May Technical Examination Basho: Shonichi

Oh, JSA, oh JSA.  There I was back in January, wishing 2011 would be a better year in sumo than the previous year.  Oh, how you never fail to continue failing.  I’ve been with you for many years, if anything, for the love of the sport, and I’m still here today.  I’ve been with you through the good times, the bad times, the awful times, and then there’s now.  Is it fair to say things can only get better at this point?  Or, am I jumping the gun with this presumption?

The Japanese I know, I learned from sumo.  But now, I can’t use all those words I’ve learned.  This is not the Natsu (Summer) Basho, it’s the Giryo Shinsa Basho (Technical Examination Tournament).  There is no banzuke, it’s a junseki (seedings).  Oh, and there’ll be no yaocho or use of cell phones, rather, wry winks and coded signals sent across the two shitake-beya in the Kokugikan.  It’s all the same with a different name, and less faces to be seen.

Oh, and on that note, who’s gone?  Well, in Makuuchi, seven:

Tokusegawa, Hakuba, Kasugao, Koryu, Mokonami, Kotokasuga, Sokokurai

Anything strikingly similar to you about five of these seven men?  How about they are Mongols (Inner & Outer)?  They weren’t kicked out of sumo because of yaocho.  They were kicked out because there are too many unpopular Mongols in the ranks, and this is a chance to kill two sekitori-kuns with one stone: clear out the Mongol invasion in sumo, and satisfy the media and public craving on this bout-fixing problem all at the same time.

It being Mother’s Day and all, I can hear the voice of my momma shooting back; “Now Virgil, what in the world makes you say all this?”  Firstly, I’ve spent time around just about all these men.  When they get together, what language you think they’re speaking?  Keep in mind few of them can muster through an NHK interview.  Yes, they communicate in their native Mongolian with each other.  Now, say for the sake of argument they were bout-fixing, and this was revealed by cell phone conversations.  What language do you think these phone conversations were in?  Now, do you think any of the do-nothings on that ‘ad hoc committee’ can read Mongolian?

Any honest sumo purist will tell you if rikishi were removed for bout-fixing, we would not have a yokozuna or ozeki at this basho today.  The above rikishi were scapegoats, and removed due to a simple way of thinking which dominates the JSA called racism.  I know Mongolians and Japanese are the same race, but they don’t know this.  Maybe xenophobic is a more appropriate term, but I’ll stick with racism.  So, from Makuuchi, out goes the Mongols, the one South Korean with big nipples because no one really cared for him anyway, and as the JSA was thinking, just to assure everyone this is not about race, they tossed one never-has-been-nor-never-will-be Japanese rikishi in Kotokasuga.

Yes, I’m glad to see Hakuba gone, but if I can honest with myself and everyone else, Hakuba is guilty of shitty sumo; Hakuba is no more guilty of yaocho than Hakuho, and no one is more guilty of it than Kaio.  But the JSA couldn’t kick the Yokozuna out, or the beloved oldseki.  It’s about popularity at this point, and the symbols of the organization.  If one of the yokozuna/ozeki was guilty, they all were.  Where would be the faces representing sumo?  Who’s to wear the space suits and throw the beans on setsubun?  Who’s going to stand with the commish in the JSA greeting on shonichi and senshuraku?  Most importantly as the timing went, who would it be to build some cheer in the earthquake and tsunami affected areas?  They had to keep the top-dogs clean—this was a no-brainer, which is exactly the mental capacity of those who run the JSA!

Moving on to Shonichi (can I still call it that?), and the bouts of interest.

EM16 Miyabiyama vs WM16 Kaisei: the young Brazilian who had to wait an extra two months for his Makuuchi debut came through the tachiai lifting upwards on McFlubby’s elbows.  With the big guy’s arms in the air, Kaisei went head to chest and quickly pushed McFlubby off balance in a McFlurry, winning his first bout in Makuuchi.  Well done push-down win by the Brazilian.

EM15 Takamisakari vs. WM14 Tochinonada: Ringo gets a good right-hand outside grip from the tachiai, but Tochi stayed inside on Ringo and led him to the bales before tossing the former Beatle in the dead center of the ring via beltless arm-throw.

