A Collection of Spectacularly Executed Kimarite.

gettyimages-84401909-612x612 - asashoryu Baruto

Hakuho yaguranage Okinoumi:

Hakuho possesses the total package in size, balance, agility, and speed, but add on his incredible technical prowess to his physical attributes, and he becomes a literal yokozuna cheat code. This yaguranage (inner thigh throw) he pulled off against Okinoumi at the edge here, could perhaps be his most impressive technical feat. Check out the replays to get the full effect.

Asashoryu yaguranage Harumafuji:

Asashoryu pulls off an earlier, though slightly less impressive yaguranage, against a much lighter Harumafuji.

Ura koshinage Dewahayate:

Ura, “The Pink Panther,” executes an incredible last-ditch koshinage (hip throw) against Dewahayate.

Wakanohana uwatenage Asahifuji:

The uwatenage (overarm throw) is one of the more common throws, but this one by Wakanohana against Asahifuji, is as dramatic looking as it gets.

Mainoumi sakatottari Wakashoyo:

Mainoumi counters Wakashoyu’s arm-throw attempt by reversing the momentum, winning with an amazing sakatottari (arm bar throw counter).

Mainoumi mitokorozemi Akebono:

Mainoumi back at it again, this time with a mitokorozeme (triple attack force out) against Akebono. This extremely rare techniqe involves grabbing an opponent’s inner leg, tripping their outer leg, and pushing forward with the shoulders and neck.

Takekaze ipponzeoi Kaisei:

Takekaze pulls off the rare and elegant, ipponzeoi (one-armed shoulder throw), against Kaisei.

Sagatsukaza ipponzeoi Tochinowaka:

The much shorter Sagatsukaza executes another example of an ipponzeioi against Tochinowaka.

Harumafuji okuritsuriotoshi Goeido:

Harumafuji with an angry-looking okuritsuriotoshi (backwards throw) against Goeido.

Takanonami kawazugake Takanohana:

Takanonami defeats stablemate Takanohana with a majestic looking kawazugake (hooking backward counter throw).

Tochinoshin kotenage Endo:

A beautiful looking kotenage armlock throw (aided by a leg trip), from Tochinoshin in this bout against Endo.

Harumafuji kubinage Myogiryu:

Goeido is the past and present “Kubinage King,” but keeping with the title of this post, this particular neck throw by Harumafuji against Myogiryu, is the most spectacular looking.

Baruto harimanage Aran:

Powerful Baruto digs into his pro-wrestling arsenal to pull off this impressive harimanage (backward belt throw) to former Russian sumotori Aran.

Terao sotokomata Hamanoshima:

Lightweight oshi-specialist Terao, shows off some of his grappling ability with this sotokomata (one leg carry) against Hamanoshima.

Asashoryu shitatenage Baruto:

Asashoryu, “The Beast,” not only matches the formidable strength of Baruto in this bout, but shows off his own immense power with a mighty looking shitatenage (underarm throw).

Kyokutaisei susoharai Kizenryu:

Everyone’s favorite documentary star, Kyokutaisei, uses his judo background to execute a beautiful susoharai (rear foot sweep) against Kizenryu.

Takatoriki nichonage Kototsubaki and Kirishima:

Takatoriki also had a judo background though he seldom used it, instead preferring oshi thrusts and face slaps. Here’s two stunningly beautiful examples of a nichonage (body drop throw) that he pulled off against Kototsubaki and Kirishima.

Chiyonokuni nichonage Tanzo:

The nichonage is just way too aesthetically beautiful to only give two examples. So here’s a third one by Chiyonokuni against Tanzo.

Wakanosato tsuridashi Shimotori:

Sumo has had its share of great lifters, like Kirishima, Baruto, Tochinoshin, and Takanosato, but it’s the burly Wakanosato who pulls off perhaps the most impressive looking tsuridashi (lift out) of them all, in this match against Shimotori.

