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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
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Day 6
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Day 9

Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The live broadcast that I get here in the states started with the M7 Gagamaru - M15 Chiyotairyu bout, so I may as well start there keeping in mind that today's comments will be very brief since I have nothing new to say in an intro, and I like to save any remaining ammo for a post basho report. Chiyotairyu was officially knocked from the yusho race yesterday, but today's bout was significant because Gagamaru is a part-time sanyaku rikishi and definitely worthy of the jo'i. Chiyotairyu struck hard at the tachi-ai with the two hands to Gagamaru's neck and then immediately went for a pull down. Against almost any other rikishi, I'd frown against such a quick pull, but the dude understands that he doesn't necessarily want to get into a belt fight with Gagamaru, and I'm sure after that first volley he realized he wasn't budging the Georgian back any further. Gagamaru survived the pull and is so large that it's hard to run from him, so props to Chiyotairyu for squaring back up and firing a few more shoves. Gagamaru got his right arm to the inside forcing the bout to yotsu, but Chiyotairyu kept up the pressure pulling the trigger on a left outer throw that caused Gagamaru to put his left hand down early giving Chiyotairyu the win in the end. This bout was important for Chiyotairyu because 1) it's his first time ever winning double-digits in the division, and 2) Gagamaru's probably a top 15 rikishi, so defeating him should help Chiyotairyu realize that he belongs at the top third of this division.

Lest anyone get too geeked about M2 Shohozan, let's analyze his performance today against M1 Tochiohzan. Shohozan definitely had a decent resume coming into the bout, and with both of these guys at 9-4 coming in, the Sekiwake rank was on the line for the winner and Komusubi for the loser. Back to Shohozan, his tsuppari from the tachi-ai moved Tochiohzan back nary a centimeter, so that's one point to consider. Next, Tochiohzan forced the bout to hidari-yotsu and enjoyed a whopping right outer grip while Shohozan's right arm wasn't even close...point being dude's got crocodile arms, which is a disadvantage. Thirdly, with Tochiohzan extending the bout to over a minute by doing nothing but just standing there, Shohozan wasn't able to counter. That's three strikes against him in this one bout, and so it was no surprise that Tochiohzan twisted Special Dark down in the end pulling at his belt with the right outer and throwing with the left inner. Tochiohzan moves to 10-4, which is a spectacular record this high in the ranks. Too bad he's gonna redefine the term Suckiwake in January. Shohozan falls to 9-5, but I haven't bought several of his bouts, so let's see how well he can do in Tokyo when tens of fans will even recognize him.

If they had a special prize for team player, Komusubi Aminishiki would win it hands down this basho. He crushed M3 Takekaze forcing the bout to migi-yotsu early and then baiting Takekaze into a pulldown as he retreated. That only made the push-out that much more spectacular as Aminishiki moves to 6-8. Think about the multiple bouts Aminishiki gave up this basho, so to see him at 6-8 shows you he sacrificed a sanyaku rank to give others wins they desperately needed. Okay, okay, he'll technically take a pay cut the next two months as he drops rank, but he's probably been paid off enough to compensate. Now that I think about it, since Aminishiki wears his mattress around his leg, where does he hide his money?

The one rikishi I haven't been able to figure out this basho is Sekiwake Myogiryu. Is he injured? Is he suffering from a case of nerves? Is he paying back rikishi who could have aided in his rapid rise to Sekiwake? I really don't know, but time will tell soon enough just how much game he has. The answer to that question today was none as he was unable to budge M2 Kaisei from the tachi-ai, and so as the two hooked up in the migi-yotsu position, Myogiryu's only answer was to go for two pull moves. Kaisei got him on the second one picking up his sixth win in the process as Myogiryu falls to 5-9.

It's a good thing that the sumos have their long hair tied up in knots; otherwise, the Sekiwake Goeido - M7 Aran would have turned into a true girl fight with both gals quickly grabbing each others hair and creating a virtual stalemate. As it was, there would be no hair pulling so it was all slaps from both parties with about 10% of them even connecting. I blame Aran for this style because you know Goeido didn't want to charge into a henka, but still this was an ugly bout as both traded pulldowns before Goeido timed a decent shove as Aran went for another ill-fated pull. Aran (8-6) ended up in the lap of someone on the first row, but that was due to his literally tripping over the tawara as he was shoved outta the ring. Nice de-ashi fella. Goeido moves to 10-4 with the win.

Ozeki Kotooshu showed his lack of konjou today (look it up) in a contest with M6 Toyonoshima where Tugboat got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai but was too upright to really make a decent charge. Kotooshu countered with a solid right outer belt grip, but he wasn't in a position to charge either, so there the two stood slow dancing in the middle of he ring as their wives fumed at home. The end turned out to be a nage-no-uchi-ai in the middle of the ring with Kotooshu throwing with the right outer and Toyonoshima with the left inner. This one was close, but Kotooshu put his left hand down early to break his fall...thus showing his lack of determination to win. Toyonoshima picks up win number 10 if ya need him while Kotooshu is stuck at 8-6.

As I suspected, M6 Kyokutenho just rolled over for Ozeki Kotoshogiku today giving the Geeku a dramatic kachi-koshi! Kyokutenho was in neutral from the start as the Ozeki secured the right inside position and left outer grip before driving the Chauffeur back and out of the ring in a coupla seconds. While Kyokutenho refrained from grabbing the left outside belt, which was wide open, he did perform a nifty hop as he was being forced out causing the Fukuoka faithful to all bleat out a joyful "Ba-a-a-a-a!!!!" Kyokutenho's still doing swell at 10-4 while Kotoshogiku can officially present his bride to be with a kachi-koshi. Whouda thunk?! I think the Mainichi Shimbun nailed it with their headline "Kyokutenho powerless in defeat." With the Kyokutenho loss, Hakuho officially clinched his career 23rd yusho.

He'da kicked Kakuryu's ass either way, but you still want to see NHK show the official yusho graphic after a win, not after the runner up's loss. Anyway, Hakuho was true to form today swooping in at the tachi-ai getting the right inside position and left outer grip while Kakuryu tried in desperation to wriggle free, but it wasn't happening as Hakuho kept his gal within throwing distance and did just that, ending the bout about five seconds in with a trademark outer belt throw. At 13-1, there's no reason why Hakuho won't go all out against Harumafuji tomorrow. Kakuryu's a happy camper with that Ozeki paycheck at 8-6, and before I get to the final bout, I agree with Clancy that it's just wrong that Hakuho should have to deliver the chikara-mizu to another rikishi.

One of the great things about watching the bouts live on NHK is the reverse angle they give you after the fact. Not only is it in slow motion, but it let's you see what happened on the other side giving us the whole picture. Since today's Yokozuna Harumafuji - Ozeki Kisenosato matchup was the last of the day, and since NHK was running out of time, we never got the replay of that other side, so I don't know definitively what happened, but this is what it looked like to me: Harumafuji went for Kisenosato's neck with the left hand at the tachi-ai but was not driving with his legs. Instead, he turned his right hip in a bit towards the Ozeki allowing Kisenosato to shove him over to the edge with what looked like a left kote-nage throw. Harumafuji managed to stay inside the ring after that initial shove/throw from Kisenosato, but the Ozeki was right on top of him bodying him outta the ring in what turned out to be a three second bout. This coulda been legit, but I doubt it. Kisenosato can't even bully an M3 like that, and Harumafuji's footwork was awful. Still, without that reverse angle, I don't know what was happening on the other side, but my opinion is that Harumafuji gave this one away. I mean look at that picture at left...the Yokozuna looks like he's sleepwalking.  A Yokozuna goes down fighting, not scanning the crowd for chicks.  Regardless, Harumafuji falls to 9-5 with the loss while Kisenosato moves to 10-5.

Clancy is slated to report on senshuraku, but he's running a marathon in the morning, so it's still up in the air. If Clancy can't make it, I will not report on senshuraku since the yusho is already determined and since I'd end up using the rest of my material and would have nothing left for a post-basho report. On one hand, I hope Clancy feels good enough to give us one last shot, but on the other hand, he'll have like nothing to work with. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With Hakuho two bouts ahead of everyone else in the loss column, day 13 would be extremely telling in terms of whether or not we'd have a yusho race down the stretch. As I've always maintained, Hakuho has had the ability even before Asashoryu retired to determine whether or not he would take the yusho every basho. So when he just stood idly by and let Kotooshu force him out of the ring on day 11, I knew that he wasn't gunning for a zensho yusho and frankly didn't know what to expect coming into each day. Today, however, the Yokozuna's intentions were clear, and so let's get right to the action starting with the marquee matchup, Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Ozeki Kisenosato.

For the last few days, Hakuho has not gone full bore at the tachi-ai. How do I know? Because he did so today, and you could readily see the result. The Yokozuna swept one leg forward at the charge getting his favored right arm to the inside, and his momentum was so good he just sent a forearm chivvy into Kisenosato's chest knocking him back to the brink where a final tsuki with the right hand sent the Ozeki across the straw to join the basket of salt in his corner. This is what Hakuho is capable of day in and day out, and so when I don't see it this kind of effort, I know he's letting up. The day after he lost to Kotooshu, the talking point was that Hakuho looked tired. Tired shmired. Hakuho moves to 12-1 and is well on his way to a career 23rd yusho. Kisenosato falls to 9-4.

The straight up tachi-ai continued in the penultimate bout featuring Yokozuna Harumafuji vs. Ozeki Kakuryu in what was by far the bout of the tournament so far, and when I say straight up tachi-ai, I'm referring to both brethren who have each been guilty multiple times in Kyushu of mukiryoku sumo. At the tachi-ai, each went for the other's throat, and in a split second, the combatants realized the stalemate and immediately hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position. As the two Mongolians dug in testing the waters, they simultaneous swapped insides and outsides leaving them in the gappuri migi yotsu position, and from here, the fight was on. With their muscles quivering--which tells you they're going full out, Kakuryu struck first bellying the Yokozuna upright just a bit to where he got his left shoulder low and digging into Harumafuji's right, and the Kak instinctively knew he had sufficient position, so he went for the kill burrowing his head in tight and committing on the force-out charge. Harumafuji knew he was in trouble and tried a maki-kae in desperation near the edge, but he was too far gone as Kakuryu blasted him across the straw and down for the yori-taoshi win. Kakuryu picks up kachi-koshi with the brilliant win at 8-5 while Harumafuji is officially knocked out of the yusho race at 9-4.

I watch these two bouts of sumo that capped off our day, and I can only shake my head and think what if they fought like this everyday? But then I catch myself. Of the four rikishi I've just described, one was a complete punching bag and the other three were total warriors, so it's no wonder that the elite foreign rikishi must hold back from time to time to at least give the appearance that the punching bags have a chance.

With Hakuho firmly planting the yusho line at one loss, it was up to our three remaining 3-loss rikishi heading into the day to win and extend the yusho race for another day. Fortunately, two were fighting each other and so we were guaranteed a race at least into day 14 (as if it mattered). M15 Chiyotairyu has looked great for all but a few days of the basho, but he wouldn't get the chance to prove his worth today against M2 Shohozan, who henka'd to his right at the tachi-ai and grabbed the outer grip in the process. Before Chiyotairyu could recover, Shohozan spun him around and out adding insult to injury in the end dumping Tairyu to the clay. I mean, I've kind of dug Shohozan's sumo this basho, but then I see him resort to a henka of an M15 on this stage, and I lose a ton of respect for the dude. Looks like I'll drown my sorrows tonight with Mr. Goodbars and Krackles as Chiyotairyu is knocked out of the hunt at 9-4. Shohozan shares the same mark, but everyone knows the win today was quick and dirty.

And so..M6 Kyokutenho or M1 Tochiohzan were our last hope in extending the yusho race one more day. Kyokutenho? Tochiohzan? Yusho race? I can't quite put a finger on it, but I think I just suffered a bad case of déjà vu and that picture at right sure ain't helping. M1 Tochiohzan won the tachi-ai securing moro-zashi, but for some odd reason, he seemed hesitant to commit on a charge. With the better position, he musta felt obliged to press forward, but he wasn't committed, and so Kyokutenho breezed to his left and used a left kote-nage hold to drag Tochiohzan down to dirt moving to 10-3 in the process. Tochiohzan falls to 9-4, and we can now officially say that Kyokutenho is in his head.

With the leaderboard out of the way, let's cover a few more bouts of interest starting with Ozeki Kotoshogiku looking for that elusive eight win against Sekiwake Myogiryu. He wouldn't get it thanks to another lame tachi-ai that Myogiryu completely exposed using his left arm on the inside and brilliant de-ashi to drive Kotoshogiku back and across the straw without argument. Kotoshogiku (7-6) is not strong enough to beat his remaining opponents, but he will still get that last win...probably against Kyokutenho tomorrow who will likely lock his keys in the car. Myogiryu moves to 5-8 with the win, and I can't figure out if some of his awful tachi-ai this basho were for real or if he just looked good today against a lame duck.

Rounding out the Ozeki, I'm glad Kotooshu is good at sumo because he's a downright shitty actor. Against Sekiwake Goeido today, the Ozeki stayed low with his arms committed downward, and as Goeido backed up, Kotooshu just played elephant keeping his arms hung low like a trunk as he slumped over and chased Goeido around half the ring before the Sekiwake mercifully dodged to the side and pulled the Ozeki out of the ring in the process putting us all out of our misery. Goeido moves to 9-4 with the win while Kotooshu falls to 8-5, but this was just plain bad sumo all around.

The final bout of the day I'll cover was the M10 Ikioi - M4 Masunoyama contest that saw Ikioi looking for his first ever kachi-koshi in the division. Masunoyama ruled the tachi-ai and immediately knocked Ikioi back on his heels with a series of effective tsuppari. As Ikioi evaded to his right, Masunoyama went for a premature scoop throw with the left that allowed Ikioi to counter with a neck throw sending both to the dirt at relatively the same time. A mono-ii was called for and a redo declared. The problem was...Ikioi knew he was no match for Masunoyama, and so he delivered a tachi-ai henka picking up his kachi-koshi by essentially running away. I'm not sure what my opinion of Ikioi is yet, but I'm pretty sure Salt N Pepa never sang about him, "Whatta Man, Whatta Man, Whatta Man, Whatty a Mighty Fine Man.  Masunoyama falls to a dispirited 5-8.

I'll be back agin tomorrow to celebrate Hakuho's yusho and Kotoshogiku's kachi-koshi, and if those predictions are wrong, I don't care; I've already lost enough face admitting that I knew the lyrics to a Salt N Pepa song.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After a day like Wednesday where we had both Yokozuna lose without exerting much effort, I love to scan the headlines the next morning and read the media's take on what transpired. In the case of Harumafuji, it's not quite as transparent because we only had .7 seconds of "action" from which to draw conclusions (yes, the Japanese media timed the bout), but in the case of Hakuho, it was evident from the tachi-ai that the Yokozuna was not trying to win his bout. The Sports Hochi papers came right out in their headline and said that Hakuho "lost with no resistance." And then I really liked how the Mainichi newspaper put it after both Yokozuna lost referring to a "collective sigh in the arena."

The Sumo Association as a group is trying to keep things interesting this basho, but the term "interesting" implies that Japanese rikishi must perform well. The foreign rikishi--especially the Yokozuna--are doing their part to ensure that this happens, but you can only cut so many corners before even the blindest of sheep realize what's happening.

While day 11 was just plain obvious drawing a sigh from everyone, both Yokozuna let up again on day 12 in an attempt to keep things close. I've used this analogy before, but I'm going to repeat it because it's so applicable to what we're seeing from the Yokozuna and others who are compromising bouts in order to maintain fan interest.

I think every boy's dream growing up is to one day own a billiards table, and through the grace of the gods, I happen to have a sweet Brunswick in my basement. Now at first glance, a beginner to the game of billiards would think that the key to winning is shot making, and while that is important, the actual key to being good at billiards is to be able to control the cue ball. When all of us first started to hack our way around a pool table, the only thing we were interested in his making the shot at hand. It's why 8-ball is so popular. You have seven different shots on your first turn, and so you take the easiest. Once you've sunk that first ball, you look for the next easiest ball, and on and on it goes.

