Rikishi Profile: Mainoumi Shuhei – Giant at Heart.


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:”