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Sumo! Physics in Action!
It's not always the bigger man who wins
Today was the final day of the Haru Basho, that is, the spring Grand Sumo Tournament for 2022, which is in Osaka.
I’m all about enticing new people to become sumo fans, because it’s a fun sport to follow. The tournaments are in odd-numbered months, so the next tournament will be in May. The tournaments run for 15 days, running from a Sunday to a Sunday.
Tournament exciting to the last!
This Haru Basho has been very exciting, because it led to a playoff match!
The tournaments do not have to end in such playoffs — the way the tournaments are set up, sometimes, we know a few days before the end who the winner is.
Whoever has the most wins among his 15 bouts, no matter who he was up against, is the tournament winner. To be sure, there is a special magic of how the sumo association makes the matches, because they have an interest in making sure that this doesn’t happen — they want the champion to be decided on the last day, if possible. There is a way, among the ranks (called the banzuke), that matches are set up, but they will mix it up depending on the men’s tournament performance.
Well, two men were tied on the 15th day, after they both lost their matches for the day.
Yep, both Wakatakakage and Takayasu lost their matches…. so they had to have a playoff.
Obviously, not the best audio, but you get the idea.
Sometimes the little guys win
Here’s the best part — check out where Wakatakakage lands in the height & weight chart:
I have the arrow pointing at Wakatakakage. Obviously not the smallest — that’s Ishiura, who got injured early on (bowed out and then returned for a 2-7-6 losing record) and Terutsuyoshi (who ended the tourney with an 8-7 winning record).
But Wakatakakage beat Takayasu. Takayasu is about two inches taller and 100 pounds heavier than Wakatakakage. In this chart, I’ve pointed out Takayasu, as well:
A bunch of sumo fans are somewhat sorry for Takayasu, as he’s come close to winning tournaments before, and come in second, as in this month’s tourney. In prior tournaments, he had to deal with yokozuna like Hakuho or Terunofuji (who bowed out of this tournament due to injury during the first week).
It’s very difficult to win a tournament, so congrats to Wakatakakage!
And best wishes to all the announcers trying to say his name.
Here is a nice profile of the wrestler (and notes how fun it is to say his name) from July 2021:
But wait! There’s more!
Guys, this is such a fun match.
Ichinojo is HYUGE. About 450 pounds and 6’3”.
Tobizaru, the flying monkey, is pretty short at 5’9” and about 300 pounds.
Yes, obviously I’m showing this because Tobizaru wins. You should see how he does it.
Those who are short (and light, relatively), have to use different tactics. And the big guys know they have to deal with the tactics.
Here’s another one — these two guys are about the same height, but very different weights:
Hoshoryu needed to win to get a winning record — that is, 8-7. If you get a losing record (that is, 7-8 or worse), you will almost definitely fall down ranks. Kotonowaka needed to win to get in a playoff.
As I noted above, he wasn’t in a playoff.
Finally: Enho, the Littlest Rikishi Who Could
Enho is one of the smallest professional sumo wrestlers (called “rikishi” in Japanese).
He’s about my height and weight… though obviously, he’s a lot more muscular than I am.
He had been at the top level, makuuchi, for a short while, but is now back at juryo, the next level down. He did very well in the Haru Basho at the juryo level:
What’s great about watching all these matches, especially the ones with large disparities in height and/or weight, is the applied physics going on (yes, really!)
I keep an eye on where their likely center of gravity is, and whether the men are getting off-balance. There are many techniques that use leverage to make sure a wrestler loses balance so now they have angular momentum and a much smaller wrestler can use a small amount of force applied at the right place….
Or maybe just step to the side at the right time (that’s called a henka, and yes, it’s legal)