Mahjong Watch News
Oogai Hiromi Pro's Mahjong Manner Lecture No.3
December 2nd 2015
~ The following article is from “Mahjong Kai No 6” ~
In mahjong, it can be very easy to unintentionally slam down a tile. “Bam!” It does seem kind of cool sometimes… That, and calling tiles and riichi with a cool, low voice are the marks of a first rate player…
Let’s think about slamming tiles
This time we’ll be talking about slamming tiles and calling.
In baseball, if you say that someone is a “heavy hitter,” there is no doubt that it is a term of respect. However, in mahjong, it is definitely a title that we would like to avoid.
Over the years, mahjong’s association with gambling has slowly began to dissipate. However, with that change, one thing has stayed consistent. Slamming tiles, as if you were a “heavy hitter” baseball player, has always been considered one of the biggest, and most common offenses of bad manners.
So let’s think about why someone might do it. I’ve written my thoughts on this below. Reason number one, would be to threaten or intimidate other players in order to create an advantage for yourself.
For example, regardless of whether you are bailing or not, deliberately discarding a safe tile loudly in order to obscure your intentions from your opponents, is one situation this could happen. It might also happen when you want to win, but an opponent is playing aggressively. You may feel uneasy, and that you want them to hurry up and bail, resulting in a loud, threatening discard intended to intimidate.
You may be thinking of this as a strategy, but to anyone watching, it is nothing more than a joke. Whether this little “technique” is something that you can be proud of or not is indeed quite debatable.
Even if it ends up having some sort of effect, being thought of as “underhanded” or “crude,” and being branded with a bad image, clearly cancel out any benefits of this strategy.
Any kind of techniques that lower your self-worth must be avoided.
The second reason, which is most likely the majority of cases, that people might slam tiles is from a lack of confidence.
The number of people that slam tiles when discarding a dangerous tile is extremely high, and even people that have overcome this habit will remember doing something similar in the past.
In an attempt to stave off fear and raise your spirits, you may unconsciously tense up and make a loud discard. However this is akin to announcing “I have no confidence in my playyyy,” which is quite comical, and can easily become a reason for experienced players to think of you as below them.
In the game of mahjong, once you are thought of as being a lesser player, your chances of winning get overwhelmingly worse. Overturning this disadvantage is not easy.
Is slamming tiles cool?
Depending on the circumstances, some people may slam down their tiles because “it looks really cool when the tiles snap into place!”
However I believe that the coolest and most dangerous players discard every tile indifferently and with the same pace.
Discarding a tile with any kind of emotion can become a weakness.
Nemoto Kaori’s 5 consecutive female mahjong league championship wins are no doubt due to her otherworldly mahjong skill, but I cannot help but think that her constant discard rhythm is one of the keys to her strength. Excuse my digression.
Even if “it’s cool,” the one in a hundred chance that you mess up the order of someone’s discards, or a tile falls off the wall and everyone sees it, are not worth it. Slamming down the tiles is something that simply should not be done.
Accidentally showing one tile can greatly change the outcome of a game. Anyone who is serious about playing mahjong(of course, the readers of Mahjong Kai all fall under this category, right?) should know this.
In conclusion, it simply does not look good
No matter what the reason is, slamming tiles just does not look good. It has many negative outcomes, and not a single positive one.
If you could avoid being ron’d by slamming down the tile, I too, would be slamming away.
However, while I’ve been told many times “you discarded my winning tile so naturally that I didn’t notice it!” I have never heard any stories of someone missing their winning tile because someone slammed it onto the table, haha.
Therefore, as lovers of mahjong, I implore you to once more examine your own habits, and become a good role model for the next generation of mahjong players.
What about calling tiles and riichi?
Because I get opportunities to play mahjong in many different places, I often end up playing with people that I have never played with before.
During these games, lately I have been bothered by the fact that people’s “riichi” calls are very quiet. It is very common in young players.
I am not only talking about the volume. Many players’ “riichi” calls get shortened into something like a “...ch…” They simply move their mouths into a “ch” sound and shoot air out from between their teeth.
I believe this would be called an “unvoiced consonant.” It is not a word, it is a sound.
Use your voice to make a call
You need to use your voice to make a call, so I would like for people to actually vibrate their vocal cords when they speak.
Letting your opponents know clearly what you are about to do is important to avoid trouble. Going out of your way to make your intentions hard to hear has zero benefits.
Although it may be an effective technique when you are alone with your girlfriend, haha.
As for the cause of this issue, I have my eyes on competitive pros.
I’m certain that among our readers there are members of pro organizations, so I will be frank with you.
When I go to watch pro matches, I often witness this voiceless riichi in the lower leagues.
Female players are generally quite energetic, so you may take this comment as mainly directed towards male pros.
I apologize for making generalizations, and there are many male pros who call properly. However I often feel that there are more men who do not call properly than there are men who do.
The situation makes me a bit sad.
It just became the popular thing to do one day, although I’m not sure when.
However, what I do know is that when I was in the industry, everyone in the A League called and turned their discard properly, so that everyone was able to recognize a “riichi.”
Pros should be good role models
In the past, some young pros’ lack of self-awareness caused voiceless “riichi” to spread among mahjong players, regardless of it being good or bad, because his lazy calling “looked cool,” or something.
If he was going to be a trendsetter for something, I wish he would have spread good mahjong manners instead.
The fact that mahjong fans, especially young people, copy the mannerisms of professional players is, of course, to be expected.
This is because “pros” are an existence that people look up to and admire. If the professional players lead people in the wrong direction, correcting it is not easy.
So, please, if you are a member of a pro league, do not become a negative influence on fans. Please put forth the best effort you can in eliminating any poor conduct or bad manners in your own play.
As for viewers and fans, please do not get caught up in outward appearances. I ask that you only imitate what makes someone a skilled player, not what “looks cool.”
Please call your tiles and “riichi” boldly and fairly, as if you are a general, calling your name out to an enemy. Two pro players who are a good example are Kaneko Pro and Iida Pro.
As a final tip, please don’t forget the basic rule of “call before you touch the tiles.”
I hope that following some of this advice will help everyone lead a more fulfilling and fun mahjong life.
※Kaneko Pro - Masateru Kaneko Saikoui-Sen Legendary player; still active.
※Iida Pro - Masahito Iida - Legendary player from Saikoui-Sen. He passed away in 2012. Saikoui-Sen honored his great activities and carried everyone higher level, they have named Saikoi-Sen Classic League named Iida, Masahito Classic.
Author: Oogai, Hiromi
Profile: Born in 1960 and from Tokyo. With the 101 Kyogi-Renmei. The 22nd and 30th champion. After experiencing as a family-style restaurant manager, he fell in love with the competitive mahjong style and goes into the Pro Mahjong industry.
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Translator Chris Howard
Assistant language teacher and aspiring translator (Japanese to English, Korean to English) currently living in Osaka. Six years of casual mahjong experience. You can reach me on twitter at @CJHowardFL.