This morning I woke up to an excited Slack message from my friend and colleague Anton Tabuena. He had some Instagram posts to share with me that blended our two respective interests; Brazilian jiu-jitsu and sumo.
The posts featured members of the B-Team (Craig Jones, Nicky Rodriguez and Haisam Rida) fresh off of winning the Quintet 4 tournament in Japan, having fun at a sumo stable. Not just any sumo stable, though, the home of a living legend and the greatest rikishi of all time: Hakuho sho.
Why Miyagino is important
Miyagino is currently led by the 13th Miyagino, who during his wrestling career was known as Hakuho. Hakuho is the greatest sumo wrestler to ever live and many rank him highly as one of the greatest ever athletes in living memory, too.
The Mongolian born Hakuho is the 69th yokozuna and his list of records and accomplishments are leagues beyond even the second and third greatest rikishi to ever compete. Hakuho (who I got to see in person recently) retired in 2021 after winning 45 top division championships (second place Taiho has 32), 16 undefeated tournament wins (runner-up has 8) and 1187 career wins (over 100 more than anyone else).
Here’s a highlight reel showing off both the brutality and grace of Hakuho.
Craig Jones didn’t meet Hakuho, here’s who he did meet
The Aki basho (fall tournament) is currently ongoing (follow the results and highlights here), with wrestlers competing every day for 15 days straight. So visitors to any stable can’t expect to find many top guys willing to entertain them.
However, the B-Team members did get to spend time with actual wrestlers who compete in Grand Sumo. And one of those was someone who made it to the division in the sport.
Craig Jones (Polaris, Submission Underground champ and two time ADCC silver medallist) showed us who he was spending time with, naming them BBWs (big beautiful wrestlers).
Pictured in the above post, from left to right are, the former Daikiho, Otani and Kiryu.
Daikiho, in the white mawashi (loin cloth), is the most notable of those three. Wearing a white mawashi is an honour only bestowed to wrestlers who competed in one of the top two divisions in Grand Sumo (juryo and makuuchi). Those divisions are the only divisions in the sport which generate a salary.
Daikiho retired in 2019 and had his hair cutting ceremony this month (hence why he does not sport the traditional top knot in these posts).
He is a veteran of 46 basho (tournaments). One of those tournaments was spent in the makuuchi (top division).
Otani is new to the sport, competing in his first tournament in 2022. He has progressed somewhat quickly and is currently ranked 27th in the makushita division after just eight tournaments. That’s the division directly below juryo.
Kiryu is 36 and has 122 tournaments under his belt. However, he has never made it past the sandanme division, one below makushita.
In addition to posing with the rikishi, the grapplers got to do some scrimmages, too. Nicky Rodriguez (two time ADCC silver medallist) got to play around with Otani.
Against Kiryu, Craig Jones was able to lock up a kneebar. That would have won a submission grappling tournament, but would have lost him a sumo match (you lose if anything other than the sole of your feet touch the ground).
BJJ star attempts gruelling butsukari drill
In the videos released by the B-Team, Haisam Rida was shown engaging in butsukari, which is one of the most gruelling and notorious features of daily sumo practise.
In sumo stables wrestler perform butsukari (literally ‘collision’) drills until they collapse. During this practise it is the job of the higher ranked wrestlers to command the lower ranked wrestlers to keep trying to force them across the ring until they decide it is time to stop.
During the open workout sessions which happen before Grand Sumo tournaments, all of the wrestlers from the makuuchi division take part in this practise/ritual, with the highest ranked upon them calling the shots.
This practise often includes the worst elements of sumo’s hazing culture. See below how yokozuna Terunofuji (the highest ranked wrestler in the sport) punished the lower ranked Wakamotoharu with butsukari drills in response to something that happened in a previous bout between them.
Thankfully, when it comes to visitors, sumo wrestlers are very hospitable. Many heya host open morning practises for the public.
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