Sumo | Rikishi Files

Relatively light Takanoyama paid his dues in lower ranks

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

About five years ago a sumo video went viral online and was widely shared on websites dedicated to other fighting sports.

The video itself was a low resolution (360p) poorly-edited effort with ill-fitting music, featuring a rikishi that spent only five tournaments in the top division and never went past the rank of No. 12 maegashira.

What grabbed the attention of viewers, though, was the muscular, ripped and very un-sumolike physique of the wrestler in question, as well as the high level of technical ability he displayed throughout the eight-minute clip.

The rikishi was Takanoyama.

Hailing from the Czech Republic, Takanoyama was well known to sumo fans as he spent a full decade in the lower divisions toiling away before finally making it to the paid ranks.

The Prague native started well in sumo and progressed up through the divisions at a reasonable pace initially. But once he hit the third-highest division (makushita), a lack of weight really hurt him.

A member of the Naruto stable along with future yokozuna Kisenosato and ozeki Takayasu, Takanoyama (real name Pavel Bojar) had no lack of decent training partners but found gaining weight extremely difficult.

Even at his heaviest, he barely broke triple figures and he spent most of his career fighting at around 90 to 95 kg. At 187 cm tall, that gave him an almost CrossFit-like physique.

Although he never managed a winning record in makuuchi, Takanoyama had some notable successes and even managed a 3-1 all-time head-to-head record against future title winner Tamawashi.

In 2005, he pulled off a win with the ultra-rare mitokorozeme technique — a move that was seen in the top division this tournament for the first time in 26 years.

Takanoyama was extremely dedicated and didn’t return to his home country once during his first 10 years in Japan, waiting until he had achieved promotion to the salaried divisions.