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Chankosan

Yaocho will never end because so many can't see it

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It always amazed me how many sumo fans -- both casual and serious -- denied the existence of yaocho. Now that there is undeniable evidence of its existence, these same folks seem to be convincing themselves that it is an "exception-not-a-rule" phenomenon. But it is widespread...

I have always accepted it as an inevitable part of the culture of sumo, probably due to (1) the move to six basho a year and (2) the huge increase in rikishi size and consequent vulnerability to injury. (Hence I support Peterao's excellent suggested response by the Kyokai on this issue.) Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the Intai revelations sealed the case. They comport very closely with the amount of yaocho that I have witnessed as a fan. What I don't understand is how many fans are not able to see the yaocho that I and others are able to see -- especially with the luxury that is slow motion playback.

The guy who takes a dive is a fairly obvious example of yaocho, but the bulk of yaocho can be spotted by WATCHING THE HANDS. The hands do not lie. Look at three aspects of their hands: PLACEMENT, ORIENTATION, and ACTION. A rikishi engaging in yaocho will place his hands high and away from the belt. He will orient his hands away from the body of the other wrestler, often touching him only with his wrists. He will often turn his palms upward as he accepts the charge of his opponent. Most telling though are the fingers -- a rikishi who wants to lose will not seek the mawashi. And if he finds it, he may not grip it (he may even recoil from it!). And if he grips it, he will too easily lose it. Of course, the hands are only one part of the picture. Many other features -- center of gravity, toes not digging in, facial expressions, reaction formation [google it], etc -- exist to support the diagnosis.

I would argue that those experienced in doing sumo at a high level -- hence the members of the Kyokai -- know yaocho when they see it. How could they not? They are the experts! Thus the Kyokai could effectively eliminate yaocho overnight by levying fines against both riskishi in fixed matches that are large enough to make yaocho no longer worth it. But this will never happen. Why? Because yaocho benefits the sport. It minimizes injuries and lengthens the careers of crowd favorites, to name just two reasons. Such incentives for yaocho could only be offset by disincentives, which will never reach a truly critical mass precisely because MOST PEOPLE WHO WATCH SUMO CANNOT SEE IT. So the Kyokai can continue to maintain a "few bad apples" defense because that is what most fans believe in the first place. And they will continue to mockingly refer to (merely) "listless" instead of (truly) "fixed" matches.

So the very fact that most fans cannot discriminate real from fixed matches will continue to prevent those fans who can see the difference from ever being able to enjoy more real sumo.

It's inevitable, but it's still a bummer...

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Just an addendum...

If the Kyokai really wanted to expose and eliminate yaocho, they could hold the upcoming basho instead of cancelling them. They could then openly solicit feedback from fans on any questionable matches during this and all future basho and provide their own analysis in return, levying fines as indicated. This would truly eradicate yaocho. The key is, IN ADDITION TO MERELY ACKNOWLEDGING THE EXISTENCE OF YAOCHO, THE KYOKAI TAKE THE NECESSARY NEXT STEP IN QUANTIFYING IT.

But, for the reasons given above, this will never happen...

Alas.

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The guy who takes a dive is a fairly obvious example of yaocho, but the bulk of yaocho can be spotted by WATCHING THE HANDS.

As far as I remember Itai claimed that he could see yaocho bout by watching the feet of rikishi.

Anyway, congrats if you have the skills to see it. Now I'd be interested in seeing a list of bouts where you are completely sure that they were yaocho. Maybe we'll also have a list of rigged bouts as a consequence of the Kyokai investigations one day, and then we could compare your list with their list.

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The guy who takes a dive is a fairly obvious example of yaocho, but the bulk of yaocho can be spotted by WATCHING THE HANDS.

As far as I remember Itai claimed that he could see yaocho bout by watching the feet of rikishi.

Anyway, congrats if you have the skills to see it. Now I'd be interested in seeing a list of bouts where you are completely sure that they were yaocho. Maybe we'll also have a list of rigged bouts as a consequence of the Kyokai investigations one day, and then we could compare your list with their list.

Fujisan said it best in December of 2005: "yaocho and henka are the equivalent of politics and religion on the sumo forum." So I realize that I am treading on controversial and well-worn ground here. But I just couldn't sit on my hands anymore. My bad...

There have been entire threads devoted to exposing fixed matches on this forum, so I would not be adding anything new or original by recounting those suspect matches. And as much as I am tempted to recount some really choice examples in practice, I refrain from doing so in principle for the very reason that drives this whole issue; namely, no amount of examples will ever convince those who cannot see what is right in front of their eyes. Whether the inability is perceptual, cognitive, or psychodynamic -- I do not believe that it can be overcome.

Consider the JFK assassination. Those that want to believe in a second gunman will play with ballistics endlessly to support their belief, just as those who want to deny yaocho will toy with statistics endlessly to support their denial. Yet, just as the surest way to eliminate a JFK conspiracy is to know Oswald as a person (neither he nor anyone else would want him as part of a conspiracy!), so too is the surest way to spot fixed matches to know what real matches look like; to know what winning sumo looks like. Once you have that in mind, the fixed matches stand out like a sore thumb -- it is wrestling that does not look right. Once you spot the problem, then you can take a closer look at the hands and feet and so on to try to pinpoint specific objective features to make the case. But you are still trying to make a case to those who cannot SEE it in the first place, so it is a hopeless endeavor.

So as far as I am concerned, YAOCHO HAS THE STATUS OF A CONSPIRACY THEORY AMONG THE MAJORITY OF SUMO FANS. And just as the Zapruder film cannot change the minds of those who want to believe in a second gunman, neither can watching slo-mo of fixed matches changes the minds of those who want to believe there is no yaocho.

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I don't think Rando wanted to weaken your views (which are excellent). I read it as genuine interest, which I'd share. Of course, sitting down and looking for such bouts and list them would be hard work, so no problem if you'd choose to refrain from it because of that.

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I consider myself a seasoned sumo viewer but I can never tell for sure. I put it that nobody can. There are so many factors in play, human nature being one of the most important. When Sadogatake beya were here and had their jungyo, the matches were supposedly planned, but I was sitting right under them and even knowing it wasn't for real, it looked totally real-not one bout looked "safe"-they were all, sekitori and non, flying all over the place, landing hard- you can't fake a hard landing. Sure, they are skilled at falling etc., but the point is, to even a trained eye, they can MAKE it look totally legit.I am also convinced yaocho (not necessarily money changing hands, but agreed results) has always existed, and to me personally it's not a touchy issue, but purporting to be able to spot a yaocho match is a bit over the top. My theory is the ones that look obvious aren't, and the ones that seem real are more bound to be yaocho, as we can learn from the elaborate e-mails and instructions, stressing the need to not finish it off quickly (reminds me of my wife but that's a different story). That being said, to everyone who knows a bit about sumo, any 7-7 rikishi against an uninterested rikishi bout on senshuraku is suspect, as are all inter-Ozeki bouts where one party is already KK and the other one needs the win, but that for me is another category altogether. I don't believe anyone can tell a rigged match in the first week of a basho, simply because I really doubt any exist. Later on, you not only can tell, but you can also foretell..

Edited by Kintamayama

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Which matches are not gambarizing by both parties but not yaocho either?

Sumo is high risk of injury sport. Rewards of victory vary in a wide range.

You could have a rikishi who is not gambarizing because he has his 8 wins and is interested in avoiding injury rather than adding a useless 9th win. This does not mean that he specifically wants to lose - he might take an easy victory if his adversary turns out to be weak or make a stupid error, and look out for losing without injury if the opponent gambarizes.

And a rikishi who does gambarize against an uninterested opponent may expect the adversary to fight for honour and chance of easy victory rather than victory at any cost - but this does not mean it is agreed that the uninterested side specifically wants to lose or gives instructions to the winner how to do it.

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If Chankosan's theory is correct, then the Kyokai can make yaocho go away whenever they want to. After all, they are the people who watch more sumo than anyone, so they should know best what yaocho sumo looks like.

Now that they no longer have to pretend that yaocho doesn't exist, it will be interesting to see if rikishi end up getting punishment for bad sumo when (if?) the bashos resume.

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If Chankosan's theory is correct, then the Kyokai can make yaocho go away whenever they want to. After all, they are the people who watch more sumo than anyone, so they should know best what yaocho sumo looks like.

Now that they no longer have to pretend that yaocho doesn't exist, it will be interesting to see if rikishi end up getting punishment for bad sumo when (if?) the bashos resume.

The bulk of the oyakata running the NSK were active rikishi during the 70s, apparently a very productive era for yaocho.

I don't agree you spot yaocho watching the hands. It's definitely the feet that tell the story.

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Remember when poor form at tachiai was the big topic? I don't think that they've done much to improve it by monitoring it more closely. I wish that the Kyokai were good at policing their own but I don't think they are. That could be part of the solution but I think a more systemic approach is necessary (and I wish I knew what that would be).

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Fujisan said it best in December of 2005: "yaocho and henka are the equivalent of politics and religion on the sumo forum." So I realize that I am treading on controversial and well-worn ground here. But I just couldn't sit on my hands anymore. My bad...

Well, it's hard to deny yaocho, given that the very proof is now there. So there is no need to worry about being bashed on this Forum for claiming that it exists. In fact, I am genuinely interested if there are people who are able to recognize yaocho just from watching it although I admit that I'm a bit skeptical. You raise the very valid point that to the trained eye every fixed bout must contain something suspicious. But I'd like to warn against the opposite conclusion, viz. that every suspicious bout must have been fixed. I doubt that this is the case, for two reasons:

1) Such a viewpoint excludes the possibility that rikishi commit errors. In every sport that I know of, errors can be decisive. Why did he miss the freethrow? Why didn

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But I'd like to warn against the opposite conclusion, viz. that every suspicious bout must have been fixed. I doubt that this is the case, for two reasons:

1) Such a viewpoint excludes the possibility that rikishi commit errors. In every sport that I know of, errors can be decisive. Why did he miss the freethrow? Why didn’t he catch the pass? Call me na

Edited by Flohru

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Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments.

I do realize that I am limiting my analysis more by focusing on the hands/fingers rather than the feet, as not all riskishi go to the mawashi. And I definitely agree that the feet are very important because of their role in centering the body weight, digging into the dohyo, and moving forward. But my bias toward the hands/fingers came about partly because that is where I first recognized the "fix" by watching the slo-mo, and partly because it is the hands/fingers which I find to be consistently the clearest features ruling the fix in or out in suspect matches.

I can still remember the most interesting fixed match I ever saw, but I unfortunately did not make a note of it for future reference. It was one between Takanonami and Terao. What made it so interesting to me was that it was the only one I ever spotted in which the one who was supposed to win did not! I know this sounds crazy, but given how many matches are fixed, it surely must happen? I have watched every bout for at least the past 15 years, and I have never spotted a similar event before or since. (My second favorite oddity is the probable "unilaterally" fixed match between Takanohana and his brother in their playoff -- unilateral because I suspect his father told Takanohana he must lose and neither of them told Wakanohana of the fix?)

Anyway, I just now tried to find that Takanonami/Terao match in my VHS collection by looking at matches with likely kimarite, but it took forever just to view three of their many matches between 1992 and 1999, so I gave up. Man, does VHS suck c/w DVD! So I must instead rely on a 10+ year-old memory:

The basic features were typical of a fixed match. Takanonami passively takes Terao's charge, passive even for Takanonami's baseline defensive style. When he makes contact with Terao's body it is pensive and mostly contacting at the wrists only, with the palms and fingers angled away from Terao's body, and the fingers doing nothing. Meanwhile Terao is flailing away like a madman in typical Terao style, clearly trying to uphold his end of the deal by actually winning the match! Takanonami seems as if he does not know what to do because Terao is making no headway against him and he needs to make his loss look good. Then it happens. In his frantic haste, Terao slips and collapses right into Takanonami's arms as he plunges to the dohyo. For a moment I swear it looked like Takanonami would have liked to catch Terao and prop him back up! At this point the slo-mo captures Takanonami's unmistakable angry expression of disgust. How often have you ever seen a rikishi look pissed -- and I mean REALLY pissed -- after he won? In the context of that moment it was clear to me that Takanonami was angry at himself for losing, and perhaps also at Terao for not winning. It is Takanonami's emotional reaction to his win, more that anything he did with his body, that has stuck with me to this day. I also remember the stunned reaction of the English commentators to the playback, and I knew then that they too had seen that the fix was in.

Of course this hazy anecdote proves nothing, but it was fun to recall it and my impressions about it. I never saw sumo quite the same again after witnessing that match. It was around that time that I decided I had to come to terms with yaocho -- either accept it as a robust ingredient of the cultural stew that is sumo, or give the sport up. Needless to say, I chose the former.

And as much as I moaned above about the loss of real sumo to fake sumo, I would still rather put up with a lot of fixed matches than have no matches at all...

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Having gotten all of this off my chest, I realize now that I am mostly just pissed off that this latest debacle has ruined my plans to see sumo this year and needed to off-gas...

:-)

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And as much as I moaned above about the loss of real sumo to fake sumo, I would still rather put up with a lot of fixed matches than have no matches at all...

If that's the case, I'll fire up the PS2 and put together a basho!

Now I got a hankering to match up Musashimaru against Sentoryu...

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Anyone care to offer some expert commentary on this bout?

I think that no investigation into yaocho will be complete until someone explains this...

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Actually my recounting of that match should have read:

"In the context of that moment it was clear to me that Takanonami was angry at himself for WINNING, and perhaps also at Terao for NOT winning."

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