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: