Gumby’s Column: Some thoughts on Olympic Judo (from an American BJJ’er)

*I watch the Olympics because I love grappling. I will be following Judo and Wrestling in part for my own enjoyment, in part because I understand and appreciate the hard work and sacrifices these athletes make and partly because I am trying to learn.


*That being said, I recognize that the Olympics Judo and Wrestling is different than my chosen discipline of Jiu Jitsu. I try not to watch either Judo and Wrestling and wonder why an athlete might do something that would be obvious in Jiu Jitsu. The easy answer is this: It’s not Jiu Jitsu. While I appreciate the commonalities between the arts, I also recognize the differences. Nobody likes an armchair quarterback.


*Let’s get this out of the way. Jiu Jitsu is never going to be in the Olympics.


*Qualifying the above statement, I’ll begrudgingly admit there is a possibility of Jiu Jitsu being in the Olympics one day, the same as pretty much any other activity might eventually be included (although I would rank League of Legends as having a better chance of being in the Olympics). I would say this, there is a lengthy process in order to be include any sport into the Olympics, of which Jiu Jitsu has no current progress on. A sport might be included if it has a chance of bringing a significant viewership and revenue stream to the IOC, of which Jiu Jitsu does not have either. Finally, even if the two statements above worked in Jiu Jitsu’s favor, there is the definite possibility of a political game that would conspire against it as well.


*As I type this, Travis Stevens is in the semi-finals of the 81kg category and one win away from his first Olympic medal. Travis Stevens is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a peripheral member of the Danaher Death Squad. He would actively participate in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Events such as Copa Podio until the IJF decreed that it would be a risk to his Olympic eligibility. This potentially has huge implications in the future, for while nothing is certain about his participation in a fourth Olympics, I feel his competitive career is far from over.  (EDIT:  Travis Stevens wins SILVER!  Congrats!)


*Kayla Harrison is the first American to win a gold at the Olympics, and she is probably one of the most compelling stories at the Olympics in my opinion. Not looking past her judo accomplishments and the task she has ahead of her, but she has already stated her desire to compete in Mixed Martial Arts after these Olympics. Will she be the next Ronda Rousey?   She arguably already has better credentials in Judo, but two things that observers have wondered about is what weight class would she be able to compete at, and if she is actually too nice to be competitive in MMA.


*It was difficult to watch Marti Malloy’s match at the Olympics. Not only was it tough to see her eliminated on a penalty, but somehow my stream decided to cut to a commercial right in the middle of her match! (Thanks a lot NBC!). Marti is an absolute sweetheart, in a lot of ways they have marketing her over the last four years since her bronze in London as “an alternative personality” to Rousey. Marti has no intentions of ever fighting MMA, but is there a possibility of her being on the grappling circuit?


*One more athlete that the American fans should be paying attention to is Colton Brown. Mike Swain described Colton as one of the best pure athletes he has seen in USA judo in a long time (indicated that athletes of Colton’s caliber typically wind up in other sports). He has some ties to the Jiu Jitsu community as well; locally he has worked out both at my gym (Heroes Martial Arts) and at Caio Terra’s academy, and he also cite Gianno Grippo as a good friend.


*Speaking of Marti and Colton, SJSU head coach Yosh Uchida made the trip to Rio to see them at the age of 96! And he’s already made plans for attending the Tokyo Olympics in 2020!


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About the author


Gumby is the co-founder of back in 1997 with Scotty Nelson.