Which Martial Arts Are at the Olympics?


Which Martial Arts Are at the Olympics?

Martial arts were among the first sports that became part of the Olympic Games. Going all the way back to Ancient Greece, wrestling was a part of the 708 BCE Olympics. Twenty years later, a type of boxing referred to as Pyx (which means “with a clenched fist”) had its debut at the 668 BCE Olympics. In 648 BCE, one of the precursors of the modern mixed martial arts, pankration, was introduced as an Olympic event.

Currently, there are 6 martial arts at the Olympics. Boxing, fencing, judo, karate, taekwondo, and wrestling will all take place at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, to be held in 2021.

During the years, martial arts like wrestling, fencing, boxing, budo (Japanese martial arts), savate (french version of kickboxing), and many others appeared at the Olympics. So, let’s take a closer look at the martial arts (and their respective histories) that are recognized as Olympic sports.

Boxing at the Olympics:

Which Martial Arts Are at the Olympics?

Boxing is one of the most popular sports in the world. The sport was featured for the first time at the 648 BCE Olympics in Ancient Greece. The participants fought each other with strips of leather wrapped around their fists. The goal was to deliver more blows or “until the opponent loses consciousness”.

During the 19th century in Great Britan, a set of of official boxing rules was introduced, with wearing gloves being one such rule. Boxing was featured at all of the modern Olympics Games since St. Louis 1904 (the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm were an exception). In 2012 in London, women’s boxing was introduced to the Olympics.

2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will feature men compete in eight different weight classes:

  • Flyweight (105.8-114.6 pounds)
  • Featherweight (114.6-125.6 pounds)
  • Lightweight (125.6-138.9 pounds)
  • Welterweight (138.9-152.1 pounds)
  • Middleweight (152.1-165.3 pounds)
  • Light heavyweight (165.3-178.6 pounds)
  • Heavyweight (178.6-200.6 pounds)
  • Super heavyweight (+200.6 pounds)

Women compete in five different weight classes:

  • Flyweight (105.8-112.4 pounds)
  • Featherweight (119-125.6 pounds)
  • Lightweight (125.6-132.3 pounds)
  • Welterweight (141.1-152.1 pounds)
  • Middleweight (152.1-165.3 pounds)

Boxing matches at the Olympic Games last for three rounds of three minutes each. Five judges score the bout, awarding points for successful hits. The fighter with more points wins the match.

The match can also be stopped early for one of the following reasons:

  • if the referee deems that the difference between fighters is too large (one fighter being too dominant)
  • one of the fighters is unable to continue for 10 seconds (considered as knocked out, “KO”)
  • if the doctor interferes
  • if the fighter receives three warnings and is disqualified

The United States are the most decorated country with 114 Olympics medals (50 gold), with Cuba being second with 73 medals (37 gold), and Great Britain third with 56 medals (18 gold).

Boxing at the Olympics serves as a phenomenal jumping point for young boxers to transition to the top of the game. Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Floyd Mayweather, Anthony Joshua, and Muhammad Ali being some of them.

Fencing at the Olympics:

Which Martial Arts Are at the Olympics?

Fencing was introduced to the Olympics at the 1896 Games in Athens and is part of the Games since then. Women’s fencing first took part in the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

Foil, epée, and sabre are three types of weapons used in the sport of fencing. There are both individual and team events in fencing. Here is the complete list of fencing disciplines at the Olympics:

  • Individual foil (men/women)
  • Individual epée (men/women)
  • Individual sabre (men/women)
  • Team foil (men/women)
  • Team epée (men/women)
  • Team sabre (men/women)

The main difference between foil, epée, and sabre is the target area. The target area for foil is the torso (with back included), for epée, it is the entire body, and for sabre it is the torso with both the head and arms included. Electrical machines are used for scoring. When target areas are hit, lamps are lit, and the point is scored.

Individual events in foil and epée last for three rounds of three minutes. The winner is the first fencer to reach 15 points or the one who has more points after the time has passed. If both fencers have the same amount of points, the match goes to sudden-death overtime (the first one to score a point is the winner of a match).

Team events are composed of three members (with one reserve member) who compete in a round-robin format (each fencer on each team is fencing against each opponent one at a time).

Judo at the Olympics:

Judo debuted at the Olympics during the 1964 Games in Tokyo. The women’s events were first held at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Athletes that participate in Judo events are called Judoka.

The main goal of Judo is to throw or take down an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or submit an opponent with a choke or a joint lock. There are 100 techniques available; 68 throwing techniques (called nagewaza) and 32 grappling techniques (called katamewaza).

Points are awarded for techniques being used successfully. If scores are tied after the match is over, the bout goes into “Golden Score” or overtime (first Judoka to score a point is the winner).

