What is Judo - Ultimate Guide To Judo

Judo martial art

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Judo (柔道jūdō, IPA Japanese pronunciation [dʑɯꜜːdoː] is a Japanese martial art that focuses on throwing techniques and joint locks to control the opponent.

Jigoro Kano developed it in 1882 and later founded the Kodokan Judo Institute.

In traditional judo, there are three types of techniques: throws (nage-waza), controls (katame waza) and kicks (atemi waza).

Kicking techniques are not permitted in competitions these days.

In judo, the practitioner is known as judoka (柔道家, jūdōka) and the coach as the sensei (先生).

Judo seeks to combine body and mind in such a way as to maximize their power.

It was not widely recognized until after World War II.

Competitive Judo is also a sport practised by men and women of all ages.

Today, there are more than 100 million practitioners worldwide, and it's included in the Olympic games program.

The main focus of judo training is cultivating physical and mental abilities by practising attacking and defending against opponents.

Judo is a great way to stay in shape and teaches discipline and focus.

History of Judo

Judo, meaning "the gentle way", is an unarmed combat sport derived from jujitsu (also known as judō), created by Jigoro Kano in 1882.

The idea that a smaller, weaker person may use leverage and technique to overcome a bigger adversary is at the heart of Judo.

Dr Jigoro Kano (Kanō Jigorō,嘉納 治五郎also called the father of Judo - was born in Japan in Kobe city, Hyogo Prefecture (10th December 1860) and died on 4th May 1938 at the age of 77.

Kano's favourite quotes are:

  • maximum efficiency with minimum effort" (精力善用 seiryoku zen'yō)
  • mutual welfare and benefit" (自他共栄jita kyōei)

He also studied at the Department of Political Science and Financial Technology (Faculty of Literature) of the University of Tokyo and graduated in 1881.

Jigoro Kano was born as the third son of his father, Jirosaku and his mother, Sadako (she died when Jigoro was nine years old).

Kano's relatives:

  • Kyusaburo (oldest brother)
  • Kensaku (second older brother)
  • Sumako Takezoe (wife)

As a boy, he liked studying many subjects like classical Chinese, calligraphy, English, and others [*].

Kano joined a boarding school Ikuei Gijuku in Karasumori-Cho (Shiba, Tokyo) in 1873.

In those days, his classmates treated him with contempt and despised him.

Kano's family friend Nakai Baisei has introduced Jigoro jujutsu - martial art designed with an option to kill an opponent without using weapons - as a great form of physical education.

At that time, jujutsu was not popular anymore, and his father was against it.

Despite his father's opinion, Kano became keen on mastering those skills and learned them with many teachers.

He combined his knowledge of jujitsu with his understanding of other martial arts and made a new martial art called Judo.

Jigoro Kano needed to distinguish his judo school from jujitsu to avoid confusing them.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's perfect Michitsune Mishima (1885 to 1888) has decided to innovate police unarmed techniques and physical education in the Police department.

Police officers were trained only by Totsuka Yoshin-ryū school's traditional jujutsu methods.

Kano's Kodokan Judo school raised popularity and created him an idea to test the effectiveness of those two martial arts.

On 11th June 1886, the Japanese police held one of their regular competition (警視庁武術大会, Keishicho Bujutsu Taikai) and asked Dr Jigoro Kano to send some judokas to this event.

It became an official competition between two fighting styles (Kodokan vs Totsuka).

The judo player team managed to win 13 out of their 15 matches.

Kano was immediately asked to send his instructors to police stations, and police officers started using Judo instead of jujitsu.

Judo's popularity exploded, and Kodokan Judo School spread throughout Japan.

Judo later expanded to the Imperial Japanese Army and other armies in Europe and America.

The judo styles have evolved from the judo players' experiences in judo competitions.

Judo is now practised in over 200 countries and regions around the world.

European Judo Federation (EJU)

In 1934 was held the first European Championships were in Dresden, Germany.

The European Judo Federation (EJU) is the European judo governing body.

EJU was established on 28th July 1948 in London.

The EJU is responsible for organizing judo competitions at all levels, from local club tournaments to the Olympic Games. It also develops judo techniques and rules and conducts judo education programs.

EJU head office is in Wehlistrasse 29/1/111, 1200 Vienna, Austria

International Judo Federation (IJF)

After World War II, the European Judo Union was reestablished. In July 1951, at an international conference held in London, delegates from Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands established the International Judo Federation. The first President of the IJF was Aldo Torti.

The organization aims to coordinate judo activity internationally, promote judo as a sport and cultural activity, establish judo as an Olympic sport, and create regional judo federations.

