This is the second of three historical bouts I’d like to revisit before the Natsu basho kicks off next week. Let me set the scene:
A magnitude 7.7 earthquake in Miyagi killed 28 people, and triggered a small tsunami. The island of Okinawa switched from driving on the right to driving on the “correct” side of the road. Japan won 70 gold medals at the Asian Games to claim the top spot. And Japan and China signed a treaty of peace and friendship. That “friendship” recently “celebrated” it’s 35 year anniversary, albeit 2 months late due to disputes over rocks, and in a very low-key manner. Yeah you guessed it, the 53rd year of the emperor Showa, sometimes known as the year of Our Lord 1978.
The Haru basho was held from March 12 to 26 at the Osaka Municipal Gymnasium. The banzuke was now headed by 2 Yokozuna, Kitanoumi and our friend Wajima (who would pick up an injury on Day 1 that would see him sit out the rest of the tournament), 4 ozeki (one of which was Takanohana), and the usual 2 sekiwake and 2 komusubi. Looking down to M-8 we can see a young rikishi by the name of Chiyonofuji starting to work his way up the ranks. Chiyonofuji would go on to become the sports 58th yokozuna and win a massive 31 yusho throughout his career, the 2nd highest of any yokozuna to date!
It took Asahikuni Masuo (旭國 斗雄) 77 tournaments to enter the ozeki ranks, a record in 1976. 4 years later Masuiyama II would take 79 tournaments to be promoted, and then Kirishima came along in 1980 and cemented his name into the records as the slowest ever promotion to ozeki when it took him an incredible 91 tournaments to become promoted! But let’s get back to Asahikuni. He came from Hokkaido, and entered sumo in 1963. He was a skilful young wrestler, and won the gino-sho or technique prize on 6 separate occasions! And keeping with nicknames this guy was known as, wait for it, the PhD of sumo, because of his extensive knowledge of kimarite winning techniques!
Kaiketsu Masateru (魁傑 將晃) comes from Yamaguchi prefecture, waaay down the end of Honshu. He started his sumo career in 1966. He won both the Jonokuchi and Sandanme yusho with perfect scores. And while he doesn’t seem to have a nickname that I could find, he should have had one due to his winning 7 kanto-sho or Fighting Spirit prizes throughout his career. Later he went on to become Hanaregoma-oyakata, and was the chairman of the JSA from 2010-2012.
This fight is from Day 7 of the Haru (March) Basho, and this time we are in Municipal Gymnasium in Osaka. It’s the second last fight of the day, with Kitanoumi against Aobayama in the musubi-no-ichiban or final bout of the day.
At the tachi-ai Asahikuni, in the blue mawashi, leads with a shoulder charge while trying to get a left grip on the front of Kaiketsu’s purple belt. A powerful right hand was keeping him back however so he launched a few slaps to Kai’s face. Both men separated briefly before engaging again, both using their arms and hands to try gain the advantage. Again they separated and repeated the process, and again, and then again, until Kaiketsu got his right arm under Asahikuni’s. Although he looked to have the slight advantage here, neither man had a grip. The ozeki had his head under the M4’s chin. Kai tried to drive forward to get the grip he so desperately wanted, but with the head under his chin it was always going to be very difficult. Attempt after attempt he would briefly get, then lose that grip. So he the changed tactics and tried to throw Asa with an underarm belt less grip. That was defended nicely, as were he attempts to get a shallow grip on the front of the blue mawashi. So he tried to go makikae, but Asahikuni was quick to pull his elbow in close to his body and prevent that too. The two men were in a stalemate.
Next, the shimpan or ringside judge raised his hand. Over 4 minutes had passed, so it was time for a mizuiri or water break. In fairness they looked like they needed it! When the gyoji saw the raised hand of the shimpan, he rushed in to the two wrestlers to tell them to stop fighting. He probably took a mental note of their positions, and gave them a break.
After their break they were put back into the exact same position they were in before they were stopped. The gyogi then slapped both men at the same time on the back of their mawashi to indicate the restart of the bout.
When they restarted Kaiketsu had an inside left hand and an outside right. Asa had the same, but he was being driven backwards. He managed to defend well, even as Kai was tossing him around like a rag doll. But as his energy quickly drained and the PhD of sumo was dug in well, another stalemate ensued.
The shimpan was watching his watch carefully, but must have been assuming that he wouldn’t need to stop the fight for a second time. But when his clock hit 3:24 he raised his hand again. The fight was stopped and the judges convened on the dohyo. They decided to have a rematch after 10 minutes. The scheduled musubi-no-ichiban would be held first, and then this playoff would be held. So the replay would in fact become the new musubi-no-ichiban.
After Yokozuna Kitanoumi beat the M2 Aobayama via uwatedashinage to move to 6-1, Asahikuni and Kaiketsu returned upon the dohyo to find a winner.
This bout started off at a fierce pace. Asahikuni led with his two hands and immediately went for a leg sweep to Kai’s left leg. Kaiketsu took the hit and his leg went high into the air, but he managed to capitalise on that momentum and was able to spin around 180 and get down into a good position to meet Asa who was coming for him again. Now Kai was in an offensive position, utilising frontal shoves to edge Asa back some. But speed is something this two men had, and when Asa found a way past the shoves Kai tried a hand to the back of he’s head followed by a leg sweep of his own! Hearts racing he kept himself upright and again they were in hidari yotsu-zumo again.
Another stalemate pursued. The clock ticked past 2 minutes. And surly many people thought there was going to be yet another mizuiri in this epic battle. But Kaiketsu summoned energy from the gods, or perhaps Asahikuni’s energy reserves hit critical level, but Kai was able to drive forward, dropping his hips and put Asa on the tawara, for the first time this match, and then switched to throwing him down via a left handed sukuinage or belt less underarm throw.
The total fight time added up to 10 minutes and 23 seconds! There are wrestlers who participate in all 90 bouts a year who don’t clock up that amount of fight time, let alone in one bout!
Asahikuni went on to win his next 3 bouts and finished they tournament with 10-5.
Kaiketsu lost the following day to M9 Futatsuryu the next day, but also went on to finish the tournament at 10-5. He moved up to Komusubi the following basho.
I couldn’t find a complete video of this battle, but this video will give you and idea of what it was like.
I hope you enjoyed this one. I hope to have one more historical bout of interest for you in the next few days.