the left against veteran Wakanosato. Problem is, he used the step to get a favourable belt position... and the problem with that, of course, is Kokkai blows at the belt. I fully expected Sato would recover and smite Kokkai. But after a bit of back and forth, Kok pulled out an ok-ish over arm throw. Not bad at all. It's cool as hell that Kokkai is trying to better his sumo, but that step at the beginning is still stuck in my head.

25 year old Toyohibiki got worked Thinkin' Man's Style by 35 year old Kyokutenho. Despite throwing a hari-te, the Mongol got inside quickly, neutralizing Biki's formidable pushing attack.  Swinging Toyohibiki around, Tenho pushed forward and forced Biki out.

At first, Tamawashi came out with some decent thrusts while Kakizoe looked to just be trying to weather the storm. But when watched from the mawashi down it was a totally different bout. Tamawashi was off balance leaning and slipping, while Zoe chugged forward with short and sure steps. With a couple half-assed thrusts and two or three weak pulls Kakizoe was able to pick up his 7th through good footwork.

Aran and Iwakiyama came in with fewer combined wins than Clancy has venereal diseases. Despite, or perhaps because of that, they gave us a fun little match. After locking up, each with a right inside, Iwaki pushed the action to the straw, hooking his leg behind the Bouncer's, going for that patented Mt. Iwaki sotogake trip. But Aran not only kept his feet solidly on the ground, but he then laughed in the face of all that we know of natural law and utchari-ed Iwakiyama. Fantastic!

Tochiohzan and Mr. Bush are also having crap basho's. Their match however was fought well within the the laws of physics. Dolly came out hard at the tachi-ai and started to push but his arms were waaay out of position, and Tochiohzan slipped inside for moro-zashi and and easy force out. These guys have both already dropped their 8, and I'm not sure Bush is even trying anymore.

Hokutoriki and Tokitenku had an out of sync tachi-ai and then proceeded to one-handed choke each other like something you would see in an inbred back yard professional wrestling league. It was like they were shaking hands only this greeting was hand to throat. Ugly stuff... Even for these two. Eventually Riki won this strange game, and Tokitenku exited the dohyo and jogged half way up the flower-road before returning for the shame bow. Hokutoriki is, unfortunately, 6n6 and may well KK, thus ending up somewhere just under the Sanyaku. Even just typing that I threw up in my mouth a little.

Takekaze had a great tachi-ai and was moving forward well against Kisenosato, but Kissy, looking to put his MK off till another day, went straight into pull mode. Thoroughly beaten and back-peddling fast, he dodging a bullet, managing to pull Takekaze to the clay just in time. These guys are both 5-7.

The Geek got the Hump-Jump going early against Goeido and backed the struggling Komusubi up to the straw. But instead of staying there humping away till his opponent could no longer take the humiliation, today Giku switched gears, pulling Goeido around humping him back across the dohyo and out of the ring. Without a trace of offence, Goeido picks up is 8th loss while Giku gets his KK.

On paper an Aminishiki-Kakuryu bout is, like Mario's love life, a greasy and predictable 10 or 15 seconds. But this actually turned into a really fun match. Both came in with 7 losses, so someone was going to have to go home sad. Nishiki dominated the tachi-ai and moved Kak back with some well placed thrusts, but it just would be an Aminishiki win if he followed through, sending his opponent straight back and out. So, despite having forward momentum (backward for Kak) Ami went for a pull that sent Kak hustling back across the dohyo. But as he passed by, Nishiki grabbed the vertical part of the mawashi that nestles into the buttocks. When a guy gets this "ass-handle" mawashi grip the fight is usually over. There is nothing you can do about a guy who is controlling your lower body from directly behind you ... or so I had thought. But, as Nishiki was ushering Kak out, Kak, foot on the rope, spun 180 while blindly reaching behind his and Nishiki's backs, grabbed the back of Nishiki's mawashi and forced him out backhanded as he continued to spin, making it a 360 rotation. This beautiful and agile maneuver was lighting fast even in slow-motion and probably the most athletic thing we have seen this basho. They called it an okuri-dashi because there is no Japanese for "PURE AWESOMENESS!!"

I would like this time to wish all you Yanks a happy Thanksgiving. While not as old as festivals like Christmas and Halloween, Thanksgiving has many interesting traditions that are attached in as many ways to the lives of every American. On the subject of tradition, Kotooshu has a tradition of bending over and taking a right jolly rogering from Toyonoshima every chance he gets. Today was no exception as Toyonoshima made quick work of him. That's loss number 3 for Yogurt while TugBoat will stay on the leaders board.

Baruto has gone from fighting for his Oz promotion to just trying to squeak out a KK. Today he took a big step towards at least achieving that when Kotomitsuki somewhat surprisingly came at him with tsuppari. As Bart stepped back Mitsuki stumbled and the taller Baruto pulled him down easily.

An Asashoryu-Harumafuji match usually has me just about as stoked as I can get (without a young lady, a bowling ball, and a goat) but, with Ama all banged up and trying to find his 8 and the Mongols passing the yusho around like a joint at a Cat Steven's concert, I had a feeling that this fight was not going to be all that it could be. It wasn't. The basic story is this. Harumafuji henka'ed. Asa fell. Pretty straight forward. Go watch it in slo-mo, it doesn't flo... ya know? Asa has the shortest reaction time of any rikishi in the history of the sport, and while I'm not necessarily saying he should/could have recovered from this nasty henka, it seemed odd that he fell straight forward without even turning towards his evading opponent. Perhaps Asa was caught in a brain-fart ... who knows?

Hakuho came out with some tsuppari for Kaio but the Ozeki stood his ground and slipped into the Yokozuna's belt. Knowing that this lame duck can still do some serious damage from this position if you give him the chance, Hak immediately inserted kid knee used his outside left to throw Kaio. 

Even when everything goes his way Kaio no longer has what it takes to hang with the big boys. Sure Kaio is going to break all those records. But this is NOTHING like what Chiyonofuji, who was winning Yusho right up till he retired, did.

Your homework-
-Keep your eyes on Geek-Shin, Bart-Nishiki and Shoe-Hak tmr.
-If new Juryo man Gagamaru ever makes it to the big leagues remember that I call the nicknames 1) Lady Gaga, Lady Gagamaru and Gargamel.
-Get a good straight razor shave. It feels great and you learn a lot that can be applied to shaving no matter how you do it.
-Look for me carousing in the stands on senshuraku.
-The doctor will give you further instructions tomorrow.

Day 11 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we enter the shubansen, or final five days, it's time to get serious and focus on the two Yokozuna. Sumo fans must appreciate the show that Asashoryu and Hakuho are providing in Kyushu. When Hakuho assumed the Yokozuna rank, Asashoryu was in a bit of a decline. His injuries were increasing, his two-basho suspension was just around the corner, and gone was his domination when he was the clear favorite to win every basho. This is really the first time that we've seen these two fighting at such a level while ranked as Yokozuna, so savor it while it lasts.

Let's get right to the action starting with the day's final bout that featured Yokozuna Asashoryu against hometown favorite, Ozeki Kaio. Today's bout saw a straight-up charge where both rikishi settled for the quick hidari-yotsu position, but Asashoryu brilliantly shifted his body so his left arm was up high on the inside staving off a right outer grip from Kaio while forcing Kaio to lower himself on the other side to fend off the Yokozuna's uwate advances with the right. Asa briefly grabbed the right uwate only to be buffeted back, but as he did in his yotsu-zumo contest against Baruto, the Yokozuna kept his hips back never letting the Ozeki come close to the belt. Asashoryu's second attempt to grab the outer belt held, so it was easy peasy as he raised the Ozeki upright and forced him across the straw with authority. Asashoryu simply dismantled his opponent today, and it's so beautiful to watch a master work his craft as Asa has done this basho. He sets the pace at 11-0 while Kaio falls to a harmless 7-4.

In the day's penultimate bout, Yokozuna Hakuho would likely receive his second toughest challenge of the basho in the unpredictable Ozeki Harumafuji. Harumafuji opted to go for the Yokozuna's neck at the he should. Remember how good Harumafuji was when he just bulldozed his opponents back and out by the neck? Course, Hakuho is a different cat, and with Harumafuji's hands up high, Hakuho had his right arm on the inside and prolly coulda managed the left inside as well, but he instead opted to shove Harumafuji clear back to the straw. Harumafuji ducked down and charged again, this time into the migi-yotsu position. Harumafuji stayed low but couldn't hold the position as Hakuho just wrenched him upright with the left arm around the top of hAruMAfuji's right. From there, Hakuho looked to secure the left outer grip, but before he could get it, he gave a mammoth belly-shove into the Ozeki's mid-section forcing him back across the straw neat as a bowtie. Hakuho improves to 11-0 rendering the rest of this basho as the deul between the two dai-Yokozuna. Could you ask for more? Harumafuji falls to 5-6 and gets Asashoryu tomorrow.

In a good bout of chikara-zumo, Ozeki Kotooshu completely dominated the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Baruto ramming his head under Baruto's chin and latching onto the front of the Estonian's belt with as solid of a right frontal grip as you please. Baruto's left arm was actually on the inside meaning his body was contorted at a bad angle, so as he tried to counter with a right outer of his own, it was over the top of Kotooshu's left shoulder. That's just too much space to cover, and Baruto never could grab the belt over the top meaning his only victuals were a feeble left inside grip and his mass. Didn't matter as Kotooshu controlled the bout forcing the Biomass over to the edge and eventually forcing him across for as solid a win as Kotooshu could hope for. It's funny...against a much weaker Ozeki yesterday, Kotooshu looked like utter shite with a horrible tachi-ai, feet aligned, and bad balance. So what was the difference today? Figure it out. Kotooshu moves to 9-2 while Baruto's fast start has been erased to the tune of 5-6.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotomitsuki picked up the freebie today as Chiyotaikai stayed true to his word and withdrew upon suffering his eighth loss yesterday. Much to my chagrin, the Pup is going to give it one more go in January. The problem I have with it is he can't even win eight legitimately, so why even go through the game in January where he needs to win 10? If Taikai does manage 10 wins in January, it will be a farce, and everyone knows it, so what's there to gain by having this guy around anymore? He's like that unemployed uncle who lives in the basement and likes to give lots of hugs but otherwise offers no other value.

Sekiwake Kakuryu wisely went for the moro-te tachi-ai against feisty M1 Takekaze. With someone as slippery has Kaze, may as well grab him by the neck. Course the Kak is slippery in his own right, but he dictated the pace completely today stepping to his right to grab the right outer grip and then using that to pull Takekaze forward and down aided by his left hand pulling at back of Takekaze's melon. Pure Kakuryu sumo today as he moves to 4-7 while Takekaze is still an impressive 5-6

You always love to see Komusubi Kisenosato and M2 Kotoshogiku butt heads because regardless of rank, you know it's going to be good. Kotoshogiku won the tachi-ai by charging low and hard, and even though it didn't knock Kisenosato back, it put the Kid in push mode as if he were trying to create separation by knocking the Geeku away. But Kotoshogiku was too persistent forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu with the M2 demanding the right outer grip. Kisenosato complied with a right arm on the inside himself, but he was a half step behind the entire way in this one, so Kotoshogiku finished him off quite easily with a right outer belt throw. Great stuff from Kotoshogiku who improves to 7-4 and is in the running for a Ginosho. Kisenosato is on the edge at 4-7 and like today has appeared a half step slow the entire basho.

Komusubi Goeido and M1 Aminishiki butt heads at the tachi-ai that saw Goeido come away with the left outer grip. I say outer because Ami's right hand was on the inside, but the bulldog Goeido's grip was at the front of Aminishiki's belt. On the other side, Aminishiki managed to get his left arm on the inside as well giving Shneaky the moro-zashi on paper, but it wasn't advantageous due to Goeido's solid position with the left. Still, Goeido knew he had to act fast, so he planted his left leg and went for the immediately neck throw with his right arm draped around Aminishiki's dome. Ami countered nicely with a left inside scoop throw attempt, and while it looked like both rikishi hit the dohyo at the same time, gunbai to Goeido via kubi-nage. I thought a mono-ii could have been called (noticed how I didn't say "shoulda"), but it was the correct call. Both rikishi still have a shot at kachi-koshi at 4-7.

M2 Tokitenku connected squarely with a left slap to the side of M3 Tochiohzan's face at the tachi-ai, and the move had to have thrown Oh off for an instant. Both rikishi kept their arms in tight as if they were both looking for moro-zashi, and with neither relenting their heads naturally came together, but just as they touched Tokitenku pounced on the risky pull move backing up to the edge and pulling Tochiohzan with him. Oh could never recover to the point of pushing Tokitenku out that last half step, so with Tenku's heels dangerously close to the wrong side of the tawara, Tochiohzan face planted before the Mongolian stepped out. Tochiohzan suffers make-koshi with the loss at 3-8 while Tokitenku hangs by a thread at 4-7.

M3 Bushuyama dictated the pace throughout his bout against M7 Tamanoshima. The two hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position, but it was Bushuyama who kept his feet moving and the pressure on his opponent. Around and around the ring they danced until Bushuyama finally grabbed the right outer grip, and even though it was one fold of the belt, it proved the difference with the Dolly Yama scoring the force-out win in the end. Bush is still alive at 4-7 while Tamanoshima suffers make-koshi at 3-8.

M4 Hokutoriki's tsuppari attack wasn't necessarily potent against M4 Iwakiyama, but it kept Iwaki the Hutt away from Hokutoriki's belt. After backing Iwakiyama up a step at the tachi-ai, Iwakiyama dug in, but it was at that point where Hokutoriki shifted gears going for the pull down using Iwakiyama's forward momentum against him. It was sloppy, but Hokutoriki'll take the 5-6 record. Iwakiyama is 2-9.

In the most compelling Maegashira matchup of the day, two 8-2 rikishi met up in M5 Toyonoshima and M9 Miyabiyama. And talk about two opposites in both size and style, so the bout would be determined by whether or not Toyonoshima could get at the belt. Or would it? Miyabiyama used the lumbering tsuppari from the get-go to swipe at the pesky Toyonoshima who was waxing on and off Miyabiyama's shove attempts mixing in a few pull threats of his own. About five seconds in, Toyonoshima found a brief opening and went for a push-out, but his left knee nearly buckled against the Sheriffs weight, so he backed off and grabbed the belt instead. Problem was, he grabbed a left outer. A small guy like Toyonoshima needs the inside position to do damage, so Miyabiyama happily welcomed the yotsu contest getting his right arm deep on the inside immediately driving Toyonoshima back to the edge, but his charge was too hurried allowing Toyonoshima to barely evade at the edge and pull Miyabiyama off balance and down to the dohyo in all his girth. This was a fun chess match that saw Toyonoshima reach nine wins in the end.

M5 Kakizoe meant well by staying low at the tachi-ai against M11 Takamisakari, but Zoe raised his hands up high too quickly just gifting the Robocop moro-zashi. When a taller rikishi grabs moro-zashi against a shorter guy, it ain't gonna be close. And it wasn't as Takamisakari marched Kakizoe clear across the ring and out for dare I say it...his eighth win, which means we were treated to a kachi-koshi interview!!

The content of his interview is inconsequential, and it doesn't matter whether or not you can understand Japanese. Just to watch his face and the way he breathes into the microphone like a child is a treat. If you didn't catch the live feed, you can always go back and watch a replay as explained on our links page. My man Ross Mihara was on the call today and takes care of the translation.

M6 Wakanosato actually leads M6 Kyokutenho head to head, but Croconosato has been a step slow this basho, and it showed today with his trading the right inside position for Tenho's left outer grip at the tachi-ai but failure to even threaten for moro-zashi on the other side. Kyokutenho easily brushed Wakanosato's left arm to the outside leaving the two in the gappuri migi-yotsu position. From there it wasn't even a contest as Kyokutenho used his new-found gaburi technique to belly Wakanosato back and across the straw with ease. Tenho's a quiet 6-5 while Wakanosato falls to 4-7.

M13 Tosayutaka and M7 Homasho crashed hard into each other at the tachi-ai ending up in the migi-yotsu position. For reasons explained in my day 9 report, Tosayu-croca was nowhere near a left outer grip, whereas Homasho took advantage of his length grabbing the left uwate for himself. With the advantageous position, Homasho pressed straightway, but the problem oftimes with Homie is he charges and goes for the kill without sufficiently suppressing his opponent's stance or movement, and that was the case today as Homasho forced Tosayutaka over to the edge but couldn't quite throw him down before Tosayutaka countered beautifully with a scoop throw using the right arm to send Homasho to the clay. Tosayutaka moves to 7-4 with the nice when while Homasho needs to learn patience at 4-7.

