The 7 Olympic Combat Sports

8th September 2019
Combat sports present great duels between skilled athletes during each Olympic Games. Do you know what combat sports feature in this world event?

A combat sport is one in which one person competes against another, in a one-on-one duel. There are different types of combat sports that follow specific sets of rules. In this article, we’ll tell you about a very special group within this great family: Olympic combat sports. That is, those that are present at the main event of world sport.

What are the Olympic combat sports?

As a first step, we must know what we mean when we say ‘combat sports’. According to the definition, a combat sport is a contact discipline in which two opponents face each other using certain parts of the body. The way opponents touch will be determined by the sport’s rules.

Some of the disciplines approved by the International Olympic Committee to participate every four years are:

1. Boxing

Since its origins, boxing has always been a popular sport and it’s believed that it was already practiced in ancient Greece. In 688 BC it was included in the Olympic Games of Antiquity under the name of Pygmy or ‘fist fight’.

It’s also one of the sports that have been featured in most editions of the modern Olympic Games. More precisely, since the second date, St. Louis 1904. Boxing was only missing in Athens 1896. Here’s an interesting fact: medals are awarded in the games to the first four boxers of each category. In the Olympic games, boxing is present with male and female categories.

boxing is practiced worldwide
Boxing is one of the most traditional Olympic combat sports.

2. Fencing

Another of the historical Olympic combat sports featuring in modern editions is fencing. It’s been present since the first games, at least in the men’s category. The female category was incorporated in 1924.

Fencing aims to ‘touch’ the opponent with a white weapon, which can be a saber, a sword or a foil. Participants are protected with special suits and masks that signal when the opponent’s touch occurs.

3. Judo

Judo is one of the martial arts present in the Olympic Games. The Olympic Committee decided to add this sport to the official program in the Tokyo 1964 edition. Although it ‘disappeared’ in 1968, Judo returned in 1972 and has continued to be an Olympic sport ever since. In 1992 the female category was added and the competition divided into seven categories according to weight.

4. Greco-Roman wrestling, one of the oldest Olympic combat sports

This sport has origins in Greece and Italy -hence its name- and was practiced in the Olympic Games of Antiquity. When Pierre de Coubertin decided to organize the Modern Games, he insisted that this discipline couldn’t be missing. Thus, Greco-Roman wrestling was incorporated into the program in the second edition, San Luis 1904. The current Greco-Roman discipline is divided into seven categories.

Judo is a martial art very porpular as a combat sport
Greco-Roman wrestling is a sport originating from ancient times.

5. Olympic wrestling

This is another of the Olympic combat sports with ancient origins, but whose regulation, (based on Greco-Roman wrestling), has been modified. In this discipline, wrestlers can use any part of their bodies. Olympic wrestling was admitted in the 1904 edition.

6. Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a modern Korean martial art, created in the 50s and recognized as an Olympic sport in 1988. For the Seoul edition of that year, it participated as an exhibition but was added to the program in Sydney 2000.

The taekwondo match takes place in an 8 x 8-meter ring without ropes or physical limits, as in boxing. There may be one to three rounds, and the duration varies between one and three minutes, depending on the category. Participants are allowed to strike with the front of their bodies and heads.

FOTO Taekwondo is one of the most practiced martial arts.

7. Karate, the most recent Olympic combat sports

The last of the Olympic combat sports that we’ll detail is also within the martial arts group. Originally from Japan, Karate’s name means ‘the path of the empty hand’ since no weapons of any kind are used.

It’s also the most ‘modern’ of Olympic sports, as it’s just been accepted, after several attempts, to participate in the Tokyo 2020 edition. Karate was accepted along with baseball or softball, surfing, climbing, and skateboarding.

Undoubtedly, Olympic combat sports are the most striking in each edition of the Games. What’s your favorite out of the ones we’ve included in this list?

  • Bromley, S. J., Drew, M. K., Talpey, S., McIntosh, A. S., & Finch, C. F. (2018). A systematic review of prospective epidemiological research into injury and illness in Olympic combat sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2016-097313