Taihō Kōki

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Taihō Kōki
大鵬幸喜
Personal information
Born Kōki Naya
(1940-05-29)May 29, 1940
Shikuka, Karafuto, Empire of Japan
Died January 19, 2013(2013-01-19) (aged 72)
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Height 1.87 m (6 ft 1 12 in)
Weight 153 kg (337 lb; 24.1 st)
Career
Stable Nishonoseki
Record 872-181-136
Debut September 1956
Highest rank Yokozuna (September 1961)
Retired May 1971
Championships 32 (Makuuchi)
1 (Jūryō)
1 (Sandanme)
Special Prizes Fighting Spirit (2)
Technique (1)
Gold Stars 1 (Asashio)
* Up to date as of January 2013.

Taihō Kōki (大鵬幸喜, born Kōki Naya, Ukrainian: Іва́н Бори́шко Ivan Boryshko; May 29, 1940 – January 19, 2013) was the 48th yokozuna in the Japanese sport of sumo wrestling. He is generally regarded as the greatest sumo wrestler of the post-war period.[1] He became a yokozuna in 1961 at the age of 21, the youngest ever at the time, and he won a record 32 tournaments between 1960 and 1971. His dominance was such that he won six tournaments in a row on two separate occasions. He is the only wrestler to win at least one championship every year of his top division career,[2] and he has the highest career winning percentage of any wrestler in the modern era. After his retirement he was the head coach of Taihō stable.

Early career[edit]

Kōki was born on the island of Sakhalin (Karafuto Prefecture) to a Japanese mother Kiyo Naya[3] and an ethnic Ukrainian father Markiyan Boryshko[3] who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution.[4][5][6][7] However, he is regarded as having come from Teshikaga, Hokkaidō, where he moved to as a child after the Soviet Union took control of Sakhalin in 1945. While on a sumo tour to the Soviet Union in 1965 he tried to locate his father, but without success.[8] Taihō was the first of three great yokozuna who all hailed from Hokkaidō, the most northerly of the main islands of Japan, and who among them dominated sumo during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The others were Kitanoumi and Chiyonofuji.

He entered sumo in September 1956, joining Nishonoseki stable. He initially fought under his own surname of Naya. Upon promotion to the second jūryō division in May 1959 he was given the shikona (wrestler name) of "Taihō", meaning "Great peng" ("peng" is often translated to "phoenix"). Taihō rapidly rose through the ranks after his debut in the top makuuchi division in January 1960. He was a runner-up in his first top division tournament and was awarded the Fighting Spirit prize. At sekiwake rank in November 1960 he won the first of his record 32 tournament championships and earned promotion to ōzeki. Following two consecutive tournament victories (his second and third) he became a yokozuna in September 1961, less than two years after his top division debut.

Yokozuna[edit]

At the time of his promotion Taihō was the youngest wrestler ever to have achieved sumo's highest rank of yokozuna aged 21 years and three months, a record subsequently surpassed by Kitanoumi who was one month younger. In a fashion which is considered to be exceptional for a newly promoted yokozuna he also managed to win his first tournament subsequent to his promotion. He was promoted simultaneously with Kashiwado, and their rivalry created what became known as the Hakuhō era.[9] Although Kashiwado was to win only five tournament championships, Taihō was to remark, "There was Taihō because there was Kashiwado. There was Kashiwado because there was Taihō."[10] Outside of competition they had a genuine friendship, which continued until Kashiwado's death in 1996.[11]

Taihō outperformed Kashiwado very quickly, and during his tenure in sumo's highest rank he was dominant, especially in the early part of his career. Until 2005—when the 68th Yokozuna Asashōryū bettered his record—he was the only post-war yokozuna to have achieved six tournament victories consecutively, a feat he managed on two separate occasions. Eight of his championships were achieved with a perfect record of 15 wins and no losses (zenshō-yūshō), a record that stood until 2013 when it was broken by Hakuhō. He came back from a long term injury in 1968 and embarked on a 45 bout winning streak that was broken in March 1969 only after an incorrect decision by the judges. This caused such a furor that video replays were introduced after the incident.[12]

He was a popular grand champion, especially amongst women and children.[8] He married in 1966 at the height of his fame (coincidentally, the final day of the May Tournament that year, which he won, was also his 26th birthday), to the daughter of a ryokan proprietor. Their lavish reception at the Imperial Hotel was attended by 1000 guests and over 200 reporters. He was the first to hold a press conference afterwards, now a common occurrence with sumo marriages.[13]

His final championship came in January 1971 after a playoff with Tamanoumi, maintaining his record of winning at least one championship every year of his top division career. He had a good score of 12–3 in the following tournament, but announced his retirement five days into the May 1971 tournament after losing to the promising young wrestler Takanohana for the second time.[8] He had been a yokozuna for nearly ten years. His career win ratio was in excess of 80%, which is also a post-war record. He became the first former rikishi to be offered (and accept) membership of the Japan Sumo Association without having to purchase a share (ichidai toshiyori), in recognition of his great achievements.[14]

