Sumo

Sumo 101: Degeiko

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The vast majority of a sumo wrestler’s training bouts take place at home, against his own stablemates.

This works well if, like Terutsuyoshi, you join a powerful stable filled with top-class opponents of varying shapes and sizes. It allows you to go up against rikishi far better than you every morning. There is no faster way to improve than being tested constantly and never allowed to become comfortable.

If a stable is small with only a handful of rikishi, degeiko (outside training) at a nearby stable may be more common. Kakuryu for example spends a lot of his practice time in Tokitsukaze stable just down the road from his own Izutsu stable.

Mitakeumi likewise is a frequent visitor to Kasugano stable, where he takes on much larger and more powerful wrestlers like Tochinoshin and Aoiyama.

With no other sekitori (wrestlers in the top two divisions) in his own Dewanoumi stable, it’s not surprising that Mitakeumi, an Emperor’s Cup winner with designs on ozeki promotion, travels to find appropriate level training partners.

Degeiko isn’t something that finds favor with everyone, however. Certain stables and stablemasters are dead set against the practice, claiming that forming close bonds with wrestlers from other stables hampers the aggressive mindset needed to succeed in sumo. Some, like former yokozuna Takanosato (Naruto stablemaster), believed that improvement came from within and that there was no need for external help.

Naruto raised Kisenosato and Takayasu and while the former reached yokozuna and the latter is currently an ozeki, there are many who feel both men could have done better if they’d been allowed to practice between tournaments against opponents that they would face in those competitions.

A “no degeiko” policy instituted in the final months of Magaki stable’s existence meant that future ozeki Terunofuji often found himself training alone in the mornings.