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Are you ready to conquer the world of Judo? If yes, you must learn the rules before entering your first tournament. Ten fundamental Judo rules must be studied by every competitor. These rules cover everything from displaying proper etiquette to recognizing when a match is over. By understanding these Judo rules, you'll have a triumphant  experience at your debut tournament. Let's begin the journey and learn what it takes to become a Judo champion!

The Rules Of Judo

Judo, an Olympic sport that has stood the test of time, combines physical strength with mental discipline and emphasizes grappling techniques, throws, and takedowns. Mastery of skill, technique, and dedication is necessary to excel in judo and compete at tournaments. Understanding the rules of judo is crucial to ensuring optimal success at your first tournament.

Judo Rules


Uniform Requirements

The necessary attire for a judo tournament involves wearing a classic white or blue cotton jacket, commonly referred to as a "judogi," paired with lightweight pants. The pants must feature an elastic waistband, while the jacket must be of sufficient length to cover the buttocks. It should also exhibit three layers of material on the chest area and double-stitched seams on all hems.

Sleeves must be 3 fingers worth of distance from the wrist as having really shorts sleeves gives you a competitive advantage/

In addition to donning a judogi, competitors must wear a belt reflecting their rank. It is typically white, but sometimes blue. Furthermore, all clothing must remain affixed during the competition, and the wearing of jewelry is strictly forbidden.

It is of utmost importance to ask about the tournament's specific rules and regulations, as the uniform requirements may vary slightly depending on the event.

Rules Q and A

Judo Etiquette And Respect

Judo, a martial art created to embody respect and harmony, demands proper etiquette and decorum from all judoka, or judo practitioners, both during training and in tournaments.

Bowing is an integral part of judo etiquette. It is customary to bow at the beginning and end of practice to show reverence for training partners and instructors. When stepping onto the mat, one should bow in the direction of the shomen, which is the wall displaying a photo or painting of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo.

Showing respect towards your opponents during competition is also vital. Bowing before and after each match, whether you win or lose, is mandatory. It is unacceptable to gloat after a victory or criticize your opponent afterward. Judo principles of respect apply both on and off the mat, and participants must act accordingly.

Remember the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano meant for his art to develop the character of all participants.

Moreover, certain regulations must be followed to avoid disqualification from a tournament. For instance, striking techniques are prohibited, clothing can only be grabbed by the belts, pushing with hands or feet to throw an opponent down onto their back is prohibited, and holding techniques for more than 20 seconds without attempting an attack are not allowed. Complying with these rules ensures a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants in judo tournaments.


 Technical Rules Of Competition

To succeed in judo competitions, one must understand the technical rules that govern the matches. The matches are divided into two three-minute rounds, and if there is a tie, the referee may call for an additional period of one minute to determine the winner. Contestants can earn points by executing techniques such as throwing, grappling, or strangling their opponent onto their back. If a contestant cannot continue after the allotted time or receives three warnings from the referee for rule violations, then the other party is declared the winner.

In addition, competitors must follow specific rules during matches. They cannot grab their opponent's hair or clothing, kick or strike them with any part of their body, or attempt to lift them off the ground and drop them onto their back. Adhering to these guidelines ensures that all participants have a safe and enjoyable match.


Scoring System And Timing

Before stepping onto the mat in a judo tournament, it is crucial to understand the complex scoring system. The highest score achievable is an ippon, awarded when a competitor throws their opponent onto their back with force and control, or pins them for 25 seconds.

The point system comprises waza-ari, yuko, and koka, which range from half a point to two-thirds of a point, depending on the thrower's control and power during the match. These points accumulate until one competitor reaches 8 points or more, resulting in an automatic win by ippon.

It is important to note that for any point to count, both competitors must remain on the mat at all times. If a contestant steps out of bounds, they forfeit any points acquired until that point. Matches last no longer than four minutes and use three clocks to time the match: two countdowns from 4 minutes and a third starting a 10-second countdown when a competitor scores. This break allows both fighters to rest before continuing the match.

Having knowledge of the scoring system and timing requirements can give a strategic advantage over opponents. By conserving energy and making calculated moves, one can outmaneuver and outscore the competition. Remembering these key points before entering a tournament can provide an edge and increase chances of success.


Illegal Techniques

In a Judo tournament, certain techniques are prohibited and cannot be employed. These techniques include kicking, punching, striking, and strangling, which are strictly banned and could cause severe harm if executed.

Moreover, using any type of joint lock or submission hold on an opponent's neck is prohibited, as it could result in severe damage to their spine or neck. Additionally, applying a joint lock below the waist falls under this category.

