Should BJJ Be An Olympic Sport?

judo olympics

The CBJJ and IBJJF (the 2 largest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu organizations) have made it their goal to get Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into the Olympics.  They stand to make a lot of money if this happens, and I don’t have a problem with that.  Is this a good or a bad thing?

Is BJJ an art or a sport?  This is an important question.  Sports are about the score and winning.  Art is about creating something beautiful that changes lives.  Art’s purpose is to change the creator and those who experience the art.  When students refer to BJJ as a sport, I correct them.  I feel strongly that it’s an art.  At least for me.

It is really common for BJJ students to compete.  I have been told many times that in Brazil 90% of the students compete.  Hence the 30 minute “warm up” that you will do in many classes.  It’s not a warm up- it’s to get you in competition shape.  When I was a lower rank I made up my mind that I would be one of the few that wouldn’t compete and still earn my black belt.  I wanted others to be able to say “I don’t have to compete in order to get rank.  Look- Ryan did it.”

I think there are alot of benefits to competition.  I am not against it.  In fact my dojo has sponsored several tournaments.  My point is that tournament competition is only a small part of the art.   Professor John Machado said that it is less than 10%.

If BJJ makes it into the Olympics, there will be even more emphasis on the superficial aspects of the art: winning and losing.  People will look at Olympic competition as the pinnacle of the art.

I’ve always felt and taught that learning is way more important than winning.  When I lose a match to Roger Machado, did I really lose?  I learn so much from Roger, every time we finish a match, I thank him sincerely.  When I beat one of my students, did I really win?  Success doesn’t depend on the outcome- who tapped.  To me success is about whether I learned from the match.  It is also about if I was able to stay calm during the match, no matter what kind of pressure was on me.

I do believe that competition is what makes the art grow, but that happens every time you free roll.  I have never competed in a tournament, yet I have had thousands of matches.  Some have been against people that I didn’t know, and there were a bunch of people watching, and some even cheering my partner on.    For me, I don’t need to pay a $40 to $200 registration fee.  I don’t need a referee.  I don’t need points called, I don’t need a time limit.


To answer this question about whether BJJ should be in the Olympics or not, we can look at Judo, which has been in the Olympics for many years.

I love the art of Judo, but I dislike the way that many people train it.  I have kicked out more Judo people from my school than any other art!  Very often it is the Judo players that get angry when they lose, make excuses, avoid people that they know will beat them.  I had one guy come to my school and try a BJJ class.  We rolled, he tapped, then yelled “Damnit!  Let’s go again!” as he slammed his hand on the mat.  Did he actually think he would tap me?  Why would he come to my school if he could tap the teacher?

Of course not all Judo people are only focused on winning.  I know a lot of humble Judokas.  But I know too many obnoxious ones!  The way it is practiced creates these bad attitudes.  Most places train it for the purpose of competing, where winning is the goal, losing is to be avoided.  To me, attitude is far more important than the outcome of the match.

I train BJJ because it prepares me in case I was ever in a self defense situation.  I also train because it keeps me in shape.  And it relieves stress.  And I meet a lot of people through it.  But more important than all these is the confidence that it has developed in me.   This confidence has changed my life.  Since I earned my first black belt when I was 18, after 5 years of exrtemely dedicated training, I have gone on to do many things that I am proud of.  I attribute it to my persistence in the martial arts.

There is a famous BJJ teacher that spent alot of time and energy trying to become a world champion.  And he was very good at it.  But his orientation toward the art is competition.  When you get to old to compete, or if you are not athletic, then you can coach others to become champion.

He had asked me one time, “Do you want me to help you become a world champion?”  I said no.  He looked confused.  He asked, “So you want to teach?”  I said, “I like teaching, but I really just love training.  My goal is just to get really good at Jiu-Jitsu.”

I think many people he had asked that same question of had answered that question differently.  I didn’t go into an explanation why, because it takes a bit of explaining (as you can see), but the explanation is important.  This particular teacher doesn’t train a lot anymore.  Of his students that start to get a little older, or don’t do well in competition, he tells them to become a coach for others that compete.  His view of Jiu-Jitsu is centered around competition.

I am planning on training Jiu-Jitsu into my latest years, like Helio Gracie, who trained into his mid 90’s when he passed away.

Could someone be a tournament competitor and still have an exemplary attitude?  Absolutely.  Could someone make it their goal to be in the Olympics and still practice the deeper aspects of the art?  Definitely.  But if BJJ becomes an Olympic sport, people lose sight (even more) of the deeper purpose of the art.  It would be a sad day for me.

To me the highest achievement of Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, or any art is not when you are recognized by others with a trophy, medal, or title.  These are all things that are outside of you.  I am not waiting for the world to tell me what I already know from within.  The greatest benefits of training are within.

4 Responses to “Should BJJ Be An Olympic Sport?”

  1. hi
    i’m royce gracie rep’ in israel. so much liked your way of thinking!!!
    i put your article on my web. hope it’s o-k

  2. admin says:

    Absolutely David! I am really happy to find others who think this way. BJJ has a good reputation among other martial artists for their fighting ability, and how difficult it is to earn rank, but they have a bad reputation for the attitudes. I want to help change that. Take care and I’m so glad you found the blog and are sharing it.

  3. Abe says:

    Your right,bjj is an art and we must see it as such, when I roll on the mats I’m not thinkig in competitions or medals I am thinking of how much I enjoy it, I don’t have a problem with bjj being in the olympics because it’s up to us to always see the true meaning of bjj in our lifes.

    Regards from bjj in Mexico

  4. nunya says:

    judokas they lose make excuses really ? its really the other way around judo teaches discipline and the art of budo their are many bjj schools that forget this. biggest cry babies the gracie family you have to fight thier rules in a match and when they lose give excuses like oh he was heavy he was wasnt folling rules and so on but preach that bjj is the art of winning over a heavier fighter . bjjers hate to acknowledge that bbj comes from judo no if ands or buts you hear oh judo only has standup which many schools preach but are now teaching judo throwing techniques to their students. u guys forget maeda only taught the gracies for bout 2 to 4 years thats it and thier were other judokas in brasil so where did the gracies learn the newaza ? they didnt invent anything they copied the kosen judo sylabuss from from sensei oda and other newaza specialist from japan

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