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    How about a sumo thread?

    I have become obsessed with Sumo. Actually, my daughter became obsessed with it (don't ask) and I've been naturally trying to keep up and enjoying every minute of it.

    The Tokyo fall basho is on right now. Each basho - there's six each year, one every two months - is 15 days long with everyone having one fight per day. Day 8 is on right now. You can watch a 15-minute daily highlight package by Kintamayama (in japanese with subtitles) on YouTube which is up more or less as soon as the day ends in Japan. An English language version - about 23 minutes long - from NHK (look for Robert Mensing's feed on youtube) is up with about a 12-hour delay. So it's easy to follow in real time.

    I'm a couple of days behind right now (catching up while waiting for LA/TFC to start) but this is a very weird tournament. 3 of the 4 Yokozunas (the top rank) withdrew before it started, Most of the remaining top ranks - (Yokozuna/Ozeki/Komosubi/Sekiwake) have been having absolutely 'mares, except for one Ozeki named Goeidu who is winning mostly through constant unsportsmanlike conduct.

    It is a brilliant sport. Fast, violent and totally zen. No displays of emotion allowed whatsoever. And constant promotion/relegation both within and across ranks. Super-hierarchical.

    Go ahead, ask me anything. Or better yet, watch a few days' worth of highlights. It's great fun.

    #2
    I've tried several times, and never come close to getting through a full basho.

    Have you seen it live? Does that help?

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      #3
      No. Couldn't persuade my dad to go when I took him to Japan two years ago. Hoping to get to the May basho next year, though.

      I think it helps if you know to focus on two or three guys. The last two bashos Hakuho was completely on fire and breaking records for all-time wins. Completely dominant, great to watch. This one might be a weird one because (as of two days ago, might have changed) the results are all over the place and no one looks like breaking out and winning it.

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        #4
        I used to get quite into this when I was teaching in Japan. For no good reason (closet racist, or just contrary) I would support the foreigners like Konishiki and Akebono, or whatever they are now called (wrestlers changing their names is one of those strange Sumo things).

        It had a cult following in the UK back in the 1980's, on Channel 4 if I recall.

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          #5
          Thing is most of the top wrestlers are foreign now. 3 of the 4 yokozunas - including the one who now holds basically every sumo record there is (Hakuho) - are Mongolian as are maybe another half-dozen Makuuchi. Then there's a Bulgarian (Aioyama), a Brazilian (Kaisei), a Georgian (Tochinoshin) plus a couple of Egyptians who keep bouncing up and down between Juryo and Makuuchi and whose names I can never remember. No Hawaiians at the moment.

          Basically, young Japanese are not going into the sport the way they used to. Lifestyles are too comfortable and middle-class and pay in sumo not particularly high so not many see it as an attractive career option.

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            #6
            Originally posted by tee rex View Post
            I used to get quite into this when I was teaching in Japan. For no good reason (closet racist, or just contrary) I would support the foreigners like Konishiki and Akebono, or whatever they are now called (wrestlers changing their names is one of those strange Sumo things).

            It had a cult following in the UK back in the 1980's, on Channel 4 if I recall.
            Yeah, I've still got a tie-in book from that called "The Giants of Sumo". Terao was my favourite, being about half the size of everyone else his approach was generally either to slap the opponent in the face repeatedly to propel them backwards or, once in a while, to jump out the way at the start so his opponent would go flying out the ring...

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              #7
              That last is considered very unsporting. It's noticeable how little cheering there is in the hall when somebody wins that way.

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                #8
                Originally posted by Anton Gramscescu View Post
                No. Couldn't persuade my dad to go when I took him to Japan two years ago. Hoping to get to the May basho next year, though.

                I think it helps if you know to focus on two or three guys. The last two bashos Hakuho was completely on fire and breaking records for all-time wins. Completely dominant, great to watch. This one might be a weird one because (as of two days ago, might have changed) the results are all over the place and no one looks like breaking out and winning it.
                Three guys are now 7-1, apparently.
                https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/.../#.Wb-g1RQy9pg

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                  #9
                  Two of whom lost today. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/sumo/daily-bouts/ , leaving Goeido (who I loathe) alone at 8-1. I hope Onosho bounces back - he looks like the best of the young Japanese fighters by far.

