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Execution of a judo throw
Style Grappling
Country of origin Flag of Japan Japan
Creator Kano Jigoro
Parenthood Various jujutsu schools including Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū and Kito-ryū
Olympic Sport Since 1964 (men) and 1988 (women)

Judo, meaning "gentle way", is a modern Japanese martial art (gendai budō) and combat sport, that originated in Japan in the late nineteenth century. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw one's opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one's opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an opponent to submit by joint locking the elbow or applying a choke. Kicks, punches, and thrusts are present in Judo, but only in pre-arranged forms (Kata) and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori).

Ultimately, the philosophy and subsequent pedagogy developed for judo became the model for almost all modern Japanese martial arts that developed from "traditional" schools (koryū). Practitioners of judo are called jūdōka.


History and philosophy

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Kano Jigoro.

Early life of the founder

The early history of judo is inseparable from its founder, Japanese polymath and educator Kano Jigoro (嘉納 治五郎 Kanō Jigorō, 1860–1938). Kano was born into a well-to-do Japanese family. His grandfather was a self-made man; a sake brewer from Shiga prefecture in central Japan. However, Kano's father was not the eldest son and therefore did not inherit the business. Instead, he became a Shinto priest and government official, with enough influence for his son to enter the second incoming class of Tokyo Imperial University.

Founder pursues jujutsu

Kano was a small, frail boy, who, even in his twenties, did not weigh more than a hundred pounds (45kg), and was often picked on by bullies. He first started pursuing jujutsu, at that time a flourishing art, at the age of 17, but met with little success. This was in part due to difficulties finding a teacher who would take him on as a serious student. When he went off to the University to study literature at the age of 18, he continued his martial studies, eventually gaining a referral to Fukuda Hachinosuke (c.1828–c.1880), a master of the Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū and grandfather of noted jūdōka Keiko Fukuda (Fukuda Keiko, born 1913), who is one of Kano's oldest surviving students. Fukuda Hachinosuke is said to have emphasized technique over formal exercise, sowing the seeds of Kano's emphasis of free practice (randori) in judo.

A little more than a year after Kano joined Fukuda's school, Fukuda became ill and died. Kano then became a student in another Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū school, that of Iso Masatomo (c.1820–c.1881), who put more emphasis on the practice of pre-arranged forms (kata) than Fukuda had. Through dedication, Kano quickly earned the title of master instructor (shihan) and became assistant instructor to Iso at the age of 21. Unfortunately, Iso soon took ill, and Kano, feeling that he still had much to learn, took up another style, becoming a student of Tsunetoshi Iikubo of Kitō-ryū. Like Fukuda, Iikubo placed much emphasis on free practice; on the other hand, Kitō-ryū emphasized throwing techniques to a much greater degree than Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū.


Formalism and strict conduct are typical of traditional judo.

By this time, Kano was devising new techniques, such as the "shoulder wheel" (kata-guruma, known as a fireman's carry to Western wrestlers who use a slightly different form of this technique) and the "floating hip" (uki goshi) throw. His thoughts were already on doing more than expanding the canons of Kitō-ryū and Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū. Full of new ideas, Kano had in mind a major reformation of jujutsu, with techniques based on sound scientific principles, and with focus on development of the body, mind and character of young men in addition to development of martial prowess. At the age of 22, when he was just about to finish his degree at the University, Kano took 9 students from Iikubo's school to study jujutsu under him at the Eisho-ji, a Buddhist temple in Kamakura, and Iikubo would come to the temple three days a week to help teach. Although two years would pass before the temple would be called by the name "Kodokan", or "place for teaching the way", and Kano had not yet been accorded the title of "master" in the Kitō-ryū, this is now regarded as the Kodokan's founding.

