SUMO ABC No. 93 / Tipping the scales a weighty trend among new-age wrestlers

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Aoiyama, left, pushes Yutakayama at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer“Knowing no limit” would be the best description of the weight of makuuchi wrestlers right now.

Their average weight measured just before the current New Year Grand Sumo Tournament was a record 166.2 kilograms, up 1.9 kilograms from before the Autumn tournament in September last year and pushing closer and closer to 170 kilograms.

It is not a bad thing for them to put on weight, but there is clearly a lack of genuine excitement in their movements at recent tournaments.

What I mean is their bouts are becoming too linear. The action offers no excitement of skillful offense and defense. A push and a slap, and the opponent simply falls on their hands — that has been an ever-common sight, as shown at the current basho.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Ichinojo is seen at the Spring tournament in March.

Of the three heaviest wrestlers at the moment, Mongolian Ichinojo is the indisputable leader at 226 kilograms. He is followed by Kaisei from Brazil at 204 kilograms and Bulgarian Aoiyama at 198 kilograms. The trio all come from outside Japan and have distinctive characters in their own rights. Ichinojo is a heavy-tank type with his massive lower body. Kaisei and Aoiyama are great to watch when they slam headfirst into opponents. The way they tip the scales in their favor because of their weight to dominate opponents is certainly exciting.

The problem is that other wrestlers, including many Japanese, are trying to follow the trend by putting on weight themselves. Everyone is trying to emulate heavyweight, non-Japanese wrestlers — it is similar to the sumo scene in the 1990s when Hawaiian wrestlers such as Konishiki, Akebono and Musashimaru took the dohyo by storm.

In those days, all wrestlers in the top two makuuchi and juryo divisions turned to putting on weight, something that resulted in their movement becoming more sluggish. It has inevitably led to more injuries and became a factor in the decline of the sport’s popularity.

Wrestlers are supposed to be able to control their weight, strengthen their lower body and compete with quick movements. Yokozuna Hakuho is one wrestler who doesn’t buy in to the bulky belief and has the ability to keep his weight under control.

His weight just prior to the current basho was 158 kilograms. It is an increase of 4 kilograms from his previous weigh-in, partly because he did not take part in the Kyushu basho in November. But I think Hakuho has the conviction that he should stay at around 155 kilograms. I wonder why other wrestlers don’t follow such a good and close example like him.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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