But when you watch the pros play billiards on television, they always play 9-ball, a much more refined game because in 9-ball, you must sink the balls in order, and to effectively be good at 9-ball, you have to have decent mastery over the cue ball. The last decade or so, some of you may have noticed that when they broadcast 9-ball tournaments on television, the cue ball is covered in a bunch of random, red dots. The reason they do this is so the viewers at home can gauge exactly where the pros are striking the cue ball, and that gives the audience more insight as to how they're setting up the next shot.

Now I would liken a sumo bout to a game of what I'll call 3-ball where you have three balls randomly scattered on the table and the objective is to hit all three balls in on one turn. You are able to place the cue ball anywhere you want for your first shot and you can hit the balls in any order making this a seemingly simple exercise. If you look at my table set up at the right, the novice player would place the cue ball close to the 1 ball and take the easy shot first because they can't see beyond that first shot. The experienced player, however, would know that they can sink the 1 ball from anywhere on the table, and so that's the obvious last shot.

There are multiple ways that an expert billiard player could approach the setup in my graphic, but none of them would hit the 1 ball in first. But if I set this same configuration up on my own pool table and asked my kids to try and hit in all three balls, they will all start with the 1 ball because they can't see past the shot at hand. And so when I play billiards with my kids, it's really easy for me to hold back without them knowing in an attempt to let them win but not make it obvious. To them, it still looks as if I'm trying my hardest because I'll make the obvious shots, but I'll be careless with the cue ball taking me out of position of my next shot, leaving the cue ball in a difficult spot that would justify scratching on my next turn, or if the angles line up just right, I can sink a ball and knowingly send the cue ball into a pocket scratching on my turn and giving one of my kids ball in hand on his next turn. Now I usually end up winning most of the games because I'm not going to make it obvious to my kids, but I'm constantly trying to set them up to win without them noticing. And that's exactly what's happening in sumo these days.  Hakuho and sometimes others are mis-managing the cue ball in an attempt to let inferior rikishi win and keep things interesting.

The fans and part of the media can be likened to my kids. They're fairly knowledgeable about the sport, but they can only see the first shot or the obvious shot. They see Hakuho for example grab the inside belt grip as he did against Kotooshu and accept it as a legitimate move, but they don't understand that it's the wrong move to hold onto it if he doesn't have an outer belt grip on the other side. They see Harumafuji charge hard into Kotoshogiku who is staying high and playing pull all the way, but it somehow doesn't compute with them that Harumafuji decides for once not to go for the throat at the tachi-ai. I realize that sumo differs from billiards in that you sometimes have to make split second decisions in the ring, but there's no split decision to make in determining your approach to the tachi-ai, and there's no split decision in a 30 second bout where Hakuho doesn't once go for an offensive maneuver and is forced out completely upright. There was a collective sigh in the Fukuoka Kokusai Center yesterday because both Yokozuna lost, not because they were beaten. Big difference and the fans know it.

With that, let's get to the day's action starting with M15 Chiyotairyu of all rikishi who entered the day just one loss behind the leader, Hakuho. Against M7 Aran, Chiyotairyu did what he needed to do moving forward from the tachi-ai and bullying Aran back with a tsuppari attack, but about one step in from the edge, Chiyotairyu rushed things just a bit going for a left forearm shove instead of extending his arm. Using the forearm is a great tactic at the tachi-ai when both rikishi are moving into each other, but when one rikishi is retreating, going for a forearm shove means you have to close that much more distance when you commit on the shove. Aran is just too sneaky to let that slide and so with Chiyotairyu over-extended, he moved right and dragged him down at the edge for the tsuki-otoshi win. Tough loss for Chiyotairyu who falls to 9-3, but I'm okay with the loss because he was moving forward and hellbent on winning. Avoiding a huge disaster (more yaocho from the Yokozuna), Chiyotairyu is out of the yusho hunt, but he can still maintain momentum heading into January. Aran picks up kachi-koshi at 8-4 with the counter win.

Let's move back up to the top where Yokozuna Hakuho entertained Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Hakuho hit the 1 ball in first today keeping his right arm to the outside at the tachi-ai all but giving the Ozeki a chance at moro-zashi, but the Geeku had both feet aligned after the tachi-ai and wasn't moving forward. In a panic, Kotoshogiku moved his left arm to the outside of Hakuho's right, and so the Yokozuna began his offensive after gaining the right inside by default, so he lifted the Ozeki upright with his right arm in the Geeku's pit, and after swinging him around 180 degrees and off balance, Hakuho grabbed the Geeku's belt and just bowled him over never once coming close to an outer grip. Didn't need it here against an Ozeki who is still ailing as he falls to 7-5. There's no doubt that Kotoshogiku will find that last win, but Hakuho mismanaged the cue ball at the tachi-ai giving him an opening today; like my kids, he wasn't able to capitalize. With the win, Hakuho moved to 11-1 and put the pressure on Harumafuji to keep pace.

In the final bout of the day, the said Harumafuji was pitted against Sekiwake Myogiryu, and the Yokozuna decided to come out with a dual kachi-age, something I've never seen him do before. That didn't get him anywhere, but Myogiryu wasn't necessarily powering his way forward either. After a second and a half, Harumafuji ducked down inviting the pull from Myogiryu that came sending the Mongolian stumbling towards the edge, the Yokozuna put on the brakes and recovered getting his left arm to the inside whereupon he mounted a hurried force-out charge without really being grounded to the dohyo. The result was that the Sekiwake had more than enough time to work his right arm to the inside and throw the Yokozuna to the dohyo with a scoop throw. This was a nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge where it looked like to me that Harumafuji made no effort to keep himself from hitting the dirt until the last possible moment. The end result was a sukui-nage victory for Myogiryu that was really setup by Harumafuji's constant mistakes. Were those mistakes intentional? I thought so as the Yokozuna falls to 9-3 and out of yusho contention for the most part. Myogiryu's make-koshi fate is sealed at 4-8, but over the Yokozuna will help take off some of the sting.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kotooshu henka'd M1 Tochiohzan stepping out wide to his left in an attempt to grab the outer belt grip. When he didn't get it, Tochiohzan took command of the bout getting moro-zashi, slapping the Ozeki forward, and then getting moro-zashi again forcing Kotooshu back across the ring sending him out in the end with a left scoop throw. The bottom line here is an Ozeki should NEVER henka an M1. Ridiculous, and Kotooshu deserved to lose this one as he falls to 8-4. Tochiohzan has been great this basho, and he stands now at 9-3 which may be good enough to get him mentioned among the leaders for a day or 2, but the problem I have with this guy is he'll do well here but then royally suck next basho against the same competition. Dude can't handle the pressure of the sanyaku.

I'm not sure what Ozeki Kakuryu's intentions were by standing straight up at the tachi-ai and leaving both arms out wide, but the result was Komusubi Aminishiki lurching into moro-zashi and forcing the Kak back and out in a coupla seconds. The only explanation I have for Kakuryu's tachi-ai today was that he was letting Aminishiki win; there's no other way that I can try and justify that tachi-ai. Regardless, the Ozeki is 7-5 while Aminishiki looks good again moving to 4-8.

Let's break down the Ozeki Kisenosato - M4 Masunoyama bout by discussing the word "sasu." This terms means to stab, and when the sumos use it, they're talking about getting one's arm to the inside of his opponent. It's often conjugated into it's noun form of "sashi", and when it's the second term in a compound word, the first s changes to a z forming such terms as hari-zashi (slap-stab at the tachi-ai) or moro-zashi (two arms to the inside). This term sashi does not have it's opposite because in sumo it just doesn't make sense to fight from the outside. The outer grip on your opponent's belt is preferred, but that has to be set up with the inside position on the other side first. The reason I bring this up now is because Kisenosato always goes for an outer grip at the tachi-ai instead of setting up the inside position first. As a result, he always leaves himself wide open and loses nearly every tachi-ai. Today against Masunoyama, the Ozeki made this one a lot closer than it needed to be by keeping himself open at the initial charge and letting Masunoyama stand him up with a right choke hold. After a few tsuppari from both parties, the bout ended up in hidari-yotsu, and fortunately for the Ozeki, he grabbed the right outer grip; otherwise, he would have found himself on the wrong end of a yori-kiri. As it stood, Kisenosato was able to use that right outer grip to halt his opponent's momentum and turn the tables eventually forcing Masunoyama back and across for the win. Kisenosato moves to 9-3 but HAS to fix that tachi-ai. The problem is his current stable master is the former Takanotsuru. Who is that you say? Just imagine a guy like Yoshiazuma retiring and becoming a stable master. Good luck on getting any coaching. Masunoyama falls to 5-7 but should keep his head high; he's fought some tough guys.

Sekiwake Goeido dropped his fourth straight today against M2 Shohozan who used a harmless hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the right and getting the left to the inside. Goeido secured his own left grip, and so there the two stood in the middle of the ring with left inners and no outers. As the two stood there in the middle of the ring jockeying for position, I couldn't help but to think that these two are about the best Japan has to offer. Deduct your own conclusions from that statement. In the end, Shohozan's hustle won out as he pulled Goeido down with a pretty good kata-sukashi move after a wild tussle. I think the reason that Shohozan won this bout is because he hasn't let the losses get to him whereas Goeido has. You cannot dwell on that botched call and let it ruin the rest of your basho, so we'll see how Goeido recovers from here. Both fellas are 8-4.

I loved the M11 Asahisho - M5 Toyohibiki bout. I don't believe Asahisho has ever fought this high and give him credit for attempting to take it to Toyohibiki from the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack, but the Hutt simply braced his right leg, grabbed Asahisho's left arm in kote-nage fashion, and threw Asahisho's ass down hard in two seconds flat. Asahisho (6-6) is a spunky rikishi and good for sumo, but it's a great example of how tough it is higher up the banzuke. Toyohibiki improves to 7-5.

M6 Kyokutenho totally whiffed on a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the right hand, and the result was easy moro-zashi for Toyonoshima. Still, Toyonoshima needed the crown of his head under Kyokutenho's chin, not his chin on top of Kyokutenho's shoulder, and so the Chauffeur used an outer grip to smother Toyonoshima back and out of the ring in a quite impressive win. Don't look now but Tenho is 9-3 surpassing Toyonoshima at 8-4.

And finally, let's conclude today's report with the M10 Ikioi - M16 Tamawashi bout. Remember that 6-1 start from Ikioi? His ability has been put a bit more into perspective, especially after Tamawashi opened up a can of whoopass on him using a choke hold and push at the side to immediately send him out of the ring. I want Ikioi to get his kachi-koshi, but as I warned early in the basho, this guy doesn't want to shoot up the ranks too fast. Both combatants end the day at 7-5.

Well, since it's day 12, I guess we can review the leader board.

Hakuho is at the top at 11-1
Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Tochiohzan, Kyokutenho, and Chiyotairyu are all two back at 9-3.

As much as I'd love to see an exciting yusho race, the only way that happens is with more dirty pool, and it's getting to the point where nobody is fooled anymore.

Clancy closes out his basho tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Day 11 is often a big day during a basho, because it signals the start of the time when the Yokozuna will get nothing but Ozeki opponents, which on paper is supposed to provide the most excitement. Problem is, for too long, Hakuho was wining every bout so there WAS no excitement, at least not the kind that the fans wanted to see. Then Hakuho started easing up on the throttle, and guys started catching up. Unlikely candidates for Ozeki promotion suddenly made the rank, and a few of them even took a yusho, and one became a Yokozuna.

That Yokozuna did not fare well today, and it wasnt entirely his fault. Ozeki Kotoshogiku is, like Musoyama years ago, essentially a one trick pony. But when youre one trick is as good as Geekus gaburi, that can suffice. Today, however, he reminded us that hes not a one trick pony by employing his other trick, the henka.

You might watch the bout and say there was no henka as Geeku collided with HowDo, but the henka comes in several different shapes and sizes. True, this was not a henka of Takekaze proportion, but it was nonetheless a henka. The Ozeki simply stood up and turned his body so that the Yokozuna had nothing to hold onto. With his left leg very far back, he just fell to the clay in a match that took less than one second.

Id say that since there is no chance that Harumafuji is taking Hakuhos yusho this time out, there is no harm in him losing a second time this basho, and it certainly doesnt hurt sumos popularity with the fans in Kyushu to see the Fukuoka native beating a Yokozuna and moving to within one win of a kachi-koshi. Kotoshogiku can bring a world of hurt to a tachi-ai, and Harumafuji is small, so he needs to invest a lot of forward movement into his own charge. Geeku knew this and took advantage, so it can be said the move was not so much cheap as it was smart, taking advantage of the Ozekis rep for having a hard piping tachi-ai. Still, would have preferred a more contested bout.

And what did Hakuho and Kotooshu give us next but that very thing! After a few pushes at tachi-ai Kotooshu was able to get a deep left outside belt, all strands. Hakuho countered with an inside right, top strand only. The Ozeki then buried his head into the Yokozunas neck and I said right there, standing naked in the onsen with my homeboys staring up at the telly, "Maketa." Hakuho tried to swing his foe around, which did nothing but allow him in tighter and also put himself perpendicular to the Ozeki.

Once in this position, he had no option but to resist long enough to make the fans feel like theyd gotten their moneys worth (which they most assuredly did NOT get in the previous bout). It was pitbull on mailman time as Hakuhos single strand grip gave him no leverage whatsoever (not that he tried at all to GAIN leverage). Kotooshu finally ran him back and out. Id say that Kublai felt the icy grip of death very soon into this one, and pretty much resigned himself to a loss. But NHNF as his only competitor this time out had just bitten the same yellow dust.

After a spirited back and forth by both men at tachi-ai, Ozeki Kakuryu made an all advised hataki-komi attempt just as a feisty Myogiryu dove in toward his groin ("Hey-ey-ey, Boo Boo!"), and it turned out the Mongolian had no room behind him with which to work and was driven out. Kak ought to get his KK today vs. Patsy the Bedroll. Myogi Bear is NOT liking whats in his picanic basket this basho. An upset win tomorrow over Harumafuji might alleviate some of his displeasure.

A bigtime shoving match ensued between Kisenosato and Toyohibiki, with neither fella getting a belt (though Toyohibiki sniffed at it early on). It ended with the Mos Eisley man getting turned around in all the frantic slapping and being run out with the Ozekis paw temporarily on his mug like he was trying to gouge his eyes out. Winning record for The Kid as we wait with bated breath to see if he can take down either Yokozuna in the final days (and word is Matt is a master with bated breath).

Those of you hoping for Sekiwake Goeido to pull out of his nosedive have another day to wait as he thoroughly dominated fellow Kansai rikishi Tochiohzan. Expertly driving him back from tachi-ai to the ropes, he could not keep his right arm down and in tightly enough, allowing Oh Snap to lift up on it and twist as they both crashed out. Sadly for the Father (his Son, and his Holy Ghost) he hit bottom before the W1. Two more wins and Id say Tochiohzan is a lock for Myogiryus Sekiwake spot in January.

Preceding the Goeido-Tochiohzan bout, the ten men who fought in the previous five bouts that began the second half of the days action ended the day with a total of thirty-five wins. That is correct, a 3.5 wins average after eleven days.

If anyone is interested in researching this, Id like to know if there was ever another time when a man met a Yokozuna one day and someone ranked as low as W15 the very next. Thats what happened today as Toyonoshima took on red hot Chiyotairyu and for lack of a better got shivved. Like a rogue wave Tugboat came crashing in, and Chiyotairyu, like a man trying to wade out to deeper waters, took the force of it, then pulled and slapped the true "elevator Rikishi" down to his third loss. The difference between this win and Kotoshogikus is Chiyotairyu met his foe with great fury and righteous anger, whereas Geeku tiptoed through the tulips.

Well, I know youre probably looking for more out of me today, and I hate to "pull a Kenji," but all this writing about sumo is starting to make my nipples chaff. And thats not a good thing as Im running the Kobe International Marathon this Sunday in record time (Im going to record my time on my watch). Ill be back for Day 13 and then Mixmaster Mikenstein gets behind the turntables and spins you into the final two days, which ought to be (insert adjective that makes you anxious).