M14 Kasugao charged without a plan against M8 Aran, who stayed low securing his right arm on the inside and following that up with a left outer. With the Kimchi Kid completely upright, Aran used good footwork to easily force Kasugao back and out for the uneventful win. I wanna say that Aran (3-8) looked good today, but his opponent was Kasugao (2-9).

M13 Mokonami lowered his head at the tachi-ai against M8 Tochinoshin and struck the Private squarely in the chest wisely keeping his hips back in the process, but the Mongolian made the mental mistake of settling in for the migi-yotsu bout and not even trying for moro-zashi. Tochinoshin complied straightway and used his long arm to reach around and grab a left outer grip of his now leaving the two in the gappuri yotsu position, a stance from which Mokonami could not win. Shin took his time and solidified his grips before attempting a tsuri-dashi, but he was in the middle of the ring and had too much real estate to cover. It didn't help that Mokonami was rebelling like a two year old who doesn't want to be picked up, so Tochinoshin put him down at the edge. Mokonami was still cornered in the circular ring (if that's possible), however, so the younger Georgian just bodied him back and across for the win. Tochinoshin moves to a quiet 9-2 with the win and could actually threaten the sanyaku for January. Mokonami falls to 7-4.

I get it that NHK is obligated to put M9 Yoshikaze on the leaderboard just one loss behind the Yokozuna, but if you're a newbie having wet dreams about the possibility of a Yoshikaze yusho, take a cold shower before you go to bed. Yes, it does happen once a decade or so where a Maegashira rikishi will take the yusho from the bottom half of the division, but two factors are in play with Yoshikaze this basho. First, Yoshikaze does not look great. He's got serious momentum and is pulling out the wins, but he is certainly not fighting at a level where he can even beat an Ozeki. Second, the Mongolians have raised the bar of sumo to the extent where you will no longer see a rikishi yusho from the Maegashira ranks.

Anyway, Yoshikaze kept his head low against M11 Tamawashi at the tachi-ai, and while Tamawashi naturally found his hands near the back of Yoshikaze's head, he immediately and smartly brought them down and latched onto a right outer grip evading to his right and pulling Yoshikaze along for the ride. Yoshikaze tried to keep up, but his footwork was insufficient, so Tamawashi was able to throw him down to the dohyo at ring's edge before Yoshikaze could push The Mawashi out. I didn't have a rooting interest in this one, but I'm glad to see Yoshikaze fall to 9-2, so we can concentrate on the dominance of the Yokozuna. Tamawashi clinches kachi-koshi for his effort at 8-3.

My guess is that M10 Asasekiryu remembers the last time he fought M14 Kimurayama losing to Kim's sloppy tachi-ai henka to the left. Today, the Secretary got his revenge with a tachi-ai henka of his own moving slightly to the left and slapping Kimurayama down in a flash. Ugly ugly stuff here as Asasekiryu moves to 5-6. Kimurayama sighs yet again at 3-8.

M10 Kokkai had no plan from the tachi-ai as he lowered his head from the charge, so M12 Toyohibiki simply grabbed his left arm from the outside, stood the Gorgeous Georgian upright, and then threw him to the clay via kote-nage for the easy win. It's bouts like these where one guy dominates and the other guy doesn't even try that makes me recall Itai's claim of a decade ago. The Nikibi climbs to 5-6 while Kokkai falls to 4-7.

Credit M12 Shotenro for hitting M15 Yamamotoyama straight on today. Yes, YMY is really a lame horse that needs to be put down, but it still hasn't stopped most of his opponents from evading to the side against him. Not today, however, and despite Yamamotoyama's latching onto the early left frontal grip, Shotenro just grabbed that Christmas ham and used it to push the slug back and out without incident. Shotenro moves to 7-4 with the solid display while Yamamotoyama is 2-9.

And finally, J2 Tochinonada came a calling from the junior varsity to take on M15 Shimotori. The two hooked up in the immediate gappuri hidari-yotsu position, but Shimotori made his intentions known early dictating the pace of the bout as he wrenched the Gentle Giant over and back in about 10 seconds. This would normally be a hard bout to pick, but there's such a difference between Makuuchi and Juryo that Shimotori was just more naturally prepared in this one as he moves to 6-5. At J2, looks like GG stays put in Juryo next basho at 5-6.

Heading into the final four days, both Yokozuna look to finally give us a senshuraku showdown where both are undefeated. Hakuho has Kaio tomorrow (a sure win), Kotomitsuki, and then Kotooshu. None of those rikishi pose a threat, and remember last basho when Kotomitsuki grabbed the cheap uwate and still lost? I don't see how Hakuho doesn't skate to 14-0. As for Asashoryu, he gets the pesky Harumafuji tomorrow, Kotooshu on Friday, and then Kotomitsuki. You look at those matchups and while not as clear cut as Hakuho's path (which is why Hakuho is the heavy favorite to yusho), Asashoryu is favored in all three bouts. And consider the Asashoryu - Kotooshu matchup. At the Natsu basho and Nagoya basho, Kotooshu was the better rikishi, and it showed as he dominated Asashoryu. Asa won in Aki, but it wasn't a dominating win. This basho, however, Asashoryu is the clear favorite, and the reason I even bring it up is not to show how Kotooshu may be off this basho but to show just how much Asashoryu has improved the last few tournaments. It's great for sumo and should provide for fantastic drama leading up to Sunday. Let's just hope neither Khan owes the other a favor.

Mark sobers up tomorrow.

Day 10 (Kenji Heilman reporting)
The thought I left you with on day 3 is still intact, with a little more juice to the stories. We're now entering the homestretch of Kyushu 2009 and two big records are close to falling, as is one Ozeki who's held rank for the last 65 basho. 

Before I begin, let me give props to my favorite rikishi of this generation who has now fallen into Juryo in the twilight of his career. Those of you who remember Tosanoumi in his heyday will recall his fearless head first tachi-ai complete with a energized grunt, followed by a relentless pushing attack that almost never featured a pulling technique until his prime had passed. If he lost, rest assured he'd lose falling forward because you could count on Tosa bringing the house each and every day. In fact, I remember a video clip from the mid-90's of a keiko bout where Tosa flat out ran through an opponent and then right through the wall of the temporary stable quarters. That clip epitomized Tosanoumi's sumo. Anyway, he's 8-2 and leading the Juryo race in Kyushu. Here's to one last hurrah for Tosa, even if it's a Juryo yusho. He likely won't be around this time next year. 

In the Makuuchi rank and file, we've got a bevy of solid performances, headlined by none other than M9 mighty mite Yoshikaze, who bested M5 and college senpai Kakizoe (6-4) to go 9-1. Yoshi looked a little nervous against his senior of 3 years at Nihon Taiiku University, but did well to stay close to Kaki and not allow the separation Kaki sought to allow his style of oshi-zumo to flourish. At the end of the back and forth bout, Yoshi got the left uwate and the yori-kiri win to stay one back of the two Yokozuna in the cup race.

Three other rank-and-filers stand at 8-2, one back of Yoshikaze and still mathematically in the hunt. They are Tochinoshin, former Ozeki Miyabiyama and Toyonoshima. Robocop Takamisakari lost to go 7-3 but still looks pretty good.

Speaking of in the hunt, none of the Ozeki are in the conversation. At the very least Kotooshu took a giant step back toward mediocrity with a bad loss against Kaio (7-3). Kaio unleashed a predictable tottari (arm tug) at the tachi-ai that Oshu seemed to know it was coming but still let it rattle him. As a result he lost his balance and fell awkwardly to the clay to his second defeat against eight wins. Kaio on the other hand wins his 805th Makuuchi bout to move into sole possession of 2nd place all time, now only three back of all-time winner Chiyonofuji at 807. Kaio has a chance to eclipse this mark on his home turf THIS BASHO with a strong finish. Wouldn't that be something? Like Tosanoumi, I doubt Kaio will be around for Kyushu 2010 (of course I said that last year too). 

You wouldn't have thought Harumafuji (5-5) had a bum elbow by the way he looked today against Kotomitsuki (6-4). Haruma banged with his head and showed a strong tsuppari to get inside and overpower his fellow Ozeki for an convincing yori-kiri, gaining some confidence going into his match-up tomorrow against Hakuho. 

He'll need it, because Hakuho (10-0) looked majestic once again against overmatched M3 Tochiohzan (3-7). While it took a few seconds for Haku to get his left uwate, once he did it was game over as the Yokozuna looked about as invincible as you can look in ushering out another foe. Chalk up win #81, four short of the all-time one-year mark set by Asashoryu in that memorable 2005. I bet that record falls this weekend. 

Ah but Asashoryu, not to be outdone, took care of business as well. He had to play the bad guy in the worst way today as he picked up Chiyotaikai for a tsuri-dashi win to go 10-0. More talked about was Taikai's defeat, bringing his poor showing to 2-8 and thus clinching his demotion to Sekiwake in January. Chiyo has lost rank and is likely on the brink of retirement like never before. It looks as though he will come out in January for one last shot at a 10-5, which will give him an automatic promotion back up to Ozeki. Short of that, he'll retire for sure. Look for him to take the rest of the basho off in order to rest his weary body and mobilize for this final, last ditch effort. 

Hakuho and Asashoryu are on a crash course for a Senshuraku Yokozuna stand-off with matching 14-0 records. If I recall, we've yet to see this scenario. I can't think of a better way to end 2009.

Day 9 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
In the history of Sumotalk, this is the first time during a basho that I've gone an entire week without writing a report. There have been quite a few talking points over the last week and emails on a curious subject, so you'll forgive me if I get off on a tangent here and there as I comment on the events of the past week throughout my report. Probably generating the most news in week one was the mention Sumotalk got on the NHK English broadcast on day 4. You all know the history of ST and the NHK English Announcers, so it probably came as a surprise to many. My comment for the other contributors who were all giddy is act like you've been there before. You won't see me selling out, and I'll be damned if the name of the guy who actually mentioned us ever gets listed on Sumotalk again.

I know that's harsh, but as uncomfortable as the circumstances may be, we've got a basho on our hands, so let's get right to the action starting from the top down.

In a classic contest, Yokozuna Asashoryu used his speed to burrow in deep against Sekiwake Baruto at the tachi-ai getting his left arm firmly planted on the inside while grabbing the front of Baruto's belt with the right giving the Yokozuna moro-zashi straightway. Still, just ask Asashoryu's countrymen Kakuryu and Harumafuji how well their moro-zashi grips worked against Baruto. The difference here though is Asashoryu stayed low, kept his hips back, and didn't align his chest with the Estonian. Bart did the only thing he could, which was to lean down on the Yokozuna over the top and pinch inward on his arms in an attempt to neutralize the Yokozuna's position. At this point, both rikishi dug in until about 20 seconds in when Asa briefly tested the uchi-gake waters. The move was too dangerous, however, so Asashoryu backed out of it leaving the two in another stalemate in the center of the ring with Asashoryu still maintaining moro-zashi and Baruto pinching in from the outside in the kime position. A full minute passed, and it was evident that Baruto had no offensive options, so it was a test of wills to see who would give in first. It was Baruto, who went for an uwate over the top of the Yokozuna with the right hand, but this was exactly what Asashoryu was waiting for. He pounced on the Estonian's movement immediately going for the left inside throw aided by his right hand pulling at the back of Baruto's left leg and the Yokozuna's own left leg inside of Baruto's right to completely lift the Sekiwake off balance and dump him to the dohyo via kake-nage.

What a brilliant performance from Asashoryu, who hasn't looked this good since before that unjustified two basho suspension over two years ago. I hope I'm dead wrong about my pre-basho thoughts that the top three Mongolians are in cahoots with each other and that it's Hakuho's turn to win this basho. Make no mistake, Hakuho is the favorite regardless, but at the level Asashoryu is fighting, a senshuraku showdown between the two Yokozuna with no funny bidness going on would be epic. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but you'll know it if it happens. Even if you can't figure it out, Clancy will straighten things out on senshuraku. If I am wrong in my assessment, this basho will be the best since Hatsu 2008 simply because both Yokozuna are at the top of their game. Great stuff from Asashoryu today who stays perfect at 9-0 while Baruto falls to 5-4. Regarding Baruto, he's finished with both Yokozuna, but he's the underdog against Kotooshu, which means he can't afford to lose to anyone else if he still wants the Ozeki rank. If you were the Estonian and were offered a 10-5 finish now, you'd take that in a flash.

In the day's penultimate bout, Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed ailing Ozeki Chiyotaikai with a perfect tachi-ai that saw Hakuho get his left hand on the front of Chiyotaikai's mawashi. I mean, Hak's hand was groping so deep on the front of the Ozeki's belt that if the Yokozuna had a cracked fingernail he surely would have snagged a whisker or two from you know where. With Hakuho continuing to move forward and Chiyotaikai's arms raised high as if to say "do me now," Hakuho thankfully withdrew his left hand from the Ozeki's package and assumed the moro-zashi position with both arms high and away from the belt. He thought briefly about going for a left sukui-nage throw, but held that up and marched the Ozeki back and out with his dignity still in tact. Hakuho's tachi-ai was textbook in this one as he moves to 9-0 and hands Chiyotaikai a costly seventh loss in the process.

Regarding Chiyotaikai, the dude's had a great career that has included three yusho and a record-setting number of basho ranked as Ozeki, but it's clearly time to go. Prior to the basho, the Wolf's Pup indicated that he would soldier on even if he suffered make-koshi this basho and was demoted to Sekiwake (a given at this point), and he even surprised some by saying he had his stablemaster's approval to keep fighting even if he lost his current rank. My question is for what? What does Chiyotaikai hope to prove by staying as an active rikishi? If he can't win eight bouts legitimately in two tries, how is he going to win 10 bouts in January to regain his rank? It's time to hang it up, get fitted for that drab navy blazer and gray slacks, and find a comfortable folding chair so he can assume security duties at the Kokugikan come January. The whole problem with Chiyotaikai the last year or so is even the Japanese fans could tell that his peers were giving him bouts. There was just too much liability for the Association to continue to allow Chiyotaikai to fight AND allow him to win his eight every other basho.

So...with Chiyotaikai's make-koshi a given, the current question is will he retire during the Kyushu basho? Or will he make good on his half-hearted word prior to the tournament that he'll soldier on as a Sekiwake. Pup, you gotta make the right decision and hang it up for the good of sumo. We'll see what he does, but I already know he's thinking long and hard about the decision. I sent Arbo out of the hotel armed with Sumotalk's sweet Noetic camera that includes a telephoto lens, and while he wasn't allowed on the stable premises (would you let Mark within 100 feet of you?), he was able to climb a tree and take the photo seen at right. C'mon Pup...make the decision to hang it up now.

Continuing on with the Ozeki, M3 Tochiohzan has looked decent this basho including a three bout win-streak where he toppled two Ozeki, but against Kaio today he played right into the Ozeki's hands by looking for the left inside position from the tachi-ai. Kaio did his part by crashing into Tochiohzan and keeping his chest aligned as he worked his way towards his coveted right outer grip. With Tochiohzan failing to try and maneuver out of the stanglehold or even keep his hips back, Kaio grabbed the right outer about five seconds in and then easily forced Tochiohzan back from there. This one was too easy as Kaio moves to 6-3 to the delight of the Fukuoka faithful. Tochiohzan falls to 3-6 but will eat well tonight.

