What martial arts are in the Olympics?


Every four years, the Olympic Games offer the greatest sporting spectacle. Tens of millions of people around the world watch the matches, and some of the martial arts events are the most popular.

Do you know what martial arts are in the Olympics? There are several, and below we have listed all of the martial arts that are Olympic sports. Read below all martial arts that are Olympic events and their stories.

What martial arts are in the Olympics?

Currently, six martial arts are official sports at the Olympics. The martial arts that are Olympic sports are as follows.

  • Greco-Roman wrestling
  • Free wrestling
  • Boxing
  • Judo
  • taekwondo
  • Karate

(Disclaimer) We understand that many do not consider the martial arts of wrestling or boxing. However, they play a vital role in mixed martial arts and are a form of self-defense. For these reasons, we considered both boxing and the martial arts of wrestling.

Greco-Roman wrestling

Greco-Roman wrestling was one of the first official Olympic sports when the Olympics were reintroduced. This form of wrestling made its debut at the first Olympic Games in 1896.

When organizing the first Olympic event, Greco-Roman wrestling was an easy choice to include. The original Olympics had wrestling events, and at the time, Greco-Roman wrestling was the most popular style of wrestling.

Over the 100+ years of the Olympics, there have been many Olympic champions in Greco-Roman wrestling. Without the introduction of this form of wrestling, the other martial arts in the Olympics might not have had a chance.

The Rules of Greco-Roman Olympic Wrestling

  • 2 periods (3 minutes each)
  • Uniforms: singlets and wrestling shoes
  • Only dismounts above the waist are allowed
  • Victory Methods: Pin, Points or DQ
  • 8 points ahead = automatic win
  • Eliminations: 2-5 points
  • Knockdown: 1 point
  • Exposure: 2-3 dots
  • Penalties: 1-2 points
  • Out of bounds: 1 point

Free wrestling

Freestyle wrestling was the second form of wrestling accepted as an Olympic sport after Greco-Roman wrestling. The story behind freestyle wrestling becoming an Olympic sport is interesting.

Initially, wrestling was supposed to be the second form of wrestling to become an Olympic sport. Unfortunately for wrestling, the Olympic committee canceled the event at the last minute.

The cancellation was because submissions were allowed in capture wrestling, and the committee did not want injuries from submissions. Instead, they would embrace freestyle wrestling, which was a new form of wrestling practiced in the United States.

This form of wrestling would make its debut at the Olympic Games in 1904, where only American wrestlers competed. Over time, freestyle wrestling established itself internationally and even surpassed the popularity of Greco-Roman wrestling.

Today, freestyle wrestling is the most practiced form of wrestling in the world.

The Rules of Olympic Freestyle Wrestling

The rules of freestyle wrestling at the Olympics are very similar to those of Greco-Roman wrestling. The big difference is that takedowns and throws above the waist are allowed in freestyle wrestling.


In the late 1800s, the sport of boxing began to become more popular around the world. Largely thanks to the introduction of the Queensberry Rules which the organizers adopted.

Since one of the earliest forms of pugilism was in the ancient Olympics, it was an obvious choice to be included. Boxing became an official Olympic sport in 1904, the same year freestyle wrestling made its debut.

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Since its debut in the Olympics, boxing has undergone various changes. Everything from rule sets, adding different weight classes, adding headgear, and then removing headgear.

The Rules of Olympic Boxing

  • 3 rounds (3 minutes each)
  • Ways to win: KO/TKO, decision or disqualification (no draw)
  • Only shots above the waist
  • Punches allowed only in front of the opponent’s body


Kayla Harrison

The grappling art of judo became an official Olympic sport in 1964. Judo’s creator, Grandmaster Jigoro Kano, was actually a member of the original Olympic committee.

He was the first member of the Asian committee and held this position until his death in 1938. The martial art of Kano debuted at the 1964 Olympics but was excluded from the 1968 games.

