#sumo The Technique of Enho: How Sumo’s Smallest Wrestler Uses Superior Technique To Win Against Larger RikishiTweet
Enho is sumo wrestling’s most interesting rikishi. At only 214 pounds and 5’6” tall, Enho is much, much smaller than the 330 average weight of a sumo wrestler. How does Enho win with such a size disadvantage when weight is such a priority for most wrestlers?
There is no reason looking at Enho next to someone the size of Tochinoshin or Gōedo and think that Enho has a chance against anyone in sumo. But that’s not exactly the case. Enho has reached Maegashira 4, the first rank in the Makuuchi division. While he is far from a Yokozuna, Enho has shown ability to compete and entertain fans.
How does Enho do it with such a size disadvantage? The answer lies at the heart of all grappling: technique. The Average Joe can be faster, stronger and longer than a martial artist. But with the proper amount of technique and training, the smaller, weaker-perceived person can do things with his adversaries they would never expect. Enho epitomizes that sentiment in current sumo.
In this month’s analysis column, we’re doing something different than our first two. If you missed it, I highly recommend reading the two out, especially if you’re a mixed martial arts fan: The Evolution of Justin Gaethje and The Power of Francis N’Gannou. Today we are diving into Enho! Let’s get started!
Technique, Technique and more Technique
As mentioned earlier, technique is the foundation of every superior martial artist with very few exceptions. Enho lives up to that mantra by being the smallest guy on the dohyō at any given time. But what he lacks in size, Enho makes up for it in technique, speed, and finesse.
In the first example, we take a look at Enho and the legendary Hakuho, currently sumo’s best wrestler. The two faced off in an one-day basho. The match was very entertaining and quite fun. It had no impact on rankings and was a thing for purely entertainment. I suggest checking out the video below!
Looking at the size disparity between Hakuho and Enho is mind blowing. Even more so when Enho gets the win. How did he do it, though?
As you can see in the picture above, Hakuho knows to keep Enho from getting inside. Hakuho extending his arm is a double-edged sword however. While Hakuho is keeping space between he and Enho, he is leaving his arm extended, which is the beginning of the end for Hakuho.
After a couple fakes, Enho slaps Hakuho’s hand away and goes for the belt. Hakuho pushes Enho back, leaving his arm extended. Enho originally was reaching for the belt with his left hand. When it was thwarted, Enho grabs the extended arm of Hakuho and does an arm drag, pulling Hakuho to him instead of going to Hakuho. With the left arm of Hakuho controlled, Enho is free to grab the back of the belt of Hakuho, setting up the finish.
Now with a grip on the belt, Enho grabs the leg of Hakuho, preparing to take the balance from his adversary. When Hakuho picks his leg on the spin, Enho pushes right above the knee and slides his knee under Hakuho’s leg. Now, Hakuho is posted on one leg and Enho takes the grip on the back of the belt and pulls him forward, winning the match.
Enho Adjusting on the Fly
Another thing Enho does is adjust on the fly. When his initial attack doesn’t go his way, he can’t muscle himself into the position he wants to be in. He had to change as he goes. Against Takayasu in January 2020, Enho gets smothered. Takayasu does a good job of not letting Enho get the leverage to throw him initially.
In the initial exchange, Enho gets a hold of Takayasu’s arm, properly grabbing the inside of the elbow and rendering any threat from that hand null. Even if Takayasu grabbed the belt, he has no leverage to do anything of danger.
Enho goes for a hip toss and Takayasu keeps his hips back and doesn’t allow the throw. Now, Enho is in a bad situation and is off balance. Takayasu keeps the whizzer, which controlled Enho, perhaps preventing the toss. Instead of hanging around being off balance, Enho circles out to his right and creates space instead of being smothered by Takayasu.
Here is where Enho makes his adjustment. He is being smothered by Takayasu. His arms are not long enough to get the original grip wanted. So in the video above, Enho takes his right hand from the hip of Takayasu and brings it to the front of the belt. Enho was sort of a post for Takayasu with his right hand, now that it’s gone, all Takayasu needs is a little push. Enho set it up to be this way and moves his left hand where his right hand now is to the back of the belt. Look which way gravity is pulling Takayasu now…
Leaning over, his center of gravity is now pulling him down and he’s not stable at all.
Now with the new grip and Takayasu off balance, all Enho has to do is remove a post, in this case the right leg of Takayasu, and guide him towards that side. Enho does just that, sliding in his left leg and pulling forward on the back of the belt.
