Wrestling is a self defence martial art and also an (Olympic) game which audiences sit and watch. Other martial arts like karate are the same - with a martial/self-defence and sport component, so why is e.g. karate only considered a martial art and not also an Olympic sport?

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    Karate is slated to be in the 2020 Olympics. Does that change your question?
    – mattm
    Oct 7 '18 at 12:49
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    Taekwondo is also both a Martial Art and an Olympic sport. Oct 8 '18 at 10:04
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    Why did I get negative marks for my question . Was my question wrong?
    – azhagan
    Oct 9 '18 at 3:19
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    @azhagan - most likely because the question appears to be easily answered, what prior research did you do?
    – JohnP
    Oct 9 '18 at 14:12
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    As with ALL of your prior questions, commenters have requested clarification of your questions, and you have provided none. The standard guidance for a downvote is "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful." I have not personally downvoted, but your questions are definitely unclear.
    – mattm
    Oct 9 '18 at 14:43

TL; DR: It has to do with the fact that they have separate international governing bodies (see breakdown below).

The Olympics have a tiered classification system, that can be a bit confusing if you look at each different thing as a "sport", like you would for general consideration. These tiers are:

  • Sport - Top tier, and there are limitations on the number of sports that can be in an Olympics. A sport is governed by a single international federation.
  • Discipline - A classification underneath a sport.
  • Event - Competition that leads to awarding of medals.

So, for example, take the sport of Cycling. It is structured as follows:

  • Cycling
    • Top level sport, governed by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, or International Cycling Union), which governs all cycling worldwide. The sport of cycling includes 4 disciplines:
  • Disciplines
    • Track cycling (Men and Women)
    • Mountain Biking (Men/Women)
    • Road cycling (Men/Women)
    • BMX (Men/Women)
      Individual races in these disciplines are events:
  • Events
    • Road race
    • Road Time Trial
    • 3000m pursuit etc etc.
      Each of these events will lead to a medal ceremony.

The key points of the above, is that every aspect of the above is governed by the UCI. There are individual governing bodies within the nations (USA Cycling for the USA in this example), but they all are under the umbrella of the UCI.

If martial arts wanted to be listed as a sport, and encompass wrestling, boxing, karate, tae kwon do, etc., then the governing bodies for these would need to either dissolve and reform or otherwise belong to a single international governing body. This in fact is how snowboarding was included in the Olympics, the Olympic Committee mandated that their international governing body dissolve and become part of the FIS, so that adding snowboarding would not increase the number of sports, just the number of disciplines.


Note: As of Tokyo 2020, karate is an Olympic sport.

Whether a sport is recognised as an Olympic sport is ultimately up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). To qualify, a sport must necessarily:

  • conform to the terms of the Olympic Charter
  • have an international governing body recognised by the IOC
  • file an application for inclusion through the IOC

The application process for inclusion in future Olympic games involves "a recommendation by the IOC Olympic Programme Commission, followed by a decision of the IOC Executive Board and a vote of the IOC Session".

Note: JohnP explains the IOC's distinction between "sports" (e.g. wrestling) and "disciplines" (e.g. freestyle wrestling, greco-roman wrestling) in his answer.

Current Olympic combat sports

Sport Disciplines
enter image description here boxing
enter image description here fencing
enter image description here judo
enter image description here karate
enter image description here taekwondo
wrestling enter image description here Greco-Roman
enter image description here freestyle

Additionally there are the non-combat but still martial-derived target sports:

  • enter image description here archery
  • enter image description hereshooting

Demonstration summer sports

Year Sport Disciplines
1912 enter image description here Glima
1924 Savate enter image description here Savate
enter image description here La canne
1964 Budo enter image description here Kendo
enter image description here Kyudo
enter image description here Sumo

Non-Olympic combat sports with governing bodies recognised by the IOC

The following combat sports (if eligible under the terms of the Olympic Charter) may apply for future inclusion in the Olympic games (as happened with Karate for Tokyo 2020):

  • enter image description here Kickboxing
  • enter image description here Muay Thai
  • enter image description here Sambo
  • enter image description here Sumo
  • enter image description here Wushu

Historic Olympic combat-related sports

The following sports were historically included in Olympic games, but are not currently recognised:

  • hoplitodromos "armoured foot race"
  • pankration (- 1900)
  • singlestick (- 1904)
  • Wonder if the javelin should be included alongside archery and shooting.
    – John O
    Jul 8 '19 at 18:07
  • @johno ah I hadn't even considered that. I think it's not included in most lists of weapons/combat related sports because it's a distance event (like shot-put etc), not a precision/target one. Jul 8 '19 at 19:09

Martial arts, the goal is to enforce submission, even pain to enforce compliance Wrestling, as a sport, injury is very rare except in exertion, but the main emphasis is legal submission by the rules contested by the referee.

  • Please try to meet at least minimal editorial standards in your posts (spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, ...). And how are legal submissions not using pain for compliance? Additionally, since full-contact sports are done at full force, injuries happen way more often than in most self-proclaimed 'self-defence martial arts'. In short: answers on StackExchange should be more elaborate, thoughtful, and based on actual expertise than this post. Jan 2 at 13:43

Wrestling is a game because it is a competitive sport.

As to karate, there are two kinds:

One kind of karate is a martial art - and such styles and schools which teach this kind do not focus on the competition - they focus on self-defense (occasionally, they may use sport as a means to that end).

Another kind of karate is purely a sport - a game. Just like wrestling.

And like karate, the same is true with Kung Fu. Some is sport, some is not.

And as has been pointed out, karate enters its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020. So, that kind of karate is probably sport. It remains to be seen what that will look like, but if it looks like a lot of flashy stuff, doesn't incorporate weapons, and its sparring looks more like a match than a self-defense exhibition, then it won't be applicable to self-defense, making it a game.

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    A martial art that does not have 'games' (competitive and high-impact practice forms) is basically useless since it lacks training forms where the techniques are trained close or identical to actual application. I do not want to defend point-fighting with regards to self-defense, but Rafael Aghayev surely can defend himself better than 99.9% of the Ninjutsu/Systema/Krav Maga people training 'martial arts' which are 'training for self-defense' with techniques 'too dangerous to be done at full force in training'. Try to fight a good wrestler. He'll probably beat you up. Jun 22 '19 at 20:30

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