Meaning of "judo"

The word "judo" shares the same root ideogram as "jujutsu": Template:Nihongo, which may mean "gentleness", "softness", "suppleness", and even "easy", depending on its context. Such attempts to translate are deceptive, however. The use of in each of these words is an explicit reference to the martial arts principle of the Template:Nihongo. The soft method is characterized by the indirect application of force to defeat an opponent. More specifically, it is the principle of using one's opponent's strength against him and adapting well to changing circumstances. For example, if the attacker was to push against his opponent he would find his opponent stepping to the side and allowing (often with the aid of a foot to trip him up) his momentum to throw him forwards (the inverse being true for pulling). Kano saw jujutsu as a disconnected bag of tricks, and sought to unify it according to a principle; he found it in the notion of "maximum efficiency". Jujutsu techniques which relied solely on superior strength were discarded or adapted in favour of those which involved redirecting the opponent's force, off balancing the opponent, or making use of superior leverage.

The second characters of judo and jujutsu differ. Where Template:Nihongo means the "art" or "science" of softness, Template:Nihongo means the "way" of softness. The use of Template:Nihongo, meaning way, road or path (and is the same character as the Chinese word "tao"), has spiritual or philosophical overtones. Use of this word is a deliberate departure from ancient martial arts, whose sole purpose was for killing. Kano saw judo as a means for governing and improving oneself physically, mentally, emotionally and morally. He even extended the physical principle of maximum efficiency into daily life, evolving it into "mutual prosperity". In this respect judo is seen as a holistic approach to life extending well beyond the confines of the dojo.

Combat phases

Judo assumes that there are two main phases of combat: the standing (tachi-waza) and the ground (ne-waza) phase. Each phase requires its own mostly separate techniques, strategies, randori, conditioning and so on, although special training is devoted to "transitional" techniques to bridge the gap. Jūdōka may become quite skilled in one phase and be rather weak in the other, depending on where their interests most lie, although most are rather balanced between the two.

Tachi-waza ends and ne-waza begins once the jūdōka go to the ground. The throw pictured is ōuchi-gari.


Judo emphasizes a free-style sparring, called randori, as one of its main forms of training. A part of the combat time is spent sparring standing up, called tachi-waza, and the other part on the ground, called ne-waza. Sparring, even within safety rules, is much more effective than only practicing techniques. Using full strength develops the muscles and cardio-vascular system on the physical side of things, and it develops strategy and reaction time on the mental side of things, and helps the practitioner learn to use techniques against a resisting opponent. A common saying among judoka is, "The best training for judo is judo."

There are several types of sparring exercises , such as ju renshu (both judoka attacks in a very gentle way where no resistance is ever applied) and kakari geiko (only one judoka attacks while the other one relies solely on defensive and evasive techniques, without the use of sheer strength).

Balanced approach

Judo's balance between both the standing and ground phases of combat gives judoka the ability to take down opponents who are standing up and then pin and submit them on the ground. This balanced theory of combat has made Judo a popular choice of martial art or combat sport for many people.


In the standing phase, which has primacy according to the contest rules, the opponents attempt to throw each other. Although standing joint-lock and choke/strangulation submission techniques are legal in the standing phase,<ref>Shiai rules</ref> they are quite rare due to the fact that they are much harder to apply standing than throws are. Some jūdōka, however, are very skilled in combining takedowns with submissions, where a submission technique is begun standing and finished on the ground. Strikes (i.e. punches, kicks, etc...) are not allowed due to their certainty of injury, but an athlete is supposed to "take them into consideration" while training by, for example, not fighting in a bent-over position for long, since this position is vulnerable to knee-strikes and other striking attacks.

The main purpose of the throwing techniques (nage waza) is to take an opponent who is standing on his feet, mobile and dangerous, down onto his back where he cannot move as effectively. Thus, the main reason for throwing the opponent is to control the opponent and to put oneself in a dominant position. In this way the practitioner has more potential to render a decisive outcome. Another reason to throw the opponent is to shock his body through smashing him forcefully onto the ground. If an exponent executes a powerful yet fully controlled throw, he can win a match outright due to the theory that he has displayed enough superiority. In actual fact, this kind of victory is very difficult to achieve if the opponents are equally matched. Therefore points are given for lesser throws in the standing phase of combat. In a real fight, throwing an opponent in itself can also shock and injure them, and the impact can potentially knock the opponent unconscious (depending on the hardness of the fighting surface).