Tokyo hosted the first World Judo Championship Tournament in May 1956.

In 2011, the IJF introduced two new competitions: the World Masters and the World Cadet Championships.

Principles of Judo sport

Judo as a pathway of life

It's not just a sport. Judo is a physical and mental discipline everyone can apply to everyday life.

Judo's progress over the last several decades is fantastic and still evolving.

And it shows how great this martial art can be when people are allowed to grow and develop independently, without fear of contradiction or fear of ridicule, or fear of judgment.

Art of self-perfection

Judo spirit has the power to drive you to do what it takes to become the best of who you can be. The path toward self-perfection requires discipline, but it also involves camaraderie.

Every Judo club will welcome you and help you become a part of its family. The family atmosphere is a factor that helps people build long-term relationships, keep going and try harder.

With the support of the family, you can achieve your goals and improve your Judo skills faster. No matter what country you visit.

Judo bow

Respect to the opponent

Throughout school, they tell us that learning how to respect your opponents is the secret ingredient to being successful in life, but what does it mean to respect your opponent?

The rules are pretty simple. When you are on the mat, you are equal to your opponent.

You both have the same opportunities and the same limitations. Your strengths will be your opponent's weaknesses and vice versa.

The better one will compensate for the other's weaknesses, making Judo an actual sport of "give-and-take."

What are the skills you need to gain this respect?

First, the most visible moment before and after any Judo match is - the BOW.

You see judokas bowing, entering the tatami twice, right before, during, and after the match, and finally when leaving the mat area.

Secondly, it's a handshake of both opponents after the match.

Thirdly there is respect for all referees. You will never see judokas complaining like those mad football players after getting a yellow card.

Strict approach to protocols of etiquette - moral education

Judo etiquette includes rules for behaving while practising Judo and in your daily life.

Some other examples include respect for others, dressing appropriately for Judo, bowing when entering or leaving the Dojo, and following other rules during competitions.

No kicking, punching, hair pulling, scratching, biting, or speaking is allowed in a Judo match or during training sessions.

In Judo, we believe that you should take a strict approach to following the rules.

Judokas should never cheat, break the rules, or say bad things about others.

Cultivation of the Spirit

Rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru" (Beginning and ending with a bow of respect). Building and keeping the right Judo spirit alive is key to following the legacy of Jigoro Kano.

He established a Judo framework for its development by defining its purpose and values.

His guidance was never to fight to win but rather to gain an opponent's surrender without fighting longer than necessary.

Judo is built on the spirit of respect.

Respect is a vital aspect of judo and must be shown to your opponent, training partner, coach, family members, friends, and yourselves.

Competitive Judo

Olympic games

The first judo demonstrations were organized by Japanese athletes in Tokyo, Japan, during the 1964 Summer Olympics.

The 1964 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was a summer multi-sport event celebrated from 17 July to 2 August 1964.

They were held in Tokyo, Japan, marking the first time the city hosted the Games.

6,936 athletes representing 85 National Olympic Committees participated in the events.

Since then, it has undergone many changes, such as shorter game times, scoring systems, and rules.

Judo has recently introduced a new event called Mixed Team Competition, designed to promote gender equality and a union through sport.

 The French team gained a gold medal for its new mixed team competition in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Judo has been competing as a women’s event since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The judo competition rules are set by the IJF and are regularly updated to ensure fairness and a bright vision for judo.


Judo Paralympics is an international sports event for Judo athletes with vision disabilities.

The first time it was held in Seoul, 1988 for men. Women started competing in the Paralympics in Athens in 2004.
The rules are the same as in Olympic Games with a minor tweak.
Both fighters start the match in a standing position, holding their gis and remain holding them during the match.

World Championships

The first world judo championships were held in Tokyo in 1956.

The event was organized by the International Judo Union and was won by Japan’s Shokichi Natsume.

He had beaten his compatriot Yoshihiro Yoshimatsu in the final.

The second world championship was held two years later in Tokyo.

The Dutchman Anton Geesink became the first non-Japanese world champion defeating Koji Sone from Japan.

Anton Geesink

Anton Geesink (6th April 1934 in Utrecht, Netherlands - died 27th Aug 2010 in Utrecht) is one of the greatest judoka ever.

Geesink became famous in the Japanese sport of Judo when he won the World Championship in 1961 as the first non-Japanese judoka.

He also won the gold medal in the most watched (unlimited) category at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Event.

Judo Techniques

Judo does not use any weapons or other items to win a match but instead uses grappling and throwing techniques that do not harm your opponent.

Judo throws are the core of Judo. Other techniques are joint locks and pins.