In 1972, judo became an Olympic sport again and retained its status as an official event for 50 years. Over time, the Olympics added more women’s weight classes and divisions in 1992.

Judo is still one of the most popular events seen by spectators and one of the biggest championships in the sport.

The Rules of Olympic Judo

  • Match duration: 5 minutes (men) 4 minutes (women)
  • Ways to Win: Ippon, 2 Waza Aris, Hansoku Penalty, 4 Shido Penalties
  • Golden Score: Any point earned during the overtime round that is an automatic win.


Taekwondo debuted as a demonstration event at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. After twelve years of bureaucracy, taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 2000.

A staggering feat for the Korean martial art, which had officially formed around 40 years prior. At this time, taekwondo became practiced internationally by over 70 million practitioners.

The Rules of Olympic Taekwondo

  • 3 rounds (2 minutes each)
  • Uniforms: headgear, chest protector, TKD gloves, shin guards, foot guards
  • Punches: 1 point
  • Body kicks: 2 points
  • Headbutts: 3 points
  • Turning kicks to the head: 5 points
  • Minor penalties: 1 point
  • Ways to win: TKO, 20 point lead
  • Gold Point: The first point scored in a sudden death wins the match



Karate is the latest martial art to be given the honor of becoming an official Olympic sport. It was added to the 2020 Olympics which were to be held in Japan. The birthplace of the martial art.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for over a year. In 2021, karate would be one of four new sports to debut at the Tokyo Olympics.

It received positive reviews and will return in 2024 for the Olympics in Paris, France.

The Rules of Olympic Karate

  • 1 round of 3 minutes
  • Uniform: Karate Gi, Headgear, Shin Guards, Chest Guards, Shin Guards, Foot Guards
  • Yuko: 1 point punches
  • Waza-Ari: 2 point kicks
  • Ippon: 3 Point Head Kicks (also any technique where an opponent falls)
  • Ways to win: KO/TKO, Points, Golden Score, DQ

What martial arts could be the future Olympic sports

There are always rumors and conversations about martial arts that could be future Olympic sports. Here are three martial arts that constantly come up in conversation.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most talked about martial arts to become an Olympic sport. It seems like it would be a perfect complement with judo and wrestling.

The only big thing stopping BJJ from becoming an Olympic sport is the IOC. They do not recognize any of the major Jiu Jitsu federations as the official governing body for the martial art.

Until the IOC recognizes one of the federations as the IBJJF, BJJ will never become an Olympic sport.

muay thai

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Muay Thai may well be the next martial art to become an official Olympic event. After more than thirty years of testing, the IOC has fully certified Olympic sport.

The IOC granted the International Federation of Muay Thai Associates (IFMA) permanent member status on the committee. This decision was taken during the 138th IOC session in Tokyo on July 20, 2021.

Even though Muay Thai has been approved as an Olympic sport, it does not have a fixed start date. We probably won’t see Muay Thai in the Olympics anytime soon due to the IOC bureaucracy. Read more about this story here.


The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) was the main MMA federation to push for MMA to become an Olympic sport. This federation has also obtained WADA status for athletes within the federation to be tested for doping.

For MMA to have a better chance of becoming an Olympic sport, the IMMAF must be recognized by the IOC. UFC president Dana White has backed the IMMAF and thinks if the Olympics wants viewers, they need to add MMA.

Sambo and Kickboxing

The IOC granted provisional recognition to sambo and kickboxing along with Muay Thai. Although it is not known when we might see these martial arts in the Olympics.

We might see them at the 2024 Olympics in Paris or some other event in the future.


Martial arts are perfect sports for the Olympic Games. If you’re wondering what martial arts are in the Olympics, there are already six martial arts that are official Olympic sports, and we could see three more added in the coming years.

This is great news for fight fans and gives these martial arts a chance to grow. If the Olympics adds Muay Thai, Sambo and kickboxing, more fight fans will definitely tune in.

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