Is There Any Future of Jiu-Jitsu at the Olympics?

Jiu-Jitsu at the Olympics
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 08: Grapplers participate in the IBJJF nationals during day 1 of the UFC Fan Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center on July 8, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Despite some suggestions to the contrary, during an April Fools prank, jiu-jitsu won’t be included in the Olympic Games for the first time at Paris in 2024. 

Is There a Future for Jiu-Jitsu at the Olympics?

So, is it something we can expect to see in future Olympics and, if so, what would it mean for the sport?

The Background

Since 2004, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has worked on the basis of at least three new sports being introduced to the games each time they take place. For example, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will see baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding all added to the list of events alongside the existing sports.

For the next games in Paris, breakdancing, surfing, sport climbing, and skateboarding were all confirmed in December 2020. A decision was carried over from this time about bringing in any new sports or making any changes. A report in April 2021 about jiu-jitsu being included in Paris 2024 was later revealed to have been an April Fool. 

Will Jiu-Jitsu Make the Move to the Olympics?

There appears to still be a number of issues to overcome before this sport can be considered as a potential Olympic contender. Yet, there is always some debate about its possible inclusion before each new version of the Games. This was especially intense before the Rio 2016 games, due to the Brazilian origins of the variant that is most common in the US.

One of the main issues is that the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation is a profit-making company, which means that the IOC can’t recognize it. There would also need to be some changes made so that universally agreed rules could be used, as the many versions of jiu-jitsu include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kosen judo, and bartitsu. 

How Popular Is It?

These matters aren’t insurmountable, but there remains the question of how many people across the planet would be interested in the sport. 

It is difficult to know exactly how many people practice or follow it, with differing numbers seen on various internet sites. It’s not a sport that makes headlines and people make movies about. 

For example, you can find the top 10 Best Basketball Movies of All Time by Twinspires, but you won’t find the top 10 best jiu-jitsu movies. There are some movies where jiu-jitsu is used throughout the plot, but never as the main focus. 

Nonetheless, movies aside, Brazilian version is particularly popular in the US and Brazil, with some three million practitioners estimated to live in these countries according to some sources. South Korea also has a lot of people who take part, while it became a school-curriculum sport in the UAE in 2008 and positive results have been noted in students there. 

The other aspect to consider is how many people would watch it as an Olympic sport. Taking part in jiu-jitsu is one thing, but might some changes be needed to make it faster and more exciting for people who know nothing about the sport?

It is clear that the organizers of the Olympics are looking to bring in sports that have a broad appeal across the planet, while they also seem concerned about getting the balance between male and female athletes as even as possible.

What Happens Next to see Jiu-Jitsu at the Olympics?

The possibilities of us seeing jiu-jitsu in the next few Olympics seems remote. The new sports for Paris 2024 have already been confirmed. For Los Angeles 2028, cricket and flag football are already being heavily backed as the main new sports.

However, it is clear that the IOC is looking to introduce interesting new sports that appeal to more people. If jiu-jitsu continues to grow in popularity, then it is fairly easy to imagine it eventually being included. However, for this to happen some things would need to change. 

Perhaps the best hope is for a sort of hybrid version of jiu-jitsu to emerge, allowing the fans and practitioners of this sport from different parts of the world to rally around it. If this happens, then its popularity could rocket all over the planet.

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