Discussing the Business of Sumo Wrestling

Sumo Wrestling is a popular competitive contact sport in Japan where a wrestler attempts to force his opponent either out of a circular ring, called the "dohyo", or to touch the ground inside the "dohyo" with anything other than the soles of the feet. Japan is the only country where the sport is practiced professionally because Sumo is essentially a sport of deep and ancient Japanese traditions, where there are many rituals and rules that need to be strictly followed and obeyed.

Discussing the Business of Sumo Wrestling

Beyond its strict traditions, Sumo Wrestling is still a sport just like American football, where professionals can make a living from. Here, we'll take a closer look at the business of the sport, specifically how it is organized, how profits are made through events and competitions, and how much money professional sumo wrestlers are making.

Also known as the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) serves as the governing body of professional sumo wrestling. The members of JSA are former wrestlers, and they are the only people allowed to train new wrestlers. Wrestlers from foreign countries are very much welcomed to compete, but all professional competitions must take place only in Japanese soil.

Currently, there are approximately 700 wrestlers and each wrestler must be a part of a training stable, or a level based on the wrestling skills. There are 54 stables in Sumo; the highest of which is the Yokozuna or "grand champions".

When entering the sport of Sumo, wrestlers must begin in the lowest of the sport's six professional divisions with the goal of working up their way up the ladder. To simply put, Sumo wrestling is a form of hierarchical meritocracy. Professional wrestlers are promoted and demoted exclusively on their performance. What makes it even more difficult is that only wrestlers in the top two divisions receive a salary, prize money, and travel incentives. Of the current 700 wrestlers living in Japan, only 66 are in the payroll. This means the other 634 sumo wrestlers have other jobs or do chores in the stables in exchange for a basic living allowance.

Finally, because Sumo Wrestling is a very popular sport in Japan, corporate sponsorship and endorsements are also prevalent in the sport. In fact, many Yokozunas and grand champions earn much more from endorsement deals. GP

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