Day 10 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
So there's no point in trying to spice up my intro. Clancy has more than satisfied the interesting reports angle. Instead, I'll talk up my awesome Fantasy Sumo game. Among my picks: Baruto (injured), Homasho (now 2-8), Kaisei (now 2-8). On the plus side, I managed to avoid Myogiryu (had a feeling he might slip), picked Goeido (to hold up the Sekiwake fort) and Toyonoshima (due for a solid fortnight). In sum, I'm on pace to beat the random selection monkey. And Mike (^_^). But not many others. Oh well, let's think less about our fantasies (Brokeback? not gonna go there...) and more about what the sumo gods have laid before us. Not quite an egg, nor a turd, if we're willing to dig a bit.

I'll begin with what was supposedly the featured bout. Goeido versus Hakuho. Well, Hak just kicked his ass. Nothing dominating or visually impressive. He just took the fight to this latest Japanese hope, knocked him around while maintaining perfect footwork and form, and then bopped him on the top of his head at the right moment for the hataki-komi slap down win. The senpai Yokozuna remains the sole undefeated rikishi at 10-0, while Goeido still needs a few wins to gin up some premature talk of an Ozeki run.

At the top, the kohai Yokozuna stayed very much in the hunt (though it's wishful thinking that we'll have fair competition for the cup). He dominated Toyonoshima with a quick, powerful tachi-ai -- you could see the look of surprise "kuso!" (that's "Oh Shit" to you and me) in Tugboat's face. Not much else to say, as the littlest man in the division bullied another relatively little man out of the ring.

I'm going to pretend for a second that Kotooshu wasn't kadoban and fighting a fellow member of the back-scratcher's club. Kisenosato did as he usually does and left himself wide open at the tachi-ai. I guess Oshu's been reading Mike's reports because he drove into his fellow Ozeki with his arms on the inside and got himself a moro-zashi. He then secured a right hand inside belt grip and motored his way to victory. Both men at 7-3. Now, did Kise let the Bulgarian inside a bit too easy even given his tendencies? You can see this one either way you want.

The next match down the list was my personal favorite of the day. Good on Masunoyama, ye of little lung capacity! We got another "Oh Shit!" moment at the tachi-ai when the M4 blasted into Kotoshogiku full force. I'm not sure what the Ozeki was expecting, but that sure wasn't it. Of course, dominating at the tachi-ai hardly guarantees the youngster a win over the skilled veteran and having moved into Geeku's body, it looked like we might see a belt fight that would naturally favor Mr. Humpety-Hump. But Mass-o-yo-mamma continued to drive up and into Kotoshogiku and then adroitly shifted gears, backpedaled and got himself a slap down win to move to 0.500. Impressive sumo. As for the Sadogatake-beya man (6-4), look for some more shenanigans over the next five days, as he needs to win two out of five against superior (considering his leg) competition.

I should comment on Kakuryu since he's a Champion (tm). The story here is that Takekaze didn't henka. Kak kept his balance, Takekaze didn't. Interesting use of a face-push for the hataki-komi win.

The other really good match today was Myogiryu and Shohozan. Yogi bear is looking pretty average this time around, while Shohozan is lighting it up. I wonder if seeing the guy even smaller than him become Yokozuna didn't give him a little motivation to pick up his game? Today, these two young guns locked up in a hidari-yotsu battle that had Shohozan in a little better position after the tachi-ai. They had opposing belt grips on one side, Shohozan right outer and Myogiryu left inner, with no grips on the opposite side. But Shohozan was a bit lower and his left was wrapped around the not-so-hairy Bear's underarm, while said Yogi Bear's short arm was just dangling in space.

After 15 seconds of sniffing Shohozan's shoulder, Myogiryu decided he didn't like this position and went for a maki-kae with right. While it was blocked, he did get a more favorable position, maintaining his inside left belt grip and getting a sort of forearm-to-forearm neutral position on the right. During the same tussle, however, Shohozan got to try out an arm bar with his right (giving up his right outer grip). Surprisingly, this proved to be the winning advantage. Myogiryu made his move, blasting up with his free right arm and driving his opponent back. Shohozan deftly shifted to his right, locked in the arm bar, which cost Myogiryu the left inside grip, and dropped the Sekiwake for the kote-nage win. That seems to be how it's going for the Myogster this basho, now 2-8, while Shohozan (6-4) earns another merit badge towards his special prize.

So now just a few other observations I had from the day's events, before I turn it back to the Mike and Clancy Show.

  • Loved the Shohozan fan-pirate in the audience. I feel like I'm missing a reference, but it's Japan, so I don't worry about it.
  • Aminishiki knocked Homasho's butt back and out in record time. Ami knows his opponent -- Homie doesn't have a strong tachi-ai, so you can seal the deal quickly with an all-out blitz. Homie was thinking about his left hand missing a chance for an outside grip, but that wouldn't have saved him today from making his MK.
  • I was surprised to see Takayasu kick Kaisei's ass like that. Both guys 2-8.
  • Chiyotairyu is now 8-2 and will start being fed to the lions.
  • Aran-Yoshikaze is not on my list of matches to see live before I die. And it lived up to that billing.
  • This has been said before in this space, but Miyabiyama is looking ooooooold. He tried a henka today, which only got him a neutral position, and then was dominated in a pushing/thrusting matchup -- his bread and butter -- with M13 Fujiazuma.
  • Jokoryu definitely looks like a rookie out there. Poor de-ashi.
  • Good to hear that Tochinowaka is 10-0 in Juryo. Would like to seem him back in good form.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Now that we've officially entered the second week, I'll focus the bulk of my reports more on the leade rboard and less on the general field, and there's nothing like starting the second week with a bit of controversy. Well, controversy if you were to read the headlines from the various media outlets in Japan. I didn't think there was anything controversial about "the bout;" rather, a judge made a rare mistake that actually forced the combatants to restart their bout from the shikiri-sen in a twist that I can never remember seeing in my twenty odd years of watching sumo.

The featured bout of the day was actually the penultimate bout where Yokozuna Harumafuji welcomed the red-hot Sekiwake Goeido. As Goeido has done all basho, he stayed low at the tachi-ai and struck hard knocking the Yokozuna upright grabbing the deep right inside position in the process. Riding the momentum, Goeido drove Harumafuji back to the edge where the Yokozuna hung on with a left outer grip as he dangerously and literally danced atop the tawara. Just after Harumafuji survived the initial onslaught, Minatogawa-oyakata raised his hand and stopped the fight assuming that the Yokozuna had stepped out of the ring.

At first, the referee nor the gyoji understood what had just happened, but Minatogawa-oyakata had his hand raised, and so the bout had to be stopped. The oyakata pointed in the direction of the tawara where Harumafuji dangerously tip-toed his way through the tulips, but the problem wasn't his call to make. If you're watching from the normal camera angle, there are two judges on the opposite side of the dohyo. The reason for this is to compensate for the gyoji standing in the middle of the dohyo, a position that would clearly block the vision of the judge if there was just one on that side. As a result, they place two judges on that side to cover their bases. The problem with today's call, however, was that the action occurred on the other side of the dohyo from the judge who raised his hand.

There's no doubt that everyone in the crowd wanted Goeido to win today's bout, and there's no doubt that the Sumo Association itself hoped to see the Sekiwake pull off the upset, and so Minatogawa-oyakata couldn't pull the trigger fast enough when he thought there was a chance that Harumafuji had stepped out. It was oh so close, and a couple of the judges and referee stooped low to get a glimpse after they stopped the action, but as the gyoji calls out frequently during the bout, Harumafuji was indeed "nokotta."

I kind of liken this to officiating in the NBA. I know that most of you outside of the United States don't really care about this league, but the officials will frequently anticipate calls, they makes calls when they are out of position to do so, and then they can also easily be swayed by the home crowd. It's called emotion, and it's normal for NBA refs to be affected by it. And it was clear today that Minatogawa-oyakata was also swayed by emotion, the home crowd did affect his judgment, and he was out of position to make the call. He wanted it to be so, and so he overstepped his bounds and made the call riding the emotion of the bout. Still, I'm okay with it. Officials make mistakes all the time regardless of the sport, and so it goes without saying that there will be blown calls in sumo as well. It happened today and it hurt Goeido, who definitely had the upper hand against the Yokozuna.

It still doesn't mean he was going to win, however, Harumafuji had just survived the Father's best shot, and the Yokozuna had a firm outer grip, so Goeido wasn't robbed...of the win; he was robbed of the momentum. Still, it was up to him to try and regain that momentum when a redo was called for, but he failed miserably executing a tachi-ai that was all-hands and then backing up a step hoping to bait the Yokozuna into a pull. The smallest guy on the banzuke does not reach Yokozuna by being a dumbass and so Harumafuji seized moro-zashi and had Goeido forced back and out before you could say, "there goes my portrait."

I felt bad for Goeido, but he can't follow up that first go-around with such a lame tachi-ai. It's unbelievable to me how little confidence these guys have in themselves. I've probably sounded a bit critical in regards to Harumafuji's promotion to Yokozuna, but he exemplifies just how important the shin is in shin-gi-tai. Goeido doesn't have it; Kotooshu doesn't have it; Chiyotairyu doesn't have it; and a host of other rikishi don't have it. It doesn't mean they can't become mentally strong, but it's the aspect that keeps guys with perfect sumo bodies from truly rising to the top, and it's the reason that along with de-ashi I will continue to point out the mental toughness of these rikishi. It matters. Goeido was not robbed today. He was the victim of a really bad call, but he took himself out of the do-over with such a lousy tachi-ai. I truly hope the kid realizes and then learns from his mistake.

Let's move on to the day's final bout featuring Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Sekiwake Myogiryu that saw the Yokozuna resort to an effective hari-zashi connecting with the left face slap while securing the firm inside position on the right. Myogiryu knew he was in trouble and quickly tried to evade back and to his right, but the Yokozuna was on his every move and easily caught up with him after a few steps sending Myogiryu clear off the dohyo with a swipe of his right arm that was ruled yori-taoshi. This also reeked of a sukui-nage throw, but regardless, Hakuho just kicked Myogi Bear's ass. It's funny because when Hakuho throws bouts to lesser rikishi, he gives the appearance that he can't keep up with their evasive maneuvers, but this bout should be a good baseline to show just how fast and just how good Hakuho is. I can't remember the last time he was legitimately beaten. Anyway, he moves to 9-0 with the win and as always, he will dictate whether or not he takes the yusho. Myogiryu falls to 2-7 with the loss and will surely suffer a make-koshi fate.

With the two Yokozuna out of the way, let's first focus on the other rikishi coming into the day with just one loss. M12 Wakanosato was too lazy at the tachi-ai turning what should have been a migi-yotsu battle into the moro-zashi position for M6 Toyonoshima. Toyonoshima pressed forward quickly, but near the straw, Wakanosato quickly moved to the side and nearly slapped Tugboat down in the process, but Toyonoshima recovered quickly and regained moro-zashi. This time he made a beautiful adjustment, which was to push Toyonoshima near the edge and before going for the kill, he rammed his gut into Wakanosato (5-4) knocking him high and then executed the swift kill with his opponent upright and off balance. It's these little moves and adjustments in sumo that really give me a stiffie. Toyonoshima moves to 8-1 with the win and gets Yokozuna Harumafuji tomorrow as a reward.

Our other one-loss rikishi from lower in the ranks was M15 Chiyotairyu, who shot out to a 7-1 start this basho. But as we've seen in every basho of his in this division, there comes a day when everything turns. It happened today against M13 Fujiazuma of all rikishi, and the difference today was that Chiyotairyu hit at the tachi-ai and stood his ground. Fujiazuma hit at the tachi-ai and put his left foot forward and attacked. Chiyotairyu fought off his opponent for three seconds or so but then finally went for a quick swipe downward. That was fruitless and Fujiazuma pounced forcing Chiyotairyu back another half step before pulling him down for good. Chiyotairyu has got to move forward with his legs or he's a useless rikishi. I'm okay if he loses moving forward, but he lost today a full step back from where he started. There's no excuse letting Fujiazuma (4-5) do you like that, and I expect Chiyotairyu (7-2) to finish about 3-3 wasting that terrific start.

With the contenders out of the way, let's head back to the top and comment on the remaining bouts of interest in descending order starting with two Fukuoka natives, Kotoshogiku and Shohozan. Before I get to the bout, allow me to make a few more comments as to just how hard the Association is marketing this basho to the Fukuoka people. The day 8 lineup in the booth for the Japanese broadcast included former Ozeki Kaio (from Fukuoka) providing color and then the recently retired baseball player, Hideki Kokubo, who was a star for the hometown Softbank Hawks. Now, I've lived six years of my life in Fukuoka, and the place is like a second home to me, so I have every right to declare Fukuoka a one-horse town with that horse being the city's baseball team, the Softbank Hawks. The only other team in Japanese baseball that comes close to matching the attendance in Fukuoka is the Yomiuri Giants (also called Kyojin) who can be compared to the New York Yankees. And like the Yankees, the Giants have one of the largest metro areas in the world from which to draw fans to the games in Tokyo. Fukuoka, however, is probably 15 to 20 times smaller than Tokyo when you factor in the surrounding suburbs; yet, the Hawks are the number one draw in Japanese baseball.

And so the Sumo Association knew exactly what it was doing when they invited Hideki Kokubo to join Kaio in the booth for the ever important Sunday broadcast. After the first half bouts they asked Kokubo to declare the most spirited bout of the day so far, and surprise, surprise, he chose the Yoshikaze - Wakakoyu bout as Yoshikaze is from nearby Oita, so the Kyushu basho is his "home" turf. Oh, and Yoshikaze also finished day 8 at a coincidental 6-2. Isn't it just dandy how all of this works itself out? The point of all this is to describe why it was a given that M2 Shohozan would just roll over for Ozeki Kotoshogiku.

Special Dark simply stood straight up at the tachi-ai and played along with the hidari yotsu contest, but he made no effort to employ an offensive move or even stand his ground. To his credit, he did pretend to grab the right outer grip which was wide open for him, but as Clancy has so aptly described it in the past, he just tinkled the ivories with his fingers never quite latching onto the belt. Oh, the drama! In the end, it took about two seconds for Kotoshogiku to score the yori-kiri win moving to 6-3 while Shohozan is still gettin' his at 5-4. And while I'm on the subject, anyone who doesn't believe that yaocho exists in sumo must answer these two questions that I've posed before:

1. Why is there a rule in place that says stable mates cannot fight each other at hon-basho?
2. Why is there a rule in place that says brothers cannot fight each other at hon-basho?

Now, Kotoshogiku and Shohozan are not stable mates or brothers, but both rules were technically in play here. I've talked all basho how the Sumo Association has been pimping this tournament hard to the Fukuoka'ns, and with both of these guys from the city and doing well, the younger rikishi deferred to the older, higher-ranked rikishi. Absolutely no surprise at today's yaocho.

Despite the yaocho, the guys in the booth still have to come up with an explanation, and Kitanofuji said, "This is just an example of the difference between these two on the banzuke." While that analysis does help explain why Shohozan deferred, it was much better applied to the straight-up match that proceeded it between Ozeki Kakuryu and M3 Tochinoshin, another yotsu bout that was fought with both rikishi starting with right inside positions (migi-yotsu). When two yotsu guys hook up like this with established inside positions, the difference is usually the one who grabs the outer grip first (see the Kisenosato - Kotoshogiku matchup from day 8). Today it was Kakuryu who burrowed in lower from the tachi-ai to keep Tochinoshin upright and away from the belt. The Kak's tachi-ai was so good it gave him the left front grip that was extremely potent because it was on the outside and effectively pinned Shin's right arm in too tight. There was nothing the Private could do here as Kakuryu methodically forced him back and out for the textbook win. Now this was a clear difference between the two guys and their ranks on the banzuke. Kakuryu moves to 6-3 while Tochinoshin's make-koshi becomes official at 1-8.

Ozeki Kotooshu used a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping his right hand into Komusubi Homasho's face before getting the left arm to the inside, but Homasho stayed low and kept his hips back denying the Ozeki the right outer grip. No matter as the Bulgarian latched on around the back of Homasho's left arm and mercilessly threw him down to the dirt with a powerful kote-nage throw. Homasho's left shoulder has been heavily taped all basho, so for the Ozeki to wrench the wounded limb like that added a bit of insult to injury. Kotooshu is skating along at 6-3 while Homasho falls to 2-7.