At the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, men compete in the following disciplines:

  • -132.3 pounds (-60 kg)
  • -145 pounds (-66 kg)
  • -161 pounds (-73 kg)
  • -178.6 pounds (-81 kg)
  • -198.4 pounds (-90 kg)
  • -220.5 pounds (-100 kg)
  • +220.5 pounds (+100 kg)

At the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, women compete in the following disciplines:

  • -105.8 pounds (-48 kg)
  • -114.6 pounds (-52 kg)
  • -125.7 pounds (-57 kg)
  • -138.9 pounds (-63 kg)
  • -154.3 pounds (-70 kg)
  • -172 pounds (-78 kg)
  • +172 pounds (78 kg)

Japan is the country with most Olympic medals in judo (84 total, of which 39 are gold). The second is France with 49 medals (14 gold), and the third is South Korea with 43 medals (11 gold).

Karate at the Olympics:

Which Martial Arts Are at the Olympics?

Karate will make its debut at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. There will be both men’s and women’s events. There will be both kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) competitions.

Kata is a demonstration of different offensive and defensive maneuvers targeting the virtual opponent. Competitors choose which kata they will demonstrate to the judges. The point-based system is used for determining the winner.

Kumite is a sparring form of karate with two practitioners facing each other. The goal is to land a series of blows to the target area of the opponent’s body. A fighter who first collects eight points more than the opponent within the duration of the bout is the winner. In the case of a tie, the fighter who scored the first points is the winner. If there were no points given in a bout, the winner is declared by judges’ decision.

Taekwondo at the Olympics:

Which Martial Arts Are at the Olympics?

Taekwondo made its Olympics debut as a demonstration event at the Olympics Games in Seoul in 1988. At the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, taekwondo made its appearance as a full medal sport and has maintained the status since then. At the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, both men and women will compete in different weight classes:

  • Men -127.9 pounds (-58 kg)
  • Men -149.9 pounds (-68 kg)
  • Men -176.4 pounds (-80 kg)
  • Men +176.4 pounds (+80 kg)
  • Women -108 pounds (-49 kg)
  • Women -125.7 pounds (-57 kg)
  • Women -147.7 pounds (-67 kg)
  • Women +147.7 pounds (+67 kg)

Taekwondo matches at the Olympics are scored via PSS (Protector and Scoring System), which was first used at the 2012 London Games. The PSS uses electronic sensors built into the protective gear of the athlete, which is wirelessly linked to the electronic scoreboard.

When impact (with the correct part of the foot) is made with the protective gear on the opponent’s head or trunk, points are scored. Judges also score points manually and add technical points scored by turning/spinning kicks (they earn extra points).

South Korea has the most Olympics medals (19 of which 12 are gold) with China being second (10 of which 7 are gold) and the United States being third (9 of which 2 are gold).

Wrestling at the Olympics:

Which Martial Arts Are at the Olympics?

Wrestling is one of the oldest sports known to men. It was featured for the first time at the Olympics in 708 BCE in Ancient Greece. In modern times, the Greco-Roman style of wrestling was included at Athens 1896. Freestyle wrestling was first introduced at the Olympics in St. Louis 1904. Women’s wrestling (freestyle) was for the first time held at the Olympics in 2004 in Athens.

The goal of both styles is to press both shoulders of their opponent down onto the mat. The Greco-Roman style allows the usage of the upper body and arms of wrestlers. In contrast, freestyle allows the usage of any part of the body.

Men and women will compete in a variety of different weight classes:

  • Freestyle:
    • Men:
      • -125.67 pounds (-57 kg)
      • -143.3 pounds (-65 kg)
      • -163.1 pounds (-74 kg)
      • -189.6 pounds (-86 kg)
      • -213.8 pounds (-97 kg)
      • -275.6 pounds (-125 kg)
    • Women:
      • -110.2 pounds (-50 kg)
      • -116.8 pounds (-53 kg)
      • -125.7 pounds (-57 kg)
      • -136.7 pounds (-62 kg)
      • -149.9 pounds (-68 kg)
      • -167.6 pounds (-76 kg)
  • Greco-Roman (men only):
    • -132.3 pounds (-60 kg)
    • -147.7 pounds (-67 kg)
    • -169.8 pounds (-77 kg)
    • -191.8 pounds (-87 kg)
    • -213.8 pounds (-97 kg)
    • -286.6 pounds (-130 kg)

The Soviet Union was (and still is) the most decorated country in wrestling at the Olympics with 116 medals (62 are gold). The United States is second with 133 medals, of which 54 are gold (yes, the USA has more medals, but less gold ones). Japan is third with 69 medals (32 are gold).

Mixed Martial Arts at the Olympics:

With Mixed Martial Arts being the fastest growing sport in the world, we wrote an article about MMA at the Olympics (if we will see it at the Olympics, and when exactly).

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