Baruto tsuridashi Yoshikaze:

Speaking of Baruto. Yoshikaze was feeling a bit under the weather in this match, and Baruto was nice enough to gently escort him off the premises.

Tochinoshin tsuridashi Chiyonokuni:

…Okay, one last tsuridashi for the road. Tochinoshin with a hybrid lift/throw-out against Chiyonokuni.

 

Rikishi Profile: Mainoumi Shuhei – Giant at Heart.

mainoumi

With the undersized Enho knocking at the gates of Makuuchi, Ishiura holding steady at the moment in Juryo, and Ura climbing his way back up the ranks, I thought I’d focus on perhaps the greatest and most popular of all the diminutive, underdog rikishi. Mainoumi stood at 5’7”, and weighed about 215 lbs. However, his actual height was a couple of inches less than that. He gained notoriety even before joining the professional ranks, by persuading a doctor to inject silicone into his scalp, so he could meet the then mandatory height restriction (which has been loosened somewhat since then). As a Makushita tsukedashi, he was immediately allowed to debut in the Makushita ranks, and quickly rose to Juryo in less than a year, making his Makuuchi debut in the 1991 September (Aki) basho, and would eventually last for eight more years in the upper division.

A look at his wild, and exciting style against future ozeki Musoyama:

You can easily see why he was an immediate fan favorite. The Hawaiian giants had already made their imposing presence felt by the time of his arrival, and his very existence as a sekitori seemed to fly in the face of what, at the time, seemed like an increasing size arms race. Of course, to last as long as he did, he had to almost solely rely on his incredible speed, cunning, and his extraordinary technical skills. His nickname was the “department store of techniques,” and his technical mastery was such, that you’d often see even extremely skilled wrestlers of the time, like Sakahoko and Wakanohana III, seem a bit tentative to get into a pure grappling battle with him.

Against Sakahoko:

Close loss against future yokozuna Wakanohana:

The two most common winning techniques in sumo are: the yoriki (frontal force out) and the oshidashi (frontal push out). In his entire career, Mainoumi only had 33 total wins by yorikiri and amazingly only 3 total wins by oshidashi! By contrast, he won by the rather rare kimarite, kirikaeshi (twisting backward knee trip), a remarkable 50 times. His most common winning technique was the shitatenage (underarm throw), which he won 105 times with, as throws and tripping techniques made up the bulk of his wins. A notable technique that’s often showed in Mainoumi highlight compilations, or television specials, is his use of the kimarite mitokorozeme (triple attack force out), which he’s credited as being the first sumotori to successfully pull off, in the modern sumo era.

A famous example of a mitokorozeme (a 3-point attack, where he trips one leg, grabs the other one, and pushes forward with his neck and shoulder) against future yokozuna Akebono:

Spectacular use of a sakatottari (arm bar throw counter) against Wakashoyo:

Kotenage (armlock throw) against Daizen:

It’s in his numerous wins against the largest opponents of his time that perhaps garnered him the most admiration, labeling him as a “giant killer,” by defeating a veritable who’s-who list of prominent, gigantic sumotori of the era, such as: Akebono (500+lbs), Musashimaru (500lbs), Susanoumi (500lbs), Toyonoumi (400+lbs), Tatsuhikari (400+lbs), Tochinofuji (400+lbs), Yamato (400+lbs), Daishoyama (400lbs), Kotobeppu (400lbs), Kotonowaka (400lbs), Mitoizumi (400lbs), Shikishima (400lbs), and Konishiki (600+lbs!) who he managed to have a positive 7-5 record in his favor.