After retirement[edit]

Taihō branched off from his old heya and opened Taihō stable in December 1971. In February 1977, at the age of 36, he suffered a stroke, and his subsequent health problems may have played a part in him being passed over for the chairmanship of the Sumo Association. He had extensive rehabilitation sessions to get the left side of his body moving again.[10] In general he did not manage to replicate his own wrestling success as a trainer, but he did produce Ōzutsu, a sekiwake who fought in 78 consecutive top division tournaments from 1979 to 1992. He had his kanreki dohyō-iri ceremony to mark his 60th birthday in 2000, although his restricted mobility meant he could not perform it in full. In May 2002 he recruited the Russian wrestler Rohō. His youngest daughter had married ex sekiwake Takatōriki, and he handed over control of his stable to his son-in-law in February 2003.

He reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 in May 2005 and became the curator of the Sumo Museum at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.[15] He still maintained close contact with his old stable, inviting yokozuna Hakuhō to train there in May 2008.[16][17]

In November 2009, he was one of 15 people to receive the Person of Cultural Merit award, becoming the first sumo wrestler to be so honoured.[18]

After suffering a stroke at 36 in 1977, Taihō used a wheelchair in the last stage of his life.[7][19] He died of heart failure in a Tokyo hospital on January 19, 2013 at the age of 72.[20] His death was announced by the Japan Sumo Association.[21] At 32 championships he remains the wrestler with the most championships in the history of sumo.[22] In its obituary, the Nikkan Sports named him "the strongest yokozuna in history."[19][23]

Fighting style[edit]

Taihō was noted for his skill and power when he grabbed his opponents' mawashi or belt– techniques known as yotsu-sumo.[8] His preferred grip was hidari-yotsu, a right hand outside, left hand inside position. His most common winning move was yori-kiri, a straightforward force out, which accounted for about 30 percent of his wins.[24] His most frequently used throws were sukuinage (the beltless scoop throw) and uwatenage (the overarm throw).

He was particularly diligent about training, and was known to invite every new member of the top division to train with him.

Career record[edit]

  • The Kyushu tournament was first held in 1957, and the Nagoya tournament in 1958.
Taihō Kōki[25]
Year in sumo January
Hatsu basho, Tokyo
March
Haru basho, Osaka
May
Natsu basho, Tokyo
July
Nagoya basho, Nagoya
September
Aki basho, Tokyo
November
Kyūshū basho, Fukuoka
1956 x x x Not held (Maezumo) Not held
1957 West Jonokuchi #23
7–1
 
East Jonidan #83
6–2
 
West Jonidan #29
7–1
 
Not held West Sandanme #71
7–1
 
East Sandanme #37
6–2
 
1958 West Sandanme #20
6–2
 
East Sandanme #1
8–0–P
Champion

 
West Makushita #31
7–1–P
Champion

 
East Makushita #9
7–1
 
West Makushita #2
3–5
 
East Makushita #7
6–2
 
1959 East Makushita #4
6–2
 
East Makushita #1
6–2
 
West Jūryō #20
9–6
 
East Jūryō #16
9–6
 
East Jūryō #10
13–2
 
East Jūryō #3
13–2
Champion

 
1960 West Maegashira #13
12–3
F
East Maegashira #4
7–8
 
East Maegashira #6
11–4
F
West Komusubi #1
11–4
 
West Sekiwake #1
12–3
T
East Sekiwake #1
13–2
 
1961 East Ōzeki #2
10–5
 
West Ōzeki #2
12–3
 
West Ōzeki #1
11–4
 
East Ōzeki #1
13–2
 
East Ōzeki #1
12–3–PP
 
West Yokozuna #1
13–2
 
1962 East Yokozuna #1
13–2
 
East Yokozuna #1
13–2–P
 
East Yokozuna #1
11–4
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
13–2–P
 
East Yokozuna #1
13–2
 
1963 East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
15–0
 
East Yokozuna #1
12–3
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
West Yokozuna #1
12–3
 
1964 East Yokozuna #1
15–0
 
East Yokozuna #1
15–0
 
East Yokozuna #1
10–5
 
East Yokozuna #2
1–4–10
 
West Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
1965 East Yokozuna #1
11–4
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
9–6
 
West Yokozuna #1
13–2
 
East Yokozuna #1
11–4
 
East Yokozuna #2
13–2
 
1966 East Yokozuna #1
Sat out due to injury
0–0–15
East Yokozuna #2
13–2
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
13–2–P
 
