Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
Martial Arts is a fairly new addition to the modern day Olympics. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the original premise of the Olympics was based on “martial” concepts.
There are several myths and legends behind the reason for the origin of the Olympics. While it is not clear which are truly factual, it is known that the first Olympics featured only foot races. The first race was the ,stadion, and it is from this word that we derive the name “stadium”. Over time, other events more familiar to the modern Olympics were added. Among them were several disciplines which primarily was used in “martial”, or warfare, environments. These included boxing, chariot racing, and an early form of Martial Arts known as Pankration.
Modern Olympics began including Martial Arts in 1964 with the addition of Judo to their line-up. The 1964 Olympics was hosted by Japan and at the time the host country could add one sport, which they chose to be Judo. There were four initial weight classes defined for men in this initial game. It wasn’t until 1992 that women were allowed to compete in Judo as well. Today there are 13 different weight and gender divisions which compete at the Olympics.
The only other Martial Arts present in the Olympics is Tae Kwon Do. This was officially introduced into the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. However, Tae Kwon Do had been part of the previous two Olympics as part of the demonstration sports. The first demonstration year, there were 120 men and 63 women participating. Currently there are four divisions for each gender and the number of schools and students participating is growing.
In the summer of 2008, China will be hosting the Olympics and no doubt there will be many opportunities for exhibition matches depicting Martial Arts. This Olympics will be a great opportunity to expose even a wider audience to Martial Arts and perhaps even a gateway to have more disciplines of Martial Arts included in future Olympic bouts.
Who knows, perhaps in the next Olympics there will be some forms competition in addition to the sparring.