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                    #10
                    This is an unmitigatedly shitty tournament, but it did have one fabulous Benny Hill moment yesterday (starts at 4:14)

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                      #11
                      That was "interesting".

                      Is You Tube your primary medium for consuming Sumo?

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                        #12
                        Only medium. I don't know where else I would find it. I mean I've watched it on TV while in Japan (which I don't recommend for first timers because the fucking around between bouts takes for*ever*, which is probably charming live but irritating on screen); I find the 15- to 25-minute highlight packages are helpful, you can keep up with developments daily without too much effort.

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                          #13
                          So, one of the fascinating things about sumo tournaments is how they decide on the schedule. The full 15 days of matches aren't known at the outset; basically, the tournament organizers do the schedule 24-48 hours in advance. What that means is that if a couple of fighters get hot they can keep them apart until the end of the tournament to set up a barnstorming finish. Or if a favoured fighter is getting the shit kicked out of him, they can throw him a couple of easy fights (wish someone would do that to Tochinoshin soon he's getting pounded this basho).

                          There's 40-odd fighters in the top level. There's 30 (or so - depending on injuries) Maegashiras, ranked 1 through 15 (sometimes 16), with 2 at each level. Above that there are 2 sekiwake (junior champions), 2 komusbi (associate champions - sort of), and up to 4 (currently 3, I think) Ozeki (champions). Fighters move up and down these ranks based on their results in the last tournament. Have a winning record and you go up, losing record and you go down. At the very top are Yokozunas (4 currently though only 1 in this tournament) - people who have at some point won 2 tournaments in a row. They can't go down. But if they ever post a losing record, they have to retire. Haramafuji is flirting with that in this tournament.

                          Anyways, when they do the tournament schedule, they avoid big mismatches. If your're a low-ranked maegashira, you fight other low-ranked maegashiras, not yokozunas. In fact, if you're a yokozuna you hardly fight any Maegashiras at all. This provides competitive balance at the level of the individual fight, but it means completely unbalanced schedules over a tournament.

                          Two consequences. The first is that it's in theory possible for a low-ranked fighter on a hot streak to win a tournament. if the yokozunas and Ozekis are inconsistent, you can end up with a low-ranked fighter with a 12-1 or 12-2 record pushing to win it all. This of course is why they don't set the schedule. if a low-ranked young kid gets good they feed him to the yokozunas and things even out.

                          the second is that the top maegashira ranks are like yoyos. You get decent wrestlers who post winning records in a couple of tournaments and go up to Maegashira 2, Maegashira 1 or even Sekiwake. And then BOOM. All of a sudden they have an entire tournament where they mostly face off the top ten or so. They usually get smashed and down they go again. Circle of sumo life.

                          I can't think of another sport where this happens - basically continual promotion/relegation. Seems like a novel way to keep things interesting.
                          Last edited by Anton Gramscescu; 20-09-2017, 15:59.

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                            #14
                            Anyways, this Basho's done i think. Goeido is 10-1, no one else is better than 8-3. He might lose one more match but doubt he'll lose two.

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                              #15
                              That's really weird. I'd think leaving it up to the organizers would create a lot of frustration and anger from fans. Like the US college football bowl system. Why don't they just do a round-robin, like fencing (I think).

                              Are there no weight classes?

                              Sumo looks like it would lead to a lot of early deaths. Those guys aren't in "bad shape" but once they retire, its going to be hard for them to adjust their eating to a slower metabolism and less exercise. Same with offensive linemen.

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                                #16
                                Bashos are 15 days, one bout per day each. So to get to a round-robin you'd either have to shrink the pool form the 40-odd in top division or have them fight more than once per day.

                                No, no weight classes. There are pros and cons to being heavy in sumo - speed and agility matter. Certainly, the Mongolians at the top of the sport tend not to be flabby, and the all-time great Chiyonofuji was pretty slim, as these things go. But yes, early death from heart congestion is an occupational hazard for these guys.

