As promised, I am focusing on the bottom of the banzuke this basho and as part of that, I have chosen to root for Kimurayama. I am hoping he will kachikoshi and remain in the top division. This seems to surprise a feathered friend with a history of dental problems. So…. Kimurayama gets a bunch of his wins by henka.
Henka is like mold on cheese. In the right environment and if it is the right kind of mold, it is like Gorgonzola. In the wrong environment and if it is the wrong kind of mold, it means it is time to throw the cheese away.
One of the reasons I want to look at the bottom of the banzuke this basho is because I don’t think we can judge the rikishi down there by the same standards as the rikishi at the top. Henka at the top of the banzuke is almost always the wrong kind of mold – that’s because the rikishi at the top are almost never the underdog. But, I know that I would cheer if Takekaze walked into the ring to face Hakuho and won by henka – that would be pure Gorgonzola.
One of the marks of a truly great rikishi is the ability to defend consistently against henka. In order for any rikishi to meet that criteria, henka must be a part of sumo. So, when judging a rikishi’s use of henka, we need to consider the position of their opponent. If a rikishi is the underdog and wins by henka, I say more power to the henka artist. On the other hand, if a rikishi is better than another rikishi and henkas, that is where the line must be drawn. That is downright shameful.
To paint this in broader terms, as a rikishi becomes better and better, we should expect to see less and less henka. But, down at the bottom of the banzuke, we need to have tolerance for henka. Rikishi down there should face a lot of henka. Those who can consistently survive it will emerge into the higher ranks with more balance in their tachiai. We can’t hold it against a rikishi down at the bottom if they happen to be a henka artist. We can only hold it against them if they never grow out of it.