Which Martial Arts are in the Olympics?

Martial arts have historically been involved in the Olympic games since its early days. The likes of Boxing were introduced to the games as early as 688 BCE!

Over the years as the Olympics has developed, martial arts still play a vital role in the games. With the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games starting, we will go through the martial arts that will make an appearance in this year’s Olympics.




Olympic Boxing

Boxing is the earliest reported martial art to be involved in the Olympics games.

Boxing was first introduced to the Olympics at the 23rd Olympiad dating back to around 688 BCE. Contests were brutal and more barbaric due to the lack of rules and weight classes.

The only route to victory was either for your competitors to be knocked out, or to admit defeat. Boxing quietly disappeared from the Olympics for years till its resurgence in London where bare knuckle boxing became prominent.

Olympic Boxing returned to the Olympics in St Louis in 1904. The combat sport evolved massively since its first appearance in the Olympics, notably rules and weight classes were now in place. Finally women’s Boxing was added to the Olympic games in 2012.


Olympic Boxing weight classes

Weight classes are now in place for all Olympic martial arts, except Fencing. The sole purpose behind weight classes are to ensure that the contest is fair, giving both competitors an equal chance of winning.

With weight no longer being an issue, competitors are able to display the hard work they put in to make it to the Olympics , showcasing their skillset on the biggest stage of them all!


Men’s Olympic Boxing weight classes

  • Flyweight (48-52kg)
  • Featherweight (52-57kg)
  • Lightweight (57-63kg)
  • Welterweight (63-69kg)
  • Middleweight (69-75kg)
  • Light Heavyweight (75-81kg)
  • Heavyweight (81-91kg)
  • Super Heavyweight (91kg+)


Women’s Olympic Boxing weight classes

  • Flyweight (48-51kg)
  • Featherweight (54-57kg)
  • Lightweight (57-60kg)
  • Welterweight (64-69kg)
  • Middleweight (69-75kg)


An image of a professional boxer walking out to fight

To find out more about Boxing, make sure to check out our in depth guide on the sport, ‘What is Boxing?‘.

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Olympic Wrestling

Wrestling has also been a part of the Olympic games for a prolonged amount of time. It was a very popular art amongst the Ancient Greeks.

Making its first showing at the games as early as 708 BCE! Wrestling  was a part of Pankration, where Boxing and Wrestling techniques were used together.

The early Pentathlon also included upright wrestling as part of the contest. Just like Boxing, Wrestling evolved massively over the years.

There are many different styles of Wrestling around the world, but the two most common forms are those that are a part of the Olympic Games. Freestyle Wrestling and Greco-Roman Wrestling make up the two wrestling disciplines within the Olympics.

Freestyle Wrestling was introduced into the Olympics in 1904 in St Louis. Greco-Roman Wrestling followed shortly after, and was a part of the 1908 Olympic games in London. Women’s Freestyle Wrestling was then later introduced in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.


Olympic Wrestling weight classes

Here are the following weight classes in both the men’s and women’s divisions.


Men’s Olympic Freestyle Wrestling weight classes

  • 57kg
  • 65kg
  • 74kg
  • 86kg
  • 97kg
  • 125kg


Women’s Olympic Freestyle Wrestling weight classes

  • 50kg
  • 53kg
  • 57kg
  • 62kg
  • 68kg
  • 76kg


Men’s Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling weight classes

  • 60kg
  • 67kg
  • 77kg
  • 87kg
  • 97kg
  • 130kg

image of 2 wrestlers competing

Learn more about Wrestling within this detailed guide, ‘What is Wrestling?‘.

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Olympic Judo 

Judo is one of the more recent martial arts that has emerged over the last 100 or so years.

Originally derived from traditional Japanese Jiu-jitsu.  Judo was developed by Jigoro Kano. His grappling art became popularly known for its efficient techniques that consist of throws and locks.

Jigoro Kano joined the Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1909 becoming the first Asian member of the group. Judo then continued to develop until it was added to the Olympic games in 1964 in Tokyo.

Women’s Judo soon followed, and became a part of the Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona.


Olympic Judo Weight classes

Here are the weight classes for both the men’s and women’s divisions in Judo.


