The Olympics automatically conjure up the typical sports, Athletics, Gymnastics, Swimming etc. But Martial Arts will also be well represented, with Judo and Taekwondo firmly established as Olympic Sports. Judo gets the longest pedigree, making its debut at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, as a guest sport of the host nation self defence, a custom still practised today. Taekwondo made its debut in 1998 at the Soeul Olympics (you can probably see a design here!). In 2016, at the Rio De Janeiro Games in Brazil, another martial sport will even get a chance to shine at the Olympics, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Taekwondo has fought well to retain its Olympic status, overcoming the threats to drop it from the past 2 Olympics in Athens and Beijing by promising to improve the scoring and encourage greater 'explosive' action, which mean of the IOC felt it lacked.
In Athens in 2004, anyone who'd the misfortune to witness the Taekwondo events were left feeling wondering so how it could survive. Those of us that practise, past or present, Taekwondo know so how quick and powerful this martial art can be. Primarily a 'kicking' art, it is one of many few martial arts today that still practise full contact, which explains why you see Taekwondo athletes wearing a range of protection! Those kicks to the head and body aren't pulled, they are real, full power, potentially lethal kicks.
It'd all the makings to be the ultimate in Spectator sports......until Athens that is. What we ended up witnessing was top Taekwondo athletes standing off one another, bouncing around, looking for the opportunity to strike, but too afraid of having hit on the counter and losing. The 'glow' of a medal proved an excessive amount of, they were not just afraid to reduce, they were afraid to even attack!! It sent shock waves around Taekwondo, and caused the IOC to question if it could continue being an Olympic Sport. The World Taekwondo Federation did an incredible job of convincing the IOC that they may make Taekwondo more exciting, and at Beijing, they at the very least achieved a noticable difference over Athens.
In London in 2012, I am hoping that Taekwondo can still take the next step, and create a spectacle to give this martial sport the credibility it deserves, and to encourage more people to yet again take this sport up.
Of all the martial arts, the one that seems to struggle to get in at every Olympics is Karate , which is a shame. The World Karate Federation does an amazing job of attempting to unite all the styles, but with some many 'factions' claiming superiority, it remains a battle to convince certain organisations to unite beneath the WKF to bring Karate to the Olympics. Yet again, it was short listed for London, but could not have the sufficient votes needed from IOC members to grant it Olympic status, and so we yet again are robbed of the chance for Karate to show that it can provide something to the Olympics. Another opportunity will undoubtedly be Rio in 2016, and I for starters hope it could finally allow it to be and have the opportunity to show people just just what a great sport Karate can be.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu makes its debut in 2016 as a guest sport due to the host nation. But can it allow it to be being an established Olympic sport? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is unquestionably among, or even THE fastest growing sport in the world, offering a combination of Judo and traditional Ju Jitsu, but having its emphasis firmly on ground fighting. It is a superb sport, it's athletes are super fit, it is really a lifestyle to many. But whilst many want to notice it being an Olympic sport, many also feel it can never compete with Judo. To the untrained eye, nothing seems to occur, two athletes grappling on the ground, looking to gain an advantage and gain a submission. But I am hoping it could show people that it does have something to supply in Rio. With many Judoka and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes cross training, maybe this will help its cause.
It is excellent that lots of martial arts are little by little obtaining the recognition they deserve, and whilst we could all accept they could never eclipse sports like Football etc self defence, they have many worthwhile merits, which continued exposure through the Olympics can just only help and perhaps persuade more individuals to try these sports or arts for themselves.