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Leo Frincu: Jiu Jitsu as an Olympic Sport? No Thank You

Coach Leo Frincu with his star pupil UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

Coach Leo Frincu with his star pupil UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

Jiu Jitsu can’t be in the Olympics…or at least not the way it is currently set up. As long as Jiu Jitsu has a belt system it can’t be, nor do you want it to be an Olympic sport.

Having a belt system is the same as not allowing a well-rounded boxer to use an uppercut when fighting against a novice boxer; just because someone started the sport before you or learned it faster than you doesn’t mean he/she shouldn’t be allowed to fight against you.

This can’t be done at the Olympic level. If you weigh the same, you should fight in the same weight class, regardless of your belt color. But guess what that would do to the sport of Jiu Jitsu? IBJJF wouldn’t have the thousands of paying competitors attend their worldwide events.

Jiu Jitsu academies would not have white belts, blue belts, or purple belts paying for memberships either. No white or blue belt would want to fight against a brown or black belt; this would kill all the incentive for the novice Jiu Jitsu practitioner to start the sport in the first place.

Look at what happened with the sport of wrestling. If it wasn’t for high school and college wrestling programs, wrestling would be nothing like it is today. You don’t see someone joining wrestling or wanting to be a professional boxer in their twenties or thirties just because he/she wants to get in shape.

In Europe, if not all over the world, wresting has been in decline for over a decade. Fifteen years ago, from hundreds of athletes competing in a national championship in Romania, they are lucky today if they can scramble ten wrestlers per weight class. This will be the fate of Jiu Jitsu if you take away the belt system.

Let’s assume the IOC wasn’t corrupted and they had the common sense to acknowledge the fastest growing sport in the world. Let’s say they accepted Jiu Jitsu at the Olympics with only the black belts competing.

Soon you would see a lot of 18 years olds carrying around black-belts. You would start seeing more and more professors giving away black belts just because they want to increase the chances of their students competing in the Olympics. Slowly, over time, the politics, favoritism and athlete’s ruthless competition would kill the business of Jiu Jitsu.

Jiu Jitsu is a wonderful sport that brings together people of all ages who have the same positive goals in common, regardless of skill level and belt class. By rightfully giving promotions based on skills, accountability, respect and overall lifestyle (and not necessarily due to the number of gold medals), you motivate individuals to strive to improve regardless of age or physical ability.

This is important in order to attract people and, at the same time, to strive as a business. And that’s why you DON’T WANT to make Jiu Jitsu an Olympic sport. Because that would take the fun out of the sport. As one of my coaches used to say, “If you want to kill your passion, turn it into a business.”

Have a good roll.

leo-frincuLeo Frincu came to the United States from Communist Romania with $10, a back pack and four words of English. Now, he’s a businessman, renowned trainer and mentor for UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Among his many athletic accomplishments, Leo is a six-time Romanian wrestling champion, four-time European champion and was also trainer and coach for the 2003 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team. Leo is the author of a new book, “Choosing Freedom,” which details the steps he took to leave the oppressive Romanian society through wrestling and how his experiences have helped him in the United States – going from a bus boy to successful entrepreneur. You can learn more about Leo Frincu on his website www.LeoFrincu.com. Also, follow Leo on Twitter @leofrincu and “LIKE” his page on Facebook.

  • SD1502

    Judo is an Olympic sport and it retains its belt system. That allows novice white belts to compete with each other without the same fear they would have facing a seasoned black belt. I think Olympic judo has lots of problems, but the belt system in judo dojos around the world isn’t one of them. I have no idea why any of the reasons you listed would incentivize instructors to give away black belts. If a student is at the highest level of jiu-jitsu, then he deserves a black belt.

    Obviously, an Olympic BJJ competition would only consist of the highest level competitors. It is the Olympics, after all. A qualifying tournament could easily allow all belts to compete if by chance a competitor with a lower belt wants to try his luck. Again, the skill discrepancy between belt ranks is generally great enough that it is highly unlikely that anybody other than a black or an exceptional brown belt (eg Rodolfo Vieira, Keenan Cornelius, etc.) would even be competitive. ADCC Pro Jiu-Jitsu tournament previously allowed purple and brown belts to compete in the same categories as the black belts in a chance to win the prize money, and Rodolfo Vieira shocked the BJJ community when he won as a brown belt. This issue of belt ranks doesn’t seem like a huge logistical obstacle to navigate.

    I have mixed feelings about seeing BJJ in the Olympics, and there lots of strong reasons that it could never make it the way it is now, but I don’t see any of the issues listed in this article being a problem. If anything, this article makes a strong arguement as to why wrestling should consider adopting some sort of ranking system.

  • bjj4life

    This article makes zero sense on any level. It’s understandable though because the author does not have a background in a martial art with a belt system.

    I don’t understand why, according to this article, we would not be seeing white, blue, and purple belts if BJJ became an olympic sport. We would see more athletes in BJJ in general because there is an elite-level goal that can be aspired towards. White/blue/purple/brown/black belts would then be able to dream about becoming an Olympic-medalist black belt. It would give ALL BELT LEVELS a prize to keep their eyes on.

    The only reason the judo belt system become obsolete at the Olympic-level is because THEY ARE ALL BLACK BELTS. This is the only reason why belt color does not matter. If you happen to be a purple or brown belt who makes it to the Olympic-level then OBVIOUSLY you are NOT a purple or brown belt.

    Who cares if instructors give away black belts. “Give-away” black belts don’t compete. Period. It will ruin the mystique of their “black belts”. Obviously “give-aways” will get crushed when facing a legit black belt.

    Giving away black belts will never increase the chances of a coach producing an Olympic-level black belt and why? Because Olympic-level black belts are EARNED through HARD WORK, SACRIFICE, AND DEDICATION. Giving away black belts will only serve to injure the coach’s reputation making harder and harder for him to produce an athlete worth any salt because potential students will shy away from “give-away” coaches.

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