The title pretty much explains it. What criteria have to be met for a martial art to be considered for inclusion in the Olympics.

I understand that there has to be some semblance of international governing body, but what exactly does that entail?

There also has to be international competitiveness (like in all sports), what is the criteria for that?

I wasn't sure what to tag this question as, so feel free to add some tags as you feel appropriate :)


For any sport, there must be a level of what the IOC (International Olympic Committee) calls "universality"; in other words, the sport must be practiced under an international governing body in multiple countries in most continents.

Essentially, the sport:

  • Must have an international governing body. (For Judo, for instance, this is International Judo Federation)
  • That body must hold a world championship.
  • The organization must be in compliance with the Olympic Charter
  • Numbers:
    • Summer Games:
      • Men: Participants from 75 Countries over 4 Continents.
      • Women: Participants from 40 Countries over 3 Continents.
    • Winter Games:
      • Participants from 25 Countries. (I don't know the breakdown for men vs. women and continents)

[NB: The sports do not have to be popular; Ice Hockey isn't that popular in Ireland, but they still are members of the International Ice Hockey Federation]

  • Physical (not mechanical) athletic performance is required (Sorry if you're hoping for robot boxing [Rock'em Sock'em Robots] to make it into the Olympics).
  • Sport is already recognized and had (usually at least) 2 international championships before being chosen.

Even a sport meeting these requirements is not guaranteed inclusion. The IOC still convenes to vote on the inclusion of new sports.

Two martial arts are up for inclusion in 2020: Karate and Wushu.


This is kind of a short answer, but you can find out a summary of how it worked for Tae Kwon Do on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taekwondo_at_the_Summer_Olympics

There isn't as much of a history for Judo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judo_at_the_Summer_Olympics

I can't find a source for this, but I heard that the hosting country can choose an event for the Olympics. It may well be how Judo made it in. And it may well mean that beyond having rules for competition, there aren't / weren't really any criteria back then.

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