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Why BJJ Won’t Be An Olympic Sport Anytime Soon

Why BJJ Won’t Be An Olympic Sport Anytime Soon

Words by Matthew Soroka

This article is brought to you by

Ever since Rio de Janeiro was chosen as the host for the 2016 summer Olympic games, the movement for BJJ becoming a part of it has grown. Brands released their pro jiu-jitsu t-shirts creating hype and many people believe that this is a possibility. The truth is, with the state that BJJ is in right now, being in the Olympics is far from a reality.

There are many reasons why BJJ can’t become an Olympic sport and it’s important to state them out loud so its clear for everyone to understand what needs to be done to make this happen. Here are just a few reasons why BJJ cannot be in the Olympics any time soon.

BJJ is just not popular enough internationally
BJJ is an extremely young sport and black belts are still scarce around the world. Right now, only Brazil, U.S.A. and Japan can lay claim to having an abundance of black belts to even start developing Olympic level athletes. The Olympics is an international phenomenon and it would be a shame that only three countries have a chance of presenting a full high-level BJJ team.

The Olympic games are meant to showcase the best athletes in the world at their sport. A recent report from The Guardian shows us that the average age of most Olympic athletes is 26. This seems to be the peak athletic age. Right now, aside from the three nations mentioned earlier, countries do not produce enough black belts, especially at the age of 26, to put together a team of top BJJ athletes. The overwhelming number of competitors at tournaments display that practitioners are mainly from Brazil and the Unites States. It’s a great and simple way of measuring the popularity of the sport – the more even the attendance of various international competitors, the more popular the sport is becoming.

There is no single governing body in BJJ and no absolute set of rules
BJJ has no single international governing authority. The IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) has been the lead organization in BJJ thus far. They have been successfully organizing international tournaments and registering black belts. However, despite all their efforts they have not been able to reach the same level of organization as the IJF (International Judo Federation). Since Judo, an Olympic sport, and BJJ are so similar, it is only natural to look at the IJF as an example of what the IBJJF, or a different organization, should be. With its founding in 1951, the IJF has been successful in producing 200 national federations around the globe, something that no BJJ organization has been able to do, or can do, since not enough countries practice BJJ.

So this further leads into the issue of rules. There are multiple types of rules for BJJ depending on the company, or organization, that is running the competitions. Although many tournaments are run according to IBJJF rules, there are organizations that have created their own point systems and systems of elimination. Recently there has also been strong debate about jiu-jitsu adopting the ‘original’ rules of winning by submission only.

These are only two of the major reasons why BJJ cannot become an Olympic sport. Without a popular international presence, a strong governing body and an absolute set of official rules, the leaders of BJJ still have a lot of work to do. Luckily, we have Judo to follow as an example and hopefully we can achieve this Olympic dream sooner than expected.

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