Clinging desperately to future yokozuna Musashimaru:

Playing a brief game of patty-cake with ozeki Konishiki: 

It was in one of these matches against Konishiki where he suffered a devastating leg injury that subsequently robbed him of some of his speed and mobility, a key factor in the success of his intense, reactive style. He would last for about three more years in the upper division after that, dropping down to Juryo several times, until finally retiring in 1999. Still, it was his incredible heart and determination, and immense technical skill that made him such a beloved and entertaining rikishi to watch. For someone whose highest rank was komosubi, which he only reached once in his career, he’s still brought up and fondly remembered as much any ozeki from practically any era. His legacy is such that any undersized wrestler who’s on the cusp of entering into the makuuchi ranks, is immediately hailed as the next Mainoumi, but from even just a cursory glance at some of his videos, that’s sure to be a gargantuan act for any rikishi to follow.

More Vids:

Getting into a “footsies” battle with another notable leg tripper in Kyokushuzan:

A fierce battle with Terao, another relatively lightweight rikishi of the era:

Super-leaping henka against Kitakachidoki:

But Wait, There’s More:

An example of his unusual nekodamashi tachiai, where he’d clap his hands in front of a charging wrestler, in order to momentarily stun them:

Hakuho possibly paying homage to him, in this bizarre match against Tochiozan:

Featured briefly in a National Geographic segment on Sumo:

A behind-the-scenes look at Mainoumi’s small role in the film, “Memoirs of a Geisha:”

 

 

Rikishi Profile: Terao Tsunefumi – A Sumo Typhoon That Lasted Decades.

Terao Konishiki

My personal favorite rikishi of all time. Terao was most famous for his furious, windmill-tsuppari attack, and for his unusual longevity despite his small size, which topped off at around 255-260 lbs. His various, unique nicknames all reflect these qualities: “Tsunami,” “The Eternal Typhoon,”  and “The Iron Man.” Like the Hanada family dynasty (two Wakanohana’s and two Takanohana’s) he also came from a family with a rich sumo tradition, with numerous extended family members involved with the sport by either marriage or blood, most notably his father and two brothers. One of his older brothers only made it to the Juryo ranks, but somewhat fittingly, Terao, his father, and his older brother, Sakahoko, all managed to reach their highest rank of Sekiwake.

Here’s a look at his trademark tsunami thrusting style:

Terao vs yokozuna Hokutoumi:

Terao vs Akinoshima:

Terao vs Takatoriki:

You can easily tell that he’s the oyakata of Abi, as Abi’s relentless thrusting attack greatly resembles his mentor. However, unlike Abi, and practically all the other oshi specialists that hover around the lower Maegashira ranks today, Terao was also a very skilled grappler. In fact, I would venture to say that he was the best grappler out of any pure oshi specialist that at least I’ve seen. He usually only resorted to it, if his thrusting led to an opening, or if it just simply wasn’t working, undoubtedly because of his slim frame that was an inherent disadvantage in up-close yotsu grappling.

His weight handicap, despite his technique and grit, is very apparent here in this bout against the very tough 400lb Mitoizumi:

A great demonstration of his all-around skill displayed here against yokozuna Chiyonofuji:

Perhaps his more outstanding quality was his aforementioned longevity, especially considering his slender build and furious attacking style. I first began watching sumo in 1993. By that time, Terao had already been competing in the Makuuchi division for eight years, and would continue to wrestle on after 1993, for an additional nine more years in the upper division, having begun his sumo career in the Kitanoumi era in the late 70’s, and ending it at just before the Asashoryu era in 2002. (He actually fought against a young Asashoryu in Juryo).

In many ways, he’s a quintessential “unlikely” sumotori; someone who achieved far more than his physical sumo stature curtailed. If you didn’t know who he was and took a simple glance at him, you probably wouldn’t immediately peg him as someone that would have a successful career in the sport, and certainly not one that would last for an amazing 23 total years—17 of them in the upper division. His trademark windmill-thrusting attack, all-around skills, hard-nosed competitive spirit, and also a bit of luck in staying injury-free, all contributed to creating one of the most exciting, and distinctive wrestlers in recent memory.

