Which Martial Arts are Olympic Sports? [Answered!]

It’s a fact:

Martial Arts have been part of the Olympics since the very beginning.

The first Olympics, held in 708 BC, included wrestling. Pankration was included in Olympics in 648 BC, and it was a precursor of MMA. Translated to ‘total combat,’ pankration was a mix of boxing and wrestling. Hence, mixed martial arts were favored even back during the Olympics of the ancient world. However, pankration isn’t part of the Olympics anymore, nor is MMA.

Military-based martial arts are now a part of the Olympics. Fencing was added to the Olympics in 1896. However, not all martial arts are part of the Olympics, even though they’ve been around for hundreds of years.

That being said, many martial art variants are up for consideration. However, let’s first take a look at the ones that are already a part of the International Competition.

Martial arts were included in the Olympics since the beginning

Which Martial Arts Are Olympic Sports?

Greco-Roman Wrestling

This is one of the most ancient martial arts in the world.

It was a part of the original Olympics played hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Its historical significance is at the heart of the Olympics. Greco-Roman wrestling, and many variations of it, have been adopted by various countries.

Hence, it’s a part of the Olympics and will continue to be.

However, it’s more restrictive than the freestyle wrestling events that are played in the Olympics. It’s also restrictive in terms of participation since women are not allowed to compete.

Freestyle Wrestling

While freestyle wrestling isn’t as prestigious or ancient as its counterpart, it’s more inclusive. Women are allowed to participate in the sport and it has much more flexibility in its technique.

Opponents are allowed to use their entire bodies to compete with each other. There are different weight classes in this competition and several different competitions. It was first seen in the modern Olympics in 1904.

Women were first allowed to compete in 2004; nearly a hundred years after the inception of the modern Olympics.


The military use of the sword can be traced back thousands of years. However, it wasn’t made part of the Olympics till the late 19th Century.

In the sport, three types of swords are used, the epee, the saber, and foil. The points in the game are recorded through the use of electronics. Points are recorded when the opponent’s target area comes into contact with the sword.

Women were only allowed to compete in the sport in 1924. However, they didn’t have the same number of matches as men until 2008. Fencing is the only weapon’s based martial art in the Olympics.


Boxing, though a sport that is thousands of years old, didn’t become an Olympic sport until 1904.

It was more than a hundred years later than women were allowed to compete in 2012. The sport has continued to evolve from bare-fisted fighting to using gloves and helmets and other protective gear.

Boxers have to pass regional tournaments before they can qualify for the Olympics, as with many other sports.

Boxers also have to adhere to a clear code in the ring – deviation from the rules is not allowed in any case.


Taekwondo was inaugurated in 50 BC in the country of Korea. It was meant to be a military martial art that was devised for use on the battlefield by soldiers. It was even given the title of Korea’s national martial art in the 20th century.

The Olympics first included Taekwondo in 1988, but it was only classified as a demonstration. However, the first time that it was included as a competition, it was in the year 2000.

Points are awarded for landing an attack to the protector, with different points given for different attacks.

  • Three points are given for a straight kick to the head.
  • Two are awarded for a kick to the torso.
  • Four points are awarded for a spinning kick to the torso.
  • A single point is awarded for a punch to the torso.

There are various weight classes of Taekwondo for competitions. There are 4 weight classes for men and four for women.


Judo, another martial art that was derived from traditional arts, was first included in the Olympics in 1964.

It was traditionally restricted to five-minute intervals. Although it was just as demanding as wrestling, it was not as old. Hence, it was not given the same prestige as the other Olympic events.

While the sport was completely male-dominated in the 1800s, it became a female inclusive sport in 1992. Judo is a part of the Paralympics as well and a participant sport in the Special Olympics.

What kinds of martial arts are considered Olympic Sports?

What Martial Arts are going to be included in upcoming Olympics?

Regarding upcoming Olympic martial arts events, we have one that is slated for inclusion and another that is being considered.

Let’s check them out:


Karate is one of the most well known martial arts in the world. It gained worldwide notoriety in the 20th century through the explosion of martial arts-based films.

However, it was only developed in the 17th century in Japan as a martial arts form. Hence, it wasn’t given its due in the Olympics for quite some time. That being said, it’s finally being given the respect it deserves.

Karate is being included in the Olympics in 2020 as a competitive sport. Spectators have been hoping for this for a long time. Kata will also be included in the Olympics, which is a demonstrative form of martial arts.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

BJJ is also a sport that has been submitted for the Olympics. Almost every year, the debate takes place to include this sport into the international event.

Even during the Brazil Olympics in 2016, the issue was raised due to it being the birthplace of BJJ. However, to no avail.

Judging by the notoriety that it’s gained over the past decades, it’s no surprise that people want it to be included in the martial arts events.

Got some thoughts on what martial arts could be included in the Olympics? Post them in the comments below.

If you’re looking to figure out what kind of martial art you should learn, check out my quiz here!

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