I usually wouldn't cover a bout where the combatants had a combined four wins, but Komusubi Aminishiki and M1 Okinoumi fought a great fight starting from the tachi-ai where Aminishiki came out with a quick spear into Okinoumi's neck with the right hand only to be rebuffed by a side swipe from Okinoumi where he used the left hand to push sideways into the Komusubi's extended arm. The two quickly hooked up into the migi-yotsu position from there where the younger, fresher Okinoumi took charge muscling Aminishiki back to the straw, but Shneaky dug in tight and executed a flawless utchari at the straw that just did cause Okinoumi's left leg to step out before the Komusubi's heels touched outside the straw. Both gentleman are 2-7, but this was one of the better fought bouts this basho start to finish.  Unfortunately, Okinoumi injured his left foot falling out of the ring and will withdraw from the tournament.

In the Maegashira ranks, M1 Tochiohzan quickly secured moro-zashi against M5 Toyohibiki and drove him straight towards the head judge and then dumped the Hutt spectacularly across the straw and down for the yori-taoshi win. Tochiohzan has lost just enough to stay out of the spotlight, but to be 6-3 from the M1 rank at this point is really saying something. He's looked good so far, but I doubt we'll get this same effort from him in the sanyaku next basho. Toyohibiki falls to 5-4.

I loved the M6 Kyokutenho - M10 Ikioi contest, and not because I'm particularly fond of either rikishi, but because of the way Tenho baited his younger opponent into a trap. I'm really enjoying Ikioi of late because dude's brimming with confidence, and that was the case today as he charged hard into the Chauffeur and drove him back quickly leading with the right inside. Ikioi even got moro-zashi near the edge, but Kyokutenho knew exactly what he was doing, and just when Ikioi thought he had Tenho dead to rights, Kyokutenho quickly moved to his right and pushed in at Ikioi's left side spilling the youngster to the clay before he could conclude his force out attempt. This was a vintage counter move at the edge, and I never tire of seeing veteran rikishi do this to the younger guys. Kyokutenho moves to 7-2 with the win, and let's hope he's not a serious contender. Ikioi is still a respectable 6-3.

M14 Chiyonokuni timed his tachi-ai perfectly jumping a split second early into M7 Gagamaru using a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai, but the pace of the bout turned on a dime when Chiyonokuni wasted that start by going for a quick pull. Didn't even phase Gagamaru (5-4) who used two tsuppari volleys with both hands to paste Chiyonokuni (4-5) back across the straw for the tsuki-dashi win!

And finally, M14 Jokoryu has lost the aggression he showed the first two days of the basho. Against M16 Tamawashi, he meant well but had zero forward momentum, and so Tamawashi just destroyed him from the starting lines with two or three shoves sending Jokoryu (3-6) clear off the dohyo. When you get your ass handed to you by Tamawashi (5-4), you really need to rethink your approach.

Matt breaks our spell tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
It was Day 8 in Kyushu
When I picked up the phone
Like young Macauly Caulkin
I was sitting home alo...

Ah, screw this nonsense. I was supposed to be off today but Mike called, raving about some huge gut or something, damned if I know what dude was on about. Upshot? I have to watch Hakuho once again pass the water of power, brought to you by Nintendo, formerly Marafuku Corp.

First bout has Chiyotairyu trying to continue his sizzling start vs. Kitataiki, and wouldnt you know it right after Mike talks about how to eradicate henka the gyoji calls a matta after Kitataiki henkad. Obviously everyone is reading Mikes reports. Urp. At any rate, when they reset, Chiyo made his oyakata (watching from the MIB position, looking about as excited as Matt does when his wife makes him take her to a Chippendales show) proud by using hard piping and well centered oshi to slam out the veteran. One more and he can mail the rest in.

Next bout with yusho implications (ouch, think I pulled a throat muscle, ramming it so hard into my cheek--okay, that sounded vaguely pornographic) had two kittens going apeshit on each other at tachi-ai. Wakakoyu had the beaters set to "high" as he whirled at Yoshikaze, but Starbuck had downed a (insert the name of some incredibly jacked up coffee drink here, cause I dont drink the shit and know nothing at all about it beyond the obvious and tired "double shot of espresso") and was up to the battle. Café actually was driven (or escaped) back to the edge, but slipped aside and once free was able to square up and move in, getting the belt buckle after one of his swipes batted aside one of Wakas swipes enough that the W13 was turned sideways and left open. 6-2 Yoshikaze obviously likes the pickings down at M10.

In a battle of two vets whose sumo years add up to 137 or so, Kyokutenho locked into a classic yotsu belt contest with Wakanosato, both men with their chin on the others shoulder. The Chauffer was able to work the former Sekiwake mainstay back and out, leaving both men with good shots at KK. (When I look at the sanyaku nowadays, I remember how vibrant and alive it was in the late Nineties and early Aughties, and how Wakanosato was never quite able to get over that Ozeki promotion hump. Beginning in Nagoya 2002 and through to Hatsu 2005, dude was Sekiwake for 14 out of 16 basho. In that 2005 Hatsu he was gunning for Ozeki promo for what turned out to be the final time, sitting on 21 wins from the previous two basho, 10-5 and 11-4, but failed miserably with a 6-9 and never threatened again. If he was in his prime now? Shit, hed eat Kotoshogiku for lunch.)

Enough reminisce! Let us move on.

Fujiazuma looked like a giant version of Toyonoshima today as they set at the shikiri-sen, and thems just the kind of guys Toyonoshima likes to kick around. The E13 tried mightily to keep Tugboat at arms length, but the W6 (really??—joke never gets old) was unrelenting, managing to entice the larger man into leaning too far forward to avoid expulsion and got slapped down in the process. Toyonoshima stays in the yusho race at 7-1. This one I can type with a bit more sincerity, since we DID see a Maegashira veteran take the yusho this year. If he defeats Wakanosato on Day 9, Toyonoshima can expect a rather more illustrious foe starting on Day 10. And honestly, Tugboat has BTDT so things could get innerestin.

Close to 400kg was on display as Gagamaru survived a henka by Masunoyama and ran the lil fella out. Only against the Lord can 178kg seem "lil." Hell, thats two Clancys and a big preschooler!

Speaking of bouts with yusho implications, a huge one was up next as Tochinoshin and Kaisei watched on TVs from their dressing rooms as undefeated Goeido went toe to toe with Okinoumi (each has only one toe--childhood accidents both men--very sad). After locking up in a yotsu belt battle, Okinoumi played right into Goeidos hands by not doing anything with his outside left belt, then letting go of it and trying for the maki-kae (almost code for "kill me"). He was successful and even able to lift and twist the Father under the pits but wisely stopped out of nowhere and for no visible reason (maybe it was the hysterical woman in the rafters screaming about all the terribly exciting sumo she was seeing--damn, there goes my throat muscle again) before he actually won the fight. He then got the belt again, but Goeido turned him and pushed him back, where Okinoumi smartly let go of the belt at the edge in order to have a better chance of not causing both men to crash out and possibly pulling out the last ditch win. Huh?

Two also-ran Japanese Ozeki (isnt that phrase copyrighted by now as a trademark?) fought with nothing on the line and so we got what? Thats correct, an honest-to-goodness, straight up, hard fought sumo bout with no horseshit going on. No one passing up on obvious chances at the belt or letting go of ones well had, no man remaining committed to maki-kae if it isnt there, legs torquing under great pressure as they resist a charge, counters to offensives and clear exertion the entire time. Ill not bother to detail this one, but these bouts are the reason I still watch. Go see for yourself.

Kakuryu shot the pooch at the get-go by giving Tochiohzan a forearm to the chin, which did naught but allow Oh Snap inside and under Kaks armpits, which resulted in an easy run out win. As the ineffable late Johnny Cochran used to say, "Tachi-ai high, you prolly die. Tachi-ai low, good to go."

There arent too many things more pleasing in sumo than seeing Takekaze get murdered, but that’s what happened today as Hakuho hit him ten times in rapid succession, hammering the tiny W3 into the clay outside the ring with precision and aplomb. One thing to note if you watch this bout: 8-0 Hakuho is so good that as he is shoving and slapping the shit out of Takekaze, he has the skill to check for the front belt, determine its either not there or not the best course of action, all while continuing with the beating and all in a heartbeat.

In the musubi no ichiban, Yokozuna Harumafuji must have knocked the sense and balance out of Kotooshu after a hard charging tachi-ai, because the Ozeki hunkered down and leaned forward and after a few middlin slaps from HowDo essentially dove down to his hands and then back up again. Unexciting stuff as the likely runner-up moved to 7-1.

Damn, this reporting every other day thing is tiring. Mike shoulders the rocket launcher tomorrow, and then on Day 10 we have a blast of fresh air as Matt lays down some sick licks! See ya at least once more before the basho be finis.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Whether you're a musician or an elite sports team, when you're hot, you're hot and you need little advertising. There was a day two decades ago when sumo was so hot you couldn't get a ticket to the venue unless you had connections or were willing to sleep in a tent overnight in order to get your grubby hands on a few hundred seats sumo always reserved for the day of the show. Over the years, however, as the foreigners got stronger and the Japanese rikishi weaker, the Sumo Association has been frantically coming up with marketing schemes in an effort to bring some of the fans back.

We've talked about some of these long term schemes like sekitori-kun and the oyakata workout CD over the years, so I won't rehash them here, but there are also short term plans as well aimed to put fannies in the seats for this basho. And so it's no coincidence that locals Kotoshogiku and Shohozan are off to good starts. I've lived in Fukuoka for several years, and after each day of the Kyushu basho bouts, the local NHK station highlights all of the sekitori from Fukuoka, and there results from the day. It appears to me that more fans are in attendance at this year's basho than the 2011 Kyushu basho, and the reason is the locals have more of an incentive to come out and support the sumos, especially when Kotoshogiku and Shohozan are doing well.

So I'm going to start off today's report with our Ozeki matchup for the day featuring Kakuryu vs. Kotoshogiku. The bout itself was over in a split second thanks to a classless Kakuryu tachi-ai henka to his right and instant pulldown, and the move was so vicious in light of all that sumo is trying to accomplish that I'm frankly stunned Kakuryu did it. Kotoshogiku was equally baffled because the instant he hit the dirt, he turned his head in Kakuryu's direction and gave him such an incredulous look that read, "what the f**k are you doing?!" I've also never heard a crowd jeer so long as the Fukuoka faithful did today, and they had every right to voice their displeasure. We know that henka exists in sumo, and Kotoshogiku has probably even henka'd a time or two himself, but if you're Kakuryu, you just can't pull that move against the hometown Ozeki when sumo is struggling so mightily to win back fans.

It goes without saying the that guys in the booth were also upset. First, an Ozeki never henkas another Ozeki, and they made this point clear. Second, they know as well as I do how important it is that Kotoshogiku do well this basho, and so they were very critical of Kakuryu afterwards as they should have been. Nobody wins after a bout like this. Kakuryu further tarnished the image of foreign rikishi, and the Fukuoka'ns are upset that this was even allowed to happen. I can't voice enough how uncouth that move was by Kakuryu considering all of the circumstances, and Izutsu-oyakata better have given him the business when he returned to the stable. It's times like this when that bamboo sword needs to be revisited because Kakuryu deserves to get his ass kicked after today's henka. It's unbelievable to me how anyone could be that stupid. I haven't gone on a henka rant for a long time because yaocho has been prominent enough to overshadow it, but I can't stress how costly the move was today.

I can't believe the Sumo Association still allows it to happen. There's a simple solution to fix it that I've been talking about for years and that is call the move a false start if a rikishi moves outside of the shikiri-sen (starting lines) before he makes contact with his opponent. Sometimes before the broadcasts they will show bouts from like 25 or 30 years ago, and many of you may have noticed that way back then, the rikishi didn't even come close to hitting the dirt with their fists at the tachi-ai. If they can reform that and make the rikishi start touching the dirt with both hands again, they can also make a simple change like declaring a tachi-ai henka a false start. As mad as I am about today's bout, the blame lies squarely with the Sumo Association because they have the means to stop it; yet, they feel it's more important to dress Ross Mihara up in a yellow bird suit and matching tights than to make changes atop the dohyo that well help improve the sport.

Wait a minute...Ross was in the booth today, so he can't be the sekitori-kun mascot. wonder I feel so betrayed.

Okay, enough of my little rant. Let's get to the bouts covering them in reverse order today starting at the top where Hakuho welcomed M3 Tochinoshin. Hakuho's curious decision-making this basho continued as he executed the text book tachi-ai getting the right arm to the inside and the quick left outer grip. The Yokozuna actually had his right hand on Tochinoshin's belt as well, but he chose to let it go and stay in the center of the ring. I really thought this bout shoulda lasted two seconds after the tachi-ai from the Yokozuna, but maybe the dude has a thing for Georgians and wanted to dance a little longer. So there the two stood in the middle of the ring with Hakuho easily fighting off Tochinoshin's attempts to grab a left outer grip of his own, and then after about 30 seconds, Hakuho said enough of the funny bidness and threw Shin down hard with a spectacular outer belt throw. Tochinoshin did not have the proper position to make the Yokozuna work for this one, so it was very curious to me that Hakuho let him hang around so long. Perhaps it's the same mentality of a cat who has caught his mouse only to let it live so he can continue to badger it and keep it at bay until he administers an ignominious death. Who knows? Hakuho is 7-0 and hasn't looked sharp (of his own volition). Tochinoshin falls to 1-6 with the loss.

Yokozuna Harumafuji led with a left outer grip against M3 Takekaze and pressed forward with his lower body driving Takekaze back to the straw in two seconds. Takekaze just isn't good enough to counter with anything, but he did attempt to stand his ground with his heels on the straw, and so Harumafuji knocked him off the clay mound for good with a legal dame-oshi to the face with the left arm. I say legal because Takekaze was still in the ring, but his was as fierce a jab as you'd care to see in sumo. The end result is a 6-1 Harumafuji while Takekaze falls to 2-5.

Ozeki Kotooshu always struggles against taller rikishi, and so the Bulgarian just couldn't get into any rhythm against M1 Okinoumi. I guess it didn't help his cause that Okinoumi took it too him from the start with an effective right kachi-age followed by the left inside position that set up a right kote-nage throw all in a matter of two seconds putting Okinoumi in control. With Kotooshu denied the outer grip that he wanted, Okinoumi kept the pressure on leading with the left inside and a right outer grip. The key here is that Okinoumi never stopped applying the pressure, and so instead of Kotooshu getting a solid grip on the M1's belt, he spent his energy fighting off his advances. In the end, Okinoumi used his tall frame to crush Kotooshu to the dohyo at the straw for the textbook yori-taoshi win. Okinoumi ekes forward to 2-5 with two solid wins while Kotooshu will still get his eight at 5-2.

Ozeki Kisenosato briefly got his left arm to the inside of Sekiwake Myogiryu's right side from the tachi-ai and immediately charged forward, but he was too high in his attack allowing Myogiryu to maki-kae as he retreated and gain moro-zashi. The Ozeki continued to press forward gripping the outside of the Sekiwake's arms, but he failed to create sufficient momentum from the tachi-ai. Still, that was better than Myogiryu who totally forgot his lower half, and so he let Kisenosato dictate the pace of this bout throughout. The Kid finally regained the left inside position that he used to set up the yori-kiri win, but this was a mistake-riddled bout from both rikishi. I guess the crowd got into it because it was back and forth and featured two high profile dudes, but this was not exemplary sumo as Kisenosato moves to 5-2. I don't know why this didn't occur to me earlier, but Myogiryu's body is probably telling him to hibernate already accounting for his 2-5 start.

Sekiwake Goeido stayed perfect in a gappuri migi-yotsu contest with Komusubi Homasho. There's really nothing to break down here. Goeido didn't exactly blast his way into Homasho at the tachi-ai, and so it took some wrangling to get Homie back across the straw, but as long as Goeido continues to fight straight forward and think inside position first, he'll be just fine. For now, he's 7-0 and Japan's biggest hope this basho to finally have a domestic rikishi's portrait hanging from the Kokugikan. Homasho falls to 1-6.