More related clips:

Match against yokozuna Onokuni:

Against a young Takanohana:

His heated reaction after losing a close, hard-fought match, in another bout with Takanohana. His disappointment from this loss, compelled him to fight on for as long as he was physically able to. From a Japanese documentary:

A Quick Look at the Maegashira One-Hit Yusho Wonders.

This is a collection of bouts that clinched a rikishi’s one and only makuuchi championship won at the rank of maegashira. I didn’t include Tochinoshin, since he’s currently active, and could continue to add to his total in the future. Keep in mind that many—if not all—of these rikishi had very successful careers overall, regardless of the fact that they only won one championship. There’s many ozeki’s and even some yokozuna who only won one or even no yusho’s for their entire career. Anyway, without further ado, here’s the list:

Wakamisugi defeats Iwakaze (1960):

Although he didn’t have to fight two yokozuna, as Tochinishiki retired that very tournament, and Wakanohana Kanji I was his stablemate, Wakamisugi did genuinely beat yokozuna Asashio to win with a great 14-1 record.

Fujinishiki defeats Kitanofuji (1964):

Fujinishiki won the tournament with an excellent 14-1 record, but didn’t fight any ozeki or yokozuna, although he did defeat sekiwake Kitanofuji, who would later become a future yokozuna. The great dai-yokozuna of the time, Taiho, who was in his prime around this time period, was notably absent from this basho.

Wakanami defeats Kainoyama (1968):

This is an interesting bout for historical reasons. As a maegashira, Wakanami didn’t face any top-rankers except for one sekiwake, and the subsequent public outcry eventually led to the common practice nowadays of matching up maegashira tournament contenders with high-ranking opponents the deeper they progress into the basho.

Tochiazuma I defeats Kiyokuni (1972):

Tochiazuma Tomoyori (the father of Tochiazuma Daisuke) wins his only championship against Kiyokuni, who was the only ozeki he faced that tournament. The sole yokozuna of the time, Kitanofuji was also out with an injury.

Takamiyama defeats Asahikuni (1972):

Takamiyama wins his only makuuchi championship against the very technical but somewhat-light Asahikuni, and becomes the first foreign-born rikishi to do so. He later became a stable-mate of Konishiki (who he recruited), and then the oyakata of Akebono, the first foreign-born yokozuna.

Kongo defeats Washuyama (1975):

Excellent match. Kongo (in the light purple mawashi) defeats the noted technician Washuyama for his only championship. Yokozuna Wajima and ozeki Takanohana I were absent this tournament, but he did defeat Kitanoumi, who was the reigning dai-yokozuna of that era.

Tagaryu defeats Wakashamizu (1984):

Coming in to the basho, Tagaryu was in danger of being demoted from the makuuchi division altogether, and responded by winning his only championship. Tagaryu (on the right), defeats ozeki Wakashamizu to eliminate him from the yusho race. The only other contender, Konishiki, lost on the final day to clinch his tournament win. Tagaryu was the first maegashira-ranked wrestler to win a tournament since Kaiketsu in 1976.

Kotofuji defeats Takatoriki (1991):

By this time, maegashira who were still in the yusho race late into the tournament, were paired with increasingly higher-ranked opponents. Kotofuji was eventually paired with ozeki’s: Kirishima and Konishiki, as well as yokozuna Asahifuji, and still managed to defeat them all. His win over Takatoriki here on the 13th day, sealed his basho win.

Mitoizumi defeats Takanonami (1992):

This is a mirror match of sorts, as two tall and strong, “edge-walking” experts battle it out, with Mitoizumi coming out ahead for his only championship. Injuries greatly set-back Mitoizumi’s career which could’ve gone even higher than it did.

Takatoriki defeats Miyabiyama (2000):

This other vid shows more of Takatoriki’s emotional reaction after the bout:

33 year old veteran Takatoriki cliched his only tournament championship here, and was clearly overcome with emotion after the win. A member of the dominant Futagoyama heya, he was overshadowed by his other teammates, Takanohana, Wakanohana, and Takanonami, but he was a scrappy and tough competitor for anyone in his time.

