SUMO ABC (61) / Lesson: ‘Bad habits are hard to break, even if you work hard at it’

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Goeido, left, was forced out of the ring by yokozuna Harumafuji in the championship playoff on the final day of the tournament on Sept. 24.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun “Good habits are quickly forgotten or easily lost, but bad habits are hard to break, even if you work hard at it. Sumo is really difficult.” This phrase was often spoken by the late stablemaster Hanaregoma, who was an ozeki-ranked wrestler who went by the name Kaiketsu. He was also chair of the Japan Sumo Association.

The phrase seems apt for ozeki Goeido, who allowed the title to slip from his hands in the recently held Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament. His collapse came complete when he fell to yokozuna Harumafuji twice on the final day, allowing the yokozuna to pull off a come-from-behind victory.

At last year’s autumn tournament, Goeido grabbed his first championship with a perfect 15-0 record.

The achievement was reported on the front pages of newspapers, including The Yomiuri Shimbun. They wrote, “A Japan-born sumo wrestler gaining the championship by winning all their matches is a remarkable accomplishment not seen in 20 years, since yokozuna Takanohana in the autumn tournament in 1996.”

In the 2016 autumn tournament, Goeido persisted with his aggressive style, fought bravely in all his matches, and won the Emperor’s Cup in a basho that yokozuna Hakuho did not compete in.

Despite his desire, Goeido was unsuccessful in being promoted to yokozuna in subsequent tournaments. However, the experience of winning a championship should have proved useful later.

In the latest tournament, Goeido entered the final matches with a three-match lead against Harumafuji and other rivals. It was a precious opportunity for Goeido to greatly utilize his experience from a year ago.

However, such an opportunity has eluded the ozeki again and again, thanks to his bad habits. In a match with Shohozan on the 12th day, and in another with Takakeisho on the 13th day, Goeido made half-baked tachiai starts and continued to rely on pulling techniques. The results were nothing but self-defeats.

In the end, Harumafuji caught up with Goeido. Their bouts on the final day decided who would grab the championship.

Goeido lacked spirit and the ability to control himself. Both in his first match with Harumafuji and their championship playoff, Goeido could do nothing except be utterly defeated by the yokozuna, who displayed a high level of concentration.

Goeido made a remark, as if building up his courage: “Sometime in the future, I want to say, ‘I’m like this now because I had this experience.’ I want my sumo career to go this way.”

Bad habits are hard to break, no matter how hard you try. Now that Goeido has experienced an extremely regrettable loss, he has no choice but to persist with his aggressive style while maintaining his fighting spirit.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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