Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu A Sport or An Art?
Mixed martial arts is the only sport with the word ‘arts’ in it. That may not matter to the Saturday night crowd at Buffalo Wild Wings, but for BJJ practitioners, it is an important distinction. On one hand, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has played a huge role in the UFC’s world dominance, but on the other, it is a hundred-year-old style rooted in the Japanese art of judo, which means ‘gentle way.’ And yet, judo is the first martial art to become an Olympic sport. One might say there is no difference between ‘sport’ and ‘art’ in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but it is still worth discussing.
Some martial arts, such as Aikido, involve little to no competition. Some are suited for combat, while others are steeped in philosophy. Without the element of competition, however, it is difficult to consider one a sport. Judo already leans toward competition, and BJJ evolved further from that focus. Thus, BJJ is mostly identified as a sport.
Tournaments are competitions, but not all martial artists participate in them. Can competition factor into training, along with mental and physical fitness? Of course, it can. So, BJJ is still more than a sport.
UFC fighters, such as Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, have become celebrity athletes, even movie actors, while others, like Conor McGregor, are tabloid regulars. Art is nowhere to be found. Yet, when interviewed, some fighters have pointed out the difference between their job and their identification as a martial artist. Therefore, some awareness exists that the public face is not all there is to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
Most individuals who walk in off the street are seeking exercise and recreation, rather than bruises and dislocated joints. They gain self-knowledge through mastery, the same as with any other practice. Creativity breeds experimentation, which benefits the art, as well as the sport.
Martial arts training is about the betterment of the individual as a contributor to the community. It is both spiritual and social. It answers the same questions that art tends to ask.
So, what is the verdict? Students who approach BJJ training as a sport will mostly reap the same benefits as they would in any sport. Still, the art is always present. It is ingrained in the practice. There is no separating it. Is BJJ a sport or an art? The answer is both.