Komusubi Aminishiki's woes continued as he attacked too high at the tachi-ai against M1 Tochiohzan who used some nifty tsuppari to drive the Komusubi back before getting the left arm on the inside and using his momentum to force Aminishiki (1-6) clear off the dohyo. Tochiohzan moves to 4-3 with the win, and I think Aminishiki has been taking one for the team the entire basho. Is this Isegahama-oyakata's way of saying thanks (on-gaeshi) to he promotion of Harumafuji to Yokozuna?

M2 Kaisei was completely listless against counterpart M2 Shohozan, and I wonder if that was by design. If you haven't noticed, Shohozan is from Fukuoka, and so quite a bit of attention is being directed at Special Dark probably in an effort to sell more tickets at the gate. Shohozan used tsuppari from the tachi-ai to keep Kaisei away from the belt, but I still thought he had some openings to get to Shohozan's belt, especially with the right hand. He gave it little effort, and so Shohozan improved to 4-3 with an easy push out win. Kaisei falls to 0-7 after a brutal week one schedule.

M6 Toyonoshima moved to 6-1 with an easy win over M12 Kitataiki who only had defense on his mind. Toyonoshima secured the early left inside position from the tachi-ai, and Kitataiki spent all of his effort in trying to just neutralize that limb...not neutralize and set something up for himself on the other side. The end result was an easy yori-kiri for Tugboat as Kitataiki is sleep walking at 3-4.

M7 Aran moved to 5-2 after grabbing the eventual left outer on M13 Fujiazuma's belt and executing the methodical force out win, but I bring up this bout so I can go back to Kitanofuji's comment about Aran a few days ago where he stated that his sumo is all hands (tesaki is the word he used). It's so true. Yes, he did win today and was never in trouble, but the didn't use his legs at the tachi-ai, and once he got the outer grip, he couldn't go for a charge until he bodied in close and braced himself with his feet. Aran can survive down in these parts with arm sumo, but he gets his hairy ass handed too him among the jo'i because you have to have a lower body to survive up there.

You've got to hand it to M10 Ikioi who moved to 6-1 today in a wild affair against M14 Chiyonokuni (4-3). To Ikioi's credit, he tried to force the bout to migi-yotsu, but Chiyonokuni was as all over the place moving side to side and taking this to cat and mouse sumo. Ikioi managed to pull down Kuni in the end, and while Ikioi is 6-1, I don't exactly have an image of him just blowing guys off of the starting lines and winning with forward moving sumo. That he's winning nearly every bout this basho is a positive, but this kind of sumo will not suffice among the jo'i, so Ikioi needs to be careful about rising up too fast...if that makes sense.

M15 Chiyotairyu continued to make a statement today blasting M10 Yoshikaze back from the tachi-ai and shoving him back with such force, Yoshikaze didn't have any room to evade to the side. Took about a second and a half and the NSK must have read my day 5 report because they finally awarded Chiyotairyu with the tsuki-dashi win! He's 6-1 if ya need him, and if he can keep up this straight forward sumo, he will shoot up the ranks and start bullying the sanyaku and Ozeki. Yoshikaze falls to a respectable 5-2.

And finally, NHK prefaced today's broadcast with a spotlight of M11 Asahisho. This guy has as much personality as any rikishi I've seen since Kitakachidoki (if you remember him you're OLD SCHOOL). For those who don't have access to the NHK broadcasts, Asahisho grabs a huge handful of salt the final time he enters the dohyo before his bout and slings it as high as he can into the yagura above. The crowd of course loves shenanigans like this (just think Takamisakari), and it helps the youngster to create a signature for himself. This guy is very bubbly and articulate, and he'd be a great ambassador for sumo if he could rise to the sanyaku or above. After a slow start this basho, the M11 finally broke above .500 by bulldozing a listless M12 Wakanosato back and out in about two seconds. If there was a suspicious bout today, it was this one. Wakanosato entered the day at 5-1; yet, he exhibited the worst tachi-ai possible raising both arms to the outside and then putting them towards the back of Asahisho's head. That kind of nonsense is going to get your ass kicked, and Asahisho (4-3) complied straightway as Wakanosato played the role of punching bag today. It would not surprise me if this was intentional on Wakanosato's part. You have NHK spend about 10 minutes profiling this guy, and so how would it have looked if he had gone out and promptly lost just a few minutes after his documentary aired? I'm not saying that was unequivocally the case today, but Wakanosato (5-2) set himself up to lose from the get-go.

If you don't believe me, the guy reporting tomorrow will tell you so.  Nja.

Day 6 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Its Day 6 in Kyushu
And welcome to yall
Clancy I am
80kilos, 6 feet tall

Im here to discuss
The fighting so vapid
That Im certain my typing
Will be very rapid

But now as I sit
Perched at my PC
I suspect that this task
Will not be quite easy

It seems my computer
Is off, on the fritz
So forgive as I write
Of the slaps and the hits
By the men with large bellies and voluminous tits

Ill begin with a veteran
Wa ka na sa to
And his opponent
Called Tairyu (but first say Chiyo)

The W15
Was a perfect five and oh
But not from Hawaii
(I miss Akebono)

He rushed in at tachi-ai
Twas victory he smelt
But something went wrong
As he held to Crocs belt

The former Sekiwake
Simply planted his feet
And swung the Kokonoe man
Down hard, nice and sweet
And for the first time in Kyushu Chiyo tasted defeat

The next bout Id like
To cover, dear friends
Involves a furrener
Whose girth never ends

To see how The Butterball
Continues living
Is difficult to fathom
This close to Thanksgiving!

Hes round in the tummy
(Kinda like Lady Gaga)
And his foe was Sticky Icky
Hailing from great Osaka

Coming off a loss to Aran
That lovable Rus
He was hoping Lord Gaga
Would not make a fuss

But Gagamarus plan
Was to go for the choke
And Ikioi just let em
For SIX seconds, no joke!

But in the meantime Tricky Icky
The mawashi he snags
Right below his foes gut
(Very close to his nads)
And disposed of the E7 like a pile of rags

Next Yoshikaze
(Speaking of thanks)
Took Toyonoshima
From the unbeaten ranks

He pushed and he slapped
At Tugboats still form
But the W6
Why, he weathered the storm!

For a full 13 seconds
The battering went on
And it seemed that all Toyo
Could do was just yawn

But as he advanced
Looking for yori-kiri
Starbuck slipped in
And then things, well, got scary

The Caffeinated One
Laid his head on Toyos rack
And grabbed his mawashi
Just above the ass crack

He then started waltzing
And, oh what a sight
As Tugboat he put up
A terrible fight

But with no leg to stand on
(Nor pot in which to piss)
The former Sekiwake
To three boos and one hiss
Out on a six and oh start he did miss

Now some may be grumbling
"This report, shes a quickie
Wheres Shotenro? Wheres Daido?
Wheres Toyohibiki?"

Trust me when I say
I love every guy
But this report must be short
And Ill now tell you why

See the truth is quite painful
And Im here to tell
That mimicking the style
Of the late Ted Geisel
Makes me wonder if Im not booking my ticket straight to hell!

Now on to the big guys
We will start with the Bulgar
Whose sumo has been for four years
Naught but vulgar

But it seems that this basho
Hes turned a new leaf
And not standing dumbfounded
Like a seven foot quiff

Today vs. Kak
He used his long arm
To keep dude at bay
And himself from sure harm

But the Mongol got in
As he is wont to do
And our valiant Eurapean
Well he got in too!

Now commences a battle
Kotooshu must lose
As his fellow Ozeki
Unbalances him like booze

But wait? What it this?
Elbows in tight?
Is it true? Am I dreaming?
Hes doing it right?

And sure as the sun
Rises on the new day
The larger man put
The smaller away
Using textbook de-ashi, Im quite happy to say

On Day 5 he did sing
"Oh, joy, what sweet gifts
Will my Day 6 bout bring?"

In the form of Aminishiki
The NSKs patsy
Geeku did prosper
(While sumos wallet gets fat, see?)

Driving quickly back
To the edge with no prob
Shneaky once again
Could not finish the job

An inside right was there
But outside he chose (WTF?)
And the thankful Ozeki
From the ashes he rose (What good luck!)

He stiffened at the ropes
And forced it back to the middle
Where it was all the Komusubi
Could do not to piddle

And the good MIB
Around the ring they did nod
And said silent prayers
To their fat sumo god
As this lame assed basho along it does plod

(And Aminishiki? The loser
Just what did he gain?
A place for his bedroll
Somewhere out of the rain)

With Biomass Baruto
Set to retire
How fortunate that Goeido
Has suddenly caught fire

Versus Kisenosato
He was in for a battle
But on pre-bout excitement
No more will I prattle

With a sidestep not noble
The Kid got the edge
But the West Sekiwake
His bet did not hedge

He escaped at the ringside
With a whirl and a wail
And it surely didnt hurt
That Kids slow as a snail

Once back to the center
Fierce slapping ensued
The Ozeki denying entry
Which the Father found rude

But in charged Goeido
And snatched the front right
And we all saw Kid true
A slowly dimming light

As did Yoshi before him
Now too did the Father
Drive the Ozeki backward
With nary a bother

As both men crashed out
The gyoji was certain
The Kids knee down first
The Ozeki pride hurtin
And Goeido undefeated, the crowd was heard blurtin

As Thing One does days odd
And I do days even
Ive yet to see Hakuho
Fightin then leavin

But today I would bet
He felt like gettin out quickly
For the great Yokozunas
Sumo was sickly

He began with a HENKA!
Of lil Special Dark
A man whose bite is proving
Worse than his bark

"But he grabbed at dudes arm"
Protestors they clamored
Pathetic to see supporters
Of such tactics enamored

To his credit and cause
Shohozan did rally
Thinking, "Wise guy eh?
Well here ya go, Sally!"

He came with some frantic
Slapping and shoving
That Kublai, in his pleasure dome
Was clearly not loving

But being a damned sight taller
Bestows such an edge
That Hak chopped him down
Like he was trimming the hedge
(Tho it looks like this basho hes walking the ledge)

The days final tussle
Had the shin-Yokozuna
Against Private Tochinoshin
Not exactly a kahuna

HowDos tachi-ai
Was a thing of pure beauty
And looked like it might put
His foe on his booty

But the much larger No Shine
Forced his way back to even
Was there a chance that this upstart
Might get the crowd heavin?

No, for the Yoko
Had the double inside
And it was all the big Georgian
Could do just to slide
As he was taken back, and out, for a ride

Well that about does er
Im off for a run
Its raining in Kansai
We cant see the sun

I know that I told ya
Id be here for Day 8
But somethings come up
And I cant make that date

So it looks like Day 9
Is when we next meet
Day 7 brings Mike
The man on the beat
Reporting the sumos from his up on high seat

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As I read Clancy's report yesterday, I got through the first few paragraphs and thought he's trying to read too much into the bouts. I must admit, through, on days when I don't report, I get up in the morning and sorta speed read the bouts working my fingers faster on the remote control than Takanoyama can execute a tachi-ai henka. But today as I analyzed the bouts, I couldn't help but to feel Clancy's pain because there were yet again some dubious yaocho on day 5. I can understand kadoban Ozeki paying guys off in order to secure their eight wins. I mean, we watched the last three years of Kaio's career, so we're all used to it, but when Sekiwake and Yokozuna are also involved in questionable bouts, it's hard to take the final results of a basho seriously.

I know a lot of the readers dislike this style of reporting and the constant declarations of yaocho, but tell the rikishi to stop doing it and then we'll stop talking about it. Of course it could be that Clancy and I in our heart of hearts wanted to join the others at the Brokeback convention, but somebody's gotta stay home and hold the fort, so it may as well be us two yayhoos.

Leading off the day, the genki M14 Chiyonokuni led with a left kachi-age against M13 Fujiazuma, but it was nigh unto running into a brick wall. The reason? Fujiazuma's got some girth to him and his legs were driving forward from the tachi-ai. I'm amazed at how often dudes forget to do sumo from the ground up, but Fujiazuma had no problem today and kicked Chiyonokuni's ass as a result. Both fellas are 3-2.

M15 Yoshiazuma is one of the larger guys in the division, but his sumo is just plain bad. M12 Wakanosato went Kisenosato at the tachi-ai with both arms to the outside leaving him nothing, and so he was forced to retreat with a half-assed pull attempt. Yes, in spite of these two critical mistakes, Yoshiazuma was as clueless as ever allowing Wakanosato (4-1) to get to the inside and eventually execute a scoop throw sending the hapless Yoshiazuma to a 1-4 record.

Okay, maybe there is one guy in the division whose sumo is worse than Yoshiazuma's in M11 Miyabiyama, but M13 Wakakoyu still couldn't take advantage. The reason? Zero de-ashi. Had the Wookie just barreled into the Sheriff from the tachi-ai, it would have been over in two seconds, but his tsuppari attack with no legs was utterly useless. Normally, in a bout that lasted about 20 seconds, Miyabiyama would be totally gassed, but he hung in there because he wasn't forced to play any defense. In the end, he got a right choke hold on Wakakoyu, and as the Wookie leaned forward in an attempt to stave it off, Miyabiyama side-stepped at the edge causing Wakakoyu (2-3) and his girth to belly flop to the dirt. Pressed for time, I have no idea why I'm even covering this bout. Oh yeah...the de-ashi. Miyabiyama picks up his first win.

M15 Chiyotairyu continues to be a man among boys this basho today playing the part of a brick wall as M11 Asahisho attempted to budge his opponent with a decent tsuppari attack. Wouldn't happen as Chiyotairyu kept his eyes square on his opponent and stood his ground proving Asahisho's shoves futile. I think Asahisho was driven backwards today more on accord of his bouncing off of Chiyotairyu rather than Chiyotairyu actually pressing forward hard. In the end, Chiyotairyu's mere presence muscled Asahisho to the edge and then he sent him outta the ring with one fell swoop. Award this guy a tsuki-dashi win already as he improves to a perfect 5-0. The key for Chiyotairyu is to constantly move forward. The instant this basho he has pull on his mind, his momentum is done and he's just another average rank and filer. Asahisho gave it his everything but still falls to 2-3.

Okay, let's stick to the subject of de-ashi because M14 Jokoryu had zero de-ashi today against M9 Shotenro. Jokoryu came out of his stance and tentatively put a hand towards Shotenro, but his legs weren't moving, and so the dude was a sitting duck leaning forward with no balance. A guy that's been around the dohyo a few times in Shotenro is going to easily parlay that into the simple hataki-komi win. Jokoryu was so unprepared for the move his feet flew up in the air a meter at least as he crumbled to the clay. Ever since Jokoryu (1-4) had his ass handed to him by Chiyotairyu on day 3, he's been as tentative as a mouse. If he can't pile up wins against this competition, he doesn't belong in the division. Shotenro limps to 2-3 with the win.

M8 Tokitenku tried that magical tachi-ai of hitting high and putting your right arm at the back of your opponent. And the bad thing is he wasn't even trying to throw the bout! M12 Kitataiki easily got an arm on the inside and then forced his gal back and across without argument. Kitataiki's looked awful himself this basho at 2-3, but Tokitenku (0-5) made him look so good I hear the Kitanoumi-beya has already put in an order for rope, rice chaff, and a bunch'a blue tarps.

There is no reason for M7 Aran to ever lose to M10 Ikioi, but lose he did despite a decent tachi-ai where he completely halted Ikioi's momentum. The problem was the Russian abandoned his footwork after the initial charge opting to keep his opponent at bay with his long arms. Ikioi hunkered down and complied in what was shaping up to be sorry sumo from both parties, but then Aran got crafty and sprung his trap. Well, sort of. He jumped to his left and attempted to grab the back of Ikioi's belt, but he was all arms and never could get into a set position to set up a throw or a force-out. And so Ikioi got his right arm to the inside of Aran's left armpit and threw him down to the dohyo with a shweet scoop throw. Kitanofuji said it best afterwards saying, "Aran's sumo is all arms." Ikioi is 4-1 if ya need him while Aran is 3-2.