Komusubi Kisenosato took the initiative from the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotooshu firing tsuppari into the Bulgarian's neck, but the Kid was too flat-footed and upright (i.e.. non-committal), and Kotooshu easily ducked into the hidari-yotsu position using his long arms to grab the right outer grip leaving Kisenosato noting but a feeble right inside position with which to counter. Well, counter may not be the best term to use because Kisenosato couldn't even do that as Kotooshu just smothered him back and out for the methodical yori-kiri win. Perfect patience from Kotooshu prevailed today as he clinches kachi-koshi at 8-1. Kisenosato falls to 3-6, and while it's expected that a Komusubi get roughed up early on, the Kid's gotta turn it around now.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki dominated the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Kakuryu crashing his chest solidly into the Mongolian and demanding the left outer grip in the process. Kotomitsuki next confirmed his footing, lifted the Kak up with the right inside position, and then just steamrolled him back and out in about three seconds. There's nothing more to break down here; it was a thorough ass-kicking as Kotomitsuki quietly moves to 6-3. Kakuryu at 2-7 shows why Sekiwake is too high of a rank for him.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Harumafuji has completely lost his rhythm this basho, but it's always easy to get back on track against M3 Bushuyama. That's no disrespect to Bush; it's just that a newbie to these parts who lacks speed is going to have a tough time against a veteran Mongolian who knows every trick in the book. Fortunately, Harumafuji spared us of any trickery and focused his tachi-ai on thrusting into M3 Bushuyama's throat, but the attempt was half-hearted, and it actually allowed Bushuyama to pull the Ozeki in and force the bout to hidari-yotsu. Before Bushuyama could actually body up and use his size advantage, however, Harumafuji slipped to the side and executed a quick inside belt throw using his left leg against Bushuyama's right to trip him up in the process. Fish in a barrel at the end, but you could see from the tachi-ai that Harumafuji is flustered this basho. At 4-5 with both Yokozuna left to fight, Harumafuji ain't quite outta the woods yet. Bushuyama is a very respectable 3-6, and you have to credit this guy for not wilting under the pressure as we've seen from nearly every other rikishi their first time among the jo'i.

Komusubi Goeido stayed low at the tachi-ai knowing full well that if he kept M1 Takekaze flustered for just two seconds, Kaze would revert to the pull. He did, and Goeido was right on top of the move forcing Takekaze back and out for the wham bam thank you ma'am win. Goeido is limping for sure at 3-6, but he can still manage kachi-koshi with his lighter week two schedule. Takekaze falls to a surprising 4-5 mark.

At this point, allow me to get off on a slight tangent. Of all the emails we've received this week, most of them were about that collage of pictures Mark posted in his day 5 of all those sexy female athletes. Everyone is talking about that little smudge on Maria Sharapova's left buttocks. If you scroll down to Mark's day 5 and look at the picture, you can see what looks like a little red-blackish mark right at the base of her left cheek. I noticed it too when I initially posted that pic but just wrote it off as a smudge on my computer screen. Turns out I was wrong. After cleaning my monitor, I went and enlarged that picture of Sharapova, and I'll be darned if there wasn't a small tattoo at the base of her left butt cheek. Amazing! I've posted a close-up here so you can all see what I'm talking about.

M1 Aminishiki kept both arms in tight against M2 Kotoshogiku looking for moro-zashi, but the Geeku pinched in forcefully from the outside and burrowed his way low into Ami's chest. After about two seconds of Aminishiki trying to get his right arm sufficiently on the inside to mount a charge, he opted for Plan B, which was nothing but stepping to the side and going for the quick pull maneuver. The move failed, however, as Kotoshogiku had latched onto his opponent too tightly, and the Geeku took full advantage mounting his force-out charge that took about two belly shoves to knock Aminishiki clear off the dohyo and into the second row. Kotoshogiku moves to 5-4 with the win and could possibly still pick up the Ginosho if he can win 10. Aminishiki falls to 4-5.

M2 Tokitenku went for a ketaguri against M4 Iwakiyama. My least favorite move in sumo, a ketaguri (leg-trip) is really a tachi-ai henka in disguise, and it's actually better not to connect with your kick because it gives you more room to henka and better balance. Having said that, Tokitenku jumped to the side causing Iwakiyama to just stumble forward. Tokitenku did make contact with the leg, but it was already after he made the kicking motion and was more of a result of Iwakiyama just stumbling into it on his way down. Regardless, it's one of the worst moves in sumo and one that Tokitenku employs two or three times a basho. That's two or three times too many for me to stomach as Tokitenku hiccups to 2-7 while Iwakiyama has fallen and get can't back up at 1-8. And good news...we have one more ketaguri later on that was executed even worse than Tenku's today.

M4 Hokutoriki's moro-te tachi-ai against M6 Kyokutenho was useless because Jokutoriki wasn't supplementing it with the lower body. This allowed Kyokutenho to assume the hidari-yotsu position and pull his opponent in tight. Hokutoriki is decent at digging in when forced into the yotsu position, but he can't win. Kyokutenho knew it, and despite the lack of a right outer grip, he just belly thrust (gaburi-yori) Hokutoriki back once, twice, three times a lady scoring the easy force-out win. Kyokutenho clears the .500 hurdle at 5-4 while Hokutoriki falls to 4-5.

M7 Homasho charged low at the tachi-ai in an effort to keep M5 Toyonoshima away from the belt, and while it worked, it left both rikishi apart from each other leaving them no option but to touch heads (zu-yotsu) and push at each other's shoulders. Both rikishi went for the obligatory slaps and pulls, but the two finally hooked up in the yotsu position with Toyonoshima maintaining an inner left and Homasho the outer right. Toyonoshima went for the early inside belt throw with the left, and while it was too early to actually defeat Homasho with the move, it set Homie up by forcing him near the edge and taking away his solid footing. Homasho countered near the straw with an outer belt throw of his own, but he wasn't planted firmly enough to throw Toyonoshima across that final step, which can be credited to Toyonoshima's subtly giving Homie hints that a leg sweep was in the cards if he got too close. Homasho persisted, however, and forced the action up against the edge of the dohyo, but Toyonoshima brilliantly turned the tables at the edge twisting to the side and forcing Homasho down to the dirt with a push to the shoulder in tsuki-otoshi fashion. This was great stuff all around for Toyonoshima who thrives at 7-2 while Homasho still has some figgerin' to do at 4-5.

M8 Tochinoshin used a right kachi-age (forearm to the throat) against M5 Kakizoe, but he was too slow in setting up anything at the belt, and Sweet Zoe Jane seized moro-zashi and began driving Tochinoshin back in a flash. NoShine flinched on a maki-kae with the right hand, but he was being driven back so fast, he opted for plan B, which was stepping to the side at the edge and going for a desperation pull. It was close, but Kakizoe never let up on the de-ashi and had Tochinoshin pushed back and down for an extremely impressive win. Tochinoshin drops to 7-2 with the loss, and while I've really enjoyed watching him this basho, get him off the leaderboard already. As for Kakizoe, he's 6-3 already and threatening a sanyaku bid! That's awesome...or as Scooby Doo would say, "That's Rossome!"

Putting M9 Yoshikaze on the leaderboard is laughable as well, but you have to hand it to Cafe, he's got some serious momentum going right now. Today he crushed M6 Wakanosato back from the tachi-ai using an effective moro-te leaving Wakanosato nary a pot to piss in. As Wakanosato flirted with a counter pull move, Yoshikaze just kept his feet moving forward from the start and had Wakanosato pushed back and out in a flash. Yoshikaze moves to 8-1 with the win, and if he keeps this up, he'll have a few Sadogatake-beya Ozeki to deal with. Wakanosato has looked sickly most of the basho as he falls to 3-6.

Speaking of sickly, M7 Tamanoshima's balance has been so awful this basho that M9 Miyabiyama's lumbering tsuppari easily knocked him upright and back a step from the tachi-ai. As Tamanoshima tried to counter and get back into the bout, Miyabiyama just stepped to his side and slapped Tamanoshima down to the clay moving his record to 7-2 in the process. Tamanoshima is floundering at 3-6.

M11 Tamawashi stuck a stiff right arm directly into M8 Aran's throat standing the Russian straight up and giving him no options to counter. Aran extended his arm against Tamawashi's shoulder trying to keep him at bay, but Tamawashi was out for blood using a few more sharp tsuppari into Aran's throat to knock him back across the straw with some oomph. The Mawashi moves to 6-3 with the impressive win while Aran's role has changed from sanyaku threat to blow-up doll. He's 2-7.

M15 Yamamotoyama is so slow these days that M10 Asasekiryu hardly needed to evade to the side to beat him. Sexy smashed into the Organism head-on grabbing the easy left outer grip, which he used to wrench Yamamotoyama this way and that setting him up for the laughable force-out win. Sexy ekes to 3-6 with the win while Twin Peaks' novelty has completely worn out its welcome in this division.

Today was a perfect example of why M14 Kimurayama henkas in 90% of his bouts. He musta figured he didn't need to against M10 Kokkai today, but he miscalculated allowing Kokkai to get the easy peasy left inside position that he followed up with a solid right outer grip walking Kim back and out as if Kokkai (4-5) were a yotsu-specialist. Kimurayama falls to 3-6, closer and closer to yet another basho in Makuuchi without a kachi-koshi. Some stat geek should look up the record for most Makuuchi appearances without a kachi-koshi, so 1) I can thank you, and 2) I can chastise you for not spending more time trying to meet girls.

M11 Takamisakari actually put together a good tachi-ai against M13 Tosayutaka lowering his right shoulder and striking Tosayutaka's upper torso keeping him far away from the inside. In the process, the Robocop grabbed a left outer grip that was so close to the front of his opponent's belt that Tosayutaka's right inner was useless. Tosayutaka tried in vain to fish for his own left outer grip on the other side because when it comes to crocodile arms in the division, Tosayutaka may have even surpassed Wakanosato. Anyway, Takamisakari maneuvered his right arm deep on the inside of Tosayu-croca's left simply lifting him upright leaving him no room to counter. Sumo's version of Forrest Gump had the smaller Tosayutaka forced back and out in about 10 methodic seconds of sumo to the delight of the crowd. And speaking of the crowd, it was nice to see the Fukuoka faithful actually get two sell-outs over the weekend. It's hard to believe I know, but Arbo snapped this photo as proof. Back to Takamisakari, at 7-2 I can already taste that kachi-koshi interview!! Tosayu-croca falls to a decent 5-4.

I don't know what gave me more pleasure today...speculating on how much material was used to make Musashimaru's suit (Moose was in the booth today), or watching M12 Shotenro read an M14 Kasugao ketaguri attempt to perfection. Give credit to Kasugao for actually connecting with the kick, but his tachi-ai was so slow Moose was even laughing from the booth. Anyway, Shotenro read the move like a boring Help manual that comes with a particle physics colliding machine, grabbed Kasugao's right leg, and immediately turned him 90 degrees before driving him straight towards the edge. Shotenro was so on top of this bout, he tripped Kasugao in watashi-komi fashion before they even reached the straw. Love to see bad sumo exposed like this as Shotenro climbs above .500 at 5-4. Kasugao is 2-7 and has nothing to say for himself.

M12 Toyohibiki displayed a frail tachi-ai against M13 Mokonami that allowed the Mongolian to grab ridiculously easy left inside and right outside grips. Enjoying the lower stance, Mokonami immediately aligned chests, and began his force-out charge. Toyohibiki used his mass to dig in and counter near the edge, so Mokonami switched gears and went for an outside belt throw pulling Toyohibiki towards the center of the dohyo. The Nikibi knew he was gonna be squished, so he went for a desperation leg trip by grabbing at Mokonami's right ankle on his way down, but Mokonami (6-3) had the mo the entire bout and scored the uwate-nage win. Toyohibiki is under water again at 4-5.

Last and certainly least, Juryo 1 Masatsukasa walked right into an M15 Shimotori uwate at the tachi-ai and showed no urgency to counter, so it turned into a contest of how long it would take Shimotori to wrench him over to the edge and dump him. I'm not one of those nerds who times bouts, but my guess is about 14 seconds. Shimotori moves to 5-4 with the win.

So that does it for me although I'll see you right back here on Wednesday. My final tangent of the's looking more and more like we'll have Shakira flown to Kyushu to play the Sumotalk after-basho party. Hopefully no one wasted their time watching the American Music Awards last night, but the gay man in me just couldn't help scanning all of the red-carpet photos from the event. Shakira wore that sexy yellow number seen pictured at right, but I'm not sure who that dude's face is on her dress. Musta been the designer.

Kenji teaches you how to cRoss stitch tomorrow. 

Day 8 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Slim women in tight pants! Now that Ive got your attention...Haha. Im slick. Eight days into the basho and the shit has hit the fan (and Im not talking about Chiyotaikai striking an audience member). Packed houses everyday (everyones in their house), Ozeki taking turns losing to future trivia questions, thrown bouts that are as ugly as they are obvious, and no chance of the yusho going to anyone who hasnt done it in a yurt. Whats a rapscallion to do?

Consume a small footlocker of hard assed drugs, thats what. Arbo is running his own bacchanalia in this, his hometown basho, and hes gone overboard by claiming that I own a kei truck. Thats dalderbash. Cockypop. Nuff and stonsense. THIS is the chick magnet I drive. Let the envy flow.

The day began with 1-6 Kasugao taking on 1-6 Yamamotoyama. With his boyish good looks and acne, Ande makes an attractive target for the men even when he isnt injured, which he seems to be this time out. The Korean went immediately to the side belt, and though the E15 managed to drag the pesky Pusan pugilist in front of him, the Organism had no leverage and was backed out as Kasugao yanked dangerously at the top layer of his foes mawashi. The crowd sighed in relief as the match ended before Kasugao exposed Andes junk.

Shotenro picked up a fusen win, ballooning his record to 4-4. 

Fresh from his Palm Beach vacation, Mokonami brought a head thumping tachi-ai to the days festivities, and Tamawashi seemed appropriately stunned by it. Emboldened by his success, he raced forward, belting The Mawashi with some blows that had a few of the more excitable in the crowd (yes, on this Sunday it could actually be described that way, though pretty much everyone looked like a hick--with one exception Ill get to later) recalling their lovable street hooligan Chiyotaikais early days. Even in this konked state the E11 waxed off and on fairly well, and once his head cleared came right back across the ring, and the retreating Okonomiyaki found his goose cooked, as he had no answer for Tamawashis fire. 

Takamisakari won by popular demand, I mean by head butt. Asasekiryu was in the lower position at tachi-ai, and seriously Bean just brought his forehead down right onto Sexys back and dropped him like a FB friend. Beans going for the jun-yusho, and Asas Secretary looks like hell be taking dic...hmm...hmm...tation (sorry, frog in my throat) down in the W16 range in January.

Kokkai got out of the gates nicely but made that age old mistake of placing his long armed thrusts on Shimotoris face, not his chest, and once the W15 brushed those off, he was in excellent position to rush forward and humiliate the Gorgeous Georgian via yorikiri. It must be said that Shimotori has always been pretty good at shaking off crappy tsuppari and getting the belt (just usually doesnt win from there).

The only difficulty Miyabiyama faced today was trying to avoid pulling (literally) an aran on Kimurayama, who craftily went to his left at tachi-ai and was spun down and around by the head for all his monkeyshine. No topknot snagged, just win numero seis for Flobby, whos got dibs on that top Maegashira bunk for January when he finishes 12-3!

Tochinoshin got the outside left, inside right pronto and it was all over but for the shouting. Tosayutaka stiffened and didnt want to leave the ring, but when No Shines Baruto imitation failed, he abandoned the tsuridashi lift out attempt and instead emulated one of his other idols, Kotooshu, by driving forward and using that outside left to twist and crush the overmatched E13 with a sweet overarm throw, the good ol uwatenage. Seven straight wins for that Crazy Diamond. Tosayutaka can keep his head up at 5-3.

Toyohibiki did what Kokkai didn’t do, shoving nicely at the chest of Tamanoshima. He looked to be winning in spades, but Peter has a head on his shoulders, and he backed away to the side to deflect the power while batting at The Nikibis arms, and when the W12 rather suddenly ran out of forward mo, the tide turned and Pete just washed over the dude, like darkness, darker than a black steers tuchus on a moonless prairie night.

Wakanosato and Homasho wanted to, along with me, pop the pink robe wearing gyoji in the chops as the self-important flake stopped the tachi-ai twice because he perceived some slight infraction. (After the second one Wakanosato stood there and stared at him as if to say, That was fine, bro.) Dude def has a future as a JPese traffic cop. Flummoxed out of their Darwindamned dingleberries, the two grapplers grappled and Wakanosato lost and looked not at all happy about it.

Remember, the rituals sumo wrestlers go through pre-bout are not simply for show. These guys are getting psyched, calling on their gods, paying their respects to the past, and most importantly zoning in. When some gyoji dingbat pulls some asininery and monkeys with it on a very questionable call, rikishi have a right to be pissed.

Yoshikaze, the caffeinated one (I think Dr. Mario has taken one too many particles to the brain, calling Café decaf!), went for his KK vs. Toyonoshima. They hooked up quickly into a hugging type of bout where they look like long lost brothers meeting at a Dennys in Passaic. Starbuck seemed to be the aggressor, but Tugboat has much experience with the ins and outs of pushing and pulling, and when co-leader Café tried to lift the former Sekiwake back and out, he found Toyonoshima nimbly twisting him down to his first loss. 

