Fan Poll: Do Ozeki Have It Too Easy Or Not?

Updated May 22, 2012

Read this today via that the Yokozuna Deliberation Council discussed the topic of Ozeki and how they are demoted. According to some of the members, they feel Ozeki should be required to win ten bouts to maintain their rank. The sentiments were felt especially after two Maegashira rikishi, Tochiozan, and the eventual Yusho winner, Kyokutenho, fought in a playoff for the Natsu Yusho, even though there are now six Ozeki.

Interestingly enough Sumo & Stogies brought this very conversation up on March 26 of this year shortly after Kakuryu was promoted. Some of us at S & S believe these champions have it too easy. If you haven’t had a chance to share your thoughts, please click the link below: join the poll and make comments.

From Original Post

It’s a dilemma sumo fans and likely the Nippon Sumo Kyokai have discussed for years. Do Ozeki have it too easy? We’d like to raise the question now for a number of reasons:

  1. Next basho there will be six Ozeki
  2. Some of them are not challenging for the Yusho
  3. We believe rikishi going 8-7 consistently are not deserving of the rank, period.

We’ve created a simple fan poll. Feel free to vote with the choices we’ve given or make a comment and suggest alternative options (we can (have, and will) edit the poll to address other ideas). I would argue something needs to change to put more pressure on these top ranked rikishi to help guarantee that we are seeing their best work. Agree or disagree, debate, suggest, question, think! We’d love to hear from you. Team S & S

13 responses to “Fan Poll: Do Ozeki Have It Too Easy Or Not?

  1. I understand the frustration with some of the current ozeki. In that regard, it might do well to remember that three years ago, toward the end of the careers of Chiyotaikai and Kaio, things were much worse then they are now in the ozeki ranks. Sumo is built around some basic principals, one of the most basic ones is that 8 wins gives you a kachi-kochi. Nine wins gives you, well, nothing more than one more win than 8. To require ozeki win 9 bouts instead of 8, in an attempt to correct a temporary problem, is going to create some unpleasant unintended consequences, including increasing bout trading and favour giving. (Hopefully the payment of money for throwing a match has ended, but it seems almost certain that tanking some matches to help other rikishi has not.)

    The fact is as an ozeki, unless you are in the yusho race, there are only mild incentives (some yensho money and pride) to win more than 8 bouts. There is a name for ozeki throughout sumo history who have consistantly won 10 or more bouts — yokozuna. Whenever Hakuho declines (and contrary to some speculation it hasn’t started yet) the ozeki wins will pick up. Until then, it’s best to leave well enough (or mediocre enough) alone — the “cure” of 9 would only create more problems than it solves.

    • When I mentioned this was a question that has been talked about for years, I was certainly thinking about Kaio, Chiyotaikai, and Kotomitsuki (and others). My major concern is that Ozeki is the safest rank in sumo. Why should it be so safe? Why should one be given multiple opportunities to keep the rank when in almost all other situations a losing record means demotion. I am throwing out ideas, in hopes that people will have some of their own as well. At this point I am not suggesting any of them are perfect, but I do think the current set up is too easy on the Ozeki rank. Thanks for your thoughts as well. The concerns about yaocho will certainly always be there, but I think something has to give to hold the rank to a higher standard. What do other people think?

  2. About Hakuho, I have to admit that I was watching him carefully this basho for signs of decline. He did lose to two of the three rikishi he lost to last basho. At the end of the basho, I thought it was a pattern, but Hakuho proved he can still beat Kakuryu in that last bout – Kakuryu put up a hell of a fight, but he was never in control of the bout, even when he had lifted Hakuho into the air. As for Kisenosato, I think that there is a legitimate rivalry going on there, but rivalry with one rikishi is hardly a sign of decline. My speculation about Hakuho’s decline is finished for now.