M5 Toyohibiki showed some surprising speed against M7 Gagamaru in a bout that was shaping up to be a hidari-yotsu Hutt-fest, but just as Gagamaru began to press forward, Toyohibiki suddenly moved to his right and felled the giant with a beautiful right tsuki-otoshi to the back of Gagamaru's left shoulder. Aran should take note. You go for a move like that after you're firmly grounded to the dohyo. Both lads are 2-3.

M5 Aoiyama is a superior rikishi these days compared to M6 Toyonoshima, but once Toyonoshima secured moro-zashi a few seconds after the tachi-ai, there was simply nothing Aoiyama could do as Tugboat kept him upright and drove him back and across the straw dumping Aoiyama clear off the dohyo. This bout was a good example of why Clancy was getting so worked up yesterday talking about guys blowing the moro-zashi position. You watch this bout and then come away scratching your head when someone doesn't win or at least bull their way forward after getting moro-zashi if their intention is to win. Great stuff today as Toyonoshima walks away undefeated at 5-0 leaving Aoiyama in the dust at 4-1.

The two M4's did battle today in Takayasu and Masunoyama in a bout that saw both rikishi quickly agree to a hidari-yotsu dance from the tachi-ai. Masunoyama knows he has to take care of bidness in short order, and so he mounted a force-out charge leading with the left arm inside, but if you watch his feet, he was more like stepping his way forward instead of dragging his feet across the dirt as one would do when executing the suri-ashi exercise. As a result, Takayasu was able to pull Masunoyama down by the neck a split second before Takayasu's body crashed down to the dirt. This was so close that a mono-ii was called, and I thought a redo should have been declared, but they gave it to Takayasu (1-4). Tough luck for Masunoyama (2-3), but that attack was too hurried and ignored sound sumo fundamentals regarding the lower body.

Let's move to our first obviously thrown bout of the day involving Sekiwake Goeido and M3 Takekaze. Takekaze decided to duck his head at the tachi-ai and keep both arms outward as Goeido simply moved left and dragged his ass down to the dirt. Takekaze knew in what manner he would fall and hit the dohyo doing a harmless flip exactly the way they practice it at the end of butsukari-geiko with the hands or arms hitting first and the feet cart wheeling over the top.  I didn't find any pictures of Takekaze's fall on the wires, and so I snapped a still shot of the TV with my cell phone.  Somebody YouTube Goeido's pull effort and tell my how there was enough momentum there to cause Takekaze to do a cart wheel. And as long as you're watching the bout again, notice the applause afterwards for Goeido's win is akin to something you'd hear during keiko...which is exactly what this was. Even the crowd knew that Takekaze wasn't trying in this one. Now, I don't profess to know why Takekaze would give this bout to Goeido, but he unmistakably did. It's funny, a few hours before the bouts began Clancy and I were talking about the sumos, and we both felt that Goeido could be set up as a dark horse this basho (no offense to Shohozan), and just like that on day 5...wham, bam, thank you ma'am. I'm not saying that Goeido's gonna yusho; I'm just saying that Takekaze (2-3) lost on purpose today and the acting and effort were as bad as his sumo in general. Goeido's 5-0.

Speaking of bad sumo, I've thought on more than one occasion this basho that Sekiwake Myogiryu could be paying back his opponents for previous favors. His sumo is just so...unorthodox. Today, he just wasn't committed at the tachi-ai, he wasn't committed in his tsuppari attack, he didn't want to get inside, and when he had M1 Tochiohzan turned 90 degrees and dead to rights, he totally whiffed on his forward charge allowing Tochiohzan to recover and throw the Sekiwake to the dirt with a sloppy hataki-komi. Like the previous bout, Myogiryu's feet flew up in the air in an unnatural fashion. I won't call this one a definitive yaocho, but it was a strange bout all the way around as Myogiryu falls to 1-4 with Tochiohzan treading water at 2-3.

I don't know how Komusubi Aminishiki didn't win today after driving Ozeki Kotooshu back a step and upright with a perfect moro-te tachi-ai and then getting a right arm inside so deep, he drove the Ozeki back to the edge. And then just like that...he stopped the charge with his legs, made no effort to counter with the right inside as Kotooshu grabbed the left outer belt, and then Aminishiki actually turned himself so his back was facing the edge of the ring allowing Kotooshu to body him back and down at the end. I mean, I'm watching this bout and the replays looking for an explanation as to how the Ozeki won this with his sumo, but I can't see any evidence. If you put a gun to my head, I'd tell you that this matchup was bought and paid for prior to the basho...but I've been wrong before. Kotooshu is 4-1 while Aminishiki falls to 1-4. At least he'll eat well this basho and have a warm room where he can spread out his bedroll at night.

Moving right along, even the most novice sumo fan could see that M3 Tochinoshin handed Ozeki Kotoshogiku today's bout. In a scene that I can only describe as embarrassing, Tochinoshin held his ground at the tachi-ai as both rikishi got right inners, and then the Georgian just stood there with his left arm in no man's land when the left uwate was W-I-D-E open. And he stood like that for a few seconds just waiting for Kotoshogiku to make a move. The Ozeki eventually did grab the left outer grip and force Tochinoshin back across the straw with Tochinoshin showing zero resistance. As NHK showed the slow motion replay, this scene I snapped with my cell phone was on the screen for like 10 seconds just amplifying how obvious today's yaocho was and how wide open the Geeku's belt was. I felt bad for the guys in the booth, but what could they say? They didn't say anything about Tochinoshin; only about what Kotoshogiku was attempting to do. This is embarrassing for sumo in my opinion, but at least we know that the two Sadogatake boys are going to get their eight.

In a wild and crazy affair, M2 Shohozan easily won the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kisenosato gaining moro-zashi and crushing the Ozeki upright. Kisenosato actually forced his way to the inside with the left using a maki-kae upon which he immediately lifted Special Dark's right arm skyward in what looked to be the decisive move of the bout, but Shohozan dug in and countered with a beautiful kote-nage throw. As the dust settled, Shohozan resumed his lower position with the left arm inside so deep that Kisenosato never could gain the right outer...and that was the key to the bout...denying Kisenosato the outside grip. Without it the Kid never looked comfortable as Shohozan bullied his way into moro-zashi again, and while Kisenosato did shake out of it and go for a desperate pull, he lost his balance and fell to the dirt while Shohozan stayed upright. A couple of things here...Shohozan showed just how vital the tachi-ai is. He also showed why a rikishi must fight inside out and not fret over an outside grip from the initial charge. You'll notice that Hakuho always gets an arm to the inside before going for an outer, and Kisenosato needs to learn this method. He never wasn't comfortable or settled in this bout without that right outer grip, and it burned him in the end as he falls to 4-1. Shohozan is gunning for a Kantosho for sure at 3-2.

Ozeki Kakuryu schooled M1 Okinoumi today in every facet staying low and driving hard at the tachi-ai getting the left arm in deep and then flirting with moro-zashi with the right. Okinoumi eventually fought the right inner off, but with Okinoumi close to the edge, Kakuryu had more than enough room to go for a maki-kae. As he did, Okinoumi drove him back because you always give up momentum when going for the move, but the Ozeki knew he had the entire length of the dohyo to work with, and so he steadied himself near the edge with moro-zashi now secure. Okinoumi actually maki-kae'd back with the left but Kakuryu was already mounting up the force out charge, and his now right outer grip was still on the same position of the belt, and so Okinoumi could do nothing with the left on the inside to counter as Kakuryu scored a beautiful force-out win in my opinion moving to 4-1 while Okinoumi falls to 1-4.

Yokozuna Harumafuji is just too quick for M2 Kaisei, and it showed as he grabbed the left frontal belt and just twisted Kaisei (0-5) to the dirt a few seconds in. Speed wins as Harumafuji moves to 4-1.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho got the right arm to the inside, and as Komusubi Homasho tried to weasel out of it, the Yokozuna used his left arm to grab Homasho in the kote-nage position and flail him around once before sending him to the dirt.

Pretty straightforward bouts from both Yokozuna today, but as Clancy alluded to yesterday, there are just too many spicious bouts going on among the upper echelons to really take the sumo this basho seriously.

Thing 2 is due
to report to you
about sniggles and frazzles
and dollyplop gaggles.

Day 4 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Those of you who read Mikes Day 3 were probably as disappointed as we to hear that there would be no reports from Andreas, Martin, Oscar, or Kenji this time out, but thats what happens when theres a Brokeback Mountain Appreciation Convention going on and theyre offering discounted tour packages exclusively for citizens of Spain, Switzerland, Romania, and the USA. Mike gave them the time off with his blessing, and even used some Sumotalk funds to chip in a 24-pack of condoms, extra small.

So while we ought to be back to full strength in January, for the nonce we have but the three of us, and Matt is up for one day only. Now I feel that as second-in-command here on the USS ST, it is my duty to get my Capns back (broke or not) and write more reports than I normally care to. Ill be treating it like a bowl of nuts, however, so be warned. Make it so!

The kimari-te or winning move in the final match of the day was given as "shitenage" by Harumafuji, but the first four letters tell us what it REALLY was. After an even tachi-ai and some slapdashery, Shohozan lifted up his left arm and snuggled up to the Yokozuna. As soon as Ogodei placed his left hand lightly on the E2s belt, he simply fell down. Harumafuji rushed to then try and place both hands on the belt as his foe was going down, but didnt have the time to make it look like he had anything to do with Special Darks flop. Decide for yourself how straight up it was, but for me, this was utter crap. Guy kills two big, tough Ozeki on Days 1 and 2, then just falls down under no pressure? Sad.

Hakuho was also a beneficiary, whether of intentionally shitty sumo or just poor decision making skills I cant say. Okay, I can say. When one a guy has this much time to screw up, its more often than not intentional. Please keep in mind that Kaisei is younger, taller and much heavier than Hakuho, and certainly looks to have the strength to follow up quickly on a great belt grip snagged at tachi-ai.

At the start he and Kaisei collided with a satisfyingly loud crash, with the Brasilian immediately snagging the left front mawashi, leaving Hakuho with squat. As he passed on working that belt to move Hakuho back, Kaisei also turned down a right outside belt that looked to be there for the taking, instead drawing that right arm back and waiting a second or two for Hakuho to grab a deep (at the knot) inside left belt.

Now when your foe has your belt like this with his left, the last thing youd want to try is a maki-kae with your right, cause its going to lift your center of gravity toward your left leg and in the direction that your opponent can throw you.

So what did Kaisei do? A bag of caramel corn and tickets to the circus for the man in the brown bowler! At least this uwate-nage kimari-te was undeniable, because Kublai laid that beaner (coffee beaner) out like a two-dollar whore. Course, Im sure he was paid more than THAT to throw this bout, but you get my point.

Now Takekaze is a lot of things in sumo, and most of them unpleasant, but one thing he ISNT is weak and stupid. After a short shoving battle at tachi-ai, the W3 got a perfect moro-zashi two arms inside position and easily drove Ozeki Kotooshu back. And then instead of doing what 999 out of a 1000 sumo wrestlers would do, namely press on their foe with all their might to win by yori-kiri, he relented and allowed Kotooshu back to the center where he was able to grab an over-the-shoulder back belt that he had been unable to grab as he was being driven back and out.

After that, do you even care? Kotooshu used that grip to hold on, and when Takekaze tried to throw Kotooshu with one hand and no position, he got flung off the dohyo. Weak and stupid sumo from the Maegashira man.

I told Mike that I didnt mention that Homashos dive on Day 2 was obvious because I didn’t want to get yall bummed out so early in the basho, but Ill be damned if he once again did not wrestle like he normally can and does. Foreswearing his typical sumo of staying back and using his powerful arms to keep his foe at bay until he spots an opening, he rushed into Kakuryus arms and chested up, which is totally NOT his game. Kakuryu easily pushed him back a bit, setting him up for the slap down. Its possible that his injured and taped shoulder had something to do with his change of strategy, but the strategy he switched to was not even close to a good one. Get in tight with an expert thrower like a Mongolian Ozeki? Right.

But at least all the favorites were winning, the names sumo likes to keep in the lights.

There was more insanely lame sumo in the bout before as Tochiohzan turned certain victory into embarrassing defeat against Kisenosato. With a moro-zashi that had the Ozeki retreating to the edge and with nowhere whatsoever to go, Tochiohzan forgot that hes supposed to bring his legs up under him as he charges forward. You know, the MOST BASIC sumo point taught to all wrestlers from the day they strap on their first mawashi? I mean, its one thing if he brings his legs up, starts trying to crush his foe out, but meets resistance and The Kid pulls of a sweet last ditch throw. But this wasnt the case. Oh Snap simply dove.

You want to say that there was nothing untoward about the Kotoshogiku-Okinoumi match because both men struggled mightily and with great pizzazz. Perhaps Okinoumi prefers to wrestle with no belt grip, which he looked able to at least to attempt to grab on either side during this tussle. Maybe hes afraid of what the Ozeki would do if he got closer in, which is what a belt grip by Okinoumi would do. Either way, with no belt to grab and wobble the Ozeki weeble right and left to unbalance him, it was tackle dummy time as Geeku waited until Okinoumi finally did try to half-heartedly snag a belt to drive the E1 back and out via yori-kiri.

At this point I of course had not seen the final five bouts, so my radar was not humming, and there was nothing as egregious as there was in the last five to say for sure, but it was not strong sumo by Yokozuna slayer Okinoumi.

Goeido simply won the tachi-ai from Aminishiki, whose leg might be truly hurting this time out and not just there to give the guy an instant place to crash if hes out drinking at night and cant find a taxi to get home. After that it was move forward like they show you how in practice for the easy pushout win.

Takayasus arms came off the shikirisen line and spread wide at tachi-ai, allowing Myogiryu to get an instant moro-zashi and easy first win of the tourney. Very odd strategy for the E4. Normally a rikishi will keep one or both arms in tightly to the body to have a chance of getting the more advantageous inside grip.

Masunoyama did to Tochinoshin exactly what Tochiohzan did not do to Kisenosato, namely finish on a drive to the edge that had his foe in desperate straights. This was the last well and earnestly fought bout of the day. What a comment, I know, but things are piss poor in sumo right now. I mean, just look at the attendance. Even if every one of Arbos ex-gfs showed up to the venue, itd STILL not be a full house. Thats saying something. The Japanese feel, and rightly so, that sumo is no longer their sport. While it is partly due to the larger phenomenon of the Japanese forgetting and disowning much of their traditional culture, its also due to the fact that gaijin have ruled the sport for too long now.

After holding Toyohibkis face for so long that I thought he was going to give him the kiss of death like some godfather, Aran got a two handed front belt grip that surely made The Nikibi wary. Rightly so as Aran used it to unleash a lightning swift shitate-hineri, underhand twisting yank down. Excellent move well executed.

After trading false starts, Daido henkad and tried to grab the oft lamented "cheap outer belt," but the big Bulgarian was having none of it and a slapfest ensued for a few seconds. Then they went close and there was some good pulling and attempted swing downs by both men, but in the end Aoiyama kept his balance and forced Daido back and out to remain undefeated.

Toyonoshima as well stayed a perfect 4-0 by employing a little bit of everything in defeating Ikioi. Tugboat won the tachi-ai bigtime, sending Icky back to what looked to be a quick first loss. But he resisted enough to stop Toyonoshimas advances (Fresh!) The W6 (really??) then tried to slap the E10 down, but it didnt work. Finally he engaged Ikiois arms while backing up, dragging him along and down to a loss by hiki-otoshi.

So, it seems that there is plenty of maneuvering at the top this tourney, most of which is taking place behind closed doors. Its a shame, but as Mike and I have said repeatedly, there are going to be some bumps along the road as sumo tries to save itself from the death spiral it is in (and trust me, living here in economically-depressed-for-a-lo-o-o-ong-time-Nippon, sumo is in serious trouble). We are hopeful that one day in the not too distant future, it will be a healthy, going concern once again, one that need not resort to the kind of monkeyshines so obviously being employed nowadays.

