First off, I’d like to wish all our readers a very happy 2014.
A while back my bird showed me a TV program called Mariko & Ariyoshi no Ikari Shindo (マツコ＆有吉の怒り新党). Now, while I’m not at all a fan of this show, at the end of every episode they have a highlight on random interesting stuff. This particular episode focused on 3 breathtaking sumo bouts. Today I’d like to share the first of those bouts.
Let me take you back to the same year a Japanese solider by the name of Shoichi Yokoi was discovered in Guam, after having lived in hiding in the jungle for 28 years. The same year Okinawa was returned to Japan after having been occupied and governed by the US for 27 years. And the year an avalanche on Mt. Fuji took the lives of 19 climbers. Yes, ladies and gentlemen it was back in the 47th year of the emperor Showa, better known to you and me as 1972.
The Aki basho ran from September 10 to 24, and looking at the banzuke we can see the san’yaku ranks were crowded with 3 komusubi, 4 sekiwake, 3 ozeki, all lead by one man, Yokozuna Kitanofuji. There were so many san’yaku in fact that the lowest Maegashira rank was M-13! But the banzuke used a different system back then, the kōshō seido (公傷制度) system, which was in use from 1972-2004. Basically when a rikishi was injured he could take a basho off to recover without having to drop down in rank. This led to widespread abuse of the system though so it was abandoned in 2004 and replaced with the current system, with the makuuchi rank being expanded to 42 as a sweetener to the rikishi at that time.
Yokozuna Kitanofuji, sumo’s 52nd Yokozuna, won the tournament with a perfect zensho-yusho. It was his 7th yusho and 2nd 15-0 record. (He went on to win a total of 10 yusho, with 3 perfect records before retiring in 1974).
Takanohana Kenshi (貴ノ花 健士), a very popular rikishi from Aomori, with his slim build and good looks was known to all as the “Prince of Sumo”. He won two yusho in his career. He was the father of Takanohana (II) Koji who often commentates on NHK.
Wajima Hiroshi (輪島 大士) hailed from Ishikawa prefecture and would go on to be known as the “Sumo Genius” due to becoming the first Yokozuna to have graduated from university. He was promoted to the top rank in 1973. He would also go on to win 14 yusho, 3 of which were zensho-yusho.
Ok, so on to the action. It’s Day 15, and the location is the Kuramae Kokugikan, due to the old Kokugikan being damaged during the war, and the current Ryogoku Kokugikan wouldn’t open its doors until 1985.
The taller Wajima, wearing a purple mawashi, started out with a tsuppari attack, that Takanohana, wearing a black belt, tried to deflect. The Genius got a right hand inside grip as the Prince kept his left up under the Genius’ right armpit. After the two circled around, the Genius used his strength to drive forward ever so slightly and got his right hand on the black belt for his favoured migi-yotsu position. But this move allowed the Prince to get the exact same position. And as the Genius dropped his hips, to drive forward, the Prince did exactly the same. With both men getting their hips impressively low, Wajima was unable to overpower Takanohana. He tried lifting his opponent, then tried breaking his gip, but both attempts failed. He was definitely the one being the aggressor, but Taka was preventing and blocking all attempts made against him. Both men circled around directly over the shikiri-sen in the centre of the dohyo. The Genius turned to his left and tried to throw the Prince, again deflected, but this time he took the offensive and tried lifting his much bigger opponent, to the point where both men were on their tippy-toes, before driving him backwards and on an angle. Wajima was able to defend the sidewards attack, and they moved away from the tawara back to the centre again. Although grips were temporarily relinquished during throw attempts, both men always regained their migi-yotsu grips.
As the Genius again tried to break the grip, the Prince seized perfectly on the opportunity of having his opponent slightly off centre, pulled him in and looked to have his execution set up, having Wajima’s left leg between his he dropping his hips and tried to push forwards. But with the Emperor and his kids watching, the Prince was not gonna go out. And again managed to force the action back to the centre of the ring. By now both Wajima’s and Takanohana’s mutual grip on opponents had the mawashi raising up to chest level.
Wajima again tried to lift and force the Prince back, but with the belt a little loose he couldn’t get the traction he wanted. He then tried to throw to his right, using the better grip. In fairness any other current rikishi (with the exception of one) would have gone down, but Takanohana had his footing perfect. When it didn’t work out you could see Wajima’s frustration, and his energy dissipating. They hit a stand still in the centre of the ring.
Takanohana then went on the offensive. He dropped his hips low down and tried to lift up the much bigger Genius, and tried to drive forward. Wajima had to try to throw to his right to break the attack, and needed to get way down low to defend again when he still wasn’t out of trouble. Taka was trying to finish him off, and Waji was in trouble. He was being forced back, but with excellent footwork he was circling around, so that even though he was being forced back, he wasn’t going out. When they circled around the entire ring, getting back to exactly where that offensive had started from, they settled down again. Only this time it was Takanohana who was frustrated and drained of energy.
It was at this point that the ring side judge raised his hand to pause the fight for a mizuiri, or water break! The two had been fighting for over 2 minutes, and boy had they used an enormous amount of energy between them. Small villages could have been powered for weeks had the energy been converted into electricity! After the break, the two wrestlers were set back into the same position where they had been stopped. The gyoji slapped their belts to signal them to start again, and it was Takanohana who went of the first offensive, driving forward. But at the exact same time Wajima went makikae and got his right hand inside to gain a double handed inside grip.
Wajima then broke Takanohana’s grip, pulled him in close, lifted him up and started forward. The Prince was in real trouble, having only a right hand grip, and his left arm around Wajima’s neck, while being on his tippy toes! Wajima then lifted him clear off the dohyo, and when to move forward, but Taka leg hooked him, and somehow managed to try a half throw. This forced Wajima to stop his attack and regain his footing instead. And both men were back to yotsu-zumo.
From there Wajima tried a underarm pulling throw, that although didn’t work, again gave him the opportunity for go makikae, and again get a double inside grip. This time he didn’t try to lift Takanohana, instead keeping his hips low he drove him back to the edge, and using every last breath of energy he had, forced him over the edge via yorikiri.
The crowd, went wild.