In keeping with Kano's emphasis on scientific analysis and reasoning, the standard Kokokan judo pedagogy dictates that any throwing technique is theoretically a four phased event: off-balancing (kuzushi); Template:Nihongo; Template:Nihongo; and finally Template:Nihongo. Practically, each phases follows the previous one with great rapidity. Ideally they happen almost simultaneously.


In the ground phase, which is considered the secondary phase of combat, the opponents try to pin each other, or to get the opponent to submit either by using armlocks (leglocks are not allowed due to safety regulations) or by chokes and strangulations.

Hold-downs and pins

Template:Nihongo are important since in a real fight the person who has control of his opponent can hit him with punches, knees, headbutts, and other strikes. If osaekomi is held for 25 seconds, the person doing the pinning wins the match. (This time requirement is said to reflect the time necessary for a samurai to reach his knife or sword and dispatch his pinned opponent. It also reflects the combat reality that a fighter must immobilize his opponent for a substantial amount of time in order to strike effectively.) In a match, a pin must be held for ten seconds to gain any score; a pin of less than 25 seconds will score, but will not win the match. A pin may result in a submission if the opponent is exhausted or cannot endure the pressure from the pin. This occasionally happens in competition, usually if the pin places pressure on an already injured part of the body, like the ribs.

If the person being held down has wrapped his legs around any part of his opponent's lower body or trunk, he is pinning his opponent as much as he is being pinned, as his opponent cannot get up and flee unless the bottom man lets go. While his legs are wrapped around his opponent, the bottom man can employ various attacking techniques, including strangles, armlocks and "body scissors" (do-jime), while tying the opponent so that he cannot effectively strike from above. In this position, often referred to as the "guard" in English, the man on top does not have enough control over his adversary for the position to be considered osaekomi. (Note that while the guard is commonly used, do-jime is no longer legal in competition judo.) The man on top can try to pass his opponent's legs and pin or submit him, or he may try to break out of his opponent's guard and stand up. The bottom man can try to submit his opponent from his guard or roll his opponent over to get on top of him.


Scoring in judo consists of four grades of score: ippon, waza-ari, yuko, and koka. An ippon literally means "one point" and awards the match. This is awarded for a throw that lands the throwee on his or her back, since it requires skill to do this in sparring, for a mat hold of sufficient duration (25 or 30 seconds), or for opponent submission. A waza-ari is awarded for a throw that does not quite have enough power or control to be considered ippon, or for a hold of twenty seconds. It is a half-point, and if two are scored, they constitute the full point needed for the win. Yuko and koka are lower grades of score, and are only tie-breakers that are not cumulative with one another. Scoring is lexicographic; a waza-ari beats any number of yuko, but a waza-ari and a yuko beat a waza-ari with no yuko. It is not uncommon for a match to be decided based on koka. For example, consider 1W2Y2K vs. 1W2Y1K. If scores are identical at the end of a match, the clock is reset into a sudden death overtime, called a "Golden Score."

The score for a pin is determined by how long the pin is held. A pin held for 25 seconds scores ippon, resulting in immediate victory. A score of waza-ari is given for a pin held for 20 seconds. A fifteen-second pin scores yuko and a ten-second pin scores koka. If the person pinning already has a waza-ari they only need to hold the pin for 20 seconds to score ippon by way of two waza-ari.

Joint locks

Joint locks (kansetsu-waza) are effective combat techniques because they enable a jūdōka to control his opponent through pain-compliance, or if necessary, to cause breakage of the locked joint. Joint locks on the elbow are considered safe enough to perform at nearly full-force in competition to force submission from one's opponent. Judo has, in the past, allowed leglocks, wristlocks, spinal locks and various other techniques which have since been disallowed in competition to protect athletes' safety. It was decided that attacking those other joints would result in many injuries to the athletes and would cause a gradual deterioration of these joints. Even so, some jūdōka still enjoy learning and fighting each other informally using these techniques that are banned from formal competitions, and many of these techniques are still actively used in other arts such as sambo and jujutsu.

