Kaio

This is just an update to commemorate Kaio’s win on Day 4 of the 2011 Nagoya basho. This win ties him for first place with Chiyonofuji for the most career wins. Both men currently stand at 1045. I could try to write my feelings about this out, but someone else has done a better job than I ever could. Mike, over at SumoTalk, wrote these comments about Kaio. (See the Day 4 Comments)

I commented to Valentine at the beginning of the year, in 2011, that I didn’t mind Yaocho for certain purposes. For the exchange of money, yaocho is disgusting. To show respect to a retiring rikishi, it might be ok. I forgave Kaio each of his bouts that basho because I thought it would be his last. When he didn’t retire, I found my respect for him sag like a… no need to finish that sentence… I am sure all of you have already finished it in your heads.

A year earlier, back in 2010, I felt that Kaio had decided it was time to retire. I noted that his sumo had improved. I stopped calling him “the crab” because he wasn’t acting like one anymore. I thought that he was looking around the ring after each fight like a man who remembered it all, and was saying goodbye. But he is still here. At the time, I forgave him for dragging down the Ozeki with wins that seemed churned out; just enough to keep from kadobanning. But, as I just said, he is still here: forgiveness becomes more difficult the longer he stays.

A year earlier, back in 2009, I hated Kaio. He was ruining Sumo. Rikishi were taking dives against him just to avoid serious injury because the only move he had left to him, a brutal uwatenage, was downright dangerous. Sometimes, rikishi would go up against him, and walk out of the rink holding their arms, a promising basho for them turned to disappointment.

And then, there was the year, I started watching Sumo seriously. 2008. Kaio was one of the first fat men in a diaper that I was able to distinguish. He was old, like a relic of Sumo gone by. His body looked different, and I liked him just because I was able to tell who he was. I felt a certain respect for someone who would give so much of their life to such a brutal sport, but mostly I was just happy that I didn’t have to try to judge the size of his nipples to try to figure out who the hell he was. Recognizability tinged with respect.

After reading Mike’s comments, I felt that respect reviving. I am a newcomer to watching Sumo. In the 90s, I probably would have laughed at you if you asked me to watch Sumo. I don’t remember Kaio’s glory days, but I have seen hints of them on YouTube.

At the end of the day, I am left with a choice: I can either respect him for what he has done, and respect him for sticking with the life even past his prime. Or I can hate him for staying too long, and yaochoing too often. I find myself wanting, hoping to respect him. I want him to have the send off from Sumo he deserves, and I am willing to be patient while he chases down the dreams that have kept him going. Mike, if you are reading this, nice comments. I was on a knife edge about which way to go, and your comments swayed me towards patience and respect. Above all, after reading those comments, I find myself hoping that I will see a period in Sumo like the glory days gone by. It has been a rough ride as a newcomer to the sport with few heroes to rally behind, and those few that were, or perhaps one that was, given the old heave hoe, get the fuck out of Japan.

May Sumo give Kaio the fairwell he deserves, and may a new hero rise.

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