East Yokozuna #1
15–0
 
1967 East Yokozuna #1
15–0
 
East Yokozuna #1
13–2
 
East Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
2–1–12
 
East Yokozuna #2
15–0
 
East Yokozuna #1
11–2–2
 
1968 East Yokozuna #1
1–3–11
 
East Yokozuna #2
Sat out due to injury
0–0–15
West Yokozuna #1
Sat out due to injury
0–0–15
West Yokozuna #1
Sat out due to injury
0–0–15
West Yokozuna #1
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
15–0
 
1969 East Yokozuna #1
15–0
 
East Yokozuna #1
3–2–10
 
West Yokozuna #1
13–2
 
East Yokozuna #1
11–4
 
East Yokozuna #1
11–4
 
East Yokozuna #1
6–4–5
 
1970 East Yokozuna #1
Sat out due to injury
0–0–15
East Yokozuna #2
14–1
 
East Yokozuna #1
12–3
 
West Yokozuna #1
2–2–11
 
East Yokozuna #2
12–3
 
West Yokozuna #1
14–1–P
 
1971 West Yokozuna #1
14–1–P
 
West Yokozuna #1
12–3
 
West Yokozuna #1
Retired
3–3
Record given as win-loss-absent    Top Division Champion Retired Lower Divisions

Sanshō key: F=Fighting spirit; O=Outstanding performance; T=Technique     Also shown: =Kinboshi(s); P=Playoff(s)
Divisions: MakuuchiJūryōMakushitaSandanmeJonidanJonokuchi

Makuuchi ranks: YokozunaŌzekiSekiwakeKomusubiMaegashira

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Whether crisis or not, sumo's show must go on". Japan Times. January 26, 2003. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  2. ^ "Ōzumō: Taihō" (in Japanese). Japan Top League. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  3. ^ a b Official website of Taiho
  4. ^ "Yokuzuna with Ukrainian roots". Sport review. August 31, 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-11. [dead link]
  5. ^ Weiner, Michael (2004). Race, Ethnicity and Migration in Modern Japan. Routledge. p. 167. ISBN 0-415-20854-8. 
  6. ^ "President of Ukraine Awards Sumo Wrestler Taiho Koki, of Ukrainian Origin, with Order of Merit III Degree". Official Website of the President of Ukraine. January 18, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  7. ^ a b "Sumo great Taiho dies at 72". Yomiuri Shimbun. January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d Sharnoff, Lora (1993). Grand Sumo. Weatherhill. ISBN 0-8348-0283-X. 
  9. ^ Buckton, Mark (September 25, 2007). "Hakuho, and other foreign-born wrestlers, dominate the Autumn Basho". Japan Times. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  10. ^ a b "Taiho Oyakata Press Conference – May 21". Banzuke.com/Sumo Mailing List. May 21, 2005. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  11. ^ Nobuaki Omi (July 9, 2008). "Squabbling yokozuna need history lesson". Daily Yomiuri Online. Retrieved 2008-07-09. [dead link]
  12. ^ Sharnoff, Lora (March 2004). "Natsu Basho Preview: Lone Yokozuna Asashoryu poised to become one of sumo’s all-time greats". Weekender Online. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  13. ^ Schilling, Mark (1994). Sumo: A Fan's Guide. Japan Times. p. 77. ISBN 4-7890-0725-1. 
  14. ^ Hall, Mina (1997). The Big Book of Sumo (Paperback). Berkeley, CA, USA: Stone Bridge Press. p. 95. ISBN 1-880656-28-0. 
  15. ^ "Asashoryu shoots for sixth straight". Japan Times. September 10, 2005. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  16. ^ 【大相撲】白鵬に大鵬"合格点"「現役時代の私に似ている」 (in Japanese). Sanspo. May 7, 2008. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  17. ^ 白鵬が大鵬さんの目の前で申し合い30番 (in Japanese). Nikkan Sports. May 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  18. ^ "Rakugo storyteller Beicho Katsura, ex-Yokozuna Taiho among culture award winners". Mainichi Daily News. October 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-10. [dead link]
  19. ^ a b "Japan mourns death of sumo legend Taiho". Khaleej Times (Galadari Printing and Publishing Co. L.L.C). January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Ex-Sumo Grand Champion dies". The Times of Malta. January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Taiho dies at 72 after legendary sumo career". Japan Times (Kyodo). January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Former grand champion Taiho dies at 72, held record for most championships in sumo". The Washington Post (Sports section). January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Taiho". The Daily Telegraph. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  24. ^ "Taiho bouts by kimarite". Sumo Reference. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  25. ^ "Taiho Koki Rikishi Information". Sumo Reference. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 

External links[edit]

Previous:
Kashiwado Tsuyoshi
48th Yokozuna
1961–1971
Next:
Tochinoumi Teruyoshi
Yokozuna is not a successive rank, and more than one wrestler can share the title
Preceded by
Yomiuri Giants
Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize Winner
1970
Succeeded by
Shigeo Nagashima