Chokes and strangulations

Template:Nihongo enable the one applying the choke to force the adversary into unconsciousness and even death. Strangulation cuts off the blood supply to the brain via compression on the sides of the neck, while a choke blocks the airway from the front of the neck. The terms are frequently interchangeable in common usage, and a formal differentiation is not made by most jūdōka. In competition, the jūdōka wins if the opponent submits or becomes unconscious. A strangle, once properly locked in, can knock an opponent unconscious in 3 seconds. Although these are potentially lethal techniques, a properly-applied chokehold, if released promptly upon submission or unconsciousness, causes no injury or lasting discomfort.

When practicing ne-waza, the practitioners may start from their knees.


The jūdōgi is of a heavier weave in order to withstand the stresses of throwing and grappling.

Judo practitioners traditionally wear white uniforms called jūdōgi, which simply means "judo uniform", for practising judo. Sometimes the word is seen shortened simply to "gi" (uniform). The jūdōgi was created at the Kodokan, and similar uniforms were later adopted by many other martial arts. The modern jūdōgi consists of white or blue cotton drawstring pants and a matching white or blue quilted cotton jacket, fastened by a belt (obi). The belt is often coloured to indicate rank. The jacket is intended to withstand the stresses of throwing and grappling, and as a result, is much thicker than that of a karate uniform (karategi).

The modern use of the blue judogi was first suggested by Anton Geesink at the 1986 Maastricht IJF DC Meeting.<ref name="judogi">Introduction of the Blue Judogi. International Judo Federation.</ref> Before competition, a blue jūdōgi is assigned to one of the two competitors for ease of distinction by judges, referees, and spectators. In Japan, both judoka still use a white judogi and the traditional red sash (based on the flag's colours) is affixed to the belt of one competitor. In Europe and North America, a coloured sash is typically used for convenience in local competitions, while a blue jūdōgi is assigned to one competitor at the regional, national, or Olympic levels where the visibility, particularly to television cameras, is more important than tradition or convenience. Japanese practitioners and purists tend to look down on the use of blue jūdōgi.<ref name="judogi" />


For a full list of Judo techniques, see Judo techniques.
See also: List of Kodokan Judo techniques

While judo includes a variety of rolls, falls, throws, pins, chokes, joint-locks, and methods of percussion, the primary focus is on Template:Nihongo, and groundwork (ne-waza). Throws are divided in two groups of techniques, standing techniques (tachi-waza), and Template:Nihongo. Standing techniques are further divided into Template:Nihongo, Template:Nihongo, and Template:Nihongo. Sacrifice techniques are divided into Template:Nihongo, and Template:Nihongo.

The ground fighting techniques are divided into Template:Nihongo, Template:Nihongo, and Template:Nihongo.

A kind of sparring is practised in judo, known as Template:Nihongo, meaning "free practice". In randori, two adversaries may attack each other with any judo throw or grappling technique. Striking techniques (atemi-waza) such as kicking and punching, along with knife and sword techniques are retained in the kata. This form of pedagogy is usually reserved for higher ranking practitioners (for instance, in the kime-no-kata), but are forbidden in contest, and usually prohibited in randori for reasons of safety. Also for reasons of safety, chokeholds, joint locking, and the sacrifice techniques, which can be very spectacular but often dangerous, are subject to age or rank restrictions. For example, in the United States one must be 13 or older to use chokeholds, and 16 or older, or hold the rank of shodan or higher, to use armlocks.

In randori and tournament (shiai) practice, when an opponent successfully executes a chokehold or joint lock, one submits, or "taps out", by tapping the mat or one's opponent at least twice in a manner that clearly indicates the submission. When this occurs the match is over, the tapping player has lost, and the chokehold or joint lock ceases. This allows a merciful exit to the match, and therefore injuries related to these holds are quite rare.


Forms (kata) are pre-arranged patterns of attack and defence, which in judo are practiced with a partner for the purpose of perfecting judo techniques. More specifically, their purposes include illustrating the basic principles of judo, demonstrating the correct execution of a technique, teaching the philosophical tenets upon which judo is based, allowing for the practice of techniques that are not allowed in competition, and to preserve ancient techniques that are historically important but not used any more in contemporary judo.

Knowledge of different kata is a requirement for the attainment of a higher rank.