The judoka can use all of them to attack his opponent or defend himself from attacks.

There are a lot of judo techniques - they are categorized into three different groups.

  • Nage-waza- 68 throwing techniques
  • Katame-waza- 32 grappling techniques
  • Atemi-waza- body-striking techniques (completely forbidden in judo competition)

Furthermore, there are several subcategories of judo techniques. Some of them are listed below:

  • Nage-waza (throws)

    • Te-waza- hand throwing techniques
    • Koshi-waza- hip throwing techniques
    • Ashi-waza- leg throwing techniques

  • Sutemi-waza (sacrifice techniques)

    • Ma-sutemi waza - rear-sacrifice projection
    • Yoko-sutemi waza - side sacrifice projection

  • Katame-waza

      • Osaekomi-waza - pins or mat holds
      • Shime-waza - chokes or strangles
      • Kansetsu-waza - joint locks

    Ukemi - breakfalls

    1. Mae ukemi - forward fall
    2. Ushiro ukemi - backward fall
    3. Yoko ukemi - side fall
    4. Mae Mawari Ukemi - forward judo roll

    The Gokyo no Waza is the standard syllabus for the most important Judo throws in 1895 and was later updated in 1920 and 1982.

    This set of techniques - 5 categories with eight throws in each category - is commonly used in competitions and training.

    Complete list of Judo techniques

    NAGE-WAZA (68 throwing techniques)

    TE-WAZA (hand techniques)

    • Seoi-nage
    • Ippon seoi-nage
    • Seoi-otoshi
    • Tai-otoshi
    • Kata-guruma (most arduous technique)
    • Sukui-nage
    • Obi-otoshi
    • Uki-otoshi
    • Sumi-otoshi
    • Yama-arashi
    • Obi-tori-gaeshi
    • Morote-gari
    • Kuchiki-taoshi
    • Kibisu-gaeshi
    • Uchi-mata-sukashi
    • Ko-uchi-gaeshi
    KOSHI-WAZA (hip techniques)
    • Uki-goshi
    • O-goshi
    • Koshi-guruma
    • Tsuri-komi-goshi
    • Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi
    • Harai-goshi
    • Tsuri-goshi
    • Hane-goshi
    • Utsuri-goshi
    • Ushiro-goshi
    ASHI-WAZA (feet/leg techniques)
    • De-ashi-harai
    • Hiza-guruma
    • Sasae-tsurikomi-ashi
    • O-soto-gari
    • O-uchi-gari
    • Ko-soto-gari
    • Ko-uchi-gari
    • Okuri-ashi-harai
    • Uchi-mata (excellent technique)
    • Ko-soto-gake
    • Ashi-guruma
    • Harai-tsurikomi-ashi
    • O-guruma
    • O-soto-guruma
    • O-soto-otoshi
    • Tsubame-gaeshi
    • O-soto-gaeshi
    • O-uchi-gaeshi
    • Harai-goshi-gaeshi
    • Uchi-mata-gaeshi
    MA-SUTEMI-WAZA (rear sacrifice techniques)
    • Tomoe-nage
    • Sumi-gaeshi
    • Hikikomi-gaeshi
    • Tawara-gaeshi
    • Ura-nage

    YOKO-SUTEMI-WAZA (side sacrifice techniques)

    • Yoko-otoshi
    • Tani-otoshi
    • Hane-makikomi
    • Soto-makikomi
    • Uchi-makikomi
    • Uki-waza
    • Yoko-wakare
    • Yoko-guruma
    • Yoko-gake
    • Daki-wakare
    • O-soto-makikomi
    • Uchi-mata-makikomi
    • Harai-makikomi
    • Ko-uchi-makikomi
    • Kani-basami
    • Kawazu-gake

    Katame-Waza (32 techniques)

    Osaekomi-waza (10 techniques)

    1. Kesa-gatame
    2. Kuzure-kesa-gatame
    3. Ushiro-kesa-gatame
    4. Kata-gatame
    5. Kami-shiho-gatame
    6. Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame
    7. Yoko-shiho-gatame
    8. Tate-shiho-gatame
    9. Uki-gatame
    10. Ura-gatame

    Shime-waza (12 techniques)

    1. Nami-juji-jime
    2. Gyaku-juji-jime
    3. Kata-juji-jime
    4. Hadaka-jime
    5. Okuri-eri-jime
    6. Kataha-jime
    7. Katate-jime
    8. Ryote-jime
    9. Sode-guruma-jime
    10. Tsukkomi-jime
    11. Sankaku-jime
    12. Do-jime* a prohibited waza

    Kansetsu-waza (10 techniques)

