Ketaguri my #$&” –
‘twas a henka sir!
A henka I tell you
by Eric Blair
|Benedict the umpteenth, George Orwell or Bill Clinton – take your pick!
To be honest, the shock of what I saw that day is still reverberating around this little head of mine - a full 10 days after the crime / kimarite in question.
Yes, I know the move of ketaguri is legitimate. Yes, I know there is no rule against using any official kimarite regardless of rank and oh yes, I do know that the yokozuna has previously stated his desire to use each and every one of the official kimarite before he packs his mawashi away for the last time.
So, why do I feel cheated? Simple – the move pulled by Mongolian Yokozuna Asashoryu on Day 8 of the 2006, Kyushu Basho amounts to ‘henka’ – nothing more, nothing less – hatakikomi mixed in with a limited dose of hikiotoshi plain and simple. Seen at tachiai these two kimarite are deemed henka.
Think about it – hatakikomi and / or hikiotoshi more often than not involve one rikishi dodging out of the way as his head down, sometimes eyes closed, foe charges forward to be met by nothing other than a hand on the back of his head, neck or shoulder and, a split second later, the dohyo / tawara / pensioner in row one (this last possibility depending on initial speed at the tachiai)
1. Did the yokozuna move to the side as Kisenosato leapt into the fray?
2. Did the yokozuna use the pressure of his hand / hands on
Last month’s basho had much worthy of storing in the memory banks:
Kaio’s first-week string of eight wins since black and white television
gave way to colour, the rest of the participating ozeki finishing with
decent kachikoshi, and of course Homasho’s so near yet still so far run
that saw him in title contention up until the final weekend. A few
rikishi had basho they’d rather forget but good on at least two of them
– Messrs. Kokkai (3-12) and Iwakiyama (2-13) – for sticking it out
until the final whistle when weaker men would have feigned injury to
The points above notwithstanding, the reason Kyushu 2006 will long prove memorable and will forever be something of a millstone around the yokozuna’s neck can be whittled down to just three words – four if you are grammatically picky: It wasn’t ketaguri.
“November 19th, 2006 - a day that will live in infamy” might be something of an exaggeration given the fact that sumo is a sport and everyone goofs sometimes but we are talking yokozuna here. Not your normal man in the street who calls in sick every now and then when he has a hangover from hell – yokozuna. Let me repeat – yokozuna! Give me a Y, give me an O – you get the pic. Are not the Ys supposed to be above the daily trivialities, the deceit-riddled lives of the majority?
Am I grasping at straws looking for idols that don’t really exist?
Let’s look at the facts of day 8’s musubi-no-ichiban at Kyushu, 2006.
1. Asashoryu – lone yokozuna and a man head and shoulders above all others in the modern game went against 20-year-old Kisenosato in the last bout of the day.
2. He did so having lost against the young komusubi from Ibaraki Prefecture in the previous tournament
3. When the gyoji pointed his gumbai it was towards the east – indicating a win for the yokozuna.
4. The kimarite called by the stadium announcer was “ketaguri’
Nothing controversial thus far – all as the record books state if I am not mistaken.
So, why did I and millions around Japan, many around the world even, feel as if the yokozuna had pulled a dirty? Why was my head shaking in disgust as I sat beneath a huge invisible question mark as the yokozuna made his way back to the shitakubeya?
Because – and not to put too fine point on it, if that was a bona fide ‘ketaguri’ then my name is