There are seven kata that are recognised by the Kodokan today:

There are also other kata that are not officially recognised by the Kodokan but that continue to be practiced. The most prominent example of these is the Go no sen no kata, a kata that focuses on counter-attacks to attempted throws.

Rank and grading

Judo rank is generally not of primary importance among jūdōka who participate in tournaments. Modern judo is primarily practised as a sport, so there tends to be more emphasis on tournament records than on rank. Since rank does not determine competitive performance, and since tournaments are not structured by rank (except at the lowest novice levels), it is not uncommon to see lower-ranked competitors defeat higher-ranked opponents. An active competitor may not pursue high ranks, preferring to focus on preparation for competition; for example, a silver medal was won by an ikkyu (brown belt) female competitor, Lorena Pierce, in the -70 kg category at the 2004 Paralympics. Since rank requirements typically include a minimum age, it is not uncommon to find teenage competitors at national-level competition who have been practicing judo for 10 years and can beat most adult practitioners, but who are only purple or brown belts due to being too young to qualify for a dan rank. Once an individual attains the level of a dan rank, further promotions can be for a variety of reasons including skill level, competition performance and/or contributions to judo such as teaching and volunteering time, therefore a higher dan rank does not necessarily mean that the holder is a better fighter (although oftentimes it does).

Jūdōka are ranked according to skill and knowledge of judo, and their rank is reflected by their belt colour. There are two divisions of rank, below black-belt "grades" (kyū), and black belt "degrees" (dan). This ranking system of was introduced into the martial arts by Kano and has since been widely adopted by modern martial arts. As initially designed, there were six student grades which were numerically ranked in descending order, with 1st kyū being the last before promotion to first degree black belt (shodan). There are ordinarily 10 dan ranks are in ascending numerical order. For dan ranks the first five are coloured black, 6th, 7th, and 8th dan have alternating red and white panels, and for 9th and 10th dan the belts were to be solid red.

The tenth degree black belt (jūdan) and those above it have no formal requirements. The president of the Kodokan, currently Kano Jigoro's grandson Yukimitsu Kano (Kano Yukimitsu), decides on individuals for promotion. Only 15 individuals have been promoted to this rank by the Kodokan. On January 6, 2006, three individuals were promoted to 10th dan simultaneously: Toshiro Daigo, Ichiro Abe, and Yoshimi Osawa. This is the most ever at the same time, and the first in 22 years. No one has ever been promoted to a rank higher than 10th dan, but,

Theoretically the Judo rank system is not limited to 10 degrees of black belt. The original English language copy (1955) of Illustrated Kodokan Judo, by Jigoro Kano, says: "There is no limit...on the grade one can receive. Therefore if one does reach a stage above 10th dan... there is no reason why he should not be promoted to 11th dan." However, since there has never been any promotion to a rank above 10th dan, the Kodokan Judo promotion system effectively has only 10 dans. There have only been 15 10th dans awarded by the Kodokan in the history of Judo.<ref> Ohlenkamp, Neil. The Judo Rank System.</ref>

Although dan ranks tend to be consistent between national organisations there is more variation in the kyū grades, with some countries having more kyū grades. Although initially kyū grade belt colours were uniformly white, today a wide variety of colours can be seen.

Belt colours

In Japan, the use of belt colours is conversely related to the age of the student. Some clubs will only have black and white, others will include a brown belt for advanced kyū grades and at the elementary school level it is common to see a green belt for intermediate levels.

Some countries also use coloured tips on belts, to indicate junior age groups, and historically, women's belts had a white stripe along the centre.

Examination requirements vary depending on country, age group and of course the grade being attempted. The examination itself may include competition and forms. The kyū ranks are normally awarded by local instructors (sensei), but dan ranks are usually awarded only after an exam supervised by independent judges from a national judo association. For a rank to be recognised it must be registered with the national judo organisation or the Kodokan.