The final corner prep for the Aran/Kakizoe bout was great, their syncopated slapping sounding like a road show of Stomp. The Russian stiffarmed Sweet Zoe from the start, but once the feisty W5 lifted up on the arm and pressed hard in, Topknot started retreating and hilariously his hand instinctively swiped at Kakizoes head, but wisely he did not even attempt a grab. Id guess that one more no-no this basho, maybe even next, and dudell be suspended. My man Sweet Zoe centimeters a little bit closer to a long overdue return to the sanyaku. 

Destroyer-of-Kotomitsuki Bushuyama bellied up to the Chauffer Kyokutenho, and it was clear from the start that the win was going to come from a throw, and it did when Kyokutenho took the Dollyamas charge and veteranly (thirty-five year-old dudes not gonna get bufud by Bushu) hooked on the right arm and, manssiere or no manssiere, pulled them sweet floppys down. Tenho sitting level at 4-4, while Bushuyamas got some splainin to do at 3-5.

Are you like me, and really enjoy a nice, slow, recapitulating wank within twenty-four hours after an epic screw? 

A dismal 1-7 coming in, Iwakiyama tried to run out the Geeku with the jumpin belly bump (the move that most Americans think of when they think of sumo), but it takes one to know one, and Geeku pressed in on Iwonkey Kongs side to stall the charge, and then got his own tummy up and running and won in his now familiar manner, the gappuri yori. The Moon in the Man gonna be falling a long ways down come January. Geeku keeps the Sanyaku dream alive at .500. 

Takekaze or one of his angels is evidently hungering for his Sanyaku return as well, because he has won two thrown bouts in a row. Yesterday Harumafuji dove to the deck without being touched like a breakdancer about to do that freaky dolphin move, and today Aminishiki dropped to his tits when giant muscleman Takekaze flicked his fingertips onto his head. Remember these guys are two of the most tenacious pugs out there, and they rarely go down easily. Getting slapped/pulled down is without question the simplest, and most common way to throw a bout. Im way too confident in my sumo knowledge to give a shit whether anyone agrees or not, but since Im writing this for you, the audience, Ill say this: If you think yaocho only happens among the big fellas, with yusho on the line, think again; and if you dont think yaocho happens at all, then you can go attempt an erotic aerial maneuver at a trundling baked good. Aminishiki has all the big boys out the way, could afford to let one go, and should now have little problem getting his KK.

With both men reeling from their ranks typical blistering first week, Goeido looked like Takamisakari on a bad day vs. Kisenosato as he came with no tachi-ai whatsoever, wiggling in The Kids grasp as he was taken back and out in a jiff. Which of these Komusubi will right the ship by Senshuraku? My guess is both.

Kotomitsuki did what Kotomitsuki should do when fighting Hokutoriki, namely annihilate him. 

6-1 Kotooshu looked like an especially large but patient babysitter trying to corral his charge so he could get the germ circus into bed. Tokitenku kept him at arms length, literally, but once the Bulgarian coaxed the obstreperous Mongolian with the promise of a goats milk biscuit, he was able to let him fall gently forward to the clay. Shhh, Tokidokis sleeping.

The moon came out. The tide rolled in. The wind blew. Kaio beat Chiyotaikai. Oddly, for several years now Ive been a vocal critic of The Pups hanging on, hinting at first and then outright stating that he was buying or swapping strategic wins to remain Ozeki. But now that he is about to swing low on that sweet chariot, I don’t care much, partly because it opens the door for someone younger and partly because sumo is fixed in enough crucial bouts to have me as jaded as a hooker in my love for sumo.

This time out weve been wondering How will he do? so ladies and gents, I give you Howdo mafuji. Today Howdo went chest to chest with Baruto, who locked down on the Ozekis double inside belt grip. With arms unable to move Howdo waited, and after a short stall pushed forward like HE was going to do the lifting. With his back to the ropes, Biomass easily lifted nee Ama into the air and swung him around and out. But he stepped out with his toe before the Ozeki came down. (In case youre wondering about his Day 7, after a losing a few straight up early on, HAruMAfuji decided to hold a fire sale, and Takekaze and his people were up for some early Xmas shopping.)

Martin claims it is common knowledge that one can step out with one foot if one is holding his foe in the air and about to put him down. First Ive heard of this, and even if its true, its turtleshit. Im sick of the fast and easy interpretation of touching down/out first. Ive seen that call go against and for, and its one of those things I dont like about sumo. It should be as clear as Crater Lake: Step out or touch down first, no matter what, and lose. I understand that at times it seems ludicrous to award a wrestler the win when he was clearly losing and could not have won without the miscue of his foe, but lines need to be drawn, or else favoritism can play a role. Remember, sumo, unlike most other martial art forms of wrestling and boxing, is not subjectively judged by points, and I think that aspect is one of its main draws. Down or out and you lose. I think it should be treated as The Law.

Some will claim that Asa stepped to the side for the win, but thats not what happened, so dont listen to them. What happened (and youll only get it here because the NHK announcers missed it) was Tochiohzan braced himself for the typical, almost daily Asa RIGHT hand harite by moving to his left at tachi-ai. But Asa pwned him by using the LEFT hand harite, sending Oh Snap farther to his left and giving Asa the easy rear belt grip. Spun around and in the manlove, Oh Poo decided to be a man and continue struggling. Genghis, wanting to be gentle, did not appreciate this and threw his ass to the ground. Asa did slide his left leg to the side a bit, but this was common stance opening combined with Asa knowing Tochi was going to be getting slammed to the left. Nice changeup by the Khan.

Hakuho played matador by letting Kakuryu bull his way forth for a matta (looked like he thought about tripping the Sekiwake as he ran past and off the dohyo) and on the re-fire Kublai wrapped him up like a fresh fish and flung him to the clay. Utter domination, and Kak represents the rank only two notches below Yokozuna. Frightening.

Speaking of frightening, Mike passes out the Halloween treats a few weeks late on Day 9. And you can bet it wont be apples or homemade raisin brownies.

Day 7 (Martin Matra reporting)
So far this basho has unraveled just the way I feared it would, i.e. Asashoryu and Hakuho cut through the lower part of jo'i like a hot knife through butter, while everyone who could even remotely impact the Yusho race lost early. When the most exciting thing to look forward mid-basho is Yoshikaze's winning streak and the people who should keep the Yokozuna on their toes (I'm talking about the Ozeki, in case the recent situation made you forget about all them) are all whining about injuries, the basho just isn't the same. In fact, if you compare how a basho should look like with how it actually looks now, you get something like Arbo's slew of hot sportswomen versus this pair of finely built ladies.

First off, let's take a look at a bout that took place in Juryo. J4 Sagatsukasa, who happens to be shorter than Toyonoshima and lighter than Ama, met J5 Okinoumi in what was likely the best bout of the day (as far as I'm concerned). The little guy tried to worm his way on the inside, but Okinoumi successfully denied moro-zashi the whole time by lodging his left right under Saga's armpit. This would ultimately prove to be his undoing, as the slippery Sagatsukasa, pressed from above by his taller and heavier foe, grabbed that inside arm and twisted himself out of the hold in unique tsutaezori fashion. The brilliant maneuver left him with Okinoumi's left arm over his shoulder (that's what a 24cm height difference will do in a bout), so Saga finished him off quickly and mercilessly by the cleanest ippon throw I've seen in quite a while. Sadly, they named it tottari (they know better, right?). Also, it was tragicomic to see Hiro Morita try to seem knowledgeable and say the initial maneuver (tsutaezori) was a "tasuki move", and Clyde Newton agree with him, naming it tasukizori. It's no surprise, with all the halfassedness (this should be a word too) going around, that these guys can't be bothered to do their homework. What's even more ironic is that Hiro presented a documentary by the NHK that showed the exact origin of the maneuver--Mongols, of course.

OK, let's get down to business. Undersized Tosayutaka used the hit and run tactic at the tachi-ai against way oversized Yamamotoyama, charging slightly laterally and slipping to the side right after the impact, hoping to maybe get behind the big man for the easy win. However, YMY saw it coming and managed to keep his foe right in front of him, quickly taking him to the edge and trying to muscle him out. Tosayutaka easily got both his arms inside and, under pressure on the tawara, deployed a nifty scoop throw that the Hutt tried to counter with a kotenage of his own, but the smaller rikishi's nimbleness allowed him to stay on his feet (well, his left foot actually) long enough for Yamamotoyama to fall first. On the reverse angle replay I saw just how close Tosayutaka was to suffering a career ending injury, when Yamamotoyama almost landed on his ankle (Tosa's knee would have the become the fulcrum of a grim lever formed on the edge of the dohyo, ugly stuff to imagine). With the win Tosayutaka improves to 5-2 and looks in control, while YMY is clearly useless at 1-6.

However, Tamaasuka wasn't so lucky in his tsuki-otoshi loss against the much heavier Toyohibiki, as his right leg bent in an unhealthy way while Sucka was being pushed down under the armpit. I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the kyujo list tomorrow, because he needed help to limp down the hana-michi. Toyohibiki wins his 4th consecutive bout and is looking better after his dubious 0-3 start (albeit against in-form guys).

If there's anything I love about a henka bout, it's seeing the guy who does it lose. Usual suspect Kimurayama, still in search of that elusive first Makuuchi kachi-koshi (this is his 6th try already, and he ain't looking any better), ever so blatantly jumped to the left (yawn), against a half-blind Takamisakari who's renowned for his Dejima-esque tachi-ai (nawt!). Needless to say Robocop read the move like a dirty magazine and proceeded to fish for some grip on the mawashi, but Kimurayama went into attack mode and mauled the Clown with some painful thrusts to the face and neck, taking him for a ride around the ring. Just when you thought "this is it", Takamisakari sneaked both arms inside, pushed hard under Kimura's pits, turned him around and pushed him out, upping his win count to 5. Kimurayama is making it 6-fer-6, sinking under .5 again today.

The next one was a lot more one-sided, from start to finish, with Tamawashi using his superior pushing attack on the hapless Shimotori, but, like above, just when you thought "this is it", Moo managed to jump out of the way and slap the Mawashi right past him for his 3rd win. The Mongol slips to his 3rd loss, but should get 8 easily.

Corporal Kokkai made my day by not lunging forward at the tachi-ai and catching Kasugao in the shameful but predictable act of trying to pull a henka to his right. The Georgian then kept his head low and Kasugao at bay, then suddenly pushed at the Korean's left arm, got to his side, grabbed the back of his mawashi and walked him across the bales for his 3rd win. 1-6 says Kimchi is on his way to Juryo.

The Fatman showed why size matters when Mokonami came at him with no real plan, trying to set up a belt grip with some tsuppari. Miyabiyama brushed him off like so much pocket lint, kept him right in front of himself and immediately pushed him out, evening their scores at 5-2 each.

In what was that far not a Mongols' day, Shotenro dominated his own bout against none other than Yoshikaze only to doze off at the edge and let his smaller and quicker opponent get behind him and mount him for the embarrassing okuri-taoshi win. With only 3 wins this low, Big Shot ain't looking so big anymore, while the little Kaze is definitely too big for the basement of the banzuke. Keep it up, boy, and they'll feed you to the sharks (not that you wouldn't give ‘'m a run for their money).

In another festival of halfassedness, Aran (who else) gave up moro-zashi to Asasekiryu right from the tachi-ai and spent the better part of the bout trying to not get yorikiried or thrown. When Asasekiryu inevitably got him with his back against the wall, the Russian executed a desperate maki-kae that surprisingly kept him inside the ring...only to step out on his own, with the most pathetic display of ring sense I've seen all basho. Aran's work ethic so far will never bring him higher than his former Russian colleagues--presently he's everything that's wrong with gaijin in sumo, short of smoking weed at the heya. With only 2 wins so far, he'd better change something or risk being demoted to Juryo.

Even at his advanced age, Kyokutenho is as dangerous as they get with any kind of belt grip. Homasho got a taste of that first hand, despite managing to cut the ex-Mongol's uwate while getting a nifty double grip of his own. Tenho survived the inevitable forward push by twisting Homasho off balance with a hineri move (twisting the opponent by the mawashi in the same direction as the gripping hand, as opposed to a nage), then stopped the second charge with a weak nage attempt, only to finally twist Homer to the edge by another hineri and force him out. Both men are disappointing at 3-4.

Veteran Wakanosato blew youngster Tochinoshin away at the tachi-ai and pushed him back looking for moro-zashi, getting him to the edge. However, Shin shone like the crazy diamond he is and intheblinkofaneye grabbed the back of Croco's head and pulled him down faster than you can say intai. Ok, Wakanosato still has some gas left in that old, rusty tank of his, but his 3-4 so far is saying "over-ranked". Shin boasts a solid 6-1, with his only loss coming to none other than Yoshikaze. I guess all that rough keiko with Asashoryu is finally paying off, eh?

Tamanoshima was coming into his match with Iwakiyama with a lopsided 13-5 record, and that probably pissed Moon-in-the-man off, because right from the tachi-ai he used quick tsuppari to the face with little intention of moving forward. With no support from the legs in those thrusts, Tamanoshima was able to withstand the windmill and waited patiently for a window of opportunity, which eventually came. Peter quickly swiped downwards at Iwaki's arms, causing him to lean forward and hug him into a shallow moro-zashi, but dangerously off balance. Tamanoshima then grabbed the Hutt by that neckless head of his and dropped him to the ground just before he was himself ejected from the dohyo, much to Iwakiyama's frustration. Better luck next time, big man.

Much to my delight, another henka was foiled today, with Kakizoe recovering nicely from the shameful sidestep Jokutoriki thought would be enough to win the bout. It was a pretty straightforward affair after that as Kakizoe chased his compromised opponent all over the dohyo and eventually pushing him out. Both men stand at 4-3.

Despite the recent dream Bushuyama's been living, there's a significant difference in skill between him and Toyonoshima. The little guy crashed hard into Dolly's airbags and groped for a second or so before getting moro-zashi. It was only a matter of time at that point, and Toyonoshima finished Bush of by shifting gears and dragging him down by katasukashi after trying to force things to the edge. Toyonoshima improves to 5-2, as you'd expect him this low, while Bush falls to only his 4th loss, but I have a feeling the honeymoon's over, he still has to face the Isegahama duo and possibly other guys ranked above him, and I can't see him winning more than 2-3 out of those 8 bouts left. But we shall see.

If there's anyone who can pull a good henka (so to speak), it has to be Aminishiki. Today's bout with Tokitenku was over in less than a second after Sneaky (4-3) teleported to his left and slapped the Mongolian to his 6th loss. Why did I waste a paragraph for THIS?

Goeido slipped to his left against Kotooshu, trying to get that cheapie uwate, but his arm length didn't help him much as Kotooshu quickly turned towards him and tried to slap him to the dohyo. Goeido didn't fall for it and actually managed to get a right inside, but with no mawashi grip on the big Bulgarian, there was only one way this bout was going. At the edge Goeido tried a desperation sukui-nage aided by a leg sweep, but Kotooshu was too well planted and ended up right behind Goeido for the final push. The Ozeki is again off to a fast start, actually for the third basho in a row, but I don't see him beating any of the Yokozuna (in fact, I really don't see him reaching day 13 without losing again). Still, it's good to see he's not losing to Maegashira so easily anymore. Tomorrow will be crucial for the Bulgarian's morale, as Tokitenku has won the last two between them, and quite recently too. Goeido is an expected 2-5 after the brutal Komusubi week 1 schedule, but kachi-koshi is still in the cards.

Soon-to-be-former-Ozeki Chiyotaikai was once again exposed for the weakling he has become by Tochiohzan, who laughed off his all-bark-no-bite tsuppari and easily pushed him out after Taikai compromised himself with the meek hataki-komi attempt. At 2-5, there is absolutely 0 chance of Taikai escaping kadoban, so we better get used to the sound of Sekiwake Chiyotaikai (I don't think he keeps going, but stranger things have happened). Tochiohzan is a decent 3-4 and I have a feeling he might even get 8 wins (remember, he's regularly training with Asashoryu too, and look what that did for Tochinoshin).

The next one is a perfect example of how a thrown bout should look like.  Crowd favorite Kaio lunged straight into Kotoshogiku (who happens to be a local boy, too), demanding the left shitate and wrapping Giku's arm on the right. Giku also got the left inside mawashi, so the two proceeded to just stay locked in the center of the ring until Kaio finally decided to go in and demand the right outer he prefers. With that decisive advantage, the ancient one threw the Geek off balance and pushed him out in less than a second. I'm not saying Kaio wouldn't win in a fair bout against today's opponent, but Kotoshogiku sure as hell doesn't want to be the nail in the Ozeki's coffin, especially not in Fukuoka.