Another example of the craftiness, and perhaps even more so, his speed, of Enho was against Tokushoru in March of 2019. Enho slips on his right foot which almost spells disaster. With Enho off balance on the edge of dohyo, all Tokushoru has to do is push him out.
If you watch closely, the play is a bang-bang play. Tokushoru knows Enho is out of position. He reaches to push and over extends himself, putting his center of gravity in front of him, much like Takayasu from earlier. Enho, being swift as he is, launches for what appears to be a double leg take down, and eventually turns into a single leg. With Tokushoru’s momentum coming forward and his weight pulling him down, all Enho has to do is lift the leg and let physics do their job, which he does.
Enho Utilizing the Low Center of Gravity
Enho’s disadvantage (his size) also plays to his advantage. He knows his limitations and there are very few rikishi that he can simply muscle. Another thing he takes advantage of is his low center of gravity. No example is better than Abi earlier this year in the Hatsu basho.
From the jump, Enho does a good job and gets off the line quick (I sound like I’m talking about football here). He doesn’t let Abi get a good grip initially and he has the advantage, but not for long.
Abi extends his arms, as to not let Enho get inside, and with his right hand, pushes on Enho’s head. This is essentially a feint to which Enho bites. Abi then pushes the shoulder with his left hand, which can be seen better below. That shove pushes Enho back and out of position.
It’s right here where Enho and his speed play a big part. He dips his head, avoiding another shove, this time potentially match losing, and steps slightly to the left. Abi is already moving forward and foolishly follows to the left, but he pivots on his right foot, leaving it exposed. Enho picks it up on the fly.
The finishing sequence is dazzling as Enho picks up on the much larger Abi and sets him down. What really goes down is interesting in itself. It appears that Abi is at battle with Enho’s grip and the threat of almost stepping out due to his overzealous pursuit. He seemingly feels as if he could slip out of bounds and lose by stepping out so he hops off his left leg. Enho is already lifting on the leg, and now with his center of gravity much lower than Abi, he drives him out of bounds with relative ease.
You Can’t Teach Speed
We have talked about Enho’s speed multiple times in today’s breakdown of the rikishi’s skills. It is possibly his best tool. Enho has a speed advantage that no other wrestler has.
The next example is of Enho and his speed is a look at his lateral movement and how he uses the combination to not only win matches, but to stay out of trouble. This particular clip comes from November 2019’s basho. He took on Kotoshogiku and escaped danger more than once.
Enho has the clear speed advantage over Kotoshogiku. He gets pushed to the edge of the dohyo and Kotoshogiku goes for the win. Enho circles to the left and grabs for his arm to throw him out. It does not work (this time). He gets tied up with Kotoshogiku and fails at a hip toss, one of his go-to’s.
After the failed hip toss, Enho is out of position and Kotoshogiku senses it. Like we’ve pointed out before with Enho’s opponents, he is leaning over and his center of gravity is pulling him down. All Kotoshogiku has to do is give him a little push and the day is his. But, Enho’s speed gives him the ability to get where he can use the momentum of Kotoshogiku against him. Kotoshogiku storms forward and extends his arms. Enho’s agility is on full display, he had his left foot forward originally, but hops back and now has his right foot forward with Kotoshogiku marching towards where he was. For the second time in this match, Enho goes for an arm drag, this time successfully. Kotoshogiku is simply moving too fast to stop himself and Enho uses a slight arm drag to win the match.
Enho may not be the most successful sumo wrestler, but he uses his skills in a unique way that is incredibly entertaining for fans of the sport. And it’s this technical ability that has gained the rikishi so much popularity with the spectators. It’s the classic David and Goliath story where the smaller guy wins the day. Enho may or may not win a basho, he certainly intends to. But even if he doesn’t, he will be forever immortalized in the sumo history books as one of the fans all time favorites.
It’s true that Enho is not doing so well, and many people doubt that he will ever get back to to the top division like he once was. I personally got so excited when he was promoted to Juryo #1. I believe he has the potential to do great things, considering he is Hakuho’s protégé. Maybe bulk up and brush up on his technique, but who knows?
I think he’s injured pretty chronically too. Sumo trains insanely. Plus his smaller size puts him at more risk going against big guys. He needs a year off and reset from whatever position he falls to.
He needs to work on his entries. Bigger opponents only need to keep him at a distance for a pushout win ect. Enho is a grappler who has to close the distance and avoid damage on the way in.