Thursday, March 25, 2010

Should more martial arts represent in the Olympics; Chicago martial artists debate


Representatives from the United States and Italy compete in a  world savate tournament in Paris.
Representatives from the United States and Italy compete in a world savate tournament in Paris.
Meredith Lyons

There is argument that martial arts is already adequately represented in the Summer Olympics through Judo, Boxing, Wrestling and Tae Kwon Do. However, outside of the die hard fans of each discipline, aside from Boxing, those sports don't have the large following that many other Olympic sports garner. Many fans don't even realize they are part of the games.

With the ever-increasing popularity of mixed martial arts, it would seem that something similarly watchable would be a good candidate for addition. "Combative sports have always been a part of the Olympics," states Chicago martial artist Domingo Rodriguez. "Pankration being one of the most important competitions in the ancient games, and it being at it's most basic mixed martial arts. But I don't think the Olympic Committee will ever see MMA as anything more than barbarous, the same with brazilian jiujitsu or muay thai as sports are too brutal."

Classmate Sara Habert sides with Rodriguez. "I would love to see MMA in the Olympics." Habert says "I agree, however, that it is considered brutal by some and would receive a lot of opposition, so I don't think it will get there anytime soon."

Jun Fan instructor Lacey Bade adds an additional concern to adding mixed martial arts. "The real problem is the elimination style they use to determine winners in the Olympics. Often the winner of an MMA bout is too injured to go on the fight again later that day."

If MMA is out, is there another combative sport that may make a good showing at the Olympics? Judo and Wrestling, athletic as they may be, just aren't as exciting to watch from a spectator standpoint. Jui Jitsu has also risen in popularity recently due to it's connection with MMA, however, the intricate moves and chess-like skill that it requires makes it similarly difficult to become involved in from an audience standpoint.

"Because savate can be competed in purely on points and form without excessive violence, that would make a good case for it to join Judo, TKD, boxing and wrestling." Rodriguez, ranked white glove in savate, offers.

Habert is also a fan of the kicking arts. "I would also like to see kickboxing included, both for men and women," she says. "I think it would draw an interest from a lot of people. It is athletic and fun to watch. It is just aggressive enough, not too violent."

Bade debates the merits of savate, American Kickboxing, Muay Thai and karate. "Which one really represents 'kickboxing'? Which one could you choose without somehow playing favorites? Would the Thai fighters get all upset if they added savate and not Thai?"

"I think savate might be the most interesting and probable," Rodriguez decides. "Besides the Olympics have obscure events like curling and biatholan as a huge draw, I'm sure a lot of Europeans would like to see themselves kick some butt in something else."

"And what about forms?" Bade adds. "They're a legitimate martial art, and there are a lot of competitive people who don't want to be combative but are good martial artists. Also, many styles have some sort of form you need to learn. It would be cool to watch, too, just like the gymnastic forms we enjoy during the summer games."

Between the dance-like quality of martial arts forms and the combative grace of savate, there is definitely room for more martial arts action in the Olympics. However, considering female boxing categories will be introduced for the first time since 1904 in the 2012 Summer Olympics in England, and wushu was rejected by the IOC when the Chinese attempted an addition in 2002, the savateurs will probably have a long wait.

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