One particularly unpleasant surprise this basho has to be Harumafuji, who fell again below .5 with a boneheaded loss to Takekaze of all people. The feisty Mongol charged real hard and real fast, immediately taking the disoriented Kaze to the edge...only to fail miserably at finishing him off and getting himself inexplicably pushed all the way back himself, then falling for a mysterious pull down by the cannonball man. Kaze soars to 3-4, but don't get your peckers up yet, because a kachi-koshi he will not get.

Kotomitsuki was more hit than miss today, breaking a four bout losing streak to Kisenosato in a particularly messy bout with lots of turnovers. Kisenosato had the better of the tachi-ai, driving Mitsuki a step back and not allowing him a mawashi grip, but the Ozeki quickly recovered and locked the Kid's arm, trying a the kote-nage a few times. That didn't work, so they resumed slapping and pushing each other in the center of the dohyo until Kisenosato whiffed on one of his thrusts and Kotomitsuki got him with a nodowa and finished him off. It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but Mitsuki (4-3) will be happy with it. Kisenosato falls to a disappointing 2-5 and he'd better look sharper if he wants to get 8.

Yokozuna Hakuho looked his very best in his bout against the overmatched Baruto, producing a quick, sharp, low tachi-ai, hitting hard and getting the front of Bart's mawashi with the left. Stood completely upright, Baruto tried pushing hard under the Yokozuna's pits, but Hak was 2 steps ahead of him and emphatically felled him with a lightning fast uchigake. The Khan is well on his way to the zensho and breaking Asashoryu's most wins in a year record, while Baruto is likely out of the running with 3 losses already and a lot of tough opponents left to fight.

Finally, Sekiwake Kakuryu made Asashoryu work a little before winning his 7th straight and staying in the lead along with Hakuho and the hypercaffeinated one. Both Mongols locked into Kakuryu's favorite hidari-yotsu position, which explains why it actually took so much time for Asashoryu to finish him off, but at least he did it with a nifty throw and not a boring yori-kiri. Kakuryu is having some trouble with 2-5 and some of the hard hitters left to fight, but don't write him off just yet.

So, business as usual for the two dominant Mongol Yokozuna and little else of interest, at least Yusho wise. But worry not, the basho isn't even halfway through, lots of things can still happen. Questions without an obvious answer right now are, for example, "will Ama get kachi-koshi?", "will Kotooshu threaten for the Yusho or at least play spoiler?", "will Chiyotaikai retire?", "will Yoshikaze break down in week 2 after being fed to the high rankers?" or "will Kaio and company make it look good for a change?".

For the moment, though, try to look as sharp as possible, because tomorrow Colonel Kelly is coming for inspection.

Day 6 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Expectations. It's all about expectations. The basho seemed to be one of the odd kind. The reports before the basho showed all Ozeki suffering from one thing or the other. The yokozunas feeling shaky, Baruto coming in with a strong Ozrun and rumors of him hinting of Yusho, with a strong sanyaku, etc., etc. However this has been mostly deflated with the first five days. We have two good Yokozunas, we have all Ozekis screwing up (well at least that holds), we have Chiyotaikai losing to guys we all expected him to beat if he wants his KK, and we have Baruto who seems to have brainfarted after last basho and gone back to his usual slow crappy tachi-ai and reactive sumo. There was a flash of remembrance with Goeido, but you know you get such flashes too if you bend over and fart towards a lighter. 

When Arbo shook me up from napping that I usually do during the dohyo-iri, I was somewhat disappointed as I'd rather have continued napping than watch Tosayutaka take on Tamaasuka.  It also looked as if Tamaasuka was napping.  When they finally crashed it was Tamaasuka who was driving Yutaka back, but without any grip. He actually looked more like a beggar who noticed that change you just got. Anyway, when Yutaka realized that he had his wrists in he just pushed a bit more and was in a nice moro-zashi. With moro-zashi there was no longer any question as Tosayutaka pivoted Tamaasuka around and out. 

Mokonami da brothuh is feeling comfortable around the banzuke region he's at currently, and it shows on his record of 4-1 coming in. Shimotori doesn't feel any comfort in being in the top division, but the paycheck must help. Even though tan man usually likes left hand inside grip, he directly went for the left outside. What he got was a left shallow grip and his right arm in Shimotori's armpit. As Shimotori didn't get anything, it was a bout to be determined by Brothuh. Shimotori kept himself at an angle and left elbow raised to keep Mokonami from throwing him, but that wasn't the game plan anyway as Brothuh slowly worked Shimotori back to the tawara and out. At 5-1 Mokonami is bound to rise from the ashes and be back around mid-Maegashira next basho. The guy has talent, give him time. 

The "next Yapanese Yokozuna" as some have jokingly dubbed Toyohibiki before he got his eyes...erm...retinas blown out met Kimurayama who as predictable as ever stepped slightly to his left from the tachi-ai. The rest of the bout was Kimu keeping Hibiki from his belt and trading shoves. Toyohibiki almost lost it some time in between when one of his thrusts missed Kimu's sidestep, but he kept his balance and continued the shoving until Kimu was outside. Both guys stand with equal wins and losses.

I had almost fallen asleep again, but it wasn't possible during the preparations the next bout as the slow vibrations going through the dohyo, the floor, and well most of Japan prolly didn't let me. And as usual the source of those vibrations was the walking double mountain of books. With his busted elbow I don't quite get what he's doing fighting, but he showed up to meet Tamawashi. I remember when people were terrified in meeting YMY straight up, but not these days. Tamawashi met YMY straight on and went to booby touching sending shoves to YMY-s breast area till he had the mountain behind the tawara. Without that right arm YMY is useless it seems. 

And again I couldn't catch a nap as the crowds cheered for their favorite clown. You are asking why I needed sleep? Well Arbo and I met those four pretty chicks in the bar and...anyway, Takami showed up to face the confused Korean Kasugao, who has somehow accidentally gotten a win, but looked awful in all the bouts anyway. Well Kasugao decided to try something new, he ran hard at the Roboman, as hard as I've seen anyone cover the distance (and as Takami is these days sitting waaay back that's quite a distance), but no use as Takami got moro-zashi before the first second was over and Takamisakari with moro-zashi means just one thing. 

Now that I finally decided I can't catnap because I'll just miss those bloody short bouts, I concentrated on the ass-kicking of Kokkai by Shotenro, but instead saw the two charge with Kokkai keeping his right arm straight and keeping bigshot away. Shotenro did struggle against it and had his feet going in circles on the slippery clay till Kokkai accommodated him in a backward move and downward thrust that felled the Mongolian. Big shot is so and so with some good sumo and some stupid stepouts, but today he just forgot the slippery surface of Kyushu as he overcommitted. Corporal on the other hand is...well I don't know what or who he is, but not the Kokkai that had a shot at Sanyaku a while back.

Aran has joined the record books with a new one. Namely losing twice in as many bashos with topknot pulling. Way to go maaan. Today Fatman came with an extra greased topknot just in case, but that wasn't necessary. The longish fight went in way of multiple replays of Aran keeping Miya away with his left hand, then both trading shoves till Miya moves back trying to pull the Russian down only for the two to start again from scratch. At some point Aran went for his trademark shoves that look like you'd definitely not want to be in the receiving end and had Miya commit himself too much forward. And even before you knew that Aran will go for a pulldown, you could see Miya having trouble keeping himself upwards as the slippery surface had his feet sliding backwards and him trying to keep some resemblance of balance. While he was busy setting his feet Aran just slapped him and we had another vibration coming from the dohyo when Fatman was flattened. 

Secretary met the white man from warzone. The two locked up with left hand inside grips and felt around for a few moments, but as this grip didn't seem to work Tochinoshin decided to go for a maki-kae, that he pulled off successfully. He did lose the left inside grip, but was able to replace it with a respective outer one and now with two solid grips while sexy featured only feeble ones, Shin wasted no time and executed a beautiful uwatenage throw with some help from pulling on the shoulder of sexy to make it a certainty. Good sumo from shin that is mirrored by his score of 5-1. Secretary is a mystery with scoring all over the board no matter where he is on the banzuke. One can't be sure he'll score high even when he's as low a Maegashira as can be.

Now the man of surprises, Yoshikaze, the decaffeinated. He has demolished his opposition like both the power of god AND the power of the Satan were in him. However today he met Kyokutenho, who incidentally is a great belt fighter while espresso is a pusher thruster. Yoshi charged hard for the moro-zashi, but Tenho would have nothing of it, instead he ran decaf back and out only to have espresso man execute a twist at the tawara to absolute perfection that felled Tenho to his side while decaf was still flying. So pulling victory from the yaws of defeat Yoshikaze keeps on going undefeated and "challenging" to take home the Cup. Yoshikaze for Yusho anyone else?

Two shimas met, one was Toyo and other was Tama. They decided to do battle in the ring for the pleasure of the crowd. To give the crowd time, they did a soft and slow tachi-ai and even though Toyo tried for moro-zashi he never got it and never needed it as he escorted the oldster back and out. Tama is injured and feeling his lower back so no big surprise there. Toyo should be 5-1 if not for a hairpull, but he'll have to be content with 4-2. 

Homey the composed one was paired with Kakizoe the angry furball giant killer. Sweet Zoe has been attacking furiously and even managed to finally break that huge losing streak to Iwakiyama, which was quite a surprise I might say. Homasho on the other hand has approached the bouts with his usual calm and balance with only partial success. Zoe got moro-zashi from the start and forced Homey back to what looked like a sure win, but Homey dug in and fended off this one attempt only to be taken back to the other side of the dohyo. As Zoe committed to his attack and flew out it was Homey, who managed to balance on the tawara like a good ballet dancer. A mono-ii was called after desperate looks from Kakizoe to every judge. Apparently Homey's heel was way close to the outside of the ring, but not close enough as the mono-ii just confirmed that zoe lost that one. Zoe had it going for him, but over commitment is his fault usually, but fear not, there'll be other bouts today that'll look similar.

Ah, finally some napping time as the MIB have their coffee break and change in contingent. I suggest you use the time for something useful too and we'll meet in 5 minutes. Ok?

Back already? Oh well so are the MIB, Jokester, and Wakanosato so why not, let's continue the action. Jokester came with his usual two handed throat charge, but got deflected by barometer easily. As Wakanosato got a nice left belt grip and jokester has no belt technique whatsoever, it looked to be an easy win for Waka, but alas it wasn't. Somehow Jokester managed to wiggle around and turn and shift enough to make Waka lose that grip, and as it went back to thrusting it was all Hokutoriki again who attacked with two stiff hands to the throat and ran Waka back and out. This was a very stupid loss by Wakanosato, who should have just finished Jokester once he had that belt grip, but how he lost this one is still is a puzzle to me. 

It seems that something is seriously wrong with Moonface as he hasn't done his usual sumo and it shows on his record. Oh Poo came in hard, went for moro-zashi and got both hands inside (even though without belt) and even though Iwaki is usually a great guy to not lose when giving away moro-zashi, he couldn't do much today. It didn't take long for Tochiohzan to get a sniff of the belt and the moment he did he had the leverage to take Iwaki back and out. I just hope Iwaki aggravate his injury with the fights as they seem to do him no good anyway. Tochiohzan moves to his second win while Iwaki continues with just a single blip on the scoreboard, though he might have a shot tomorrow. 

I had originally hoped that by the time I report Bart would be facing one of the Yokozunas, but seems I was off by one day as Baruto meets Hakuho tomorrow. However Kakuryu is a tough opponent as well so no biggie. Remember he (Fishface) was one of the three losses last basho with the other two being the Yokozunas. Baruto hasn't been the same as he was last basho, he has looked lost and defensive and that's not boding well for the Ozrun. Kakuryu hasn't been the same either so the match could have gone either way. Now, Baruto did what he has done these past days, namely have an ugly upright tachi-ai (fearing henka?). The two settled in hidari-yotsu and as Kakuryu seemed content with the situation he made no offensive moves, probably was waiting for Baruto to move and then catch him in the act. However he shouldn't have, if he wanted to win, as after a short breathing pause and a small warning lift Baruto just picked him up from the middle of the dohyo and carried him outside and settled him nicely outside the ring. Tsuridashi as usual and in the nice Barutodashi quality. The win was good, but Bart needs to get his tachi-ai in order again and do more offensive sumo as that was what gave him the Ozrun last basho. Let's hope he remembers that tomorrow for he'll need all the offense and fury he can manage to have a shot at the big man.

So...does Chiyotaikai have enough dough to get his eight? It seems not as Aminishiki took him straight on and locked to a beltfight, which is about as far away from what Chiyo would want. However if the bout was bought, Chiyo shouldn't worry as there had to be a game plan, some miraculous way how he recovers from such a position, maybe some utchari at the tawara or what not. Well there was no pre-paid game plan as Ami worked well keeping Chiyo at bay and then finally just lifting and turning him around himself and out. He didn't even look at Chiyo while he deposited him outside. So after today's outcome I'd say that the time has finally come for Chiyo to hang up the mawashi as he can't get his eight. He has all the heavy hitters coming still and if he can't even buy the rank-and-filer bouts or win them himself, then he isn't going to get the needed wins from the highrankers either.

As the chanting started it wasn't tough to guess that it's the hometown favorite Kaio who is up next. Tokitenku is however someone who could very well spoil it for the crowd. The two charged and settled on hidari-yotsu, from where on it was all Kaio's work as he moved Tenku back to tawara. Even though he couldn't finish him there he didn't allow the Mongol to move anywhere useful either and after some struggling and tiring Tenku, he finally managed to slowly push Tenku backward until the lad couldn't keep his legs anymore and had to step out. The crowds cheered and Tenku cried, but Kaio was happy.

The NHK tends to show an action sequence and then announce the bout of the day, which they had decided today was Asashoryu vs. Kotoshogiku, but I would dub the bout of the day (at least on paper) the next one. Harumafuji vs. Kisenosato. But maybe they knew something I didn't as Harry came out the angry weasel he is and immediately moved Kisenosato back and out. Kisenosato didn't even manage to blink never talking about getting some decent belt or attack going. So let's see if the NHK featured match is a better one.

Bushuyama has surprised me again and again and again so I have started to rethink this man. I mean he was a Makushita lifer who spent an awful long time there, then he suddenly woke and broke through Juryo to the top division and has now been able to stay around and not just that, he's at the edge of Jo'i FFS. Now as usual, Mitsuki stole the start never putting his right fist down, but everyone's so used to it that it almost never gets called back anyway. The two collided without either one moving anywhere. Mitsuki tried to go for a grip there, but Bush kept him nicely away with a paw to the throat. Some thrusting and pulling ensued until they locked to a right inner left outer grip belt battle for a short moment. Mitsuki immediately managed to shake off Bush's grip and keeping his own good right outer grip moved Bush backwards. As Bush stumbled towards his defeat he did something I didn't expect, moved backwards a bit faster and considering now the slippery clay it was Mitsu who couldn't keep his balance. He tried to hold on to Bush's mawashi with both hands, and even though Bush did cross the tawara while Mitsuki was still in the air it was a balancing act that saved Bush from a sure defeat. A mono-ii was called and careful replays showed that Mitsuki did indeed fall down first while Bush did a ballet dancer on the tawara (sounds familiar? look back a few bouts). That just had to be the upset of the day. And I have to admit, I'm surprised by Bushuyama...again. 

Well after the last bout one can't consider any sure match as a sure match. However Kotooshu meeting one of the Kaze brothers shouldn't be much to worry about. Right? Well right indeed. Well at least to some extent. Vague, am I not? Well ok, down to action. The two ran together and Oshu doing it safely means that he fumbled around for any kind of belt and even though he did get some belt he gave up moro-zashi. But the good thing for Koto was that Takekaze didn't go for mawashi; he just wanted a hug. So Oshu used his moro-uwate grip to pivot Kaze around and move him back and out. Not really a safe match that, but after the last surprise I'll take it.

