Should BJJ be an Event in the Olympics?

Should BJJ be an Event in the Olympics?

The 2016 Summer Olympics was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Competitors from all over the world were invited to compete for 19 days featuring 300 events, including 40 sports events.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a combat sport that has become one of the most-watched martial arts in the world. However, wrestling and judo were included in the Olympics, while BJJ was not. This article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of including BJJ in the Olympics and why BJJ has not been part of the Olympics.

1. Why is BJJ Not in the Olympics?

Here are some of the reasons why BJJ has not been added as an Olympics event.

1.1. No Governing Body

Brazilian jiu-jitsu was recognized as a combat sport in 1920. From this year to now, different organizations have organized and held BJJ competitions. The IBJJF, ADCC, UAEJJF, Eddie Bravo Invitationals, and CBJJF are a few examples. Each organization has its own rule system. However, none of them can be considered the main BJJ authority.

The International Olympic Committee has a policy that only sports overseen by a single international federation with a defined set of rules practiced worldwide can be included in the Olympics.

For BJJ to fulfill the IOC’s requirements, all of the major BJJ organizations will need to decide which one of them will be the sole representative.  

1.2. No Fixed Ruleset

Each BJJ organization has different rules for scoring and techniques. For example, certain techniques not allowed in Gi BJJ are permitted in No-Gi. Furthermore, some BJJ tournaments are submission only and do not use a scoring system.

The IBJJF has different weight categories and age divisions, while the ADCC, UAEJJF, and others have different weight categories. These different rules and regulations are another hurdle preventing BJJ from being recognized by the IOC. The IOC only includes those sports that follow a single set of rules implemented worldwide.      

1.3. More Interesting for Practitioners Than Viewers

Most audience members watching BJJ matches are BJJ practitioners or coaches.

BJJ can be less interesting for the audience due to both fighters taking their time to wait, look, and exploit each other’s weaknesses. This martial art is not always full of non-stop action, which can cause audience members to quickly lose attention.  

1.4. Similar to & Less Popular Than Other Martial Arts

BJJ shares many aspects with other martial arts, especially judo. Judo and wrestling are already in the Olympics, so the IOC tries to avoid adding similar martial arts to avoid boring the audience. Time constraints and logistics are also considered when adding sports to the program.

The International Olympic Committee dictates that only sports that have gained international recognition can be added. According to the IOC, a sport must be practiced by men in at least 75 countries and four continents and by women in at least 40 countries and three continents to be in the Olympics. BJJ is still an emerging martial art and has not gained enough recognition to fulfill this IOC requirement.

2. Benefits of Adding BJJ to the Olympics

Some of the advantages of making BJJ an Olympic sport include:

2.1. Will Help Promote BJJ

The Olympics is a popular stage for sports to be promoted internationally. Besides being a big accomplishment for BJJ to be listed as an Olympic sport, it would also help raise awareness of the BJJ community and encourage more people to join BJJ. If BJJ becomes the part of Olympics, then it will be discovered by more people, who will invest to promote the sport and spread the sport worldwide.       

2.2. Ensure Funding 

BJJ is not supported by any government and is run by privately-owned schools. The IOC is a non-profit organization that offers financial support to sports recognized by it. Sports listed in the Olympics receive funding from both the IOC and the government.

For example, wrestling is an Olympic sport. In America, wrestling receives funding from the government. In elementary and high school, free wrestling classes are part of the curriculum.

2.3. Create Unified BJJ Rules

If BJJ becomes a part of the Olympics, this may be a chance to combine the best rules from every variant into a single rulebook that can be used for competitions at every skill level. This way there would be better coordination among the BJJ community worldwide.

3. Disadvantages of Adding BJJ to the Olympics

There are potential disadvantages if BJJ becomes part of the Olympics.

3.1. Olympics Could Eliminate Diversity 

The BJJ organizations’ different rules and regulations contribute to the sport’s diversity by attending to different audiences’ likes and dislikes.

For example, IBJJF has both Gi and No-Gi competitions, while ADCC only has No-Gi competitions. IBJJF tournaments give the opportunity for every belt rank to compete, while ADCC only invites black belts or color belts with extraordinary skills. But if BJJ is included in the Olympics, there will be only one way that BJJ competitions can be conducted all over the world.      

3.2. Olympics will Only Allow Black Belts

In tournaments, BJJ-colored belts are given the chance to compete and showcase their skills. But if BJJ becomes part of the Olympics, only allow black belts may be allowed to compete because they are the most experienced of all BJJ competitors. Organizing competitions for all belt ranks and weight classes will pose a big challenge that the Olympic committee may not be willing to take. This could result in the Olympics only organizing BJJ black belt bouts. There is a risk of losing colored belt matches, which can sometimes be more thrilling and charming than fights between black belts.    

3.3. BJJ May Lose its Identity

BJJ requires competitors to wait for opportunities to overcome and submit their opponents. They are also given points for certain actions they perform during the fight. If BJJ joins the Olympics, it may be forced to adopt the stalling call system to speed up the pace of the fights and keep the audience entertained.  

3.4. Threat to BJJ Schools and Business

If BJJ becomes a part of the Olympics, institutions may receive financial support from the government and the IOC. It is probable that schools will be given funds to teach BJJ to their students free of cost like wrestling. But if jiu-jitsu is supported financially by the government, BJJ private schools and businesses may struggle to stay open.   

4. Why is BJJ Still Not a Part of the Olympics?

Many legendary BJJ practitioners argue against BJJ becoming a part of the Olympics. They fear BJJ losing the unique identity that separates it from other sports and excludes anyone below the rank of black belt from competing.

“We have a part of the jiu-jitsu community who wants to see [the sport in the Olympics] and actually the majority don’t want it. Because they believe we’d be treated like judo and in the end, a lot of people would lose their way of making a living like wrestling in the United States.”

(Renzo Gracie)

5. FAQs

5.1. Will BJJ Ever be an Olympic Sport?

Answer: It is very unlikely BJJ will be included in the Olympics as the IOC does not often include grappling sports. Various countries are putting pressure on the IOC to add BJJ, but no significant progress has been made.

6. Conclusion

The Olympics is a great stage for sports to be appreciated and for practitioners to show off their skills. Sports gain international recognition and financial support. But a catch for becoming part of the Olympics is that the sports have to follow the International Olympics Committee’s rules.

BJJ lacks a governing body and has diverse rules. These are only a few reasons why BJJ has been barred from the Olympics. Some BJJ legends also do not want their sport to be part of the Olympics because they do not want BJJ to lose its identity and do not want the sport to become exclusively for black belts only.

If the major BJJ organization works together to get BJJ into the Olympics, BJJ may grow but at the cost of its identity, rules, and businesses.

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