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SUMO ABC (65) / Terunofuji needs to change his fighting style if he wants to continue

Yomiuri file photo

Terunofuji, rear, works out during the official practice before the Yokozuna Deliberation Council in Tokyo in September.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterTerunofuji would have been able to regain the rank of ozeki if he recorded 10 wins at the Kyushu grand sumo tournament, but ultimately he could not secure even one win and was forced to pull out of the tournament from the fifth day.

The more matches Terunofuji fought, the more serious his physical condition became in his left knee, where there is an old injury.

It seems that his magnificent body, which is 1.92 meters tall and weighs 187 kilograms, has persistently put a burden on him.

The cause of the worsened condition of Terunofuji’s old injury was deemed to be “damage to an outer meniscus in the left knee, requiring four weeks of treatment.”

An orthopedic surgeon well versed in sumo wrestlers’ injuries said, “A piece of the broken meniscus might be sandwiched between the damaged tissues.”

The surgeon said it was better for Terunofuji to receive sufficient treatment as soon as possible.

Terunofuji will have to simultaneously review his fighting style. His way of fighting in sumo is to drag in his opponent as if tucking their body under both his arms, and then swing them around to the right and left, relying only on his power.

This wild fighting style and the high-impact posture put an excessive burden on his knee. In short, he has excessively relied on his huge body.

The average weight of wrestlers in the makuuchi division exceeds 160 kilograms. The combined weight of an opponent and Terunofuji is about 350 kilograms.

Though his fighting style in sumo looks dramatic, the impact from the weight of two wrestlers is imposed on Terunofuji’s own knees when he swings around an opponent.

Considered dispassionately, anyone would realize his fighting style is reckless.

Terunofuji should concentrate on getting a firm hold of the mawashi and moving forward. A style of sumo based on forcing opponents out, instead of relying on throwing techniques and his own power, is recommended.

That doesn’t seem like a very tall order for Terunofuji.

Terunofuji was demoted from the rank of ozeki after posting losing records in two straight basho: the Nagoya tournament and the autumn tournament.

He turns 26 on Wednesday. His stablemaster Isegahama, who is the former yokozuna Asahifuji, encourages him by saying, “He’s still young, so he can attempt a comeback any time.”

The stablemaster is right. Though Terunofuji falls to the rank of hiramaku (rank-and-filer in the makuuchi division) in the next tournament, he should remember that he is a talented wrestler who can aim to become a yokozuna.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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