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Sambo Just Received Provisional Olympic Recognition – Should Jiu Jitsu Be Next?
Exploring the impact of rule sets on combat sports...
Vasily Shestakov, President of the International Sambo Federation, announced the following,
“Today the dream of sambists from all over the world came true – the sport of sambo obtained provisional recognition of the International Olympic Committee.
The long-awaited news, which came directly from the Land of the Rising Sun from the meeting of the IOC Executive Committee in Tokyo, became a real Christmas and New Year’s gift to the entire sambo community. It is also remarkable that this happened in the year of the 80th anniversary of sambo, two weeks after the birthday of our favorite sport.
It was a long way to Olympic recognition of sambo: in the first World Sambo Championships in Tehran in 1973 athletes from 11 countries took part, last year in the World Championships in Sochi participated 90 countries from five continents.
Currently there are several developing disciplines in sambo – sport sambo for men and women, combat sambo, beach sambo, demonstrational sambo, which proves that this is a truly popular public sport available to almost anyone. Sambo stars such as Fedor Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov are the idols of millions of people worldwide.
Today we have accomplished the big, and perhaps the most difficult step forward. But there is still a lot of work ahead. The next step is to get the permanent IOC recognition and then to be included in the program of the Olympic Games. I’m sure we can handle it!
Once again I congratulate the sambists from all over the world. Together we made sambo Olympic!”
Ready to Grapple Like Russian Bear?
It is definitely a big day for Sambo practitioners around the world. This event naturally creates the question for the Jiu Jitsu community, would you like to see Jiu Jitsu in the Olympics? Many would argue that the answer should be yes. They would tout that the Olympics is great exposure. It would attract attention to the sport. Also, they would argue that it would be extremely prestigious to receive gold medals for these athletes.
While those statements are certainly true, there are also arguments to be made against Jiu Jitsu in the Olympics. But before we explore Jiu Jitsu in the Olympics it is necessary to understand that any given rule set can impact the martial component of Jiu Jitsu. One example of this is a rule set that relies too heavily on points, this reduces the need for submissions. If I know I can win based on points from a position then my focus can move away from the finish to controlling the position. Conversely, in submission only events, some would argue that fighters put themselves in positions that would be dangerous in a real fight. These are two examples of how rule sets can impact the martial component of Jiu Jitsu.
Rule sets play a particularly strong influence on Olympic sports. One goal of the Olympics is to be entertaining. That goal is fine yet some would argue that is why Judo moved away from ground fighting component and focused primarily on throws. Yes I know that Judo still has submissions but historically there were far more submissions in the sport than we see in present day. A second example of how rule sets influence the art is in the need for Olympics sports to differentiate themselves from other sports. A recent example is of this was Judo banning leg based take downs. Many would argue that these take downs were banned because the International Olympic Committee was a concerned that Judo resembled free style wrestling too closely. To mitigate this concern, the IJF banned leg based take downs to ensure the sport's Olympic future.
The reality is that rule sets shape the way people train. The great thing about Jiu Jitsu now is there are a variety of rule sets. There are EBI, IBJJF and other rule sets in which an athletes can compete. With having different rule sets, the sport cannot be swayed too far in one direction. Should Jiu Jitsu become an Olympic sport it is a possibility that one rule set would unduly influence the martial art. This is dangerous because effective techniques like single leg take downs or submissions are either limited or discarded for the sole purpose of entertainment value or to demarcate your sport from other sports.
I am happy for the Sambo community. Certainly, if the IJF has made mistakes it does not necessitate that other governing bodies would make the same mistakes. I am just not sure that the rewards of having Jiu Jitsu in the Olympics are sufficient in terms of the risks.
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