Kotomitsuki defeats Kaiho (2001):

Although he eventually became an ozeki, the championship Kotomitsuki won here as a maegashira against Kaiho remained the only one he would ever win.

Kyokutenho defeats Tochiozan (2012):

Probably the poster boy of a completely unexpected, low-ranked sumotori who comes out of nowhere to win the entire basho. This bizarre tournament had Hakuho turn in an uncharacteristic 10-5 record (especially for that time), and six ozeki’s couldn’t capitalize on that to take the yusho. It ended with the then 37 year old Kyokutenho beating another maegashira-ranked wrestler (Tochiouzan) in a play-off, to become the oldest first-time wrestler to win a makuuchi championship. Like Takatoriki’s win, he couldn’t contain his palpable emotion, and probably has one of the most emotional post-win reactions you’ll ever see. It was the first time in 11 years that a tournament was won by a rank other than yokozuna or ozeki.

Rikishi Profile: Kotonishiki Katsuhiro – A Missile on the Dohyo.

Kotonishiki

Before Harumafuji would rocket himself across the dohyo, there was Kotonishiki. One of the most explosive rikishi in sumo history, he’s probably best known for being the only Maegashira ranked wrestler to win 2 top division championships. Some might say, that’s an indictment on him, as he perhaps never lived up to greater potential, but I personally thought he used his talents as best he could in a very tough era, despite having some glaring physical disadvantages. The thing that immediately stands out about him, is his explosive tachi-ai charge. As I mentioned, it wasn’t until Harumafuji arrived that a wrestler was finally able to match that lightning-quick burst he displayed.

Kotonishiki blasting the exciting Mainoumi out and clinching his first Makuuchi championship:

Kotonishiki vs yokozuna Hokutoumi:

There were several physical limitations he had that probably contributed to him not winning more than he did. For one, he was light at around 290 lbs—another similarity to Harumafuji . Second of all, despite his speed-based oshi-thrusting style, he had short, stubby, T-Rex arms. Also, while he was skilled on the mawashi, especially for an oshi-specialist, it wasn’t his forte. Fellow oshi-specialists of the time like Akebono or Konishiki could use their longer limbs or much greater size and strength to help keep their opponents off their belt, while he had to rely more on his quick burst speed to attack before opponents could react, and keep them constantly unbalanced.

On his way to his 2nd championship. This clip shows some of his belt skill against the great Takanohana:

This win against the ozeki Takanonami secured his improbable 2nd championship, seven years after winning his first one:

Kotonishiki was a unique, underrated, and exciting wrestler, who used his explosive speed and fierce will to blast out a multitude of opponents for over 11 years in the Makuuchi division. Although he often hovered around the Maegashira ranks, he was a key figure during a very stacked era, and was a constant threat for even the ozeki and yokozuna of the time, as shown by his long list of achievements: with two championships, eight kinboshi, and 18 total special prizes.

More clips of him in action:

Kotonishiki runs the great Chiyonofuji off the dohyo:

Kotonishiki vs a then-ozeki Wakanohana:

Kotonishiki vs Takanohana 2:

Clip of him training and flying around the dohyo in a tournament. From a longer Japanese documentary:

Kotonishiki’s Oyakata tearing up at ringside after his pupil’s second championship is clinched. From the same documentary:

How Can He Slap! A look at Three Infamous Sumo Slap-Fests.

Note: I came upon these matches when I was looking for something else, and thought that some might find them amusing.

“Sumotorin’ ain’t easy.” Takakeisho proves that age-old adage true, as he unleashes his devastating pimp-tsuppari attack against Mitakeumi, in this match from the last September basho:


Chiyotaikai causes Musoyama to spit out a mist of blood after the bout, who still manages to gut out the win:

This could be the slappiest bout of them all, as notorious harite-expert Takatoriki gets as much as he gives in this match against Daishoyama. It looks like they just stopped in the middle of the ring to begin a slapping contest:

Rikishi Profile: Takanonami Sadahiro – A Sumo Life Spent Living on the Edge.

