SUMO ABC (74) / Endo’s popularity to rise as he becomes more competitive

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

Endo poses in front of the Oitekaze stable in Soka, Saitama Prefecture, in September 2013. He could not make a topknot because his hair was not long enough due to his speedy promotion to the makuuchi division.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterEndo, a member of the Oitekaze stable, recorded more wins than losses (9-6) when he was No. 1 maegashira, for fourth time, at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament. He will likely achieve the rank of sanyaku at the next Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, set to begin on May 13 at the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena.

It has been five years since Endo debuted at the 2013 Spring Grand Sumo Tournament. Though poised to take a major step in the next tournament, he has been reluctant to discuss his ambitions, saying only, “I want to do my best in the same way I’ve been doing.”

In 2012, while a student at Nihon University, he won the title of amateur yokozuna and also won a championship in the National Sports Festival.

Endo made his debut as a professional sumo wrestler with the rank of No. 10 makushita and tsukedashi (preferential treatment in the sumo ring for those with excellent records as amateurs).

In the Nagoya tournament held in July that year, he climbed up to the juryo division rank after having participated in two grand sumo tournaments.

Endo recorded 14 wins and one loss in Nagoya. In the following autumn tournament, he was promoted to the makuuchi division, a remarkably quick rise in the sumo rankings.

With these achievements, Endo fulfilled the hopes of people in the sumo world and sumo fans.

First of all, Endo’s fighting skills are excellent. If Endo gets in a form of “hidari yotsu” — in which his left arm goes through the opponent’s right arm and grabs the opponent’s body, and then his right arm grabs the mawashi belt over the opponent’s other arm — Endo’s skills become more effective.

Endo’s sumo style is that his offensive stance is flexible, catching unguarded openings or attacking weak points of the opponent.

However, happy events tend to be accompanied by problems. On the fifth day of the spring tournament in 2015, Endo suffered injuries when he pushed Shohozan down and out of the dohyo ring.

The anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus of his left knee were seriously damaged, and he needed two months in total until the injuries were healed.

Since then, his record in sumo has been seesawing. Due to excessive nervousness about the once damaged left leg, he also suffered a sprain in his right ankle in the New Year tournament in 2016. He skipped the remaining days of the tournament.

In the ranking for the following spring tournament, he was demoted to the juryo division.

In 2017, Endo underwent endoscopic surgery on his left ankle. Despite the difficult experience, he overcame the hardships by thoroughly doing basic physical practices, such as shiko (stamping feet) and teppo (striking a wooden post with flat hands).

Nowadays, sumo wrestlers ranked in the juryo division or higher are often seen with their joints wrapped up in conspicuous amounts of tape. However, Endo does not tape up unless something unusual happens. His strong will, and his wine-red or gold belts enhancing his clear skin, are parts of how attractive he is as a sumo wrestler. The wrestler is handsome and has a surprisingly deep voice. The more competitive he becomes, the more popular he is likely to get.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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