How to Enjoy Sumo More (Mid-Basho Musings)

I was sitting in class today when suddenly it all became clear to me. “You look like you have something to say, Briton-Meyer,” the professor said to me. I shook my head, but I thought, “I DO have something to say, just not to you and not about this.”

What I had to say was about Sumo. I realized something today: In Sumo, you are either in the crux, or you ARE the crux.

I sat there in class itching for the time when I could run home to write this wonderful sentence out. I wrote it in my notes: In Sumo, you are either in the crux, or you ARE the crux.

I said it as I waited by the stop light, mumbling softly to myself: In Sumo, you are either in the crux or you ARE the crux.

I imagined the words in my mind as I fumbled with my keys in my excitement to get to my computer to write it out: In Sumo, you are either in the crux, or you ARE the crux.

And now, I’ve written it out. I’ll write it again: In Sumo, you are either in the crux, or you ARE the crux.

Worth Its Weight In Gold?

Now… unfortunately, I have forgotten what exactly I meant by it. It seemed like an insight worth its weight in gold when I first thought it up. And perhaps it is… after all, insights weigh nothing.

While this insight may not the end all be all of sumo insights, it does seem to me to be the key to enjoying bashos in the current era of Sumo.

The Dilemma We Face And The Questions We Ask

We all get so excited about this sumo wrestler or that sumo wrestler as they wrack up an undefeated record on the first day of the basho. Sometimes we forget that there are still 14 more days to go, and with Hakuho at the top, even a single loss is usually enough to knock a rikishi out of the yusho race. By day 4, we are feeling discontented. By day 8, we are feeling upset. And when Hakuho takes the yusho, we are feeling disillusioned.

These feelings are all that much worse during a basho like this. We are waiting with baited breath for a promotion. Harumafuji has shaken our belief that Hakuho will win the basho just by showing up. Who will be promoted? Who will win the yusho?

These are questions that will eventually be answered in every basho (with the exception, I suppose, of March 2011). But are these questions the questions that will lead to enjoyable sumo watching? I say no.

Instead, we must remember that in Sumo, you are either in the crux or you ARE the crux. The questions that come from this insight are these: Who is in the crux? Who is past the crux? Who is the crux? And who is on the bubble?

Who is in the crux?

It seems to me that the first rikishi to enter the crux are the M1s. They tend to face off against the sanyaku starting on day 1. In the current tournament this honor is held by Homasho and Okinoumi. Both are comporting themselves well and they are most of the way through the crux. But they are not there yet.

Homasho has managed to defeat all of the Ozeki. Okinoumi was much the same, saving that he lost to Baruto. But Okinoumi has not been defeated by the crux yet (The way I am looking at it, you are defeated by the crux if your counterpart in the east or west succeeds against crux rikishi where you fail).

Homasho and Okinoumi still have to go up against Kotoshogiku, Kisenosato, and Kakuryu. While it is true that the Geek and Kissy are still in the yusho race whereas the Kak is not, the Kak is still a great rikishi and very much a part of the crux. His consistency in the basho might be off, but each bout brings him a new chance to turn his record for the basho around. Toyonoshima is perhaps that final bolt of lightning that strikes and kills after everyone thinks the storm has passed.

Aran? What? Did I forget to mention him?

I am very interested to see how Homasho and Okinoumi comport themselves against the remainder of the crux. Homasho has been displaying great tachiai strategy whereas Okinoumi has been displaying great presence of mind once the sumo actually starts.

Oki and Homey: Tachiai and Presence Of Mind

Homasho’s tachiai strategy helped get him past Baruto’s brute strength, whereas Okinoumi had to rely on presence of mind to help him once Baruto started in with his locomotive like slaps.

What can presence of mind get you in that situation? Well, you can grab on to Baruto’s hand as he slaps at you and hope that he pulls you back into the ring as he readies his next slap. That is exactly what Okinoumi did (props to him there), but sadly, when you are being battered by a bear, grabbing the bear’s paw still leaves you dead in the end.

The formula didn’t work out in Oki’s favor in that match-up. I am wondering if it will work out better for him in the case of Kotoshogiku. Going into the bout, Oki will know that Kotoshogiku wants to hump him. The presence of mind will be a lot more useful in outlasting a hornball than it was in outlasting a locomotive.

Meanwhile, I think Homasho might struggle. Find a way to prevent a train from destroying you when it hits you and it will sail right on by out of the ring. Outwit a hornball at the tachiai, and he still might find a way to hump you to a loss.

As for Kissy and the Kak, I have no idea how Homasho and Oki will comport themselves. (Yes, I have managed to use the word “comport” three times in this post. I am comporting myself quite well in that regard.) I imagine that Homasho and Oki’s chances against those two are probably pretty even, though.

Soon Homey and Oki will be through the crux. Even as things stand right now, its been a great basho for those two. I would say they are both still on the bubble.

Ok… so Oki and Homey are through the crux: what next?

For any of you gloating over Kissy and the Geek’s undefeated record, it be best to remember that so far in this basho, they have BEEN the crux. They have yet to enter the crux themselves.

Now, its easy to see the crux with the M1s, the Komusubi’s, and the Sekiwake. With the Ozeki and the Yokozuna, the crux usually comes down to one or two rikishi. Who is Haruma’s crux? Hakuho. Who is Baruto’s crux? Haruma and Hakuho. Who is Kotooshu’s crux? The wide world itself.

As for Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato… they are each other’s crux this basho, with Hakuho and Haruma thrown in there for good measure.

The question that requires more skill concerns those rikishi down there in the depths past Jo’i. Its not so easy to identify who IS the crux and who is in the crux down there. The crux rikishi don’t come sequentially for rikishi down there and they don’t necessarily come from the ranks above the rikishi. Working out cruxes down there is one of my projects for this basho, but right now, I am blank. Its murky down there and there be dragons.

But speaking of dragons, don’t get distracted by my musings, let Bertrum breathe some fire into you about Day 4.

4 responses to “How to Enjoy Sumo More (Mid-Basho Musings)

  1. Pingback: Kotoshogiku Watch | Sumo & Stogies

  2. Pingback: Rivalries: Bouts I am Looking Forward To | Sumo & Stogies

  3. Pingback: Kotoshogiku Watch: The Crux and The Pocket | Sumo & Stogies

  4. Pingback: Aki Basho Day 8 « 四門

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