Ill be back on Day 6 perhaps. Mike takes his lumps tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
In Clancy's report yesterday he correctly stated that it's never been this website's intention to simply report on the bouts similar to the way a beat reporter would cover the bouts citing statistics, describing who did what when, and then reporting the end result. This website was established to give English speakers insight into what's happening in the world of sumo that isn't getting reported anywhere else. A good example would be the day 2 bout between Kotoshogiku and Homasho. The mainstream media would report the simple outcome: Kotoshogiku knocked Homasho to the side in about one second. Sumotalk would go beyond that and spell it out definitively that Homasho absolutely stood there on purpose and waited for Kotoshogiku to knock him over. It's obvious that the kadoban Ozeki cannot afford to lose eight more this basho, and after that god-awful start on day 1, it's clear that he needs all the help he can get.

Another purpose of Sumotalk is to walk the beginner through the sport and point out the little subtleties that make all of the difference. For example, after a great start on day 1, rookie Jokoryu lost to the weakest guy in the division by totally screwing up the tachi-ai on day 2. There's a well known tachi-ai called hari-zashi, which is derived from slapping at your opponent's face (hari) and then getting the other arm to the inside of your opponent (sashi). In Jokoryu's case, he went for the face slap, but he mistakenly went for an outside belt grip instead of the inside position allowing Yoshiazuma to gain the easy moro-zashi and eventually win the bout. A normal gaijin fan in Japan--named Jason for example--would watch that bout and marvel at Yoshikaze's brilliant sumo when in reality, Jokoryu lost the bout a half-second in with a critical mistake at the tachi-ai.

The whole reason I'm even bringing this up is to forewarn the readers that a total of three contributors are going to comment on the bouts this tournament: me for 12 days, Clancy for two days, and Matt for one day. Since I won't have time or patience to break down each bout in beat reporter fashion, I'm only going to comment on the key points I spot during the broadcast and keep things brief.

With that in mind, let's get to the action starting with my most anticipated bout of the first half, the M14 Jokoryu - M15 Chiyotairyu contest. These two rikishi actually know each other well having competed against each other in their college days. Chiyotairyu proved to be the better rikishi as an amateur arning Makushita tsuke-dashi debut status when he entered professional sumo; whereas Jokoryu didn't have the hardware and so he was forced to rise up the ranks from the bottom. That should put a bit more perspective into his record rise up the charts, and it certainly provided an exciting backdrop for today's bout. Chiyotairyu looked awesome for like his first five days in the division, but he has sucked eggs ever since. Until today that is because you could see the pride brimming from within as he opened up a can of whoopass on Jokoryu using both hands at the tachi-ai and perfect de-ashi to knock the rookie back and out in two seconds...if that. Jokoryu had no chance in this one, and Chiyotairyu displayed his best sumo of his career. Now the big question is does Chiyotairyu have the mental fortitude to fight like this everyday? He's clearly shown up to the this point that he doesn't, and so if I was forming a new stable and had to take my pick between the two, I'd take Jokoryu (1-2). I desperately hope Chiyotairyu (3-0) proves that prophecy wrong, but all it's going to take is one pull attempt for him to fall back into his evil, ineffective ways.

M14 Chiyonokuni gave M11 Asahisho the business today striking hard at the tachi-ai and pushing his foe back a few steps. As Asahisho tried to dig in, his foot slipped on the sand (called ashi ga nagareru) enabling Chiyonokuni to pounce and help Asahisho fall to his demise with the hataki-komi win. I bring up this bout because Asahisho (1-2) normally gets the best of his opponents at the tachi-ai, but credit Chiyonokuni (2-1) for his perfect timing and perfect de-ashi.  We've also seen a lot of rikishi slipping and sliding around, which is likely due to the yellow sand in Fukuoka.

Look at M10 Ikioi off to a 3-0 start! Today he simply outquicked M12 Kitataiki at the tachi-ai getting his left arm to the inside and using strong footwork to force Kitataiki back. On the other side, Ikioi flirted with an inside with the right arm as well, and while Kitataiki tried to fight that off, Ikioi had the...ikioi from the start, and so as he pressed forward with the superior position, Kitataiki's only response was a limp kote-nage attempt with the right arm. The move failed, however, because he was too upright to dig his feet into the dohyo. Credit Ikioi for maintaining sound sumo basics and jumping out to this surprising 3-0 start. Kitataiki falls to a lazy 1-2.

M8 Daido's retreating ashi proved to be a bit quicker than M5 Toyohibiki's de-ashi, so while Toyohibiki was the one moving forward with arm's extended the entire bout, Daido was just a touch quicker able to evade around the perimeter of the ring never letting Toyo the Hutt connect with a thrust before Daidough (2-1) pulled him down at the ring's edge while still on the run. Ugly bout, but I just wanted to see what it felt like to actually say Daido outhustled his opponent. Toyohibiki falls to 1-2.

The second most compelling bout of the first half featured M5 Aoiyama vs. M7 Aran, two Eastern Euros heading in different directions. And just like the most compelling bout that led off the day, Aoiyama blasted Aran back and out of the dohyo before Aran could even mutter что за херня. Unlike the first bout of the day, the better rikishi did win here as Aoiyama breezes to 3-0. Aran's surely content with his 2-1 start.

All I can say is that M8 Tokitenku is a dumbass. He's fighting M4 Masunoyama who not only has an injured shoulder but has about two seconds worth of stamina before he starts to break down. So what does Tokitenku do? Goes for that stupid keta-guri, a move that carries with it a helluva lot of risk. TokiDoki failed to execute it properly allowing Masunoyama to drive him out of the ring in about one second. No wonder Tokitenku is 0-3 while Masunoyama picks up his first win. As much as I love the big lug, the way to beat Masunoyama is to prolong the bout and make him work.

The second half of the division started off with M4 Takayasu attacking too high and flirting with an immediate pulldown of M7 Gagamaru, but Lord Gaga just wasn't buying it coming out of his stance well and using a deft tsuppari attack that when paired with his surprisingly good de-ashi was way too much for Takayasu to overcome. Taka knew he was in trouble and tried to get away, but Gagamaru (1-2) stayed square with his gal the whole way and scored the oshi-dashi win in about five seconds. Takayasu falls to 0-3 and has got to hunker down in his attack...literally.

M3 Takekaze suffered his first loss of the tournament despite getting a deep moro-zashi against M6 Kyokutenho. When you can't beat a 38 year-old dude from this position, you've got serious issues, but we've known that about Takekaze for years now. All Tenho did was wait for Takekaze to make a move, and then he planted his leg, pivoted to the side a half step, and threw Takekaze down near the edge with a brilliant outer belt throw. Both dudes are still merry though at 2-1.

Sekiwake Myogiryu was crushed by Komusubi Aminishiki who won the tachi-ai with a stiff, forward charge and hands to the Sekiwake's throat that were only answered by an attempted retreat. Did no good, though, as Aminishiki was driving with the lower body enabling him to stand square in front of his feisty opponent and thrust him down into a heap at the corner of the dohyo. Myogiryu (0-3) didn't look injured today, and he lost this bout due to Aminishiki's superior length and is own dismal footwork. At several points in the bout today, Myogiryu's feet were aligned, and that's an indication of a lack of confidence. Myogiryu's gotta realize that the competition surrounding him is still very beatable with a weak banzuke and dinged up Ozeki. Hell, all he has to do is look across the practice ring and note that Goeido is 3-0, and that alone should give him some encouragement.

Speaking of Goeido, he marched to 3-0 after picking up a win by default over Ozeki Baruto who withdrew with a muscle tear in his left leg. I'm going to assume that the Estonian doesn't retire even though he'll be a Sekiwake in January, but I need Dr. Kadastik to pull up the Ozeki on speed dial and then let me know what's running through his mind.

It was obvious that Komusubi Homasho rolled over for Kotoshogiku yesterday, but he gave Ozeki Kisenosato a fair fight today. The problem is, though, that Homasho is a stick and move guy, tactics that don't work well against a guy like Kisenosato who doesn't come out with guns blazing from the tachi-ai. The key to beating Kisenosato is to win the tachi-ai and get him on his heels early, but all Homasho did was strike quickly and then evade. Kisenosato, whose not a fast starter, kept his wits about him well and easily forced the bout to hidari-yotsu, and with Homasho already taking himself back towards the edge, there was no where to go but back and across aided by a righter outer grip from the Ozeki. Kisenosato has yet to be tested at the tachi-ai, and so he's a cool 3-0 while Homasho gave an effort today but still fell short to 0-3.

Ozeki Kakuryu finally exhibited a forward-moving tachi-ai against upstart M2 Shohozan using a right kachi-age to knock the M2 upright, and then as Shohozan attempted to reload with another dash forward, Kakuryu deftly moved to his right and gave Special Dark a slap on his butt cheek bowling him out of the dohyo and into the first row. I would have liked to have seen Kakuryu continue his forward momentum after the tachi-ai, but I think he and Chiyotairyu have been sharing some pillow talk of late meaning there's probably more frustrating sumo to come. Both gentlemen finish the day at 2-1.

Ozeki Kotooshu dominated M3 TochiSlowShin by easily gaining the right inside position from the tachi-ai and bodying Shin back with perfect footwork. As Tochinoshin looked to dig in, Kotooshu kept driving gaining the left outer grip on the other side, but it was inconsequential as Tochinoshin put up little fight as it was. Kotooshu needed a good win like this as he eases to a 2-1 record while Tochinoshin falls to 1-2.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotoshogiku forced his bout against M3 Kaisei to migi-yotsu where the better tactician, Kotoshogiku, secured the left outer grip. The Ozeki also knew to place himself a bit to the side keeping the threat of a Kaisei right outer grip as far away as possible. With Kaisei reaching in vain for the equalizer, Kotoshogiku lifted him upright with the left outer and twisted Kaisei to the side forcing him to move laterally and eventually causing the Brasilian to trip up on the dohyo as Kotoshogiku went for an outright belt throw. Good stuff from Kotoshogiku (2-1) today who demanded the superior position from the tachi-ai. Kaisei falls to 0-3.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji charged hard into M1 Tochiohzan using a flurry of thrusts to keep Oh upright before connecting squarely with a right slap to the face that was easily heard over the tens of fans in attendance. After the epic bitch slap, Tochiohzan was wide open allowing the Yokozuna to lurch into the moro-zashi position and force his foe back and across the straw without argument. Harumafuji breathes a bit easier at 2-1 now while Tochiohzan falls to 1-2.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho and M1 Okinoumi gave the crowd their money's worth in a lengthy affair that Hakuho controlled throughout. After getting his right arm to the inside from the tachi-ai as the Yokozuna is wont to do, Okinoumi countered quickly with a left kote-nage throw, but Okinoumi really couldn't plant before the throw, and so it barely threw the Yokozuna off balance. Hakuho slapped and pulled his way back in forcing the bout to migi-yotsu again where both rikishi hunkered down with hips back denying the other an outside grip. The two jockeyed a bit in this position for about 30 seconds with Hakuho fishing for the outer grip and Okinoumi standing pat. Finally, in a single instant, Hakuho slapped at Okinoumi's side near the belt on the outside distracting the M3 before quickly going for a maki-kae with the same left arm. The move worked as the Yokozuna seized moro-zashi whereupon he easily outclassed Okinoumi scoring the gentle force-out win. That slap/maki-kae is something I've never seen before, and it kind of reminds me of Mainoumi's neko-damashi move where he'd clap his hands in front of his opponent's face at the tachi-ai to distract them just enough to where he could then burrow deep inside for the advantageous position.  Hakuho skates to 3-0 and could have this thing won by day 12 while Okinoumi cools off a bit at 1-2.

See ya tomorrow. Same time, same place.

Day 2 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Greetings. This is Clancy Kelly from Japan and there are reports coming in that Japanese authorities have dispatched multiple Haz-Mat teams to the southern Japanese city of Fuk U Oka? to begin immediate cleanup of the enormous and highly toxic collective shit the Nihon Sumo Kyoukai, primed with gastric distress by the sight of all seventeen and a half fans on hand to watch, took yesterday after watching newly crowned Yokozuna Harumafuji lose to an elevator rank and filer who seems to never KK above the rank of M5. To be fair, Okinoumi is a big lad and can show up at any time, plus dudes full shikona is "Fukuoka Okinoumi" so of COURSE hes going to crush the shin-Yokozuna like a flipping chipmunk.

After watching Hakuho pass the water of POWer to someone for the first time in years (and dont you think Nintendo is missing out on an excellent chance at advertising with that water bucket?), all seventeen fans (the midget was in the head) went bonkers, raising a raucous roar heard normally at only the most hotly contested high school chess tourneys, as the Lord of the Ring made his way up the dohyo. The lightest man in the top division was about to make his debut as the final bout Yokozuna. Tingles!

But no one gave Okinoumi the script, and if they did, he didnt read it, cause no way in hell did it read, "Smoosh the pecker!" The difficulty the new Grand Champion is going to have in his predictably (and sadly, cause I like dude) shortened career was evident right from the tachi-ai, where Harumafuji tried to stand his ground and keep his decidedly larger foe at bay. Couldnt do as OkiDoki easily moved the lil feller back. Fine, said Howdo, grabbing a nice, snug inside left belt. But Okinoumi was on that, locking down with his right arm, worrying Harumafujis arm up and down to weaken it like a dog do a bone, yo.

The Yokozuna laid his cards on the table at this point, backing up and bending down and yanking on the belt as he turned away hoping for a swing down win. But the E1 saw it coming and nicely kept his legs widely apart to prevent the throw whilst falling into the Yokozuna, who was executing some silly ass-over-tits flip to give himself an extra second during which his opponent might touch down first.

As The Seventeen (new upper case indicating theyve been elevated to legendary status just by dint of having been present at such an auspicious debut) blew a gasket (and the dwarf returned asking, "WTF?"), one of the MIB had the good sense to call for a mono-ii, or "looksee" as we say in Eigolish, to see if there were some way sumo might wiggle out of it. The replay showed only that sumos number two man was humiliated. Oh, it also showed Harumafujis face with the expression that read, Damn, Id better take every sponsorship deal that comes my way cause this sumo thing aint gonna last as long as Id hoped.

Yeah, yeah, many of you are pshawing right about now, calling me the Chicken Little of Sumotalk, and Id like nothing more than to be wrong, but as Mike hinted at in his pre-basho, the shin-Yokozuna has a heap of "worry snails" (slow but creeping concerns) on his plate. Okinoumi picked one off of it today and slurped it down nice and greasy like in front of all 1317 & 1/2 of us (counting the television audience as well now).

Yokozuna Hakuho, a bit removed from the limelight, bitch slapped Tochiohzan with his left, then drove his right shoulder into the W1s mug. A second for the shock to sink in, then a huge smack on the back of the head that sent the tachi-ai serial nodder to the floor like a ferret pelt. I guess Kublai spent countless hours watching reams of video and learned from his shocking loss last basho to this same goliath, when the Yokozuna charged forward desperate to dictate that bout against such a fearsome competitor (excuse me, gotta pull this chicken bone out of my throat). Agree 100% with Mixmasters call for a Hakuho yusho, but he could be a bit rusty due to all his deferring in the past year or so, and may lose a fluke. 14-1, I think.

In the preceding match, Aminishiki had as many answers for Kisenosatos advance as Mike has for why his homie Mittens got Barack-n-Rolled on Nov. 6. Bedroll seemed eager to get it over with, barely raising a hand to slap ineffectively at the Ozeki. Kid pushed the EK around like a broken shopping cart at Walmart, so it was to no ones surprise that Shneaky ended up jumping off the dohyo, unredeemed coupons be damned!

Rumor has it that Kotoshogiku fought Homasho, but all I saw was Homasho fall down as soon as it began. Perhaps it had to something to do with Geekus noggin ramming Homashos temple like the foot of an angry detective who is going after a perp who has run from him and locked himself into a room and then the policeman has to kick the door in, so Im equating the force of that kick with the likely force of the collision between their heads in this bout. (I figure a lil poor writin oughtta help yall preciate the finer stuff!)

Myogiryu had the right idea vs. Kotooshu, manning up and trying for that two handed inside the entire bout instead of panicking and pulling. Problem was the Ozeki kept his right arm in tightly, denying Myogiryu the inside left to go with the inside right he had. Without that grip, he was unable to resist the larger mans pressing him back, and it ended in a rather tame oshi-dashi. Our fiery little 0-2 Myogi Bear had better right the ship, and "fecking quickly" to quote ol Simon. Hes got Aminishiki today.

