The Olympics is probably one of the highest levels of competition for any sportsperson.
But not all martial arts are included in the Olympics yet.
The martial arts currently allowed in the Olympics are Fencing, Karate, Boxing, Judo, Taekwondo, and Wrestling. Traditional martial art rules are adapted to the Olympics. For example, in Taekwondo, using legs to block or kick their opponent’s leg to prevent a kicking attack is prohibited.
Planning to train in martial arts to join the Olympics? I’ve prepared a list of styles you can choose from.
Table of Contents
Martial arts in the Olympic games
Martial art contests have been one of the most electrifying events to watch during the Olympic games. These events allow high-level practitioners to compete with each other to uncover the best in the world.
Despite having hundreds of active martial arts, Fencing, Karate, Boxing, Judo, Taekwondo, and Wrestling are the only martial arts included in the Olympic games.
Fencing had its debut in the Olympic games in the 1896 Games in Athens. Back then, only men’s fencing was allowed. Women’s fencing got introduced in the 1924 Olympics in Paris.
The greatest Olympian to ever compete in Fencing is believed to be Aladár Gerevich. He is a Hungarian Fencer who won seven gold medals in sabre at six different Olympic Games.
Slashing is an excellent move in Fencing, where you’ll swing your sword in a slashing motion. In Sabre, you can only slash if you hit your opponent above the waist.
If you fail to do that, your move will be invalid, and you will not score a point. If done repeatedly, there’s a chance for you to get penalized.
Karate entered the Olympic games at the 2021 Tokyo games. It has both men’s and women’s categories. Moreover, Kata and Kumite styles can also be seen performed by Karate martial artists.
This Karate Olympic debut has been long awaited by all Karate belt holders.
Karate is a young Olympic sport, but there are still a few outstanding records.
The first Karate Kata champion is Ryo Kiyuna, a Japanese national who practiced the traditional Okinawan Karate style.
The scoring system for Olympic Karate is: Ippon: 3 points (head kick), Waza-Ari: 2 points (body shot), and Yuko: 1 point (any kind of punch landed anywhere.)
Boxing had its Olympic debut way back in the 648 BCE Olympics in Ancient Greece. With that, Boxing is considered one of the oldest Olympic events in the world.
Back then, Boxers only wore leather strips as their gloves without any protective mouth and head gears.
As the sport innovated, Boxers started to wear head gears, well-padded gloves, and mouth guards for the fighter’s overall protection.
The Olympics introduced the women’s division in the Olympics in 2012.
Probably the most successful Olympic Boxer is Félix Savón. A Cuban fighter who bagged the Olympic Gold for 3 consecutive games (1992, 1996, 2000)
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, the protective headgear was removed inside the ring, making the event more dangerous for both competitors. The protective gear came back for the next Olympics.
Judo was welcomed as an official Olympic game at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. The women’s division got added at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Adding Judo during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was a momentous event for Japan. Judo is one of Japan’s martial art pride.
In Olympic Judo, you can’t intentionally touch your opponent’s face. You also can’t lock a body joint except for the elbow. Head dives aren’t also allowed in any way.
Taekwondo first appeared at the Olympics Games in Seoul in 1988 as a performance for the crowd.
Taekwondo was later added as an official contest at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000.
Adriana Cerezo was the youngest Taekwondo athlete to win a medal at 17. Hadi Saei was the oldest to bag a medal at the age of 32.
The official Olympic Taekwondo match consists of three two-minute rounds where punches are allowed except for the head and ground.
A ‘Golden point’ round will be done if a tie-breaker is needed after 3 rounds.
Since 708 BCE in Ancient Greece, Wrestling has been a part of the Olympic games. Wrestling is one of the oldest Olympic sports, along with Boxing.
The youngest Wrestling gold medalist was Henry Cejudo in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Cejudo holds a UFC record of being the first man to win two UFC belts simultaneously after winning Olympic gold.
There are two types of Wrestling in the Olympics, Greco Roman, and Freestyle Wrestling.
Greco Roman only allows players to grab and execute a wrestling attack above the waist.
No leg trips, high crotches, double and single leg lifts, and more. These prohibited moves on Greco are allowed on Freestyle.
What martial arts were in the 2021 Olympics?
The 2021 Tokyo Olympics had Fencing, Karate, Boxing, Judo, Taekwondo, and Wrestling on the list of martial art events. This Olympic year was also when Karate was added to the official Olympic game contest list.
With the addition of Karate, there’s now a total of six martial art events every four years.
There are requests that Mixed Martial Arts be added next because of how fast-growing and influential the sport is.
What martial arts will be in the 2024 Olympics?
Taekwondo is already secured to be included on the list for the 2024 Paris Olympics. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach also approved Muay Thai as an official Olympic sport. Other combat sports such as Boxing, Judo, and Fencing are expected to be included.
Also, according to the IOC, Karate will not be present at the 2024 Olympic games. This is due to younger audiences’ lack of interest.
This removal of Karate may not be permanent. There’s still a chance to see it in action at the next Olympic games.
Should mixed martial arts be in the Olympics?
Mixed Martial Arts should not be included in the Olympics. Because if this happens, it’s unfair to the other traditional martial arts that came first way before MMA. The Olympic committee should add BJJ and Kickboxing first before maybe considering MMA.
Having all combat events mixed into a separate sport is kinda redundant in the Olympics.
Jiu-Jitsu hasn’t been lucky enough to be included on the Olympic list for so long despite being one of the most effective martial art for self-defense there is.
Yes, MMA has Jiu-Jitsu in it, but it’s different if you get to appreciate Jiu-Jitsu as it is rather than just being a part of a wider sport.
It’s not impossible to add martial arts like BJJ in an international game. Jiu-Jitsu is included in the list of SEA Games’ martial art events. There’s also Kickboxing and Muay Thai.
When was Karate added to the Olympics?
Karate was added at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games. The Olympics simultaneously added men’s and women’s divisions, along with Kata and Kumite. This addition was a game changer because many Karate practitioners had been waiting for the sport to be added for a long time.
Unfortunately, Karate will now be removed from the next 2024 Paris Olympic games. This is because the younger audience didn’t enjoy watching Karate so much.
Final word on martial arts used at the Olympics
While there are only a handful of martial arts in the Olympics currently, competitive combat sports are only gaining in more popularity as time passes.
The rise of MMA, bare-knuckle fighting, and even combat Karate is creating more interest in fighting sports. In time, we can only expect this to translate to more Olympics appearances.
At the very least, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu should be in the Olympics! It’s akin to Judo but far more entertaining and inspiring.