    As for Ozeki rank, I agree with the sentiment of Daly’s thoughts. It is always nice to see Ozeki fighing for a double digit record. As for changing the rules of sumo, I don’t even feel entitled to an opinion – its sumo: it is what it is and will be what it was: that’s its beauty. A year ago, I was quite up in arms about the lagging quality of the Ozeki, but I am not too worried about it anymore. Baruto and Harumafuji have both been getting their double digits more times than not over the past six basho. Kisenosato has 11, and then, this basho, 9. In my opinion, Kotoshogiku and Kotooshu are the weaker Ozeki. Kotoshogiku is too limited in what he does in the ring, Kotooshu is too inconsistent in what he does in the ring. I am not a huge Kotoshogiku fan, but he may yet become a decent Ozeki. I don’t foresee Kotooshu improving.

    If Kakuryu gets the promotion he deserves, I think he will be a great Ozeki. That means we will have 3 good Ozeki, 2 question marks (Kissy and the Geek – who have yet to stabilize in their new rank) and then another Ozeki, too.

  3. “If Kakuryu gets the promotion”

    He did. They announced this on Day 14.

  4. “Are we too easy on the Ozeki rank?”

    Well, what do you mean “we,” gaijin?

    Before I begin, I thank you for the freedom and opportunity to add an alternative angle. If it is the prerogative of the Kyokai to promote what they consider a deserving rikishi to ozeki, then let it be. Sumo is not a viewer democracy. As with many time-honored arts, the emphasis is on innovation, not tradition.

    So, here’s my alternative option: love sumo for what it is and less for what it could be if it were to adhere to your own categories of worthiness.

    Perhaps we can learn something from the current ozeki and maintain an attitude of gratitude for gifts bestowed unto us which may neither be deserved nor fitting. This, of course, includes the privilege of watching sumo.

    • DRK:

      Thank you for your thoughtful response and opinion.

      I didn’t mean gaijin, I meant fans of the sport (who happen to read our website, many of whom are from Japan and around the world). I agree with you that the title “Are we too easy on the Ozeki rank” could imply too many different interpretations, and should be changed. How does this sound: “Fan Poll: Do Ozeki Have It Too Easy Or Not?” For the record, I do love sumo and enjoy watching it every basho simply for what it is: an entertaining and enjoyable sport.

      You are absolutely correct that (I am assuming this is what you meant, the quote is changed slightly from what you wrote) “As with many-time honored arts, the emphasis is not on innovation, but tradition.” I don’t expect the Kyokai to change, but as a fan, I like to ask, “the what if” question and hear what other fans think. Thanks for your suggestion. I will add your option to the poll after posting this, because I am sure there are others who agree with you completely. Looking at the results, it appears a lot of people have differing opinions. Ten people for instance seem to believe Ozeki should have to win 10 bouts a basho. I don’t agree with this (and haven’t voted) but I would be interested to know why these fans think that.

      Finally, I think the current Ozeki are going to add a lot to fan enjoyment of sumo. We just witnessed a great basho, one of the first to have a Makuuchi playoff in many months. I hope sumo continues to be an exciting and joyful event for all fans.

      Cheers again for your comment, and I hope this clarifies my own thoughts.


  5. @Matagiyami: Man, whoever did the reporting on Day 14 really dropped the ball on that one.

  6. The Ozeki rank needs a fix no matter which way you look at it. If you look back over the past year Kakuryu has won more bouts than any other rikishi in the top division except for Hakuho and this was all while he was a sekiwake. The Ozeki rank should represent a kind of strength that sets rikishi apart from all but the very best. What it currently stands for is certification of a past winning streak and then a license to slack off for the rest of your days.

    I disagree that simply increasing the number of wins needed will fix the problems, but it’s clear that there could be a better way.

  7. I originally did vote for the 10-win option in the poll, but the question was put a little different then. I answered it from a perspective ‘what do you think Ozeki’s should continually strive for’ and ‘what kind of score should Ozeki themselves consider Ozeki-worthy’.

    I understand the history and have no problems with the promotions to Ozeki and obviously demotions can still occur if they don’t perform. I do however feel that a lot is to be gained for a sekitori by staying Ozeki as long as possible. Kaio went for the records, others have prolonged their dwindling careers because there is a monetary reward tied to it.