So, the featured match of the day and not even the last one of the day. Know what, let me reverse those two and take the one with Hak first, just to build some tension for you. And Goeido is not a bad opponent for Hakuho. He has had his moments with at least one Yokozuna close to getting defeated, but that was a while ago. This time around Hakuho did what he usually does. He charged, locked his arms at his opponents mawashi (hidari position) and after aligning his fingers executed a swift uwate-dashi-nage that sent Go down faster than the poor youngster could think "Oh my god I think he's going to pull me down now, is there something I can do, did I f**k up already at tachi-ai". Ok, I admit that's a longer thought than most sumo bouts, but still...

So the third time we come back to that Asashoryu vs. Kotoshogiku bout. Giku did take down Baruto with his belly hump and can on a good day take down the Y-s as well. There were plenty of discussions on this possibility during the day, but what do you think really happened? Asa just charged into Giku with the usual face slap, which also meant that he didn't get any decent right hand grip though. He did keep his right arm around Giku's left and kept this side of him low to keep Giku from using the grip to anything useful. And as Giku was contemplating what to do next and hoping that Asa had forgotten that he's extremely ticklish in the small area just behind his knee. But Asa being an old sly fox remembers every place he has tickled and what this did to the person so he quickly sweeped his two fingers past the G-spot on the G-man, and as the G-man's legs went wobbly sent him down to the dirt. Now there have been speculations running around the internet. Well at least in those parts that are currently not crowded by people talking about the LHC startup that's happening right now (now you see how committed I am? even when the pivotal moment in my career is happening I'm writing this report). The speculation being that Giku shouldn't have gone wobbly from such a light brush and he didn't look too unhappy either. So as usual the Nostradamus readers have found some paragraphs that explain exactly this bout on this given day and the outcome that had to come due to some Yen's trading hands, but as I just said, most of you didn't know about the fact that Giku has his G-spot not in the place men usually have it (that'd be the prostate according to some researchers...), but Asa knew.

Well try to hold on to your hats while the LHC spins up towards collisions and for those of you who are afraid that the world will be destroyed, well you can check the status here. For the rest of you keep refreshing as Martin whipps your cream tomorrow.

Day 5 (Mark Arbo reporting)
Greetings genki gaijin. I trust the between-basho lag has been kind to each and all.

Unfortunately the hottest story of the Kyushu thus far has been attendance that rivals that of a WNBA game. If this was a woman's sport that would be understandable; only sexy woman's sports have any intrinsic value, the rest is just appeasement

But this is a real sport. Ozumo, where ancient culture meets spectacle and top-shelf technique. Ozumo deserves better. However, for what I believe to be a myriad of reasons the Kokusai Centre is a ghost town.

Shite attendance in Fukuoka ain't exactly breaking news. Mr. Mike, Corporal Kenji and Admiral Andreas already mentioned it. And it's been this way since Dr. Mario was a Candy Striper. In the past I have listed things the NSK could do to boost attendance but a) you would be shocked and appalled to know how little power wield within the NSK (I know I often am) and b) I think their narrow minded little noggins were just overwhelmed my deluge of awesome ideas. So I would like to reiterate just one that would result in a guaranteed narrowing in the seat to ass ratio-

There is a guy...let's call him "Makoto". Makoto is a pretty average Fukuoka guy. He works too hard, six days a week, at his mid-level job down town and then returns to his house on the outskirts of the city where is MILF wife and 2 kids are waiting for him. Makoto likes Baseball more than sumo but he still counts himself a sumo fan. He is mental for Kaio who was probably a friend of a friend of a friend when they were growing up and is discouraged by the fact that anyone who gets anywhere in the sport needs a visa to even be in the country these days. Makoto last went to sumo 3 years ago. He went with some friends from work. They had a better time than they thought they would and told each other that they needed to go more often. He still thinks that's true, but it's hard. Makoto usually uses somewhere in the area of zero of his 20 annual vacation days, so the majority of the basho days are already out of the question. There is only one day a week when he could possible go to sumo. But that's also the only day he can shop, take his wife out, relax, exercise or play with his kids. And besides the Sundays are always sold out anyway. Makoto isn't going to make it this basho. He hopes he can make time next year. There are a few hundred thousand Makoto's in the Fukuoka area.

Tokyo is a big enough city that there are enough workers with odd schedules, unemployed, independently wealthy and most importantly bored seniors to flock to sumo on a weekday afternoon. But Fukuoka is not. Is bumping sumo 3 hrs later so your increase your potential customers by several thousand percent all that radical? Let the men go after work like every other sport. The basho's attendance has been in the crapper for years, so what possible explication could there be for not taking some risks and trying a few new things? Sumo is bleeding profusely and the NSK best efforts to revive it consist of a workout video and a mascot that may well have been drawn by the retarded kid of an oyakata. Way to go, NSK!

Anywho, in spite of all this asininery (I know that's not a word, but it should be) we have a hon-basho on our hands so let's check out how the day shaped up. 

Yamamotoyama and Toyohibiki both pounced on the Makuuchi division and looked prepped to make some waves but the skills that got them this far (I guess morbid obesity isn't really a skill) were quickly neutralized by the veterans and neither have been able to come up with a new trick. Like running into a giant marshmallow, this afternoon Hibiki got off to a great tachi-ai the rocked the fat boy. The Organism went for an over the back left but back-pedaling he couldn't complete the throw, and Biki forced him out.

Wins have also been hard to come by for Kokkai this time around, while Mokonami, the Mongol Klan man who can, with the bran tan ran inside and maneuvered his first win over the struggling Georgina. I'm a fan. (not really...just rhymed) 

At mid Maegashira Miyabiyama's sumo has been like a Kei-Truck. It's weak, ugly and lacking in power but somehow it gets the job done. I think Clancy actually owns a Kei-Truck. Today in another ugly affair he seemed to not be able to decide what to do with his hands while Takamisakari seemed, somehow, to not be able to find Mt. Muyabi's XXXXXL mawashi. The unpleasantness ended when Miyabi finally pulled the sad Clown down with a frown...damn, now I can't stop. Takami hasn't beaten Miyabiyama once this year.

Yoshikaze, the only undefeated non-Yokozuna, kept his streak alive coming out hard with two mitts to Homasho's throat that stood him up and as Homie leaned forward all Yoshikaze had to do was switch that push to a pull and let Homasho take care of himself. Good to see a local boy on the leaders board.

Tamanoshima and Aran had a slower, uglier and less entertaining version of the Kak/Ama pairing yesterday. The Bouncer "won" with what was perhaps the most obvious hair pull I have ever seen. The men in black reversed the decision in what was perhaps the shortest mono-ii I have ever seen. Can one of you geeks tell us when the last time there were days with back to back hair pulls?

Tochinoshin and Kyokutenho had a long stalemate at the belt that ended dramatically when Shin picked up his elder and spun him around putting him down just inside the straw circle. From there Tochinoshin bodied him out and picked up his 4th win.

Cute little butter-balls Kakizoe and Toyonoshima gave us our second mono-ii of the day. From the tachi-ai Toyonoshima sent Kakizoe quickly back and off the dohyo. The man in the fancy dress signaled that Tugboat had won, but as Toyonoshima's momentum had carried him too off the dohyo there was some confusion as to who had actually touched down first. After their chit-chat the MIB confirmed the gyoji's call and the break began.

Old timers Wakanosato and Iwakiyama gave us the match one would expect. Iwaki came out with some tsuppari, but Sato quickly got inside. As Sato pushed forward the Hutt tried to drop him with a few desperation throws, but Wakanosato's footing was good and he safely maneuvered Mt. Iwaki out.

Home town boy Kotoshogiku bypassed Mr. Bush's best defenses, finding the belt, bellying up and hump-jumping Dolly out. That's three wins for the Geek and 3 losses for Bush.

This afternoon, before sumo even started, I told Mike that I was going praise his insight and echo his thoughts on Baruto having abandoned tsuppari at the tachi-ai. But then, as if Mike was whispering in his ear, Bart came at Goeido with some powerful thrusts that kept him not only off Bart's belt but off balance. Bart got an easy pull down from there. I had a good "With Ozeki promotion fading faster than...." line ready, but Bart looked really good today. Good luck big boy! 

Breaking the hearts of the dozens in attendance, Kakuryu worked the Old Grey Mare over like a tsukebito at asa-geko. First he went for a bit of a pull to put the Ozeki off balance but then started with tsuppari, bellied up, and just powered the much larger Kaio out. Might as well go ahead now and pencil Kaio in for Kadoban to start 2010.

Harumafuji is banged up and is just fighting for his Kachi Kochi now. Today he was all over the place with spastic pushes and pulls but Tochiohzan's footwork was stable and deliberate, and he moved straight forward, elbows in, with well placds shoves just like they spend hours doing in morning in practice. This was just Tochiohzan's first win.

Perhaps pissed off because of all the crap Kotomitsuki gets up to at the line, Aminishiki took a cheap step to the left from the tachiai. With a very deep outside left he spun the ozeki but Ktomitsuki hung in there and eventually squared up to Aminishiki and back him up. Having completed a nice recovery Mitsuki looked to have this one wrapped up but Aninishiki pulled a nice little shitatenage out of his bag of tricks at just in time. I bet there is a pic of Nishiki on a dart board at the Sadogateke beya.

Kotooshu finally gave team Ozeki their first win with a dominant performance over Hokutoriki. How could he not? Offering zero offence Riki raised his hands and politely asked "Would you like moro-zashi, sir?". From there Riki demurely backed out.

No one including me and Chiyotaikai saw a tachi-ai henka coming from Takekaze...but he came out with a frolicking, joyous henka with no shame at all. Would Chiyo really stay in the game after a demotion? Does he really think he could get 10 wins form anywhere in this division?

I thought Hakuho left a little too early against Tokitenku, but he certainly would have beaten him another way if the start had been different. With his quick tachi-ai Hak moved Tenku back till his foot was propped against the straw. Hack could have overpowered him in this position but calmly decided to conserve his energy and, with Tokitenku pushing back with all his might, he twisted and allowed his senpai to fall to the clay.

In what was set to be the climax of the day, Asashoryu drew always dangerous Kisenosato. Going through their pre-fight rituals both these guys looked pumped, and I was getting pretty stoked myself. But when fists touched down Asa was just too good... unless Kisenosato was just too bad? With a couple good shoves Asa stood Kissy up and then slapped him down. Kissy looked pissy after this one, but what else could he expect coming in against a Yokozuna with no apparent plan?

So that was day 5. Not all that much to tell you about or explain. Let's hope for a few more fireworks next week. Aright, let me give you some homework so you can get the hell out of my yard-

-Go to Starbucks and get the Christmas blend coffee. It's so good even an amoral, God hating atheist could enjoy it...and then regretfully go to Hell.
-Read Mario's report tomorrow and then write him a series of longwinded emails about how he has become too "big for his britches".
-Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrive. You know what to do...
-Tomorrow enjoy Bart-Kak, Ama-Kissy and Goeido-Hak.
-Mike is letting me out of the hotel for 4 days this weekend (he calls it "whore leave"), so if your in the Fukuoka area lock up your wives, daughters and flux capacitors. Oh, and if you run into me and my friends (accomplices) buy us drinks.
-If you are even thinking of getting out to this basho, DO IT. The small crowds make it easy to get close to your favourite rikishi and sit in a seat that's way better than the one you paid for.

Day 4 (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Nice of you to drop in again.

I must say that I feel truly blessed to be able to announce THE highlight of the current basho on my day of writing duty. Now you might ask 'What highlight?' and rightfully so. Taking away the "suspense" of day four in a hurry, I will tell you straight away that the leaderboard consists of an unbeaten Asashoryu, a flawless Hakuho and a double-caffeinated Yoshikaze. And nobody else. After day four. I.e. Three and a half Ozeki, two Sekiwake (one of which declaredly on an Ozrun), and all the other potential once in a blue moon contenders outside the meatgrinder ranks managed to drop at least one bout in the first four days. Sadly, sadly, sadly this translates into the most boring scenario with two healthy Yokozuna: They will just arrange it among themselves. Tune back in on Senshuraku.

I forgot about the supposed highlight? True. Here it is: SumotalkDotCom got serious airtime. NHK commentator Ross Mihara, who is now officially our favorite around here, recommended ST as a source for quality reporting live on f**king TV! 'Good stuff, guys' is what he said! I mean, like, wow! I mean, like, wow, I feel like, like, I just shot Andy Warhol! Like, WTF!? But seriously: It is good to know that at least some of the NHK guys who have to be loyal to the system by swallowing down all possible comments about bout fixing and ugly sumo nevertheless know the score in private. So here's to you, Ross! Keep enjoying Sumotalk, we are looking forward to dodgy innuendo in your commentary in the future.

Before getting to the action, a small footnote on my personal wellbeing. Many, many times I mentioned to various people 'What's better in this lousy world than food?!' Or 'Eating can make you so satisfied!' Thinking about it, this may be a reason why I sympathize with rikishi in general. But life's a bitch, so 36 hours ago I instead held the opinion of 'I would like to die now, please!?' after having my dinner pass through my mouth for the unlucky second time. Thankfully, this little virus I must have caught was programmed to hit-and-run, so while I'm far from being 'in my prime' again, I recovered enough to sit at a keyboard at all. Why do I bother to tell you? Because now you heard my half-arsed excuse for why I'm gonna do the Kenji, meaning I will pick your cherries.

For you! I mean I'm going to pick the cherries FOR YOU. Phew, almost made a mistake here.

Cherry 1: Mokonami comes around the mountain
Everyone not weighing more than 150 kilos himself should by now have figured out how to take down the Twin Peaks. I don't know how people actually prepare for certain opponents in sumo, but if there are video studies, Mokonami's strategy should go in there as a textbook example. A henka wouldn't help much against YMY, because he is actually too slow to fall for it. Instead, Mokonami did the right thing by charging forward with only a slight shift to the left (which is, incidentally, YMY's injured right side). The asymmetric impact put Mokonami into a lateral position then and there, and that is all you need against the Blob. While YMY tried to figure out whither his opponent wenteth, Mokonami took three or four more quick steps ending up behind Fatty. And that was it. For all Yamamotoyama fans it must be disenchanting to see how he has to give up even a full meter inside the ring as soon as his opponent gets behind him. It seemed like Mokonami had to remind him 'Ahem, you should still walk out, please!?' I think by now it is clear that YMY will drop to Juryo again, while Mokonami always looks good when he can fight clever.

Cherry 2: Toyohibiki the belt bitch
On rare occurrences certain bouts turn out to be more entertaining than what you would expect. In this sense, I wouldn't have thought Shimooootori's clash with Toyohibiki to be overly exiting, but it was. After a false start by the struggling mini-Hutt, both men clashed into each other full throttle, Toyohibiki having the ooomph advantage. The thrusts exchanged right after this made Chiyotaikai swallow down some tears in the locker room, because they were actually quite powerful. This is the last time in your life that you will read the words 'Chiyotaikai' and 'powerful' in the same sentence. Anyway, Shimotori finally managed to gain a set of grips while Toyohibiki had to settle with the right hand inside only. From here you would think that Shimotori must have the advantage what with having longer arms, being more the yotsu type and stuff. And indeed, after failing to push his fellow Maegashira forward, he managed to swing him around, to the edge and set him up for the final uwatenage. Only to be countered by a last resort shitatenage of his opponent. This was pretty awesome by Toyohibiki. If you study the replay, you can see that he was able to pull it off only because he synchronized his own throw with the pulling rhythm of his opponent. Spectacular bout, because of its cast. Also a perfect example of how a thrown bout does NOT look like.

Cherry 3: Poke my eye, pull my hair
Officially, Shotenro won against Asasekiryu by hatakikomi in a 2.5 seconds affair. Check out available replays. I am not 100% sure, but to me it looked like Shotenro first poked Secretary's right eye. The pulldown on the hair also looked dodgy. Special surveillance on Shotenro from now on.

Cherry 4: Battle for the tournament lead
Takamisakari and Yoshikaze were the only undefeated Maegashira entering day four. Gladly, the torikumi makers had the necessary premonition to pair up the two, preventing any potential excitement for the already half-comatose Fukuoka "crowd". Like so many highlight bouts, it turned out to be far from spectacular. In fact, it was more like a good example for rikishi's individual weaknesses. In the case of Robocop, this means fighting a smaller, lighter opponent that he has to develop initiative against. And so it came to pass. After a decent tachi-ai from both, Espresso gave a double handed push that separated the two. When TKSK advanced, Yoshikaze retreated, faking a pulldown while doing so. This caused the Clown to raise his arms slightly in an attempt to stabilize his balance, giving Yoshikaze the window of opportunity for what he really wanted: a double-inside position. From here he worked his right hand into TKSK's left armpit and swung him out in a way that made it look easy. It is always a joy to see Yoshikaze in fighting mood. Takamisakari looked uninspired already at his pre-bout sideshow.