Typical European colours
White Ceinture blanche.png
Yellow Ceinture jaune.png
Orange Ceinture orange.png
Green Ceinture verte.png
Blue Ceinture bleue.png
Brown Ceinture marron.png
Black Ceinture noire.png
Brazilian colours
White Ceinture blanche.png
Blue Ceinture bleue.png
Yellow Ceinture jaune.png
Orange Ceinture orange.png
Green Ceinture verte.png
Purple Ceinture violette.png
Brown Ceinture marron.png
Black Ceinture noire.png


In the UK, most of Europe, and Canada, the belt colours in ascending order are white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and finally black. Some European countries additionally use a red belt to signify a complete beginner, whereas other European countries such as the UK use a red belt as the belt one grade above a beginner.


Brazilian belt rankings different, using white, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown and black. A grey belt may be given to very young judoka (under 11 or 13 years old) just before the blue. Competitors are organised into two categories depending on grading; the first is from white to green, and the second is purple through black.

United States

Only senior players (adults, usually those age 16 and over) are allowed to earn dan levels, signified by wearing a black belt. Advanced kyū levels can be earned by both seniors and juniors (children under the age of about 16) and are signified by wearing belts of various colors other than black.

Judo kyū belt colors in the United States
kyū names
USJA Junior
level names
Jūnikyū Judo yellow belt.PNG
Junior 1st Degree
Jūichikyū Judo white belt.PNG
Judo yellow belt.PNG
Junior 2nd Degree
Jūkyū Judo white-yellow belt.PNG
Judo orange belt.PNG
Junior 3rd Degree
Kūkyū Judo yellow belt.PNG
Judo orange belt.PNG
Junior 4th Degree
Hachikyū Judo yellow-orange belt.PNG
Judo green belt.PNG
Junior 5th Degree
Nanakyū Judo orange belt.PNG
Judo green belt.PNG
Junior 6th Degree
Rokkyū Judo white belt.PNG
Judo orange-green belt.PNG
Judo yellow belt.PNG
Judo blue belt.PNG
Junior 7th Degree
Gokyū Judo green belt.PNG
Judo green belt.PNG
Judo orange belt.PNG
Judo blue belt.PNG
Junior 8th Degree
Yonkyū Judo blue belt.PNG
Judo green-blue belt.PNG
Judo green belt.PNG
Judo purple belt.PNG
Junior 9th Degree
Sankyū Judo brown belt.PNG
Judo blue belt.PNG
Judo brown belt.PNG
Judo purple belt.PNG
Junior 10th Degree
Nikyū Judo brown belt.PNG
Judo blue-purple belt.PNG
Judo brown belt.PNG
Judo brown belt.PNG
Junior 11th Degree
Ikkyū Judo brown belt.PNG
Judo purple belt.PNG
Judo brown belt.PNG
Judo brown belt.PNG
Junior 12th Degree

<tr> <td> </table>


For senior players, both the United States Judo Federation (USJF)<ref name="USJF">United States Judo Federation Rank Requirements.</ref> and The United States Judo Association (USJA)<ref name="USJA">United States Judo Association Rank Requirements.</ref> specify four belt colors for the six kyū, as listed in the table. The USJA also specifies wearing a patch specifying the practitioner's level. This is true for both kyū and dan levels.


The USJF Juniors ranking system specifies ranks to 11th kyū (jūichikyū). The USJA Juniors ranking system specifies twelve levels of kyū rank, beginning with "Junior 1st Degree" (equivalent to jūnikyū, or 12th kyū) and ending with "Junior 12th Degree" (equivalent to ikkyū). As with the senior practitioners, the USJA specifies that juniors wear a patch specifying their rank.

Belt pattern choice

Individual dojo (clubs) usually follow the belt pattern of the organization with which they are most closely associated. The sensei chooses the belt order for their dojo.

Advancement in rank

While the rank requirements are specified by each judo association <ref name="USJF" /><ref name="USJA" /> , the sensei ultimately determines all kyū rank advancement.

Dan advancement is strictly controlled by each judo association. A nominee for dan grade advancement must demonstrate competence in specific techniques and, usually, elements of kata. These requirements vary between the different judo associations. Nevertheless, the associations mutually recognize each other's dan grades; thus, for example, a USJF sandan will be recognized by the USJA as a sandan and vice versa.


