January 2017, Day 15, Hokutofuji v Chiyoo

Hokutofuji currently has one of my favorite ring-entry rituals. It plays equal parts pumping himself up for the fight, and psyching out his opponent with some intimidating moves. He starts at the ring edge with a series of resounding slaps on his legs and hips, and then a great back stretch. A handful of salt sprinkled on each foot, his wrist, and touched to his forehead and chin for luck, purification, and injury prevention. A perfunctory, businesslike toss of the remaining salt into the ring. A hard smash to his own chin with each fist, as if to ready himself for the impending impact. The final procedure before squatting down to charge is a massive stamp with each foot, driving them into the clay for added purchase. And staring right into the eyes of his opponent, he nods as if to say, “Here I come.” So cool. This would all be moot if he didn’t have the sumo to back it up, but he does. He’s put together consecutive 9-6 records in his first two top-division tournaments, and I think he’ll be a factor in the top half of the division in years to come. Chiyoo falls to 7-8 in his first top-division appearance, and will likely drop back down to Juryo in March.

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