<DATE> Contents

Attention to Akeni
Carolyn Todd
SFM's newest addition to the writing staff takes an in-depth look at akeni, their history and production techniques
Rikishi of Old
Joe Kuroda
Joe Kuroda slides former yokozuna Minanogawa under his SFM microscope
Eric Evaluates
Eric Blair
Eric's wit scythes through the SML and makes clear his opinion of where the future lies for online sumo forums.
Eternal Banzuke Phase II
Lon Howard
Stats, equations and mathematics all lead to a list of sumo's most prolific up and downers
Matta-Henka: Another View
Lon Howard
A row that will never be fully decided but Lon gives his impressions on it all the same
Heya Peek
Mark Buckton
Mihogaseki, former home of Estonian sekitori Baruto is toured (and peeked at) by SFM's Editor-in-Chief
SFM Interview
Mark Buckton
Mark interviews shin-komusubi Kokkai
Photo Bonanza
See the Nagoya basho and Akeni photo bonanzas
Nagoya Basho Summary
Lon Howard
Lon gives us his Nagoya basho summary, along with the henka sightings results
Lower Division Rikishi
Mikko Mattila
Mikko Mattila casts his watchful eye over lower division goings on in makushita and below.
Aki Ones to Watch
Carolyn Todd
Carolyn takes over the job of rikishi job performance prediction for SFM as she looks at those to keep an eye on come September
Kimarite Focus
Mikko Mattila
Our man Mikko's latest trio of kimarite get thrown about the SFM literary dohyo
Amateur Angles
Howard Gilbert
Howard returns with the second of his columns on the amateur sumo scene.
Sumo Game
SFM's very own quiz comes in for a bit of self scrutiny by our secretive man of questions. We'll call him 'X'.
Sumo in Print
Barbara Ann Klein
SFM’s Editor reviews “The Little Yokozuna”, a book for “young” (and older) adults
Kokugi Connections
Todd Lambert
Check out Todd's bimonthly focus on 3 of the WWW's best sumo sites
Fan Debate
Facilitator - Lon Howard
Keri Sibley and Eduardo de Paz  ponder the concept of ‘to pay or not to pay’ makushita salaries
SFM Cartoons
Stephen Thompson
Sit back and enjoy the offerings of one of sumo's premier artists
Lets Hear From You
What was it that made you a sumo fan? SFM’s own Todd Lambert details his path into sumofandom
Readers' Letters
See what our readers had to say since we last went out
Sumo Quiz
The Quizmaster
Answer the Qs and win yourself next basho’s banzuke.

Matta-Henka: Another View

by Lon Howard
has chosen to make more of it than either the foreign fans of yesteryear or the native Japanese fans.  I have a different view, which is shaped by my own remembrances from ‘back in the days’, and also by the effect of a pronouncement, made by the Nihon Sumo Kyokai in 1984, regarding the Two Hands Down rule. 

During the modern era, rikishi closely adhered to Two Hands Down until around 1950.  Sometime around then, they began trying to get the jump on their opponent by touching down with only one hand.  The Kyokai complained but didn’t act, so rikishi took more and more license over the years, until – by the 1980s – hardly anyone bothered to touch with even one hand.  The ‘syncing up’ took place while half standing and most rikishi were nearly upright at first contact.  It was said that complaints about matta increased throughout this period, and finally the NSK took some action.    

During the 1984 Nagoya Basho, the Kyokai announced they would begin enforcing Two Hands Down, known officially as Article No. 5 of the Rules of Competition.  My understanding of Article 5 is that it


At some point in their education, almost all foreign sumo fans find themselves in a muddle over the tachiai, not quite getting the abstruse concept of starting with ‘mutual consent,’ syncing up the breathing, etc.  I still wonder about it too but pursuing a degree in the subject is for another time.  For the purpose here, just know that for most rikishi, job one at the tachiai is to get the jump on their opponent so they can control the flow of action.

A rikishi employs many games to accomplish this but they all have the same goal, and that is to get his own body in motion just ahead of his opponent’s.  If he starts too early, his opponent will withdraw and a matta will be called; therefore, the timing must be close enough to his opponent’s charge so the opponent will feel ‘compelled’ to continue the action after contact – and the gyoji will feel compelled to allow it.  Many tachiai games play off the requirement that rikishi must touch
the clay with both hands just prior to

beginning their charge, i.e.,  the Two Hands Down rule.  Just one scenario goes something like this:  Rikishi A studies precisely how long it takes Rikishi B to place his hands down before springing back up for contact – you can almost hear him counting, “One thousand one, two, three…”  A then times his own charge to start just at the time B’s second hand should be touching down.  But B has already seen this act and delays his charge to upset A’s timing.  A then either goes too soon or, if he’s seen B not moving, he also withdraws – and so they start over.  It’s matta either way and is often repeated several times as both rikishi try to frustrate the other.  There are several other tachiai games, but you get the idea.

This leads into matta’s twin sister, henka.  My first serious look at sumo came in the early 1970s, and I don’t remember henka at all from that era.  Some erstwhile observers contend that it’s always been there,
but that today’s ill-informed foreign  fan
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