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Opinion: "Should Jiu-Jitsu Be In The Olympics?"

With the “2020” Olympic Games upon us, the question should BJJ be in the Olympics gets thrown around more and more. Competitors, coaches, and hobbyists alike all wonder, weighing the pros and cons of jiu-jitsu as an addition to the Olympic lineup. 

With boxing, taekwondo, karate, wrestling, and judo all now in the Olympics, and Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Sambo now recognized and up for consideration, jiu-jitsu seems in line as a future prospect.

There are usually two schools of thought when it comes to jiu-jitsu as an Olympic sport. The first believes yes, jiu-jitsu is now practiced worldwide in most of the world's major countries and worthy of a place in the Olympic Games. 

Recognition as an Olympic sport would bring attention, new practitioners, and a massive stream of new money to a sport that has already changed so many lives for the better. The inclusion of BJJ could elevate it to new heights, heights the martial art has been deserving of for years.

With increased attention comes new avenues for growth, including events, sponsorships, and the potential for professional-level salaries for the world’s best.

The latter believes no, the addition of BJJ would only subject the sport to new regulations, a new governing body, and an environment ripe for politics, lobbying, and ultimately, corruption. Many believe the sprawling industry of BJJ academies would suffer with the addition of a unified authority, and eventually, many would close with time.

Others note the “watering down” of Judo after it became an Olympic sport, as techniques were abolished for “athlete safety," and the consequences that come along with a world federation set in.

 

Other factors to consider span from the drug testing predicament that currently plagues the “pro” jiu-jitsu scene, to the spectator-friendliness of sport jiu-jitsu. Without the spectacular throws of judo or the devastating knockouts of boxing or taekwondo, the subtle nuances of exceptional BJJ technique may be lost on the greater Olympic audience. 

Also, what form of jiu-jitsu would make for the best representation in the Games? - submission grappling, gi jiu-jitsu, or some other hybrid form that draws on other grappling arts like wrestling, sambo, and the like.

In that regard, if "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu" in the kimono were to be the chosen style for the Olympics, how could you even put on a competitive show, with the majority of the current world champions, and participants, for that matter, coming predominately from Brazil and the US. Do enough of the world's countries have championship-level competitors who are worthy to compete at the highest level of all of sport? 

Plus, the BJJ community still hasn’t established what the “best ruleset” is. One that encourages action, persuades the submission, and is easy enough for the layman to understand, all while being entertaining and exciting. No easy task, even for the almost $3B IOC.

But, as jiu-jitsu continues to grow globally the question of BJJ as an Olympic sport becomes more and more relevant. We reached out to a mix of respected competitors, coaches, and members of the BJJ community to get their opinions on the idea. Here's what they had to say.

 

“Do you think jiu-jitsu should be in the Olympics?

Why or why not?"

 

Nathan Mendelsohn

  • BJJ Black Belt, competitor, and coach

I say yes because as a BJJ athlete it would be the stuff of dreams to compete in the Olympics. However, I’m actually kind of on the fence about the issue. In reality I would only want BJJ added to the Olympics if it meant the sport outside the Olympics was allowed to remain the same.

I’ve heard horror stories from a lot of judo people who say that Judo’s inclusion in the Olympics was the worst thing that ever happened to the sport, and irreversibly changed Judo competition outside of the Olympics forever. If that were to be the case, then I would rather preserve what we have with BJJ.

I'd it rather not be in the Olympics than sacrifice the sport we all love to have it become something different.

However, boxing exists in the Olympics and boxing seems to be relatively the same as always even outside of the Olympics. Surfing was just included and I don’t imagine much will change there either, so if we can manage to keep it that way with BJJ as well, then I’m in.

Karen Antunes

  • BJJ Black Belt, World Champion, and coach

I think BJJ should be an Olympic sport. BJJ is already installed in every country that I know of, has a deep and rich history, and the rules are already established. Add to that all of the opportunities for the next generation, like scholarships, free college for athletes, and other benefits of an Olympic recognized sport. I'm in. 

Isaque Bahiense 

  • BJJ Black Belt, World Champion, and coach

No, I don’t think BJJ should be an Olympic sport. The politics alone that would come with a governing body would ruin what we now know as the beautiful art of jiu-jitsu.

Ana Carolina Vieira

  • BJJ Black Belt, World Champion, and coach

Yes! One of the most important points for a sport to be in the Olympics is how popular it is around the world. 

Jiu-jitsu is a such a popular sport and everybody can practice it! It would definitely bring a lot of attention and participation all around the world! 

Will Safford

  • BJJ Brown Belt, Hyperfly Marketing Guru

I don’t think jiu-jitsu should become an Olympic sport. I think many of the things that people love about jiu-jitsu come from it’s tight-knit community and low barriers to entry for new events, new brands, and original, authentic participation. The addition of a governing body, plus mainstream sponsors and corporations, may add to the sport's reach and market size, but at the expense of the community and its authenticity.

The sport of jiu-jitsu has grown tremendously over the past five years, mostly from smaller brands, startup media companies, and individual figures that know and care about the martial art. The techniques have evolved, events have gotten bigger and better, and there is a lot of room for more innovation and growth. I would hate to see that stop with the addition of BJJ to the Olympics.

Terrance Souser

  • BJJ Purple Belt, Hyperfly Ambassador

Jiu jitsu is starting to gain global exposure with a variety of federations and organizations that are trying to solidify a rule set that would cater to the majority of the globe. UWW, SJJIF, and IBJJF are a few of those groups making waves by hosting championships in various countries. There are jiu jitsu schools in just about every country in which someone has found the desire to start sharing their knowledge amongst the communities that they reside. 

With ONE Championship and the UFC being broadcast to the masses globally, people are becoming curious about jiu jitsu. With all of this new curiosity, I do believe there is a chance that one day jiu-jitsu will be in the Olympics. Thankfully until then, we have the ADCC to act as our Olympics. Bi-annual opportunities for lesser known practitioners vying for spots amongst previous champions and invites. 

Jiu Jitsu is for everyone and I look forward to what the future holds for our sport. 

What do you think? Join the conversation on our Instagram post here.

 In the mean time find your perfect gi here in our most recent Gi Buyer's Guide.
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