“I wanted to reach the top this way” Takakeisho’s Push for Yokozuna

Having taken only half a week of complete rest after the basho, November champion Ozeki Takakeisho has already been back at it in a newly-named Tokiwayama Stable’s training hall. On Tuesday, he worked up a sweat with some basic exercises before taking questions over the phone.

“I want to see what level I can take it to from here,” Takakeisho said, already looking pumped. Perhaps some of this itch for training is fueled by the yakiniku (BBQ) he enjoyed on “good meat day,” a pun-based holiday celebrated on November 29th in Japan. “I ate as much as I wanted,” he said, clearly satisfied with the time off.

“I think I’m getting a good start preparing for next basho. I’ll just drill the basics as always. I’ll fight, and then I’ll drill them again. I feel like I’m getting into a good flow,” said the Ozeki. As for the six day inter-stable training camp taking place at the end of December at the Kokugikan’s Sumo Training Institute, Takakeisho says it depends on how his body is doing. “I think I’d like to participate,” he explained, “I’ll persevere whatever the case.”

Now with two Emperor’s Cups, achieving his first as an Ozeki last month, Takakeisho is on a Yokozuna run. “I have to get results to be promoted, but either way, all I can do is do my best. I’m not really thinking about it too hard. I’m staying pretty relaxed,” he told reporters. Concentrating only on what’s directly in front of him, “I’m taking one day at a time, just like during a tournament.”

Here’s a typical morning training session at (then Chiganoura) Tokiwayama-beya.

It is uncommon for a wrestler who relies solely on push-sumo to reach Yokozuna, and Takakeisho acknowledges that. Dominating in the 90s, Akebono was perhaps the last to mostly push and thrust his way to the top, but even he switched up his style to incorporate more grappling in the later part of his career. Takakeisho is determined to continue focusing solely on this style though. He has gotten this far with it after all.

“They’re saying it’s impossible, and that’s why I feel like it’s worth doing. Either way, push-sumo is it for me. As a kid, I always said I wanted to reach the top this way,” he said matter-of-factly.

In addition to the excitement of getting married recently, Takakeisho is fighting under a new stable name — Chiganoura-beya is now Tokiwayama-beya — which he says is extra motivation to do well. “I want to put up some good results under our new name.” When asked if he could describe the past year in one word, “(One word) hasn’t come to mind yet,” he said thoughtfully, “Try asking again at the end of the year… I was able to win a tournament, even having been injured. I feel like there were pros and cons.”

Tokiwayama stablemate Takanosho resumed training alongside Takakeisho. The new Sekiwake has had a solid 10th year in professional sumo, achieving four straight kachi-koshi, and achieving both top division runner-up status and his first special prize in March. Takanosho says last month was a tough basho for him. But with his family’s support, he was able to get 8 wins in his Sekiwake debut.

With one recent yusho in the books for Tokiwayama-beya, “Starting next year, I want to fight as if I’m next (to win a title),” he said. “One bout at a time.”

Source: Nikkan Sports

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-Micah (editor)

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