Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has exploded in popularity over the last decade with the rise of UFC and mixed martial arts as a mainstream sport. Considering the increase in interest around BJJ, the question of its status as an official Olympic sport continues to be raised. It’s a good question given the inclusion of judo, karate, and taekwondo in the games, but the answer is still no, Jiu-Jitsu is not an Olympic Sport.
When a sport becomes an Olympic, people all over the world will watch it on stage or on TV. The result will be better coverage of the sport which will usually increase the demand for it. Could you imagine how Jiu-jitsu’s popularity could be even bigger? Also, we won’t have to tell people that Jiu-jitsu is not Capoeira or some ninja martial arts. Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, there are several significant reasons why BJJ still has a long journey to make it to the Olympic Games. There is interest from fans and fighters alike, but the sport as a whole has not done much to make progress that would grant it eligible in the eyes of the IOC (International Olympic Committee).
However, the UAE has submitted BJJ to be part of the 2024 Olympic Games through Jiu-Jitsu Federation JJIF. A lot of high personalities express their feelings about this move and not everyone is actually happy. Nothing has been decided until this moment.
IOC major requirements and BJJ’s barriers
No governing body
Jiu-jitsu doesn’t have an international federation recognized by the IOC. The ADCC and Abu Dhabi Pro are ruled out because they are run by the government of the United Arab Emirates. The Gracie family still has its hand in the IBJJF and Jiu-Jitsu Federation and doesn’t have an elected board of governors.
That is a big problem in the eyes of the IOC, which requires all governing bodies to be independent, not for profit and have a chairman chosen by election every year.
Too many different rules
If you aren’t a BJJ fighter or enthusiast, you probably will face some difficulties understanding what is going on in a match. Some may have a vision in their head of UFC or MMA, but the real sport of BJJ is far from what goes down on the mats.
Many BJJ matches aren’t exciting to watch, as fighters elect to stall to maximize their point totals. The IBJJF has what some would consider watered down the rules around leg locks, slamming, and knee reaping, among some other things that aren’t allowed.
In order to make Jiu-jitsu appealing to the masses, the rules need to be simpler, so the fighters are pushed to go for submissions and not stalling. The combat sports already in the Olympics, like wrestling and judo, have already been forced to change their rules to stay relevant and included in the Games.
Better Anti-doping testing policies
This is a delicate point because most of the major BJJ federations don’t have an Anti-Doping system. For example, IBJJF does anti-doping tests only on the black belt level, just for the winner of the category.
Yes, there has been some progress made towards cleaning up Jiu-Jitsu from a doping standpoint. But until there is consistent out-of-competition testing, there will always be a black cloud of suspicion looming over the event. A clean sport is crucial, and there is still work to be done when it comes to stamping out performance-enhancing drugs in BJJ.
What are the possibilities?
At the moment only two Federations can bring Jiu-jitsu to the Olympics stage: United World Wrestling Federation (UWW) and the JJIF. Even if these federations are not Brazilian jiu-jitsu Federations, they have incorporated the sport of BJJ among their sports catalogue.
The UWW incorporated BJJ in its federation and called it grappling GI. The rules are 70% similar to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
– The same moves as IBJJF are allowed;
– Points scoring are quite different;
– At the end of the match the coach can request a video on demand by throwing big dice.
Also, they have federations in many countries and they hold tournaments with national rankings. Then based on your ranking you can join the national team and compete for PAN, Asian, European and World Championships.
The JJIF is from traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. They already have the sport of JU-JITSU combat which consists of grappling and fighting with the GI. However, grappling on the ground is limited to 30 sec. Recently they added Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and called it Newaza, which is actually the ground grappling name of Judo.
The rules are quite similar to BJJ with some specifics:
– Black belt rules (leg loc, compression allowed);
– No belt category. From white to black belt fighting in the same category.
For now, Jiu-Jitsu is not an Olympic modality yet but if one day it may become one, the federation must make sure the rules are simplified, the techniques are kept as usual today, that the academies still have their independence and also private tournaments and championships should still be allowed. In this way, BJJ will never lose what it has of the most value: its essence.
See you soon,
Gracie Humaita Sydney.
by Fernanda Monteiro