EM14 Gagamaru vs. WM13 Tokitenku.  My Buddha, Gaga got bigger!  One basho break, and the Georgian basks in the honorary spot as heaviest sekitori.  How is this going to affect his sumo?  Gaga came in like a buffalo with a hand to Tokitenku’s throat and barreled the old Mongolian out of the ring, push-out win.  Good showing from a bigger, and better Gagamaru.

I’ll give credit where credit is due, and I’d say JSA has a great stream going.  Picture quality is good, graphics match that of NHK, and commentary is alright.  All it lacked with slow-mo replays.  Watching the stream today made me wonder if the JSA is preparing for the NHK to do away with sumo broadcasts altogether.  On one hand, if you have a computer available there’s nothing wrong with watching this, but not having sumo on TV will damage its popularity probably more than anything.  I, for one, caught on to sumo simply because it was on tv.

EM6 Tamawashi vs. WM6 Tochinoshin: Mawashi spun to the left at the tachiai, but it didn’t stop our top Georgian from getting a left-hand inside belt grip, which he soon complemented with a right-hand outside, and used these for a quickly-executed over-arm throw.  Nice finish by Tochinoshin.

EM5 Aran vs. WM5 Wakanosato: Aran was low and Waka was high at tachiai, but they evened out with left-inside right-outside grips.  Aran made a lame attempt at a tsuridashi lift-out, which just wore him down and didn’t really move Waka anywhere.  Waka took advantage of the tiring younger and led him to the edge throwing a beltless arm-throw.  The loss was all Aran’s fault for wearing himself out with a hopeless tsuridashi attempt on such a heavy and sensible opponent.

EM4 Okinoumi vs. WM4 Takekaze: weird tachiai.  Takekaze came in head first and faster than Oki, but the Akitan also swerved to the left upon contact, just grazing his opponent who went to the ground.  Takekaze picks up a thrust-down win, which can be interpreted as a henka, but it certainly wasn’t a conventional one.

WM3 Aminishiki vs. WS Kisenosato: Aminishiki led the way with the tachiai, staying low and dozing towards Kisenosato.  Kissy was in backwards mode, and tried a pull-down on Sneaky’s neck which almost took Sneaky down, but Sneaky reversed things and prevailed with a hand pull-down of his own.  Bad start off for a guy trumped up to be next Ozeki and even Yokozuna.  On the other hand, nice work by Sneaky, whose older brother and stablemate Asofuji was one of those booted out of sumo for bout-fixing, yet the more popular and successful Sneaky wasn’t part of it?

WM2 Tochiozan vs. WO Harumafuji: Haruma was much better at the tachiai, but his attack didn’t have enough Ama to it.  O fought back and reversed the trend, leading forward.  At some point, Haruma’s left knee gave out and he went to the ground.  O picks up a frontal push-down win, while Harumafuji might be fighting a new injury.

EO Baruto vs. EM2 Homasho: Bart’s too high from the get-go, giving Homie an opportunity for a good grip which he uses to lead Bart to bales, but Bart is able to fight him off with a last-ditch effort beltless arm-throw.

EM1 Goeido vs. WO Kaio: Goeido, lower, faster, and just better, easy push-out win for Goeido.  It really makes you wonder…no more favors for the old man?

EO Kotooshu vs. EK Kakuryu: good tachiai by Kotooshu, but he went up a bit too high and Kakuryu managed a morozashi.  The Kak was successfully leading Kotooshu back in what looked to be an upset, but the Bulgarian pulled off an over-arm throw just as the Kak was running out of gas with his morozashi attack.

EY Hakuho vs. WK Toyonoshima: funny how we forget how far beyond everyone else the Yokozuna was, and still is.  His tachiai was lightning fast and continued on to dig into the short round one, with thrusts until he had Toyo out of the ring with a thrust-out win.  Clean, clear win for the Yokozuna.

Stand back and wipe off, because there ain’t nothin’ PC about Patton Creswell tomorrow!

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