What is Judo?


Judo is a martial art that started in Japan. In the sport, judokas must use their hands and feet to bring opponents to the ground and score points, or immobilize them. Judo is a very popular sport worldwide, it is the most practiced martial art in the world. In addition to being a very fun sport to practice, judo teaches self-defense and discipline, helps with flexibility, speed, and agility, and brings many more benefits.


judo history

Judo was founded by Japanese educator Jigoro Kano in 1882. The sport evolved from a mix of wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and developed into a martial art of itself. Jigoro Kano made his life's mission to develop and spread judo around the world. He was a part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC); that, along with his efforts to make judo as a global sport, would culminate in judo being added to the Olympic games in 1964.

Playing Surface

Judo Playing Surface

Judo is practiced over a judo mat. The mat is made of foam, vinyl, and plastic; because it is a soft surface, it keeps athletes safe when sparring. The competition area in judo is a square with the sides measuring between 14 and 16 meters. That area is divided in two zones, the safety one and the contest zone, which is where the match actually takes place. The contest zone is also squared shaped, with sides measuring between 8 and 10 meters.


judo equipment

There is not a lot of equipment necessary to practice judo, and the athlete's personal gear is light and easy to carry around. Basically, what a judoka needs to practice the sport is:

  • Grappling Mat
  • Judo Pants
  • Judo Jacket
  • Judo Belt

In case the mat available is not for judo specifically, tape can be used to mark the contest zone. The pants, jacket, and belt, are part of the full, mandatory judo uniform, which is called judogi. The judogi can be either white or blue. In competitions, to make it distinguishable, judokas will wear uniforms of different colors, and thus have both white and blue judogis with them.


A judo match is five minutes long. Time is paused whenever the referee has to stop the match. In a judo match, both athletes try to knock each other down by using their feet and hands. Therefore, during most of the match, judokas are grabbing each other's jackets and using their feet to unbalance each other. At times, judokas will also be on the floor, trying to immobilize each other and get a submission. Although five minutes may seem like a short amount of time, judo is a very tiring sport, where a match can be turned around in seconds.

Rules and Regulations

At first, it is not very easy to understand some of judo's rules, like scoring, penalties, and traditions. However it is not hard to pick it up, and just by watching it you can get a better understanding of the main judo rules and regulations. To add to that and make it easier, check out some of the rules in judo:

Bow: Respect is a big part of judo's philosophy. That is shown in the sport by bowing. Athletes must bow to each other before stepping in the mat, before the start of the match, and after it ends.

Shido: Shido is the name given a penalty in judo. A Shido is given to an athlete if he or she is not being aggressive, running away from the action, or for other minor infractions.

Ippon: An Ippon is the ultimate scoring in judo. When an athlete gets an Ippon, he or she wins the match instantly. An Ippon happens when the opponent is thrown to the ground and lands on their back.

Wa-Zari: A Wa-Zari is half an Ippon, as if an athlete is awarded two of them, he or she wins the match. A Wa-Zari is awarded when an opponent is thrown, but doesn't land entirely on their back.

Yuko: A Yuko is the lowest score possible in a judo match. A Yuko is given when the opponent is thrown but lands on their side, not their back.

Immobilization rules: In judo another way to score is by immobilization. If the immobilization is 20 seconds long, that is the equivalent of an ippon. If it is between 15 and 20 seconds, that is the equivalent of a Wa-zari. If it is between 10 and 15, it is the same as a Yuko.

Referees and Officials

Judo Referees and Officials

A referee's job in judo is to enforce the rules, and make judgements on scoring and penalties. In a judo match, there is one referee and two assisting judges. Their decisions are final. Together, and with video assistance occasionally, they will decide if a throw should be ruled a Wa-zari or an Ippon, for example. In addition to that, to make decisions clearer, referees must signal what is being called with hand and arm gestures.

Lingo and Terminology

Being a traditional sport invented in Japan, there are lots of Japanese terms that are used in judo. In addition, as in any other sport, there are certain terms that may sound odd to someone who is not familiar with judo. Check out a list of lingo and terms used in judo that might help you better understand the sport:

Ashi: Term referring to foot or leg.

Belt: The belt is part of the judo uniform. It indicates the level of the judoka wearing it.

Dojo: The place where the sport is taught, the judo academy.

Judogi: The judo uniform.

Judoka: The judo athletes, the ones who study the martial art.

Mate: It means stop, command given by the referee when the match needs to stop and the athletes separated.

Obi: Another term used to refer to the judo belt.

Rei: Term used to refer to the bow that judokas need to do.

Sensei: The judo master, the one who teaches the martial art.

Tatami: Term used to refer to the judo mat.

Tap Out: An opponent can also tap out of a match. If an athlete taps out, their opponent automatically wins the match.


Judo Coaching

Being a popular sport with a lot of youth participation and global with elite athletes, there are many levels of coaching in judo. In general, the coaches job is to pass along his or her knowledge about judo techniques, tactics, terms, and philosophy. Judo coaches are usually black belts in the sport, and thus have extensive knowledge about the sport. At the youth level, coaches must teach infants how to both throw opponents down and be thrown safely. In addition, respect is a pillar of judo's philosophy; young judokas learn from their coaches how to be respectful.