Cherry 5: More hairpulling, this time it's official
Very good call by the shimpan against Toyonoshima after his bout with Tochinoshin. I watched it on the crappy stream, so it came as a total surprise that there was a mono-ii being held at all. First I thought that maybe the notorious Takasago-oyakata had called it, maybe because he wanted to know what time it is or generally needed to talk to somebody. The better recordings then revealed that it came from Oitekaze-oyakata and that it was spot on. After Toyonoshima had managed to drive his opponent back to the tawara, the Georgian initiated an emergency counter charge. From here it looked like bull vs. torero with Toyonoshima swinging the red rag and Tochinoshin moronically galloping into the first row. As Hanaregoma-oyakata explained to the "crowd", Toyonoshima had pulled his opponents hair all the way to the edge and that this wouldn't do. Lots of oyakatas in this paragraph. Hanaregoma is the one who really got on our nerves during The Great Matta Purge, but now he is back to his graceful self. I think he is one of the good guys, whatever that means.

###VIRUS NEWSFLASH###Now the wife's also hugging the toilet and I have to take care of our boy for a while#There goes the well crafted report#So it wasn't about my bad eating habits after all?###This has been a###VIRUS NEWSFLASH###

Cherry 6: Double inside does not equal double inside
Join Clancy and me and support Kakizoe in his quest for reaching Sanyaku for the second time in his career. I know he can be one-dimensional, I know he can be boring (Kakizoe, not Clancy). But this basho he is showing a determination that you have to love. Today against Tamanoshima he gained moro-zashi straight from the tachi-ai, but his taller opponent countered by pressing on Kakizoe's arms from both sides. This made Zoe give up the position only to regain it a nanosecond later, which made Tamanoshima counter in the same way. Rinse, repeat. After the third time or so, the rest of Tamanoshima's body was finally so out of position that the M5 could safely move forward and easily dispatch his luckless opponent. A very patient while powerful approach by Kakizoe, which shows that you don't win bouts by gaining moro-zashi alone.

Cherry 7: What makes the "crowd" roar in Fukuoka?
A 0.5 second henka plus hatakikomi, as performed by Hokutoriki against Homasho. Count Hoku lives!

Sanyaku stuff 1: Pending Ozrun
Go figure Baruto's way of thinking. Last basho he achieved an excellent result by forcing matters right from the tachi-ai, employing tsuppari and whatnot. And we all went like 'Now he finally got it!' But Alas! He decided that things had been too easy, so he returned to his bone-head ways of just relying on grip and power. Thus he met Kisenosato on a day that could have been easily and already a significant downer in his hunt for ozekihood. Luckily for Baruto, Kisenosato has somewhat of an issue against certain opponents, including the big Estonian. The latter thoroughly disappointed again by delivering a non tachi-ai that bordered to henka. From there he gained an easy left hand inside, right hand outside grip and quickly proceeded to his usual lift-the-barrel routine. Kisenosato didn't comply, though. When the Kid finally realized that his own left hand inside was grabbing Baruto's mawashi far too deep in order to achieve anything, he let go and used the left paw to press on Baruto while moving forward. The idea of the maneuver was to get a possible separation while weakening Bart's outside and compromising his center of gravity. And it almost worked. It only failed because in the end Baruto remembered that he is not only big, strong and heavy but also a wrestler. So at the moment of separation the Brute executed a sukuinage that knocked his opponent out of balance. This was the only good thing about Baruto's sumo today. An Ozrun looks different.

Sanyaku stuff 2: Mongol slapfest
In one of the funnier bouts, Amafujiharu and Kakuryu engaged in a pub brawl that looked like it sprang out of an Irish novel. After both men charged approx. 2 centimeters above the dohyo's surface and accordingly head-butted each other as a starter, a wild slap and chase evolved that made you involuntarily think of the music played in the Benny Hill Show. After a lot of ups and downs and funny escapes, the Ozeki kept the upper hand only to bully his already defeated opponent off the dohyo with an extra bodycheck. This awarded the Asashoryu Intimidation Medal to Amafujiharu, but left us in puzzlement. My take is that it was for an attempted armlock move by Kakuryu just before the end of the bout. I think it could have seriously injured the Ozeki if it would have been successful. Now go and watch the bout again. Nine is the number of the technique prices amassed between these two rikishi.

Sanyaku stuff 3: Kotomitsuki at the office
Let's give the honor back to NHK's Ross and summarize the bout in his words: "Tochiozan [...], for all his talent and potential, he rarely shows it."

Sanyaku stuff 4: King of headgames
Imagine you are Kotooshu after starting 3-0 into the basho. What would you think? A) "I am a scary motherf**ker! I will go out and kick ass!!" or B) "I should try to be careful from this point onward. And this slight headache again. And this sneaky Aminishiki. He will henka me. I should be extra careful. And this slight headache." Everyone knew the answer. So did Shneaky who went to afterburner charge mode and pushed the Ozeki off the dohyo like a ragdoll. Now, which one of the two is the king of the headgames?

Sanyaku stuff 5: Goeido wouldn't let Chiyotaikai buy him an ice cream
So there was no reason for him to lie down for the future Sekiwake. Either this, or Chiyotaikai's tsukebito mixed up the locker rooms. I say that, because the gyoji seemed to be determined not to let the Ozeki out of the ring at any cost. Watch the replay. He is trying hard to stay in Chiyo's way, like a basketball player taking defensive stance. Weird.

Sanyaku stuff 6: So, Kaio thought,
if Chiyotaikai entertains a young lover to take him from behind, my honor commands to get one, too. Luckily, Takekaze came along and gave his consent. Both veteran Ozeki okuridashied in a row. Makes you think about dirty old men, doesn't it?

Yusho contender 1: Are you talking to me?
Asashoryu is so unbelievably badass this basho. I am constantly checking my calendar here to figure out if I have fallen back in time or something. And to be honest: I don't know what it means. Well, it could mean that he is seriously set for taking the 25th yusho right here, right now. Which would be a fatal blow to the Mongolians Take Turns Theory. Or is he generally pissed off by something? Or is he maybe just enjoying himself? Anyway, Tokitenku didn't have a chance today, even though he kept the Yokozuna away from his belt after suffering from the initial bitch slap Asa deals out like no one else. The Khan tried a bit to get a grip (on the mawashi, not on things in general), but then decided to just go for the quick I-am-bloody-Asashoryu bully pushout plus extra shove plus stare for good measure. In the last two years, Asashoryu's image as the invincible dominator had clearly suffered, but if he keeps up the attitude he is displaying right now, we will soon see more bulging eyes on his opponents' side again.

Yusho contender 2: Tottari weasel goes with the flow
I tell you why I favour Asashoryu over Hakuho. The elder Khan is not ashamed to show his will to win. Hakuho is covering up everything under his "Things go like they go. I go with the flow. Today is just the yesterday of tomorrow yadidadida." And then he faces a tougher opponent (Kotoshogiku) and doesn't manage to get into his favourite grip right after tachi-ai, so what does he do? He goes with the flow by threatening to break his opponent's arm and flows out of the flow by quickly switching to uwatenage so that it looks less bullylike and more flowlike and stuff. Here's your villain, boys and girls. He maybe brilliant, but he is also boring AND ambiguous.

Tune in tomorrow when Mark reinvents punk.

Day 3 (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Seeing the vast number of empty seats in Fukuoka Kokusai Center, even for the Ozeki and Yokozuna bouts, saddens me and makes me reminisce about sumo's most recent heyday, which I'll propose as the Waka/Taka years of the mid-90's. Heck, even before that I don't recall empty arenas to this extent. Everything is cyclical I guess, so we're definitely in a deep valley right now in terms of sumo's popularity.

Let's get down to the business of day 3's jo'i bouts. Sekiwake Kakuryu, who had already in two days lost half the bouts he did all of last basho, used an effective ottsuke from the left side to dominate hometown favorite Kotoshogiku. Kakuryu improves to 1-2 while the previously strong looking Giku drops to 2-1.

Kotomitsuki and Komusubi Goeido locked into migi-yotsu, both rikishis' preferred position. In a mild surprise, as Mitsuki attacked Goeido utilized the Ozeki's momentum with a well-timed shitate-nage to pick up his first win against 2 losses. Mitsuki falls to 2-1.

As a rookie Ozeki challenger at the ripe age of 33, Bushuyama showed a 'nothing to lose' kind of spirit in his tachi-ai against Kotooshu. His initiative didn't materialize however, as Oshu took the spunk in stride, finding a spot to get inside to swing down the M3 via sukui-nage. Oshu stays perfect at 3-0; Bushuyama goes to 1-2.

Komusubi Kisenosato completed the Kyushu Ozeki sweep (not a tall order) in 2 consecutive days, becoming a complete villain in the Kokusai Center. Today he neutralized the embattled Chiyotaikai's persistent left nodowa with ease, then forced out the Ozeki enroute to a 2-1 record. Chiyotaikai suffers his first defeat after 2 surprising wins to open the basho.

Kaio on the other hand, delighted the crowd with a characteristic tottari immediately following the taichi-ai against Sekiwake Baruto (1-2). With this, he picks up Maku-uchi win number 800, an accomplishment matched only by 2 other rikishi in history. With 8 more wins, he will pass none other than Chiyonofuji as the most victorious Maku-uchi sumo wrestler the sport has ever seen, a true testament to Kaio's longevity and consistency (no matter what you think of him). Whether he lasts for 8 more wins remains to be seen, but let's hope so.

In a quick but weird looking bout, M2 Tokitenku swung and missed on a ketaguri attempt at the tachi-ai against Harumafuji. However, he took advantage of Haruma's low posture and promptly squashed down the Ozeki head first into the clay. Both rikishi stand at 1-2.

Despite not being able to secure the mawashi for the entire bout, Yokozuna Hakuho overcame M1 Aminishiki (0-3) via yori-kiri to stay undefeated at 3-0. Hakuho needs a 14-1 record to surpass what seemed like an invincible record set back in 2005 when Asashoryu went 84-6 for the calendar year. Sho did that in a gaudy and much decorated fashion, collecting the emperor's cup in every tournament that year (another record). Hakuho is actually challenging that record-win year in a much more 'under the radar' fashion. Consider that he could go 85-5 in 2009 while only winning 3 of 6 basho this year (if he goes 14-1 and Sho goes 15-0 in Kyushu). That would be absolutely amazing. I remember in 2005 it was all about Sho and the record, and winning every tournament. This year no one has hardly noticed what Hakuho is on the brink of accomplishing.

Speaking of flashy Sho, he employed his 'who's your daddy' harite at the tachi-ai against Takekaze and it almost cost him. Takekaze used it to maneuver to the left and attempt a hiki-otoshi, which generated a collective gasp in the arena, but only served to anger the Yokozuna. After momentarily losing his balance, Sho collected himself and went on for a easy oshi-dashi and a predictable stare down as if to say 'how dare you try to pull me down, punk'. Sho keeps up with Hakuho's perfect 3-0 start while Takekaze is still searching for his first win at 0-3.

I don't know about you but I'd like to see Hakuho and Sho meet on day 15 with matching 14-0 records. But then again, that might be why we're hearing crickets in the Kokusai Center. Oh well, carry on for now; Andreas is here tomorrow.

Day 2 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Good ole Kyushu. Twas the location where Kenji and I first met 15 years ago and my stalking grounds when I really cut my teeth on the intricacies of sumo. Each Kyushu basho also marks another birthday for Sumotalk. It was seven years ago to the month when I found myself sitting in a computer lab at Intel scrawling out these stupid web pages using Microsoft Word of all software and uploading the pages to free web space provided by AOL. Course, not much has changed since then. I feel like Homer Simpson in that episode where he pulls out his high school yearbook and reminisces about all of his accomplishments. Achievements: none. Awards: none. Contributions: none. Mmmmm, so many memories.

But enough of the nostalgia. We's got a hoedown on our hands, so let's get right to the action.

M16 Tamaasuka's attempt to force M15 Yamamotoyama back from the tachi-ai was nigh unto stopping a steam roller. The Hutt countered with a beefy--and I mean beefy--kachi-age with the right arm into Tamaasuka's upper torso and just started moving forward. Tamaasuka latched onto the limb, dug in his feet, and tried to stave off a sure death, but Yamamotoyama had him forced back and out with ease. As if anyone cares, Tamaasuka had about a two-second window in this thing to pivot quickly to his left and drag Yamamotoyama down by the arm. His failure to even recognize the opportunity splains why Asuka will never rise higher than mid-Maegashira. I guess you could also say it's why Yamamotoyama will never rise higher than that as well because he provides his opponents windows of opportunity that the good ones will capitalize on. But that's far too much analysis, and it's just the first bout. Both rikishi are 1-1, but let's move on before Mario gets too aroused.

M14 Kasugao and M15 Shimotori lurched immediately into the gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both had right inners (thus the migi) and left outers. Kasugao showed exactly why the larger opponent needs to align chests with the smaller guy in a yotsu contest as he used his strength advantage to just bully Shimotori around the ring a bit before setting up a nifty outer belt throw. What really stood out for me during this bout was just how loud the referee's voice was echoing off the rafters due to the sparse attendance. Job well done Fukuoka as Kasugao picks up his first win leaving Shimotori 0-2.

Those uba-geisha that occupy the fourth row every now and then in Kyushu haven't shown up yet, so I'll save the term "truly ugly" for then, but the M13 Mokonami - M14 Kimurayama bout was as hideous as you please. Okonomiyaki executed the worst tachi-ai henka I've seen since at least yesterday putting his left hand at the back of Kimurayama's head and backpedaling slightly to his left. The move was so bad and so slow that Kimurayama managed a nice right into Mokonami's neck as Kim fought to keep his balance. Kimurayama recovered nicely with his hand still dug into Mokonami's neck, but realizing he was so bad and so slow himself, he went for a stupid pulldown instead of finishing Mokonami off with another shove that would have required just a half-assed display of some de-ashi. Kimurayama's pull attempt now left him wide open to Mokonami's advances, and the Mongolian grabbed the easy left outer using it to dump Kimurayama to the white sand for a shweet 2-0 start. Kim's 1-1.

M12 Shotenro was just too quick for M13 Tosayutaka today, and he coupled his speed with a helluva tachi-ai where he drove his head straight into Tosayutaka's chin forcing the little guy to stare straight up at the sold-out banners in the rafters (that were rolled up tight as a drum) and stand completely upright. The extent of Shotenro's bum right knee was evident today because with his opponent set up like a dipshit arranging a meeting online with a 14 year old girl whose really a cop, he opted to go for the pulldown instead of a straight-forward charge. It was no harm no foul due to Shotenro's excellent tachi-ai that enabled the win, but the move was risky and will cost him later on. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M13 Toyohibiki placed a right paw into the sweet spot of M1 Takamisakari's neck driving the Cop straight back from the tachi-ai, but Toyohibiki simply ain't fast enough, and instead of finishing Takamisakari off in mere seconds, he allowed his opponent to ultimately swipe the nodowa away and work his way into moro-zashi at the edge. Toyohibiki knew he was in trouble and went for a maki-kae with the right arm, which he got, but Takamisakari counters better than most and was already setting up a throw with his right arm. Regardless of whether it was an outer grip or inner grip, Toyohibiki was sent packing across the rope. This illustrates perfectly how Toyohibiki's lack of speed is what hampers him from winning bouts. The intent is there, the size is there, and the skills are there; he just can't supplement that with speed. It's all about speed in this division my friends as Takamisakari moves to 2-0 while the Nikibi has been squished to 0-2.

M11 Tamawashi went Asasekiryu against M10 Asasekiryu striking at the tachi-ai and then hunkering down super low with a right outer grip. The problem with the move, however, is that you leave yourself susceptible to your opponent's countering with a left arm on the inside. Asasekiryu did just, and he should know the way he's gotten his own ass kicked of late when he gets down too low like Tamawashi today. Asasekiryu worked Tamawashi a bit into a susceptible position before slapping him down to the dirt with relative ease. After winning the tachi-ai, Tamawashi blew it by adopting a style that isn't his. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M9 Miyabiyama had the lumbering tsuppari working from the get-go against M10 Kokkai, who fended off the thrusts well, but kept ducking his head in an attempt to get to the belt. All the move did, however, was invite the pulldown from the Sheriff, so Kokkai would stand back up, fight off a few more thrusts, and then attempt to duck back in and grab the belt. This pattern repeated itself about four times, and you could clearly see that Kokkai had no way of besting his opponent. I mean, Miyabiyama's fat and all, but give the guy credit for his stamina. He never rushed a thing and was content to let Kokkai continue to duck his way here and there, and about thirty seconds in he finally caught him with a nice slapdown for the win. Miyabiyama moves to 2-0 while Kokkai falls to 0-2.

