Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the Olympics: Unfortunately, this is what many Jiu Jitsu enthusiasts can only dream of today. Jiu Jitsu is not part of the Olympic Games for now.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu originated from Judo, which has been part of the Olympic Games for more than 50 years now. Additionally, many other martial arts and combat sports like Wrestling, Boxing and Karate are Olympic Sports today. Why is Jiu Jitsu not Olympic today? Will Jiu Jitsu be in the Olympics anytime soon? Are there any big Jiu Jitsu competitions today? Let’s find out.
Why is Jiu Jitsu not Olympic today?
There are several reasons for Jiu Jitsu struggeling to become an Olympic event:
Although Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been steadily growing in popularity over the past decades, it is simply not popular enough yet. As Jiu Jitsu practitioners we want to see Jiu Jitsu in the Olympics but the general public interest is simply not there.
The image below shows the worldwide and US-specific popularities for Jiu Jitsu and Judo over the last two decades. Jiu Jitsu has caught up in popularity with Judo worldwide today. As Judo was considered to be dropped from the Olympic Games in recent years, we can conclude that Jiu Jitsu is still not popular enough to become an Olympic Sport.
The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is officially labeled a non-profit organization. It dedicates all revenue generated through the Olympic Games to support athletes and sporting organizations around the world.
Nevertheless, as always, it is all about the money. Even if the organization is truly a non-profit organization, at least the costs for the events, staff, promotion etc. have to be covered.
This ties in with the previous point: Jiu Jitsu is not popular enough yet to sell enough tickets and generate sufficient revenue. Even the biggest events in Jiu Jitsu today don’t fill up big arenas, which signals that there is not much money to be made from Jiu Jitsu.
Highly technical sport
Jiu Jitsu is a highly technical combat sport where the small technical details count. Therefore, it is not as exciting at first glance as sports like Boxing or MMA. Casual fans are generally less interested in sports like this. This also results in the next point:
Wrestling and Judo are struggling
To this date the IOC voted to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games several times. Keep in mind, Wrestling is another technical grappling sport that has consistently been part of the Ancient Olympic Games and part of the Modern Olympic Games since 1904.
Judo has also been struggling to grow an audience and therefore has been cosidered to be dropped from the Olympic Games. It has consistently been an Olympic sport since 1964 and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu originated from Judo.
For now, Wrestling and Judo are still part of the upcoming Olympic Summer Games. Nevertheless, their situation reinforces doubts in the future of Jiu Jitsu as an Olympic Sport, since they sports have so many similarities. We compared Judo and Wrestling to Jiu Jitsu in separate extensive articles already.
BJJ is a Practitioners Sport, not a Viewers Sport
Most viewers of Jiu Jitsu competitions, online or as event attendants, are practitioners themselves or closely related to practitioners. This is caused be the factors described above.
Should Jiu Jitsu become an Olympic Sport?
PRO: Prestige and Funding
Jiu Jitsu becoming an Olympic event is the dream of many athletes and coaches. BJJ athletes could finally compete on the biggest stage under one ruleset and represent their nation.
On top of that government funding and funding through the IOC would flow towards Jiu Jitsu Programs. This would make Jiu Jitsu available to many potential new practitioners and increase the overall level of the sport.
CON: Danger for Jiu Jitsu Schools & Businesses
Why would the additional popularity gained through Jiu Jitsu being an Olympic Sport hurt Jiu Jitsu schools in any way? The answer is simple. Let’s consider Wrestling.
Wrestling is an Olympic Sport that is well established in the USA. Therefore, Wrestling classes are offered at elementary schools and high schools for free and as part of the schools curriculum. As a result, Wrestling has become part of the system through big funding.
For now, Jiu Jitsu schools don’t have to compete with programs funded by the government. If an area is not oversaturated with Jiu Jitsu schools, it will not be hard to grow a Jiu Jitsu school as a legitimate coach. This might change when Jiu Jitsu receives official funding.
The sport itself thrives through government funding, private businesses like schools will have a harder time though.
Why not both?
Boxing in its oldest form was already part of the Ancient Olympic Games and is still part of the Modern Olympic Games today. Boxing schools might not be as profitable as Jiu Jitsu Gyms today but there is a lot of money to be made in professional boxing. Obviously, this only holds true for the top competitors of the sport.
One could image a similar scenario for Jiu Jitsu where it becomes an Olympic Sport and still has a variety of big associations that are competitive and economically viable. Small Business owners might still be affected in a negative way.
When will Jiu Jitsu be in the Olympic Games?
If you were hoping for a definitive answer, we have to disappoint you. When and if Jiu Jitsu will become an Olympic Sport is anyone’s guess for now. It mostly depends on how Jiu Jitsu evolves in the public eye. Each time one of the problems listed above gets resolved or Jiu Jitsu takes a move in the right direction, it gets one step closer to debuting at the Olympic Games. For now, we do not see Jiu Jitsu in the Olympics anytime soon.
Biggest Jiu Jitsu Competitions today
Today, the most prestigious championship in No-Gi Jiu Jitsu is the ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship which was first held in 1998.
Other big No Gi Jiu Jitsu competitions:
- IBJJF World No Gi Jiu Jitsu Championship: first held in 2007
- Eddie Bravo Invitational – EBI: first held in 2014
- Polaris Pro Grappling: first held in 2015
The most prestigious Gi Jiu Jitsu championship today is the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship which was first held in 1996.
Other big Gi Jiu Jitsu competitions:
- Pan American Championship (IBJJF): first held in 1995
- Brazilian National Championship (IBJJF): first held in 1996
- European Open Championship (IBJJF): first held in 2004
- Asian Open Championship (IBJJF): first held in 2006
Most of these championships were established fairly recently compared to big championships in other combat sports.
No one knows if and when Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will become an Olympic Sport. Different groups have different interests as can be seen in the reasoning above. Since we as Jiu Jitsu practitioners love our schools and coaches, maybe Jiu Jitsu becoming an Olympic Sport isn’t even the ideal path for BJJ. You can form your own conclusion on the topic now. After all, we should enjoy the sport and make the best of what it currently offers.