TOKYO >> In the world of sumo, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council is an important body. The panel of about 10 people, all enthusiasts with a sophisticated understanding of the sport, helps decide on promoting a wrestler to the top rank of yokozuna.
The council also functions as a third-party watchdog group, with members discussing the “proper nature” of a top-ranked wrestler. It’s a regular topic at meetings held after each tournament.
Recently, the actions of wrestler Hakuho has drawn the concern of the panel. The yokozuna has engaged in harite, the slapping of an opponent’s cheek during an initial charge, and kachiage, a folded forearm thrust into the opponent’s chest. The panel chided Hakuho over these rough moves, calling them “undesirable behavior for a yokozuna.”
The council considered kachiage in particular to be a problem. Hakuho has been aggressive in his kachiage, aiming at his opponents’ face and jaw with his right elbow.
One opponent fell to his knees, and it was suspected that he suffered from a concussion after Hakuho turned him to the side with a left-handed harite slap and then delivered a right elbow thrust.
But Hakuho brushed off the council’s warning.
“It’s not prohibited. I can’t survive unless I win,” he said.
He backed up his stance with action. During an official practice on Jan. 6 that council members attended, Hakuho selected Daieisho, the sole wrestler who beat him at the previous Kyushu tournament, as a training partner.
He sent Daieisho into the dirt by repeatedly using kachiage.