Men’s Olympic Judo weight classes

  • Extra- Lightweight (-60 kg)
  • Half-Lightweight (60–66kg)
  • Lightweight (66–73kg)
  • Half-Middleweight (73–81kg)
  • Middleweight (81–90kg)
  • Half-Heavyweight (90–100kg)
  • Heavyweight (100kg+)


Women’s Olympic Judo weight classes

  • Extra-Lightweight (-48kg)
  • Half-Lightweight (48–52kg)
  • Lightweight (52–57kg)
  • Half-Middleweight (57–63kg)
  • Middleweight (63–70kg)
  • Half-Heavyweight (70–78kg)
  • Heavyweight (+78kg)

a judo practitioner doing a judo throw

Find out more about Judo within this in depth guide, ‘What is Judo?‘.

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Olympic Taekwondo

Taekwondo has a rich history in Korea. It was developed over thousands of years. However, it would not gain widespread attention till the 1940s and 1950.

General Choi is credited as playing a large part in its creation, as he was a part of the board that officially created the style of Taekwondo in 1955. He went on to create the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) in the same year.

For Olympic Taekwondo, the governing body is the World Taekwondo Federation (now known as World Taekwondo) which was founded in 1973.

There were  demonstrations displaying the martial art at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics games, but it  wasn’t until the Olympic games in 2000 in Sydney, that Taekwondo officially became an Olympic sport.

Olympic Taekwondo weight classes

Here are the weight classes for both the men’s and women’s divisions in Taekwondo.


Men’s Olympic Taekwondo weight classes 

  • Flyweight (-58kg)
  • Featherweight (58-68kg)
  • Welterweight (68-80kg)
  • Heavyweight (80kg+)


Women’s Olympic Taekwondo weight classes

  • Flyweight (-49kg)
  • Featherweight (49-57kg)
  • Welterweight (57-67kg)
  • Heavyweight (67kg+) 

an image of a taekwondo practitioner

Learn more about Taekwondo in this detailed guide, ‘What is Taekwondo?‘.

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Olympic Karate

Karate will make its Olympic debut at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The martial art was founded in Japan, with the exact origins being unclear.

Karate is known to be influenced by various Chinese martial arts and developed on the island of Okinawa. The art gained popularity in Japan in the 1920s.

Karate continued to grow and become one of the most widely practised martial arts in the world.

Olympic Karate is split into two sections, Kumite and Kata.

Kata is a sequence of movements performed by a practitioner, demonstrating their skills.

There are no physical alterations with other competitors in this format. Whereas Kumite is the physical competition where two competitors will fight one another.


Olympic Karate Weight classes

Here are the weight classes for both the men’s and women’s Kumite divisions in Karate. 


Men’s Olympic Karate weight classes

  • -60kg
  • 60-67kg
  • 67-75kg
  • 75-84kg
  • 84kg+


Women’s Olympic Karate weight classes

  • -50kg
  • 50-55kg
  • 55-61kg
  • 61-68kg
  • 68kg+

Karate practitioner training on the beach

Find out more about Karate within this in depth guide, ‘What is Karate?‘.

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Olympic Fencing

Fencing was a part of the first Modern Olympic games which took place in 1896 in Athens. Women’s fencing would be introduced in 1924 in Paris. It is the only martial art in the Olympics that uses weapons.


Fencing swords

There are three different types of swords used:

  • Foil (weighs approximately 0.45kg)
  • Epée (weighs approximately 0.79kg)
  • Sabre (weighs approximately 0.5kg)


Each sword is a different weight with each one having a different target area. For the foil the target area is the torso (including the back).

Using the Epée, you can target the entire body. Then for the Sabre you can target the torso, head and arms.

Electronic equipment is used which contains sensors to help declare the points given.

There are now weight classes in Fencing, instead competitors compete within the different Fencing sword categories.

two fencers competing against one another

Learn more about Fencing with this detailed guide, ‘What is Fencing?‘.

We hope this post clarifies the different martial arts that will be featured in the Olympics this year. Maybe in the future there will be more martial arts introduced into the games!

We have created the ‘MARTIAL ARTS…WHAT ARE THEY?’ post, that goes into more detail on what martial arts are and the different styles that you can choose to train in.

If you have any questions on this post, the MILITAR MINDSET, martial arts in general or any other enquiries feel free to contact us.

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Don’t forget to check out our blog series, the Martial Arts Series and the MILITAR MINDSET, to find out more about martial arts and how the MILITAR MINDSET can benefit you! Make sure you also subscribe to our blog to keep up to date with the latest posts!

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