Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

A SIZABLE IMPACT: Small in Stature, Ura Looks to Ride Rare Technique to New Heights

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

A SIZABLE IMPACT: Small in Stature, Ura Looks to Ride Rare Technique to New Heights

Article excerpt

KOBE -- Kwansei Gakuin University senior Kazuki Ura isn't imposing as a sumo wrestler at just 1.72 meters tall, but he is now ready to face off against much bigger rikishi -- including behemoths who weigh more than 200 kilograms -- in the professional ranks by using a rare variety of tricks of the trade.

At a press conference earlier this month to announce his decision to turn pro, Ura was asked who he looks up to. His answer: former komusubi Mainoumi.

Indeed, Ura evokes memories of Mainoumi, a popular wrestler who -- because of his slight build and diminutive size -- often employed little-known techniques during a nine-year career that ended in 1999.

The 22-year-old Ura, a lightweight in the dohyo at 107 kilograms, specializes in several little-used maneuvers such as ashitori (single-leg tackle) and izori (backward body drop).

"I aim to beat wrestlers bigger than me," Ura said during the press conference at the university's main campus in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

He is the first student from the school to turn pro in sumo, joining the Kise Stable under the watchful eye of former maegashira Higonoumi, now known as stablemaster Kise.

Despite his lack of size, Ura has a track record that can't be discounted.

In October 2013, he won the lightweight division at the world championships in St. Petersburg. A year later, he knocked off bigger wrestlers in the open-weight competition at the All-Japan individual weight-class championships en route to a third-place finish, a result that pushed him into the spotlight.

Ura's style in the ring is rather unorthodox. He often takes a low position and grabs his opponent's legs, much like an Olympic wrestling tackle. He sometimes moves around the ring to evade opponents after backing off at the start.

"I try to move in a way my opponents don't expect," Ura said.

His signature move is the izori technique, in which a wrestler drops down and grabs the lower part of the opponent with both arms before rolling backward and taking the opponent over him.

In professional sumo, izori has been employed only three times in the uppermost makuuchi and second-tier juryo divisions since official records became available in May 1955, according to the Japan Sumo Association.

The most recent example dates back to 1993 -- when Tomonohana threw down Hananokuni in the juryo division.

Izori is considered a rare eye-catching trick because it requires a wrestler to have a high level of skill and good timing in addition to tremendous arm strength. …

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