In the days first big upset, Shohozan the Dark blasted through a meager blocking attempt by Baruto to get a strong inside left belt. While the Ozeki was busy trying to get his over-the-shoulder grips he likes so much, the human chocolate baby waltzed him into a spin that The Biomass and his heavily taped right leg were unable to escape from by any other means than falling to the clay. Not sure a previous injury had much to do with it, as he looked fine yesterday in dragging big fat Kaisei all over the ring, but he was looking mighty gimpy as he shamefacedly arose to limp back to his dressing room.

Speaking of Kaisei, its sad that when given an opening as he was very briefly today vs. Kakuryu that he cannot take advantage. The Kak came hard, with his right arm on the outside, giving Kaisei the inside under Kaks armpit. He did nothing with it (though I suppose his thoughts may have been occupied somewhat by the left front mawashi grip the Ozeki had) and Kakuryu realigned himself by slipping that arm inside which gave him the moro-zashi. This was the death knell for the big W2 as the Mongolian Marauder powered him back and out. A much better (if less erotic) result than his Day 1 loss to Goeido.

Second paragraph in a row that makes sense for me to start by saying, "Speaking of. . ." Goeido beat Tochinoshin like a red-headed stepchild by pwning him at the tachi-ai and running him straight back and out. Was over before it began!

Takekazes reputation precedes him, but evidently Masunoyama did not receive the scouting reports, and literally fell victim to a classic henka. Masunoyamas left shoulder and upper arm were heavily taped, and he looked very pained getting up from a simple fall. I dont really dig guys who come out to rassle having crawled off a hospital bed. I know its their livelihood and the pressure is intense to show up, but it puts the foe into a very delicate position vis a vis not wanting to hurt an already bedraggled opponent. I dont like Takekaze much, but is it possible he was trying to spare Masunoyama the pain of a collision on that shoulder? Nah! Takekazes a lil fucker!

Aoiyama kept Takayasu deftly centered and used a pinpoint pushing attack to hammer him out. W6 (really??) Toyonoshima managed to acquire a moro-zashi while moving backward vs. Toyohibiki, and used it to fling him down even as he himself crashed to the clay.

Even in Tokyo and Osaka and Nagoya you can hear on the TV the occasional singular voice, a shout of support for one rassler or another, but I could hear people ordering FOOD today. Fukuoka: Emptier than a Nov. 7 "Rally for Romney."

Kyokutenho showed some flat out muscle by flat out out muscling Gagamaru in a hard to imagine yori-kiri win. When youre nearly forty years old and can still lift up on and move a man who weighs slightly more than the average department store, youre in decent shape, strength wise.

Daido must have felt like a guy who buys his prom date a beautiful corsage, takes her to the dance in a rented stretch limo, fetches her food and drink all night, and then watches as she goes home in some other guys leisure van with wall to wall carpeting, waterbed, strobe light and condom dispenser. He had this thing won, but with his back to the edge, Aran pulled off a twisting throw that dumped Daiso audibly and, I can only imagine, painfully onto the ropes. Those bales are HARD! Daido didnt even flinch getting up, just another sign that sumo wrestlers are tough hombres.

Tokitenku got stood up by countryman Shotenro, causing his foot to slide. He was forced to lean in and on Shotenro to remain up, and this allowed the E9 to wrap his long arms around Tokidoki and throw him down without the two men ever having left the starting area.

The best thing about the funny little slapfest that was the Wakanosato-Miyabiyama tussle was that due to the sparse (Sparse? Thats an understatement on par with saying JPese dental hygenists are "nice looking." I sleep with a lollipop in my mouth, my dentists assistants are so goddamned hot) crowd there was a woman, youngish if not young, with huge tightly wrapped boobies who had snuck down to within TV range. She wasnt a looker, thats for sure, but pillows are pillows, eh.

With the advent of YouTube, anyone anywhere can watch all the bouts pretty much as soon as theyre done, so we here at ST have to understand that our mission is no longer (if it ever WAS) to describe each and every bout, but rather to elucidate on the details and the RAMifications of each days action, Jackson. So if you really must know how that Ikioi bout went down, or how Yoshiazuma got the best of Jokoryu, doozo.

Anyway, its clear that sumo has got to get smart if they want to draw more viewers. The NSK ought to arrange to have a bunch of large breasted twenty and thirty-year olds come to the venue daily, showing as much flesh as possible and sitting ringside in full view of all. Oh wait, they do that already, and Mike will be reporting on the bouts between those twenty and thirty-year olds on Day 3. Arfarfarf.

See ya on Day 8. Its a dayeight!

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Mmm...the yellow sands of Fukuoka that make up the dohyo. The picturesque views of Bayside Place and Momochi Beach. The subtle NHK camera angles that only show backgrounds where the seats are actually occupied by fans. This must be the Kyushu basho! In all seriousness, more fans showed up for the day 1 bouts than I expected, and it's probably due to the extra buzz generated by a new Yokozuna on the banzuke. Still, the novelty of two Yokozuna will last just a few days, and if the content of the day 1 sumo was any indication of things to come, it's going to be a long basho.

For some reason, the first 30 minutes of the broadcast that I get here in the States was pre-empted by a concert featuring Kana Nishino, and so I missed the first five bouts of the day. The only one I bothered looking up on the innernet was the M14 Jokoryu - M13 Wakakoyu matchup. The rookie has obviously watched tape of his opponent because a second after the tachi-ai, Wakakoyu went for that quick swipe down of his opponent. Jokoryu was more than ready and pounced on the move driving Wakakoyu quickly back to the side. Wakakoyu managed to hold serve at the edge, but the rookie got the deep right inside position and used it to follow a now evading Wakakoyu across the dohyo where Jokoryu forced him down hard in the end. Wakakoyu got up a bit gingerly after the bout, but I think all that was injured here was the Wookie's pride. Jokoryu looked great in his Makuuchi debut, and he should fit right into the division. I'm really eager to watch this kid the rest of the way he was that good on day 1. He had a great tachi-ai; he used good de-ashi; he studied his opponent; and he never let up until Wakakoyu was rolling in the dirt.  Just look at that pic at right the way Jokoryu is standing over his prey.  You rarely see that from a rookie.

M10 Yoshikaze committed a false start trying to gain the advantage against M11 Asahisho, and then when the two reloaded Yoshikaze moved left. Both of these are signs that Yoshikaze knew he couldn't beat Asahisho with straight up sumo. As for Asahisho, he used a nifty right kachi-age that was so good he was able to keep the pressure applied as Yoshikaze moved left. After any henka, the bout usually gets sloppy and unorthodox, and that was the case today with Yoshikaze wildly flailing his arms and looking for any sort of opening or the cheap pulldown. Asahisho showed great patience to fight off the spasmodic attack and then about five seconds in got both hands at Yoshikaze's neck lifting him upright a bit before yanking him forward. That did the trick as Yoshikaze stumbled out of the ring. Great maturity from Asahisho in just his second time in the division.

M9 Asasekiryu struck low against M10 Ikioi, but he had zero de-ashi, and so despite the decent left arm on the inside for the Secretary, Ikioi brushed him off balance and then pushed him down quickly with a right palm to the left butt cheek of Asasekiryu. Not sure if that have an official kimari-te for slapping someone down by the ass, but it was pretty cool nonetheless. To see Asasekiryu get worked like this by Ikioi tells you the end is drawing near for the Mongolian.

I swear I watched the M9 Shotenro - M8 Daido bout three times, and I still couldn't tell the two apart. What I think happened is Shotenro took the initiative from the start striking Daido hard, but his feet were sliding all over the dohyo, and so Daido was able to swat him to the side and push him out from behind in the end. Poorly fought bout all around, so let's move on.

M7 Aran delivered a sweet right nodowa into M8 Tokitenku's neck from the tachi-ai, but with sloppy footwork, he wasn't able to parlay that into a quick win. Still, the tachi-ai was so decisive that Aran had the left outer grip as the dust settled while the best Tokitenku could do was a light inside position with the right arm. With Aran burrowing in low, Tokitenku had nowhere to go except back as the Russian gathered his wits and then forced his foe back and across with little argument. Good start for Aran, but he's got to sure up the lower body.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say you will never see a bout in your lifetime where M7 Gagamaru tries to do a 360 to spin out of a hold and ends up winning the bout. He sure as hell tried it today after M6 Toyonoshima won the tachi-ai with a deep left arm that he was able to use to fend off the Georgian's charge and move to his left forcing Gagamaru to attempt to keep square with his opponent. He never could keep up with Toyonoshima as the former Sekiwake moved around the perimeter of the ring, and so out of desperation he tried a shortcut which equaled that aforementioned 360. Didn't work as Toyonoshima grabbed a solid right outer grip and threw the dizzy Gagamaru down before he could counter sufficiently. As Gagamaru walked back down the hana-michi, Shirasaki Announcer made the comment that Gagamaru looks as if he's about to cry after a loss drawing a deserved laugh from Kitanofuji. You rarely see the NHK guys make a comment like that, but it was definitely worth a laugh.

Which is more than M6 Kyokutenho can say after getting his ass handed to him by M5 Toyohibiki who used the left inside position from the tachi-ai and swell de-ashi to drive the Chauffeur back and across the straw in two seconds...if that.

I talked in my pre-basho report about watching that documentary on M4 Masunoyama, and when he was trying to defeat Myogiryu in keiko, he'd look good for about two seconds and then just fall apart from there. And that pattern held today against M5 Aoiyama who let Masunoyama drive him back a step or two from the tachi-ai, but Masunoyama's feet suddenly started sliding out from under him allowing Aoiyama to swipe downward on the back of Masunoyama's neck drawing the rarely seen sokubi-otoshi kimari-te, which can best be described as a forearm to the back of the neck. It's such a rare kimari-te because the only way you can win like that is if your opponent is already falling forward on his own...which is what we saw in this bout.

M4 Takayasu was too high at the tachi-ai resulting in something that's really hard to do: make M3 Takekaze look good. But that was the case as Takekaze got the left arm deep to the inside and began driving his legs forcing Takayasu upright and onto his heels. From this position, Takayasu could barely move laterally, and when he tried, Takekaze just felled him with a left sukui-nage, a position he earned at the tachi-ai.

Moving to the sanyaku, Myogiryu exhibited a terrible tachi-ai where he sorta moved to his left and then promptly aligned his feet. Tochinoshin isn't exactly known for beautiful tachi-ai himself, and Myogiryu was actually able to maneuver into moro-zashi, but he completely took himself out of this one from the start, and so the Private was able to take advantage of his length grabbing a kote-nage hold with the right hand and then using a long right leg to lift up the Sekiwake from the inside thigh and dump him Gangnam style. This was definitely more of a poor tachi-ai from Myogiryu than it was sound sumo from Tochinoshin.

In the Ozeki ranks, Baruto actually stepped out to his left to grab the cheap outside grip against M2 Kaisei, and this was probably due to not wanting to lose to the Brasilian two basho in a row. The Estonian did latch onto the left outer, and when both guys secured right inners, the yotsu bout was on with the Ozeki maintain the heavy advantage. Still, he wasn't able to put Kaisei away quickly, and that tells me that Baruto still isn't comfortable with his left knee, which was heavily taped today. He eventually did work Kaisei towards the straw pushing him out from behind in the end, but it's a bit of a concern that he wasn't able to win swiftly today despite a semi-henka giving him an insurmountable position.

Things certainly didn't get prettier for the Ozeki as Kotooshu gave M2 Shohozan the moro-zashi position after an extremely light tachi-ai from the Bulgarian. I think it took a split second for Shohozan to realize his advantageous position because he certainly didn't demand it from the tachi-ai, but once moro-zashi was secure, Shohozan wasted no time driving the Ozeki back to the straw where he threw him down with a right scoop throw. Kotooshu fell very gingerly, and that's not good news for the Ozeki who is already kadoban. We'll have to watch him closely over the coming days, but losing to Shohozan on day 1 is a horrible start for an Ozeki.

At this point, Ozeki Kotoshogiku stepped up onto the dohyo where the locals promptly began clapping in unison and chanting Kotoshogiku's name. It was as inaka of a cheer as I've ever heard, and it pains me to say that since I consider Fukuoka my second home, but'd never see anything like this in Tokyo or Osaka. Anyway, Kotoshogiku's charge against M1 Tochiohzan was even more timed than Kotooshu's the bout before, and Tochiohzan made him pay by getting moro-zashi. The Ozeki stopped Tochiohzan's half-assed forward charge and actually performed a maki-kae with the left arm, but in the process, Tochiohzan backed up a step pulling the Ozeki off balance and then dumped him outright with a left scoop throw. Kotoshogiku had no lower body in this one, and it's going to plague him the entire basho. You look at the basic exercises the sumos do, and all but teppo involve strengthening the lower body although I could argue that even teppo helps to strengthen the legs. The point is the lower body is vital to successful sumo, and you can tell right away when a rikishi has no strength in his legs. Remember, Kotoshogiku is coming off of that left knee injury that caused him to withdraw in Aki.

After taking one look at that badass bruise surrounding Ozeki Kisenosato's right eye, you knew the wimpy Ozeki sumo was gonna stop right here. As has been the case lately, Kisenosato left himself open at the tachi-ai, but M1 Okinoumi failed to take the advantage as Kisenosato got his left arm on the inside and began driving Okinoumi back. Okinoumi spun and actually went for a maki-kae with the right arm succeeding in getting it to the inside, but the move was too costly as the Ozeki was able to nudge him back across the straw before he could dig back in. Kisenosato's sumo was okay in this one, but if I had to describe it in one word, it'd be "vulnerable." Just wait.

I don't know what it is about Ozeki Kakuryu's sumo of late, but dude is fighting up too high for his own good. Against a rikishi he should beat nine times out of ten, Kakuryu left his feet aligned as he monkeyed around with a quick pull attempt up high. Goeido seized the right inside position and left outer grip forcing the Kak to adjust into the yotsu-zumo bout...a style he should have been looking for from the start. He didn't, and so he found himself on his heels as Goeido marched him towards the edge setting up a force-out kill. Kakuryu pivoted to the side attempting to set up a right inside counter throw, but Goeido was in total control using his left leg to trip the Ozeki back and down for the shweet soto-gake win. What made the win even better was Goeido's falling right on top of Kakuryu mounting him with as fine a form as I've seen atop the dohyo in awhile.

Before we head to the Yokozuna, let me just say that collectively, that was one sorry performance from the group of Ozeki. Sure, two of 'em managed to win, but Baruto used a semi-henka, and Kisenosato would have been beaten with that kind of sumo in week 2.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji led off the day against Komusubi Homasho in a somewhat wild bout that you don't usually see from Yokozuna. Harumafuji didn't commit from the tachi-ai opting to hold back and watch his opponent's first move. As Homasho tried to get in close, the Yokozuna would slap at his face with the right hand while trying to get a grip on the back of Homasho's neck with the left. This happened about three times before Harumafuji worked his way into the deep inside right position that he used to immediately force the Komusubi back and across. It was a powerful win in the end, but this wasn't Yokozuna sumo. There wasn't anything cheap about it, but Harumafuji did not try and overpower Homasho at the tachi-ai. Furthermore, about two seconds in the two rikishi were actually separated briefly, and it was due to Harumafuji's brand of sumo today. The win was convincing and Homasho never threatened his foe, but finesse sumo and Yokozuna should never be uttered in the same sentence.

I was hoping that in the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho would put a stamp on things and show everyone how it was done, but even Hakuho exhibited a very lame tachi-ai holding up a bit and actually aligning his feet. My guess is that he wanted to watch Komusubi Aminishiki closely and not charge straight into a henka, but this was an ugly tachi-ai from Hakuho. Thankfully for the Yokozuna, Aminishiki didn't charge straight forward or he could have done some damage. Instead, Hakuho recovered quickly and used a few slaps towards the Komusubi before driving him back with two chest bumps that caused Aminishiki to retreat and step outside of the ring prematurely. Perhaps it was a fitting end to a really bad day of sumo, but let's hope this wasn't a harbinger of the 2012 Kyushu basho.

Speaking of two Yokozuna, Clancy's up tomorrow.









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