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                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Anton Gramscescu View Post
                                  Bashos are 15 days, one bout per day each. So to get to a round-robin you'd either have to shrink the pool form the 40-odd in top division or have them fight more than once per day.

                                  No, no weight classes. There are pros and cons to being heavy in sumo - speed and agility matter. Certainly, the Mongolians at the top of the sport tend not to be flabby, and the all-time great Chiyonofuji was pretty slim, as these things go. But yes, early death from heart congestion is an occupational hazard for these guys.
                                  I see. I thought maybe they could wrestle a few times a day, like in an olympic wrestling tournament.

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                                    #18
                                    I believe that they could, but spectator and television tradition isn't set up for that.

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                                      #19
                                      OK, strange turn. Day 13 just ended. Goeido has somehow contrived to lose his last two fights (both against lower ranked dudes) to put him at 10-3 and he has yet to fight Yokozuna Haramafuji who is 9-4. There is also a very low-ranked Maegashira, Asanaoyama, actually in his first basho, who is also 9-4. So we have the possibility of a three-way 11-4 tie come Sunday (although I assume the tournament committee will now fuck with Asanoyama by giving him some more senior competition for the last day. Not sure the last time anyone won a tournament with a record as weak as 11-4

                                      3-way tiebreakers are rare - only once every 3/4 years, I think. This is the one case where they will wrestle more than once in a day - at the end of the last day of the torunament they will all have to wrestle each other in a mini-league.
                                      Last edited by Anton Gramscescu; 22-09-2017, 20:30.

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                                        #20
                                        This came up in my therapy session the other day. I was talking about how sometimes its hard for me to make choices about what I will devote time and energy to, because I can usually find something interesting in almost any topic, especially the intersection of sports and culture. But I have to start making hard choices so that I stop spreading my brain so thin and so I can get my work done and fulfill my other obligations.

                                        So this popped into my head as an example. This is really fascinating, really, but I just can't add another sport to my list. Also - and I hope this doesn't make me racist - I have a really hard time remembering Japanese words and names. I'm not sure why that is, but names of directors, cities, movies, ideas, athletes, even my own Japanese-American sleep therapist - seem to never stick in my head.

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                                          #21
                                          I have trouble with that too. The fact that so many of them have ring names that start with "Taka" or "Chiyo" or "Tochi" (all of which I think have something to do with whose stable they are from and who their mentors are) doesn't help. Also, they're all endomorphic so body shape/size doesn;t always help . So the ones that are easy to remember are the champions (because they always win), the europeans (because they stand out), and the occasional non-endomorph (e.g. Ishiura).

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                                            #22
                                            OK, here's the brilliance of not setting determining matches until 2 days before they happen.

                                            1) If someone from lower-down the ranks has too good a record, you can fuck him up. #16 Maegashira Asanaoyama, at 9-4, had at least an outside shot going into the final weekend. They matched him up against a maegashira #6. Done and dusted. He loses, is 9-5, out of the running for the yusho (yusho = tournament champion).

                                            2) You can create a bang-up last-day final. Goeido (11-3) has yet to face Haramafuji (10-4). So you put them together on the last day. If Goedo wins, he's champion. If Haramafuji wins they will go immediately to a play-off (as the sole yokozuna in this basho, Haramafuji always fights last). Haramafuji has largely looked like shit in this tournament, but has performed better in the last couple of days, so hard to say who has the advantage here.

                                            Tomorrow will be interesting.

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                                              #23
                                              And it's over! Goeido lost twice to Haramafuji, once in the final match and again, with the two tied at 11-4, immediately afterwards in the playoff. Haramafuji wins! Haramafuji wins!

                                              Mostly awful basho, but great finish. I will now shut up about this topic until the Nagoya basho in November.

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                                                #24
                                                You've done us a fine service here Gramsci.

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                                                  #25
                                                  Why thank you.

                                                  I'm kind of hoping furtho shows up at some point to provide slightly more context than I am able to.

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