One of the most unorthodox rikishi in recent memory, Takanonami was a part of the powerful Futogayama heya during the mid-late 90’s, when they were probably the most dominant stable the sumo world has ever seen. He was tall at around 6’7” and although he often did things that were technically wrong in a basic sense–like his proclivity for retreating and moving backwards–he was still able to carve out a very successful career with his unusual and singular style. He was especially famous for his kimedashi (arm-barring force out), or rather, the setup he would utilize once he was being driven back—right often to the very edge of the dohyo. From that seemingly desperate position, he would reach over and lock up both his opponent’s arms, and then steadily begin to march them out, or suddenly swing them around for the win. Using my personal methodology of pure “conjecture-science,” I estimate that he probably spent more time at the edge of the tawara (straw bales) than any other rikishi in modern sumo history. Not only did he spend a lot of time on the edge, but he strangely seemed to be most comfortable fighting from there as well.

Takanonami kimedashi vs Kotoryu:

Takanonami kimedashi vs Jumonji:

If that was his sole means of winning, he’d certainly not be as successful as he was, but from that position, he actually had multiple other means of attack. He could use the kimedashi, but he could also abruptly go for the uwatenage (overarm throw), which was the technique that made up the third most amount of his wins at 57. He could also turn and pull his opponents down for the shitatenage (underarm throw) which he won with 33 times. Or, if his opponent responded to try and prevent the kimedashi, he could suddenly focus on one arm for the Kotenage (armlock throw) which he had 67 wins with. He would often also use one of his legs to hook over one of his opponent’s legs, and drive forward for the sotogake (outside leg trip), something his opponents had to be constantly aware of. A lot of his wins that register as yorikiri were initially setup by this awkward retreating arm lock position.

Takanonami shitatenage vs Iwakiyama:

Takanonami sotogake vs Hayateumi:

Takanonami kotenage vs Tosanoumi:

Takanonami beating his stablemate Takanohana in a playoff, with a rare kawazugake, for his first championship:

Again, this was a highly unorthodox style, and his height and long arms were an essential contributing factor into making it all work. Mitoizumi, a contemporary of his, was also tall and heavy at 6’4” and 400lbs, and won a lot of bouts with the kimedashi as well, but it was by no means the central focus of his attack like it was for Takanonami. To me, it was Terunofuji (when he was healthy) who most resembled him at times, as he pulled off multiple kimedashi wins in a similar manner after first being driven to the edge. However, like Mitoizumi, that was not that main way he wrestled, as Terunofuji had a much more straight-forward, power-based style, and tended to use the kimedashi more as a last resort.

Terunofuji kimedashi vs Shohouzan:

Terunofuji kimedashi vs Mitakeumi:

Takanonami was an extremely unconventional wrestler who–regardless of the eccentric nature of his style–reached the rank of ozeki in 1994, which he held for seven years, eventually winning two basho championships. After suffering numerous injuries, he lost a good portion of his power, which was vital for his style to work, and was eventually demoted from his ozeki rank. He wrestled on for a further four years after that, finally becoming the last member of his once dominant heya to step down from the upper division ranks in 2004. He passed away in 2015, at the age of 43 from heart failure, having reportedly had a possible heart condition even while he was still wrestling. Yet, it was the memorable way he wrestled, and the success he garnered with that style, even while doing a lot of things technically wrong, that truly made him an unforgettable, one-of-a kind sumotori.

More vids:

Takanonami once again defeating his stablemate Takanohana in a playoff for his 2nd championship:

Against the ageless Kyokutenho:

Using the seldom seen “bent-crab stance” here against Akebono…

My self-appointed Takanonami Theme Song tribute: