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I read a lot of news reports about Sumo, and from time to time I encounter the word 手応え and I don't really understand what it means.

Here is an item from Sports Hochi about the wrestler Ōnoshō. It says:

無観客で行われた春場所では、10日目に横綱・白鵬(宮城野)を下す金星。9勝を挙げ、自身初の殊勲賞も獲得した。「あの一番で吹っ切れた部分があった。けがしてから正直(気持ちが)落ちていた部分があったが、やっと形になった。気持ちの部分でも一番大きかった」と、手応えを口にする

So he is saying that his match with Yokozuna Hakuho has been a breakthrough, as after his injury, he lost his form, and this match proved it was back. The reporter then says this was his 手応え, and I don't understand why.

Sanseido defines 手応え as something like tactile feedback, response to pressure.

① 打ったり触れたりした時に、手に受ける感触。また、確かに当たったという感じ。 「槍で突くと-があった」

② 働きかけに対する反応。「いくら教えてもさっぱり-がない」

But I can't see either of these in the quote from Hochi above.

Here is another example from an old Nikkan Sports news item from the time Yokozuna Kisenosato was trying to make a comeback after an injury. At the time, almost every report from his practice sessions included the word 手応え. In this case, two former Yokozuna severely criticize Kisenosato's performance during the practice session. This is followed by:

だが稀勢の里は「速さと強さを感じられた」と手応えを口にした

The word is never said by the person interviewed. It is added by the reporter to describe the interview. But what does it mean? Why not "〜と振り返った" for example?

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② 働きかけに対する反応。「いくら教えてもさっぱり-がない」

I think ② is the best fit to both examples and probably you are taking this in a more objective sense(e.g. having tactile feedback by sticking something with a spear. It is testable by other person with similar sharp instruments.)

手応え here implies the response/reaction in a subjective sense to what the sumo wrestlers has been working on/struggling with to have a feel of the outcome of their efforts. So, it cannot be testable to other person easily since we are not in the same situation as Ōnoshō.

He feels starting to hold his best form again after the match with Yokozuna Hakuho. Due to the injury he had been losing the confidence, but after he defeated Yokozuna , he started to be confident about his sumo performance again (Probably defeating Yokozuna made him feel so)

As for Kisenosato, two ex-yokozuna criticized him outwardly as not trying to fight or messing up his command or something though, Kisenosato said he inwardly grasped the feel of "strength and speed".

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手応え is a fairly common figure of speech in Japanese. While meaning literally "tactile feedback" as you said, it is extended to represent "feeling of efficacy" or "how you feel you nailed it right", which you get by gut feeling rather than visual or logical perception.

On top of that, I think the examples you cited apply a kind of journalistic shortening, where this 手応え would be better understood like 「良い手応え」 or 「手応えがあったこと」.

稀勢の里は「~~」と手応えを口にした。
"......", said Kisenosato, confident of being on the right track.

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  • I'm actually not sure Kisenosato was that confident there. It's that passive form that's often used to describe unfortunate things. So it seems to me he is talking about the opponent's speed and power. Jul 5 '20 at 10:38
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    @RealSkeptic The whole "confident ... track" was my attempt to translate the very word 手応え, so you can replace it with whatever you're comfortable with. Are you perhaps talking about 感じられた by "passive"? It's not passive but potential (can) here. Jul 5 '20 at 10:53
  • @RealSkeptic I don't think you can make sense with passive here unless it means "I allowed my speed and strength sensed/detected by him (opponent)", which is fairly weird assuming they were not telepaths. Jul 5 '20 at 11:08
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    @RealSkeptic This 稀勢の里's comment is "I was able to feel 豪栄道's speed and power (and that was fortunate because it helps me regain my 相撲勘 in the long run)". So he is confident after defeated by 豪栄道.
    – naruto
    Jul 5 '20 at 17:12

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