Kano Jigoro's Kodokan Judo is the most popular and well-known style of judo, but is not the only style. Kano took the name "judo" from Jikishin-ryū Judo, which is an older school but not really seen outside of Japan. A sub-style of Kodokan Judo that developed in Japanese inter-scholastic competition is known as Template:Nihongo with the same range of techniques but greater latitude permitted for ground technique.

Teaching in France, Mikonosuke Kawaishi developed Kawaishi-ryū jujutsu as an alternative approach to instruction that continued to teach many techniques banned in modern competition. In Austria, Julius Fleck and others developed a system of throwing intended to extend judo that they called Judo-do.

Mitsuyo Maeda introduced judo to Brazil in the early 20th century. At this time, groundfighting was very popular and not yet limited by the rules. He taught judo to Carlos Gracie (1902–1994) and others in Brazil. The terms judo and jujutsu were at that time interchangeable. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu remained rather aloof to later changes in international judo rules which added emphasis to the standing phase of the fight, and thus remains a distinctive form of judo to this day.

Vasili Oshchepkov was the first European judo black belt under Professor Jigoro Kano, who went on to create Sambo from judo's influence. An entirely unique style of judo, called Russian Judo, developed from this original influence, exemplified by well-known coaches such as Alexander Retuinskih and Igor Yakimov, and represented by mixed martial arts fighters such as Igor Zinoviev and Fedor Emelianenko and Karo Parisyan.


Olympic pictogram Judo.png

Although a fully featured martial art, judo has also developed as a sport. Judo became an Olympic sport for men in 1964 and, with the persistence of an American woman by the name of Rusty Kanokogi and many others, a sport for women as well in 1988. Popular legend insists that the men's judo event in 1964 was a demonstration event, but according to Michel Brousse, official researcher and historian for the International Judo Federation, Judo was in fact an official sport in the 1964 games. Thanks to Dutchman Anton Geesink who won the gold medal in the All Categories division defeating Aiko Kaminaga, Japan, judo lost the image of being "Japanese only" and became an international sport, and the second most widely practiced sport in the world. The women's event was a demonstration event in 1988, followed by becoming an official medal event 4 years later. Men and women compete separately, although they often train together. There are currently seven weight divisions, subject to change by both governing bodies and age:

Under 60 kg 60~66 kg 66~73 kg 73~81 kg 81~90 kg 90~100 kg Over 100 kg
Under 48 kg 48~52 kg 52~57 kg 57~63 kg 63~70 kg 70~78 kg Over 78 kg

Collegiate competition in the United States, especially between UC Berkeley and San Jose State, contributed towards refining judo into the sport seen at the Olympic Games and World Championships. In the 1940s Henry Stone and Yosh Uchida, the head coaches at Cal and SJSU, developed a weight class system for use in the frequent competitions between the schools. In 1953, Stone and Uchida successfully petitioned the Amateur Athletic Union to accept judo as a sport, with their weight class system as an official component. In 1961, Uchida represented the United States at the International Judo Federation meetings in Paris, where the IJF adopted weight classes for all future championships. The IJF was created largely based on the earlier European Judo Union, where weight classes had also been used for many years.

Rules of judo

Main article: Judo rules

The object in a judo match is to either throw the opponent to the ground on his back, to pin him to the ground on his back, or to force him to submit using a choke or an armlock. Any of these score ippon (一本), immediately winning the match. When throwing, anything besides landing the opponent full on his back, such as landing on the hip or shoulder, will score waza-ari (技有), yuko (有効) or koka (効果) (waza-ari being the highest of the 3, koka the lowest), or no score. A waza-ari is a "near-fall", two of which will earn the match. Yuko and koka are scores of lesser value that are not cumulative to either that higher waza-ari. Rather, they are used as deciders if the match ends before either of the higher scores is achieved. On the typical electronic scoreboard, yuko scores 010 and koka scores 001. In the event that the match a draw, the clock is reset to match-time, and the contest is resolved by the Golden Score rule. This is a sudden death situation wherein the first contestant to achieve any score wins. If there is no score during this period, then the decision is by a majority opinion of the referee and the two corner judges.

