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Sumo Quiz
The Quizmaster
Answer the Qs and win yourself next basho’s banzuke.

Utchari, Osakate and Harimanage

by Mikko Mattila
Takamisakari has been quite good at pivoting his foes around close to the edge even though he has used utchari successfully only three times. He does, however, attempt the technique quite often. Jumonji is the only other active rikishi with three successful utchari in the makuuchi division. So, while twisting and turning battles at the edge of the dohyo are common, utchari is rarely the primary winning kimarite that ensues.

Year 2006 has been quiet on the utchari front and in the three basho completed to date, there have been no bouts at sekitori level that ended with utchari. Since 1990 utchari has been seen only 54 times in the makuuchi division and over half of those before 1995, largely executed by Kirishima and Kyokudozan.

Osakate was added to the official kimarite list in 2001 and was introduced at makuuchi level by Aminishiki on day 8 of the November 2005 basho. Basically, osakate is done from a very common grip – the overarm – and there isn’t really anything out of the ordinary in the initial setup of the throw. However, in osakate it is the attacker who is basically in trouble, otherwise going for this technique doesn’t make sense. The dynamics of the throw also suggest that one even needs to be in a position of going backwards and having his

Let’s have a look at some of the techniques that are almost exclusively used as last ditch efforts or, at least, in defensive postures. Utchari is the most well-known ultimate attempt by the rikishi who has been forced to the edge of the dohyo. The other two defensive techniques covered are the rather new osakate and seldom seen harimanage, the latter of which was brought into the spotlight by Baruto in the recently completed Natsu basho.

Utchari is called a “backward pivot throw”, which explains the movement rather explicitly. The attacker is forced to the edge, where he plants his feet, drops his hips and lifts the opponent while pivoting aside using his feet as anchors. In successful cases, the opponent’s foot – or in spectacular cases, some other body part – touches the area outside the dohyo before the utchari executer himself falls down or off the dohyo violently. Utchari puts a lot of strain on the lower back, and the fully defensive posture while pivoting exposes the knees to potential twisting stress. Naturally, the fall off the dohyo can be very painful considering the magnitude of the fall and the
opponent’s attempt to hoist his own body on top of the utchari practitioner in order not to fall out first, himself. Another element of danger and pain is the effort of planting the feet firmly inside the dohyo and letting the upper body fall out first as this enhances the chances that the opponent’s body part will go out first – a true sacrifice throw, indeed.

Utchari is a gutsy move but isn’t easy to do against heavy opponents. Nowadays there are hardly any utchari specialists in sumo, but some 15 years ago, lightweight ozeki Kirishima was known for his utchari power. In past decades, utchari was much more common than it is today; however, in the 21st century, the frequency of utchari is showing signs of gradual recovery from the slump of some 5 years or so ago. Perhaps the long-term decrease in utchari frequency can be attributed partly to the heaviness of the current day wrestlers, but the men’s overall increased weight is only one reason for the decline in use. There are also many lightweight rikishi who don’t seem to be more prone to losing by utchari than their heavier colleagues.
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