    Nevertheless I do think the current Ozeki’s are all deserving (even though Kotooshu is not really Ozeki material right now).

  8. I just want to make the short point that I think requiring more wins in a single tournament is probably too rigid. Everyone has an off-basho now and then – and with injuries a requirement of sumo – you’re going to put a truly noble warrior in a bad spot too often.

    What I would propose is a system more akin to the promotion system. If you get 15 in one basho you don’t get promoted – you have to get 32 or 33 OVER THREE. So … why not say Ozekis have to keep a running tally of 30 over every 3 tournaments? If they fall below then in the next three basho they have to get it back up – or they get demoted. This would still ask for consistency, but forgive if inconsistency is remedied by a really good outing…

    So … Ozeki A’s record is:

    Basho 1 = 10-5
    Basho 2 = 9-6
    Basho 3 = 11-4
    *** we’re still good ***
    Basho 4 = 9-6
    *** now we’ve only got 29 wins in our last 3 – so the clock starts ticking – the next basho needs to get the total up to 30, but that still only means a 10 next time ***
    Basho 5 = 10-5
    *** whew – a last minute yaocho keeps Ozeki A in the nice apartment for 2 more months ***
    Basho 6 = 12-3
    *** since this was such an unexpected performance, the reward is that a follow-up of 8-7 (yes – I’m looking at YOU, Harumafuji) won’t cause immediate danger.***
    Basho 7 = 8-7
    *** we expected this after last time, and no big heartache. But because this is a trailing total – NEXT time he needs to crack off a 10’er ***
    Basho 8 = 9-6
    *** no dice, now the total is 29 – and the clock starts ticking again (“kadoban 1”). But now only carrying a 9 and an 8, Ozeki A needs to reach down and pull out 13! ***
    Basho 9 = 11-4
    *** ok – didn’t get 13 in his first chance to right the ship, but still has one more chance to get the running total to respectable (“kadoban 2”) ***
    Basho 10
    —- 10-5 means he stays Ozeki, carrying 20 into #11 (“kadoban” is lifted totally – new tally begins)
    —- <10 means he completed 3 consecutive basho without maintaining 30 and needs some time as a Sekiwake to clear his head …

    I think most of the Ozeki could manage this and I don't think it bounces anyone deserving prematurely. Because "deserving" shouldn't mean you were good 7 years ago (Yes, I'm looking at YOU, Kotooshu) – It should mean you go out TODAY and throw everyone not of your class – and a couple who are – DOWN.

    Anyway, my 2 yennies …

  9. I have an intermediate idea which is between keeping the current system for ozekis, and requiring that an ozeki wins at least 9 bouts per basho. Currently an ozeki becomes kadoban if he wins less than 8 bouts in a given basho, and in the following basho he must win at least 8 bouts or suffer demotion to sekiwake. That rule would be retained. I propose that there be 1 additional way for an ozeki to become kadoban, which is to win 8 bouts or less in 2 consecutive basho. In the 3rd basho, the ozeki would be demoted to sekiwake unless he wins at least 9 bouts.

    This idea is reasonable but is a bit complicated. I don’t know whether it is too complicated for the Japan Sumo Association to consider. However, it’s not as demanding as requiring an ozeki to win 9 bouts each basho or risk becoming kadoban.

    Some examples:

    1st basho: 6-9 – becomes kadoban
    2nd basho: 9-6 – retains ozeki rank and is no longer kadoban

    1st basho: 7-8 – becomes kadoban
    2nd basho: 8-7 – retains ozeki rank but remains kadoban
    3rd basho: 9-6 – retains ozeki rank and is no longer kadoban

    1st basho: 5-10 – becomes kadoban
    2nd basho: 8-7 – retains ozeki rank but remains kadoban
    3rd basho: 8-7 – loses ozeki rank and is demoted to sekiwake

  10. Marc and Chris, I like the creativity. I’ve never seen either of these ideas suggested. Well put!

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