After a non-ippon throw occurs (whether or not it is scored), combat may continue on the ground. Pinning an opponent (holding both shoulders to the mat) for 25 seconds results in ippon. Holding the pin for 20 seconds scores waza-ari; if waza-ari was previously scored, this constitutes ippon, since two half-points will complete the ippon score. An automatic ippon is also granted when one's opponent submits, which frequently occurs when strangleholds / armlocks are used. If there is no ippon, the one with the highest score wins. Penalties may be given for being inactive during the match or using illegal techniques and fighting must be stopped if a participant is outside the designated area on the mat (tatami). If the referee and judges need to discuss something during groundwork, the referee will call sonomama (which means "do not move") and both fighters must stop in the position they are in. When they are done, the referee says yoshi and the match continues.

All scores and penalties are given by the referee. The judges can make a decision to change the score or penalty given by the referee.

In competition

The literal meaning of judo is "the gentle way", but competition judo, one of the roughest and most demanding of sports, could hardly be called gentle. Regulation time in a World Championship or Olympic match is only 5 minutes, but will leave participants exhausted; in the event of a tie, matches proceed to an overtime phase called Golden Score which can last as long as regulation time.

Because competition judo does not contain the kicking and punching so common to other martial arts, Judo is often portrayed as friendlier than, for instance, Karate (although some forms of Karate emphasize the control of character and aggression). Proponents believe this contributes to judo being underrated as a method of self-defence although advanced kata do contain defences against kicking, punching, and armed techniques. In addition, while throws executed with proper break falls on soft mats can seem light and graceful, their more practical application on a hard surface (and potentially with greater intent to harm) could be dangerous. Even in the controlled environments of a match or dojo training session, injuries can easily occur due to a lapse in focus or overzealous application of a technique.

Mixed martial arts

Using their knowledge in ne-waza/grappling and tachi-waza/standing-grappling, various accomplished judo practitioners have also competed in mixed martial arts matches. Fedor Emelianenko, PRIDE Fighting Championships's current heavyweight champion and consistently ranked the world's best heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter, has a background in judo and sambo. Karo Parisyan is a top contender for the UFC's welterweight championship, and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Hidehiko Yoshida, an Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and World Judo Champion in 1999, are also top fighters in PRIDE FC. Other Olympic gold medalist and world champion judokas such as Pawel Nastula and Yoon Dong Sik also fight in PRIDE. It should be noted that the ability to throw an opponent to his back and apply a pinning technique is of enormous importance in these kinds of competitions, as is the ability to finish off a downed opponent with strikes or a submission hold. Judo, uniquely among combat sports, puts equal emphasis on the initial throwing and the final pinning and submitting phases of combat, ideally enabling practitioners to dominate grappling-fights from the get-go.

Judo organizations

The international organization of competition sports judo is the IJF, or the International Judo Federation.

In the US there are 3 different national organizations. One is USA Judo Inc. (USJI), which also has state organizations which host state tournaments and other judo related activities (USA Judo is the National Governing Body to the United States Olympic Committee). The other national organizations are the United States Judo Federation (USJF) and the United States Judo Association (USJA). Each national organization in the US has its own promotion requirements. USJF and USJA are founding members of USA Judo with members often having dual membership.

In Great Britain, the British Judo Association (BJA) is the largest Judo Association and the only one affiliated to the IJF. Judo clubs can also be administered by the British Judo Council (BJC), which is popular in the north of England, other judo administrations exist, such as the BJC-MAC (British Judo Council - Martial Arts Circle)or AEJF (All England Judo Federation)

Although it has no official standing in judo the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), defines judo as one of the four main forms of amateur competitive wrestling practised internationally, (the other three being Greco-Roman wrestling, Freestyle wrestling and Sambo).


See also: List of judoka

A practitioner of judo is traditionally known as a judoka. According to Nobuo Akiyama and Carol Akiyama's Japanese Grammar, 2nd edition, "the suffix -ka, when added to a noun, means a person with expertise or special knowledge on that subject." The term judoka refers to any practitioner of a judo; no "expertise" as such is necesssarily implied.

See also

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