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BJJ in The Olympics - not now but never?? - 11/08/2012


The Olympics are a hot topic right now and the discussion about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu featuring as a sport in future Olympics is not a new one. Polls often show that alot of people would like to see Bjj in the Olympics but there is also alot of experienced practitioners that have voiced concern about the possibility of the sport aspect of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu being tainted to keep the International Olympic Commitee happy.
Having felt the excitement of London 2012 first hand at the Greco Roman finals and been impressed by the TV coverage from the BBC and found myself watching sports that I wouldnt normally get to see on the big screen, I have had time to reflect on my view on Bjj being an Olympic sport.

There is some valid reservations about Bjj entering the Olympics and some great articles, that I'll reference at the end, with good reasoning as to why Bjj isnt ready to be an Olympic sport yet, and The FightWorks Podcast recently inteviewed the Head of Graciemag Luca Atalla on the subject. He too had reservations about Bjj entering the Olympic Games, he confirmed without question that Bjj will not be on the menu in Rio but the extra exposure to Brazilian Culture may create some interest in our art. But at the moment Luca feels the UFC and MMA is the best advert for Bjj.
I'll Break down the main points here that are holding Bjj up, 
1. Lack of Gender Equality
2.lack of International exposure
3.No Anti Doping
4.Similarity
5.Dominance
6.Poor refereeing
7.Rule changes to please the IOC
8.Vertical Sport
9.Not Visually Pleasing
10.Political Pull of other Martial Arts

These are the main sticking points for Bjj, some of the articles are a couple of years old and improvements are being made, Big steps are being made in the female side of the sport with athletes like Kyra Gracie, Gabi Garcia and Michelle Nicolini gaining alot of recognition for their achievements, and since the worlds moved to LA our sport is gaining greater International exposure the main problem with this aspect is lack of governing bodies in individual countries, we still dont have a governing body in the UK and their is reservations about that too so that could be a problem for a while.
Although there is no drug testing at the moment there is constant calls for Black Belt Finalists to be tested to keep our sport clean and I'm sure if the IBJJF is serious about growing our sport it will look at this subject seriously.
Bjj is similar to Judo and wrestling but there is so many similar sports, there is so many running sports, so many cycling events and it doesnt take much watching to get the jist of different rules for different sprints or chase events and floor gymnastics and rythmic gymnastics are the same but different and its still fun to watch so I'm sure theres room for Bjj especially if it was done well.
Brazil are dominant but growing the sports could change that, china are undefeated in table tennis but it wont stop drama unfolding and where theres a favourite theres an underdog, and who doesnt want to root for an underdog.
Refereeing is improving its not perfect by a long shot but again real growth in the sport will naturally demand improvents in refereeing and if we made the big stage of the Olympics video replay could easily be adopted, its worked for Judo and could be implamented in important matches at the Worlds sooner rather.
Its often said that Judo has been ruined by rule changes that have been put in to make it more pleasing to the casual spectator and to please the IOC, but in fact there is no evidence that rule changes in Judo are anything to do with the IOC, the biggest latest rule change to do with grabbing the legs was implemented after the 2010 Judo Worlds so its more to do with the governing body making changes and we would have to make sure that we can still influence our own IBJJF to stay true to our art.
A vertical sport is a sport that is only really watched by people directly involved and participating in the sport but again growth of the gentle art would mean that yes most people interested in BJJ would also be practicing it but that could be a huge number with varying level of expertise so not a reason to keep it out of the games
There would no doubt be some snooze fests in some matches but with an Olympic Gold on the line the stakes would be high and the desire even higher - Buchecha vs Rodolfo for a Gold would be Crazy!!!
And I cant see Judo and wrestling being keen on welcoming us with open arms but I believe the sports can co exist, I still love watching good judo and wrestling and FILA the wrestling governing body has showed interest in Submission Wrestling in the past so if not BJJ why not Submission Grappling let FILA deal with the politics of the IOC and we could still see some of our stars in action, good communication between The Judo Federation IBJJF and FILA is needed here.

So I'm off the fence, well almost, about BJJ or submission wrestling featuring in the Olympics but it wont be in Rio but we should push for positive growth in the sport side of our martial art because if nothing else it would be great to hit that red button every four years and watch the best of the best fight for an Olympic Gold in HD. If the Sport grows in the right direction it could be achieved without tainting the martial art side of brazilian jiu jitsu.

Listen to the Luca Atalla Interview here

Read Jsho's Article here

Read Slideyfoots Article here