    1. Ude-garami
    2. Ude-hishigi-juji-gatame
    3. Ude-hishigi-ude-gatame
    4. Ude-hishigi-hiza-gatame
    5. Ude-hishigi-waki-gatame
    6. Ude-hishigi-hara-gatame
    7. Ude-hishigi-ashi-gatame
    8. Ude-hishigi-te-gatame
    9. Ude-hishigi-sankaku-gatame
    10. Ashi-garami* a prohibited waza

    Popular judo techniques

    • Uchi mata
    • Seoi nage
    • Kata guruma
    • Kouchi gari
    • Tomoe nage

    Judo Belt Colors

    • Yellow
    • Orange
    • Green
    • Blue
    • Brown
    • Black
    • Red/white stripes
    • Red

    The judo belt "Obi" (帯) represents the judo students' ability and rank. Different coloured belts describe other judoka's experiences in Judo.

    The Judo ranking system begins when judokas start their judo career in the dojo (dōjō 道場) with a white belt.

    Next after the white are the yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and finally black.

    The revolutionary judo ranking system is a way to encourage students to continue practising Judo and become experts at it.

    In Judo, there are two levels of grading — Dan and Kyu. The difference between them is that Dan has a higher skill level than Kyu.

    The white to brown coloured belts correspond to Kyu grades, ranging from the highest number for the white belt up to the "1st kyu" for the brown belt.

    Dan grades represent black, white/red or red belts. A person who has achieved these grades is considered a judo expert.

    The Dan System begins at Sho-dan (one) and continues through Ju-dan (ten). There are five levels of black belts.

    Rarely you can meet masters with red/white stripes on the belt. These Judo Masters have reached the 6th, 7th or 8th dan in Judo.

    Judokas awarded with the 9th or 10th Dan wear a red belt.

    Although there are only ten dans in Judo, the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, has never received any of them.

    Kano was the founder and the creator of kyus and dans, and he wanted them for his students. He didn't give any of them to himself.

    Interestingly Kano was awarded by 12th Dan in 1940 by his nephew Jiro Nango.

    Jiro got a clever idea to skip the 11th dan to make it symbolically unreachable to get the same level as Jigoro Kano.

    As there are only 10 Dans in Judo, no one will reach the 12th dan as there is no 11th Dan.

    The Japanese grade system, created by Jigoro Kano and developed with other experts, was hugely successful.

    Other martial arts adopted this same principle to create their ranking systems based on the original idea that has been popular in Japan for over 100 years!

    1st dan to 5th dan a black belt:

    • Sho-dan (1st)
    • Ni-dan (2nd)
    • San-dan (3rd)
    • Yo-dan (4th)
    • Go-dan (5th)
    • 6th (Roku-dan)
    • 7th (Shichi-Dan)
    • 8th (Hachi-dan)

    White belt is for beginner students who have not yet received a judo rank.

    The yellow belt is for students who have passed the beginner level and are considered more experienced.

    Green belt is for students who have achieved an intermediate level of Judo.

    Blue belt is for students who have achieved a more advanced level in Judo.

    Brown belt is for students preparing to become black belt holders.

    The judo ranking system can be confusing for those new to Judo. Many people wonder what the different judo belt colours represent and how the ranking system works.

    The judo ranking system is based on a series of judo technique sets students must pass to be promoted to the next rank.

    To receive a judo belt, students must pass a test that evaluates their skills and knowledge in Judo.

    The tests assess a judoka's understanding of judo techniques, principles and concepts.


    The judo rules are critical in keeping the sport clean, fair and safe for all participants.

    These rules are designed to protect athletes and the spectators from any injury or harm during a match.

    Judo rules are also designed to help referees make correct decisions about winning a match.

    Judokas are required to follow the set of rules laid down by the International Judo Federation.

    The document Sport and Organizational Rules has 208 pages, and this article aims to provide an overview of those competition regulations.

    Recently there was an update for the Olympic cycle 2022 - 2024:

    • 1 - Scoring for actions that, without stopping, are a continuation of techniques. If there is a stop in action, there is no score.
    • 2 - Waza-ari criteria comprise landing on the whole side of the body at 90 degrees or more to the rear or on one shoulder and upper back. A score will be given for a whole side of the body landing even when the elbow is out. Hip and shoulder position must be considered
    • 3 - Waza-ari criteria comprise landing on the whole side of the body at 90 degrees or more to the rear or on one shoulder and upper back. A score will be given for a whole side-body landing even when the elbow is out.
    • 4 - Landing simultaneously on 2 elbows or hands, towards the back, is waza-ari for tori and shido for uke
    • 5 - No score for counter techniques where the initial attack is rolled to the back, towards the counterattacking or defending judoka.
    • 6 - No score and shido for reverse seoi-nage
    • 7 - Gripping under the belt in the end phase of a throwing technique is allowed if the opponent is already in ne-waza. If the throwing technique is interrupted, gripping under the belt is a ne-waza action.
    • 8 - Collar and lapel grips are allowed if not negative.
    • 9 - Belt grip, one-side grip, cross grip, pistol grip and pocket grip are not traditional grips. If taken, time will be allowed for the preparation of an attack.
    • 10 - Breaking the grips with one or two hands and immediately taking grips is allowed. Breaking grips with one or two hands and not taking a grip immediately is shido
    • 11 - Retying and arranging judogi and hair is allowed once per judoka per contest. Other occasions are penalised with shido.
    • 12 - Techniques using head diving are dangerous and will be penalised with hansoku-make.

    Here are some basic rules for Judo competitions:

    Both players have to wear approved judogi - for better visibility, one of them wears a blue and the other judoka a white one.

    To ensure competitors wear appropriate clothing during competition, national organizations must approve their uniforms before they compete.

    Judokas compete in weight categories:

    • Senior and junior women - 48kg, 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 70kg, 78kg and over 78kg
    • Senior and junior men - 60kg, 66kg, 73kg, 81kg, 90kg, 100kg and over 100kg

    Judo players wear their judogi correctly when entering and exiting the playing field. They cannot remove anything from your judo uniform before leaving the field of play or the mixed zone.

    In the case of masters, world championships, seniors and Olympic competitions, the competition area shall be 10m by 10m with a minimum standard safety zone of 4m and a minimum outside the safety zone of 4m.

    Judo Shido is judo's so-called "penalty system." A judoka (judo practitioner) commits a judo rules breach and is penalized with a shido.

    After receiving 2 shidos, the 3ed will disqualify him from the contest.


    Judo kata is a series of movements performed in a specific sequence. Each movement has its name.

    Are you asking yourself how many Judo katas are there? The right answer is nine - according to Kodokanjudoinstitute.

    1. Nage-no-Kata (Forms of Throwing) - resource for Judo students to better understand the principles and master the basic techniques of Nage-waza.
    2. Katame-no-Kata (Forms of Grappling or Holding)
    3. Kime-no-Kata (Forms of Decisive techniques)
    4. Ju-no-Kata (Forms of Gentleness & Flexibility)
    5. Kodokan Goshin-jutsu (Forms of Kodokan Self-Defense)
    6. Itsutsu-no-Kata (Forms of "Five")
    7. Koshiki-no-Kata (Forms of Classics)
    8. Seiryoku-Zenyo-Kokumin-Taiiku (Forms of Maximum- Efficiency National physical education)
    9. Kodomo-no-Kata

    You can become European or World Champion in Judo kata or/and competitive sport of Judo. Katas are not part of the Olympic program.

    The kata competition using only five kata (Nage-no-Kata, Katame-no-Kata, Kime-no-Kata, Ju-no-Kata and Kidokan Goshin-jutsu).


    Terminology in Judo comes from the Japanese language.

    There are more than 150 Judokas terms, which include techniques, throws, defences, grips, holds, and pins. These terms can be used to describe any aspect of judo.

    Below are some examples:

    Ukemi - also called break falling, is how a person falls safely to ensure that they do not get injured when they fall.

    Ippon - means 'one point. This is awarded for a single sweep or throw that has landed on the opponent's back or when the opponent taps out.

    Hajime - is the command to start the match from a referee.

    Mate - command to stop the fight

    Waza - means technique or move

    Tatami - the name of the mat used in Judo

    Dojo - the name of the Judo gymnasium/dojo. It's where judoka trains.

    Osaekomi - is used to describe an osaekomi waza - hold down

    Uke - the Japanese word for "opponent." Uke is the person who receives the technique. Uke's role is to allow the judoka to perform his techniques safely and should not resist the judoka's techniques, nor should attempt to block.

        Judo Heroes

        If you want to find most successful judokas - usually Olympic winners and World champions - male and females - you can stick with this short list:

        Male greatest judo players

        1. Teddy Rinner
        2. Yasuhiro Yamashita
        3. Illias Iliadis
        4. David Douillet
        5. Toshihiko Koga
        6. Shohei Ono

        Female greatest judo players:

        1. Ryoko Tani
        2. Ingrid Berghmans
        3. Daria Bilodid
        4. Masae Ueno
        5. Kayla Harrison
        6. Rafaela Silva
        7. Ulla Werbrouck