Skills and Techniques

Judo Skills and Techniques

The sport of judo is based on throwing and knocking down the opponent using feet and hands. To do so, judokas must be strong, have good balance, know the grappling and choking techniques. Judo athletes must also know the many different techniques and ways to knock someone down, and when to apply each of them. Some of the important techniques necessary in judo are standing techniques, which include hip, hand, feet and leg techniques; and sacrifice techniques, which is about making the opponent fall by throwing yourself down.


Strategy plays a big role in winning a judo match. For example, while focusing on standing technique may not work with a specific opponent, bringing him or her down and trying to immobilize may be exactly the right move to win the match. Naturally, your technique depends on who your opponent is, and how your physical and technical skills compare to theirs. In addition, judokas must be wise when choosing which techniques to use in a match, as the wrong one can lead to a counter-attack.


Judo Drills

Most judo drills focus on improving and perfecting throwing techniques and groundwork. Some of the things drills may work on are: timing, foot speed, balance, jacket grip, balance. Simple things can help you improve your technique, just like imagining yourself throwing an opponent, and imagining every detail, so that the right technique gets engraved in your brain. Of course, there is more to getting better at judo. While there are plenty of drills that you can do alone, having a practice partner will only add to the experience.

Olympic Judo

Olympic Judo

Judo is a very popular Olympic sport, and it has been so since 1964. Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, was himself a member of the International Olympic Committee, and accomplished his goal of making judo an Olympic sport in 1964, when the games were held in his home country. Women's judo events were first present in 1992. Today, judo has a total of 15 medal events in the Olympics, being that 7 for women, 7 for men, and one mixed teams event.

Judo Brands

Judo is a sport where not much equipment is needed other than the uniform, and so the brands are mostly known and judged by their judo uniforms. Check out some of the brands that sell the best judo equipment:

  • Adidas
  • Mizuno
  • Yamato Sakura
  • Fuji

Judo Youth Organizations

Judo is an extremely popular sport worldwide. It attracts lots of children and parents, who want their children to learn the discipline and respect that the sport teaches. Therefore, it is pretty easy to find local academies who have classes for kids. It is likely that there is one near you! While some people may be worried about getting hurt when practicing, the sport doesn't involve the use of weapons or strikes, only body strength, which makes it one of the safest martial arts.

Judo Coaches

Judo coaches are very respected, as it teaches the sport's philosophy. The best coaches were once judokas themselves, are also black belts in the sport, and thus are very knowledgeable about the sport. Check out some important judo coaches from the past and who are still coaching today:

  • Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki: Japan
  • Lucie Decosse: France
  • Ezio Gamba: Italy
  • Kosei Inoue: Japan

Judo Athletes

Judo has its categories divided by weight, which has allowed for many athletes to become legends in their own categories. The sport is full of influential athletes who have left their marks in the sport and accomplished impressive feats and records. Check out some of the best judokas ever below:

  • Teddy Riner: France
  • Tadahiro Nomura: Japan
  • Ryoko Tani: Japan
  • Ilias Iliadis: Greece
  • Driulis Gonzalez: Cuba

Judo Tournaments

The best Judo athletes in the world follow the International Judo circuit. That is, judokas are not part of teams or play in leagues, but rather represent their countries in competitions around the world, with their results counting towards a world judo ranking. There are many international judo tournaments throughout the season. In addition to that, every four years the best judokas also compete in the Olympic Games, the most prestigious event for the sport. Check out the some of the types of tournaments judokas participate in during a season:

  • Judo World Championships
  • Judo Grand Slams
  • Judo Grand Prix
  • Judo Continental Championships

Judo Books

judo books

There is truly a lot to be written about judo. With a philosophy behind the sport, and many different techniques, skills needed, fighting styles, judo books can bring a lot of useful information to those interested in the sport. Here you have a list with a few judo related books:

  • Kodokan Judo: Jigoro Kano
  • Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques: Toshiro Daigo
  • Falling Hard: Mark Law
  • Career Judo: Erin Newman and John E. Long
  • Judo in Action: Kazuzo Kudo

Judo Websites

judo websites

Judo has a lot of fans and participants worldwide, who love their favorite sport. That leads to a lot of judo content being made available online. If you have never been inside a dojo and want to learn about the sport, or you are a big time judoka who wants to keep up with the latest judo news, there is a website for you. Below there is a list with the best judo websites of many different types:

Judo Info: The website is an "online dojo," where you can find information about judo training, techniques, competitions, skills, coaching and more.

International Judo Federation: The website of the International Judo Federation brings the latest news, information about athletes, world rankings, competition results, and even live streams.

Judo Crazy: This website brings analysis of international judo competitions results, and more.

Judo inside: If you are looking for judo related data, this is it. In addition to that, the website also brings general news, competitions, and calendar.


What is Judo?

Judo is a martial art from Japan in which athletes aim to throw down their opponents using feet, hands, and arms.

What are the main principles of judo?

There are 7 main principles of judo and they are: Physical training, Natural Posture, Courtesy, Initiative, Breaking Balance, Stability, Gentleness

Is Judo and Jiu Jitsu the same?

Although similar, Jiu Jitsu and Judo are not the same. While judo emphasizes throwing, and applying a throwing technique can win you a match, that doesn't happen in jiu-jitsu, where the focus is more on grappling techniques.

Is Judo good for self defense?

Yes, judo may be helpful in a self defense scenario. Judo allows you to defend yourself in a quick and non-violent manner, and even defeat a stronger person.

Is judo hard on the body?

The answer depends. While it is a safe sport for children to practice, being a judoka at a high level for many years certainly has its impacts on the body.