I hope you'll find this piece as illuminating as I found when I read it earlier this month flying back from Japan.
From Sumo Magazine March issue (published prior to the Haru Basho)
Asanowaka faced the Hatsu Basho with Juryo West 11 ranking but he overcame this crisis of possibly falling down to Makushita by winning 9 while losing 6 and showed us that the news of this veteran rikishi's demise was still premature.
"Mentally I am thinking I'll stay forever young. But on the other hand, I still have a sense of crisis, thinking that this would be my last basho or if I can still make it through to the next. So rather than taking one basho at a time like others, for me it's more like approaching each bout, one bout at a time as if it's the last. Because more than anyone else, I know my own physical capabilitiy and limitation," Asanowaka said.
Asanowaka joined Wakamatsu Beya from Kinki University at the Haru Basho in 1992 and made his dohyo debut with Makushita Tsukedashi ranking. In the same year there was Asanosho (current Wakamatsu oyakata) from Kinki University along with Higonoumi (current Kise oyakata) and Hamanoshima (current Onoe oyakata) from Nihon Unversity who made their dohyo debut one basho earlier. All three have already retired and completed their Danpatsu ceremony.
"I was never an outstanding amateur, never getting any major titles to speak of at either high school or university level. In college tournaments I could never beat Higonoumi so sure, I had a lot of anxiety then. Now knowing everyone is all gone, I do feel a bit of loneliness. At the Kyushu, we had Musoyama retiring too..."
There is no doubt that the major reason Asanowaka is still around while all his rivals have left their active career long ago is Asanowaka not suffering any major injury or illness. But we also should point out a fact that he possesed a far superior Oshi and Inase ability than most others.
"Mine is not a thinking man's sumo so I really can't figure out what it is really. Whether I am pushing or pulling, my body is respondiing instinctively. I have no form or style to my sumo whatsover. If I can describe it in a word, it's a 'Gamble Sumo'. When I lost, I may have had a reason like I had a bad tachiai. But when I won, I have no idea why I won at all...I am totally at a loss to tell you what contributed to my winning. When someone asks me how I won a particular bout, I can only tell them it just so happened that way. Nothing more."
Akinoshima once told him , "You have a good power from underneath and possess excellent reflexes." It's true we often witnessed his good reflexes at the dohyo edge. His power at tachiai has always been underestimated. Asanowaka says he has been going to a gym to do weight training lately. "Actually when they check my upper body strength, I see the numbers far greater than what I expect so in that sense it gives me more self-confidence to go on. It certainly gives me an illusion that I can continue a lot longer."
In these days Asanowaka goes for a pull or henka at tachiai much less frequently but when he was just promoted to Juryo, he used to resort to them so often that he was scolded harshly.
"Back then I was like if I couldn't finish my opponent off first by pulling, then I kept going back pulling and pulling him over and over. Because when I turned pro I really did not want to get my face slapped around. During one Jyungyo tour, Kokonoe oyakata (former Yokozuna Chiyonofuji) came around to talk to me and gave me a lot of advice and instruction. Then my training method and sumo content started to change gradually."
When Asanowaka was promoted to Makuchi, his sumo changed generally to more Oshi-zumo from a primarilly 'pull sumo' style. He realized that the Makuuchi rikishis would not let themselves get defeated by just being pulled over. He discovered then that he could beat them more successfully if he initially hit them hard enough at tachiai and pushed them away first before pulling.
"I believe I was fortunate that both at the high school (Aichi Enginnering University Meiden High - the same high school Ichiro Suzuki graduated) and the University(Kinki), I was taught good fundamentals. I really had good sumo coaches. Up to my later college days, I was an exclusively Oshi-zumo rikishi and never attempted any little tricks. Even after I turned pro, I was only told to compete by moving forward and did sound basic sumo training. I believe that is one reason I have been able to compete for this long without suffering any major injury."
Since his dohyo debut, he has never missed a day and his consecutive appearence record stands at 1,130 (at the end of Hatsu Basho). If he could continue his appearence streak by prolonging his sekitori career by only five more bashos, he could add his name to the Top Ten list. Obvously his training time has diminished significantly over the years but he still does enough shiko to have a good sweat every day.
"I can't do as much training as when I was younger. But I am doing enough basic and fundamental exercises to keep building my body. I am also giving instructions to young rikishis too. Yeah I am rather a strict teacher."
Asanowaka is teaching them it's not just technical aspect that is important but also a regular daily buildup of training. He firmly believes that the most important way to build a body free from major injuries is to be doing and keep doing basic sumo exercises.
On a personal side, Asanowaka got married five years ago and now is a father of two girls. His older daughter Honoka is four years old and is at an age she has become aware of her surroundings.
"When I come home after losing, she is all upset and asks me, 'why did you lose?' Even when I am eating a meal, she comes over and tells me unless I start eating more I won't get bigger (laughs)."
His younger daughter Wakana is two years old. Asanowaka says his two adorable daughters provide him an emotional support he needs to keep going. For his family and fans, Asanowaka wants to keep competing on the dohyo as long as he possibly can.
Edited by Jonosuke, 28 March 2005 - 21:50.