M9 Yoshikaze took the initiative from the tachi-ai against M8 Aran pushing the Russian back a few steps with his lively thrust attack. Aran was lost at this point as he offered a few counter tsuppari in return, but it seemed he was going for Yoshikaze's head instead of his body. There's a reason a bulletproof vest covers just the torso and not the head. Sure, the headshot is the sure thing, but it's much harder to connect. Anyway, Aran went for the easy way, which was the pulldown, but Cafe wasn't buying it and managed to push Aran back and out before he crashed to the dirt himself. Good stuff from Yoshikaze who deserves his 2-0 start while Aran continues to flounder at 0-2.

M7 Homasho moved a half step to his left against M8 Tochinoshin in an attempt to grab the cheap outer grip, and he got it straightway but failed to do anything with it allowing Shin to settle in and eventually grab a left outer of his own resulting in the gappuri migi-yotsu position. While Tochinoshin seemed content to dig in, Homasho was hellbent on forcing Shin back and out. Problem was the math wasn't in Homie's favor. Both enjoyed equal grips, but Tochinoshin's a bigger man. Homasho paid for his hastiness because he was too light to really put Tochinoshin in danger, so as Tochinoshin was nudged backwards, he was really waiting for the kill by simply planting his foot near the edge and turning the tables as he wrenched Homasho across the straw using Homie's momentum against him nicely. Both dudes are 1-1.

M6 Wakanosato pounced on M7 Tamanoshima from the tachi-ai using a nice tsuppari attack to lift Tamanoshima up a bit before seizing the moro-zashi position. From there, Croconosato continued to move forward leaving Tamanoshima nowhere to go but back and out. This was way too easy for Wakanosato who moves to 2-0 as pretty as you please while Tamanoshima needs to get his shite together at 0-2.

M5 Kakizoe struck fast and moved to his left grabbing M6 Kyokutenho's right arm attempting to drag the Chauffeur down with a song, but Kyokutenho used his right thigh on the inside of Zoe's left leg to niftily halt his momentum and nudge him off balance. When the dust settled, Kyokutenho had a left grip over the top of the smaller Kakizoe while Kakizoe's feet were aligned, the cardinal sin in sumo. The result was Kyokutenho using that left outer grip to just yank Kakizoe over and out with a classic schoolyard wedgie. Tenho saunters to 2-0 while Kakizoe is humbled a bit at 1-1.

M4 Hokutoriki tried no shenanigans from the tachi-ai, which meant M5 Toyonoshima had his way fighting off Hokutori's moro-te attack by swiping away Hokutoriki's arms while continuing to drive his feet forward. The result was an easy oshi-dashi win for Toyonoshima who sails to 2-0 while Hokutoriki has only a tachi-ai henka to show for his 1-1 start.

M3 Bushuyama got all he could ask for from M4 Iwakiyama today, which was a fair fight that saw Bush lead with a nice kachi-age with the right arm as both rikishi worked their way into the hidari yotsu position. Both rikishi grappled for the upperhand, but it was the younger Bushuyama (1-1) who grabbed the right outer first, and that was all he needed to execute the textbook yori-kiri win. Iwakiyama is still winless.

M2 Kotoshogiku used his quickness to demand the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Baruto, who really needed to do something at the initial charge. Baruto used his left thigh to try and push the pesky pup away, but Kotoshogiku dug in and began the dry humping straightway. Baruto was so nonchalant at the charge in this one that he simply had no answer for Kotoshogiku, who burrowed in deeper and deeper as he belly-shoved Baruto upright and methodically bounced him back across the straw. This was perfect execution from Kotoshogiku who jumps out to a 2-0 start having powdered Harumafuji and Baruto to boot, and how nice was it to see NHK pull Kotoshogiku aside for an interview?

If Baruto's serious about an Ozeki run, he can't approach his bouts as he did today. You'll remember last basho that Baruto was quite proactive at the tachi-ai offering a few tsuppari, and regardless of how effective they were in terms of driving his opponent back, they provided the necessary flak to keep his opponent from doing what Kotoshogiku did to him today. The fact that NHK interviewed Kotoshogiku today after beating a Sekiwake shows just how much people respect Baruto's potential, but I just didn't see any urgency from the giant today.

M3 Tochiohzan jumped into the moro-zashi position against Ozeki Kotooshu but panicked as the Bulgarian pinched inwards with his right arm against Oh's left. Instead of trying to dig in deeper and hold his moro-zashi position, Tochiohzan relented and took his left arm from the inside and tried to latch onto the Ozeki's belt from the outside. He never did get that outer belt grip after a couple of tries, but what if he had? That would have left him in the gappuri-yotsu position against Kotooshu, a position from which there was no way he could win. When Tochiohzan couldn't grab that outer left, he positioned his arm back on the inside, but his indecision cost him. In the process, Kotooshu had secured two solid belt grips and was driving Tochiohzan over to the edge where he forced him back and across with little argument. Kotooshu is a quiet 2-0, and as I susptected, that report about a knee injury was much ado about nothing. Dude doesn't even have it taped. Tochiohzan falls to 0-2 and really needs his oyakata to step in and straighten his sumo out.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai lowered his head and crashed straight into Sekiwake Kakuryu, who reacted by...doing absolutely nothing but continue to stand in front of the Pup with his hands high. From this position, Chiyotaikai continued his charge while the Kak made it easy by raising his arms towards the back of the Ozeki's head as if to offer a counter pulldown, but the move was so half-assed he couldn't complete it because he had already been pushed back and out in two seconds. It's one thing to get excited about a good sanyaku, but it's completely another when your two Sekiwake start out 1-3. As for Chiyotaikai, I guess he's gonna get his eight...again. Clancy talked yesterday about the potential excitement sumo holds even when Asashoryu retires, but until we eradicate Kaio and Chiyotaikai from the Ozeki ranks, there's just too big of a bottle neck up top to let the younger, better guys in.

Speaking of Ozeki Kaio, Komusubi Kisenosato planted his right foot outward at the tachi-ai against the Ozeki in an attempt to grab the early outer grip, but Kaio rebuffed him nicely flirting with a right outer grip of his own, but before Kaio could latch onto the cloth and secure his position, the Kid planted his right foot solidly to the dohyo and unleashed a powerful scoop throw with the left arm that felled Kaio to the dirt as if Kisenosato were a pitbull shaking a chew toy around in his mouth. Both rikishi stand at 1-1, but this is a perfect example of why the guard needs to be changed. Yes, we still get to see guys like Kisenosato fight among the jo'i each basho, but rank means so much, especially when guys at a higher rank are clearly inferior to those below them on a consistent basis. 

Ozeki Harumafuji charged extremely low against Komusubi Goeido, who had his left arm in tight looking for the inside position himself, but like Tochiohzan before him Goeido quickly abandoned the inside position and shifted left in an attempt to slap the Ozeki down from the get-go. Harumafuji survived, however, and demanded the moro-zashi position wasting no time in driving Goeido back towards the edge. Goeido countered with a respectable kote-nage attempt with the right arm that threw Harumafuji off balance a bit, but Harumafuji was clearly determined in this one and stifled Goeido's counter attack by grabbing the back of his right thigh in watashi-komi fashion as he scored the yori-taoshi win at the edge. hAruMAfuji breathes a bit easier after picking up his first win while Goeido at 0-2 is proving to be the sport's next Musoyama.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki and M2 Tokitenku crashed at the tachi-ai resulting in the migi-yotsu position that saw the Ozeki repeatedly reach for the left outer grip. Tokitenku rebuffed his advances each time, but with the Mongolian worried about fighting off Kotomitsuki's left on that side, Mitsuki reacted quickly with the right hooking it up and under Tenku's left and dragging him down with a slap to the shoulder on the same side. I love watching the veterans work their younger opponents like this. Lure them into a trap on one side, then spring it on the other. Good stuff from Kotomitsuki who's a proud mary 2-0. Tokitenku is winless.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Asashoryu welcomed the unpredictable M1 Aminishiki, who has shown in the past he's not above henka'ing the Yokozuna. Dude came straight on today thankfully but was met by a stiff moro-te (two hands to the throat) from Asashoryu. The Yokozuna used his speed to parlay that into a quick left outer grip as he set up the force-out charge. Aminishiki was fishing for moro-zashi in the process with his left hand, but Asa's movement was too swift, and he had Aminishiki forced back and out with some authority in a matter of four seconds or so. But hey, Aminishiki did manage the moro-zashi position even if it was on his way out! He may be 0-2, but look on the bright side; he has Hakuho tomorrow. As for Asashoryu, this has been about as an encouraging start as we've seen from him since Hakuho was promoted to Yokozuna.

Speaking of Hakuho, he just stiff-armed M1 Takekaze at the tachi-ai keeping him at bay until he could latch onto the front of Takekaze's belt with the left arm. With Takekaze goin' nowhere (but out), Hakuho lifted him upright and actually secured his right arm on the inside of Takekaze's left giving the Yokozuna moro-zashi. I mean, Hakuho squats a lot and bends his knees down low as he reaches for the inside, but it was comical to see the 192 cm Hakuho engulf the 170 cm Takekaze in the moro-zashi position. Takekaze was prolly begging for mercy at this point, and he thankfully got it as Hakuho forced him back and out just enough to secure the win while still keeping Takekaze's dignity in tact. In fact, you look a the picture at left, and it looks as if Hakuho's scanning the crowd for chicks before his opponent has officially stepped out it was that easy.  Hakuho is an expected 2-0 while Takekaze naturally starts out 0-3 (he has Asa tomorrow).

Just two days in and of those who really matter, only Asashoryu, Hakuho, Kotooshu, and Kotomitsuki are unscathed. That probably means a bit of a lull mid-basho, but I see a potential showdown at the end among the top three guys on the banzuke.

Speaking of guys who really matter, Kenji's up tomorrow.

Day 1 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Here we are, ladies and germs, last basho of the year, the basho where Hakuho gets to prove that his awesome year is just the beginning of a run that sumo hasnt seen since, well, Asashoryu. Really, in case you are new or dont realize it, sumo is poised on the brink of an explosion of awesomeness. Kaio and Chiyotaikai are soon to be gone, even perhaps Kotomitsuki a while after them, and with Harumafuji, Baruto, Kotooshu, Kisenosato, and Goeido, Kakuryu and Kokkai (sorry, typo) all getting better in body and mind, we have a fantastic few years coming up.

So you can see Im psyched, but I also have that new flu. Funny, tho I started feeling like slag on Friday, I played tennis all day Saturday and biked 100km and played in an Ultimate Frisbee tourney yesterday on Sunday (drinking eight beers while doing it) and felt fine. But sitting down to the computer here to write this report? Man, Im dying. So please bear with me if its too short, too light, too wrong, not right, too flippant, too churlish, too boyish, too girlish. I will be on my best come Day 8, promise. In the meantime I can offer some succor to you suckers. Mike will be here on Day 2 and not only will he pick up the slack, but hell take her to a sleazy hotel and screw the crap out of her. All because he loves you, his fandom.

Speaking of Corporal Kokkai, he got caught at the tachi-ai by Tamawashi, who got a strong outside hold and rocked him gently, rocked him slowly, took it easy and wouldnt you know, finally tripped him backward to stay atop the leaderboard.

Miyabiyama is the only rikishi I know of who can make you think youre watching a slow motion replay. Today he kept Asasekiryu at bay by pushing on his face for almost a minute while Sexy tried to grab hold of his forearm, and after both guys were exhausted they locked up in a belt battle. Sexy seemed to have the advantage with his head in the Sheriffs tits, but the slick ex-Ozeki eventually escaped from the belt grip and went to more shoving, finally backing up the Secretary, who gratefully stepped out to end the marathon.

Yoshikaze won his match in the first nanosecond as he adroitly deflected Tochinoshin's incoming left arm to get inside and deep (kind of like Mike is going to do tomorrow to that vixen Slack). From this position he thrashed like a demon to take No Shine back to the edge, and when the big man resisted, well, the bigger they are the harder they fall and fall did he ever, forward to the center of the ring. Café may be doubling the espresso this time out (thats 10 wins, kids). No Shine had better find a flashlight.

Aran came with a weak assed, two-handed, straight-armed elbows locked thrust to the chest tachi-ai that made Homasho think of his grandmas chicken soup. Homa bent low and bided his time, waiting for the hatakikomi attempt that would, like the new days dawn, surely come, and when it did he ran the Bouncer out to a spectacular crash landing on the dohyos edge.

Tamanoshima had the inside-outside belt grip and was dictating the match, taking Kyokutenho to the straw time and time again. But the Chauffer doesnt have a Class 3 drivers license for nothing, and when he realized he had a bit of room behind him, simply got out, opened the door, and let Peter fall forward to the pavement.

Kakizoe flattened Wakanosato, driving forward from the gun with the two-handed inside moro-zashi and flinging out the former Sekiwake mainstay like a booger. New Sumo Word: He got boogered. At any rate, the Barometer didn't help matters any by going for some desperation neck twist as he was being taken back, but with the mo Sweet Zoe had, I doubt he could have done anything to save himself. Zoes Yokozuna strut was spot on as he went back to his "corner", as well it should be. I look for him to pick up no less than twenty-four wins this basho.

Toyonoshima, who is looking to me a bit chubby these days, did the same thing to Iwakiyama that Kakizoe did to Wakanosato, tho with a much less fireworky finish.

Is anyone surprised that it was Hokutoriki who broke the seal on the jar of Vaseline this basho? Not more than 12 bouts in and he didn't want anything to do with Bushuyama, stepping to the side and letting His Holiness hit the clay. Now begins the wait to see the Joker get his!

Baruto started out nicely in this crucial basho by wrapping up Tochiohzan and running him out tout de suite. 

Tokitenku dutifully stayed right in front of Chiyotaikai the entire bout, and in typical fashion fell to his hands when the Ozeki stepped back and away. Damned if I know why Tokidoki felt he needed to push forward so adamantly that he fell on his own accord. Its not like the Pup can push anyone around these days. Why not keep your balance and move toward the Ozeki more cautiously? As we say here, fushigina koto desu.

According to Arbo, Aminishiki practices like a terror, fighting all the time and lifting weights in between. Today he knelt down at the altar of Kaio, going so ludicrulously low that all the Ozeki had to do was push down with one paw and go home. Not so Shneaky, huh? Two shitty Ozeki bouts in and Im thinking, so is this the way its going to go here in Fukuoka?

Kotoshogiku did what he always does, killed Harumafuji. This time got a belt at tachi-ai and used to run him back and out. Does the Geeku have a Ru voodoo doll back at his stable?

I admit that I have not been paying keen attention to sumo during the two month break this time, so I nearly spit out my couscous when I saw Takekaze in the third from the last bout of the day. He gave it the ol college try, but in the end was schooled by the superior Hit or Mitsuki, who was all Hit today and never in trouble. 

In a highlight bout that had no highlights, Kakuryu went for the one arm strategy from the get go, but Kotooshu maintained perfect balance and kept on his much smaller foe, eventually getting the belt and running him across the ring and out.

After some initial separation during which it looked as if we would have a shweet upset, Kisenosato and Hakuho locked up in identical two handed belt holds. They remained completely motionless for thirty-five seconds! followed by a few pushes instigated by both men that resulted in nothing. Finally The Kid changed his footing from left forward, right back to right forward, left back, and Hakuho responded by nearly imperceptibly sliding his right foot forward, and when I saw this I said, Game over. Hakuho set, lifted and pushed forward to take the Sekiwake out. Good looking battle but the younger Kisenosato should have gone coocoo for Cocoa Puffs earlier and tried to win it earlier. Course thats easier said than done, eh?

Asa led with his now familiar hari-te face slap and followed with a strong push to the puss, which deflected Goeido a tad and sent the lad diving for Asas left leg. Asa simply backed away and watched the Komusubi slide down his leg like so much water off a ducks, a ducks, uh, something or other.

Man, this flu is nasty; Ive sneezed about forty times writing this, so go wash your hands. Ill be back on Day 8 looking shiny happy, don't you fret.












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