Finally, Judo throws must be performed carefully to avoid thrusting the opponent into an unsafe position. Any throw failing to meet this criterion will be considered an illicit technique, and the competitor may face disqualification from the tournament.


Here is a table of banned techniques in Judo:

Kani BasamiScissors takedown, where the attacker wraps their legs around the opponent's leg, and then pulls them down. This technique is banned in most competitions due to the high risk of injury.
Do-jimeTrunk strangle, where the attacker wraps their arms around the opponent's body and applies pressure to the abdomen. This technique is banned due to the potential for serious injury or death.
Kawazu GakeOne-legged entanglement, where the attacker jumps onto the opponent's leg and pulls them down. This technique is banned due to the high risk of injury to the attacker's knee and the opponent's ankle.
Ashi GaramiLeg entanglement, where the attacker traps the opponent's leg between their own legs and applies pressure to the knee. This technique is banned due to the high risk of knee injury.
Sankaku GaramiTriangle leg lock, where the attacker traps the opponent's head and one arm with their legs, and then applies pressure to the neck. This technique is banned due to the potential for serious injury or death.
Ude GaramiArm entanglement, where the attacker traps the opponent's arm and applies pressure to the elbow joint. This technique is banned due to the high risk of elbow injury.
Ude Hishigi Juji GatameCross arm-lock, where the attacker traps the opponent's arm and twists it across their own body. This technique is banned due to the high risk of shoulder and elbow injury.
Ude Hishigi Ude GatameArm lock, where the attacker traps the opponent's arm and applies pressure to the elbow joint with their own arm. This technique is banned due to the high risk of elbow injury.
Ashi Hishigi Kani GatameLeg entanglement armlock, where the attacker traps the opponent's arm and applies pressure to the elbow joint with their own leg. This technique is banned due to the high risk of elbow injury.

It is important for all judo practitioners to be aware of these banned techniques to avoid using them during training or competition. Using banned techniques can result in disqualification or even suspension from future competitions.

Weight Divisions

Weight divisions in Judo are essential to guarantee equitable competition among athletes. Depending on the event, there could be up to seven categories based on weight. Generally, these categories range from lightweight (under 60 kg) to heavyweight (over 100 kg). The specific divisions might differ, so it's always wise to double-check the weight requirements for your particular competition.

When participating in Judo tournaments, it's crucial to truthfully declare your weight category before each match. This ensures that you're paired with an opponent of comparable size and strength. If the weight you announce differs from the one registered by the referee during weigh-in, you may be disqualified or forced to move up to a higher weight division.

It's also worth noting that judokas are permitted to participate in tournaments outside of their age or belt rank categories. As long as you meet the minimum weight requirements for a certain division, you're qualified to compete in any category above or below it. So, make sure to choose the appropriate weight category for your tournament matches!

Here is a table of the weight divisions in Olympic Judo for both men and women:

Men's Weight DivisionsWeight in Kilograms
-60 kgUp to 60 kg
-66 kg60 kg to 66 kg
-73 kg66 kg to 73 kg
-81 kg73 kg to 81 kg
-90 kg81 kg to 90 kg
-100 kg90 kg to 100 kg
+100 kgOver 100 kg
Women's Weight DivisionsWeight in Kilograms
-48 kgUp to 48 kg
-52 kg48 kg to 52 kg
-57 kg52 kg to 57 kg
-63 kg57 kg to 63 kg
-70 kg63 kg to 70 kg
-78 kg70 kg to 78 kg
+78 kgOver 78 kg

Referee Signals And Decisions

The referee is responsible for ensuring fair play and upholding judo rules at tournaments. They use a variety of signals and commands to communicate with the players. During a match, the referee may raise their arm to signal a point scored by one of the players. They can also use an arm signal to indicate that both players should return to their starting positions. Additionally, the referee may shout “Hajime!” which means start!

The referee can declare a winner by calling “Ippon!” or one point, indicating that one of the players has scored the full points according to judo rules. A referee may also call “Hansoku-make” meaning disqualification if one player has violated judo rules, such as attacking in an unsafe manner or intentionally trying to harm their opponent.

All judoka should understand these referee signals and commands to respond appropriately during a match. Before your first tournament, it's important to familiarize yourself with these signals and commands to be well-prepared. Seek guidance from your instructor or experienced teammates for clarification. Knowing how to properly interpret and respond to these signals will help you succeed on the mat!

Hand Signals

Here's a table of common referee hand signals in Judo:

Hand SignalDescription
MateReferee stops the match
HajimeReferee starts the match
IpponReferee signals an ippon has been scored
Waza-ariReferee signals a waza-ari has been scored
YukoReferee signals a yuko has been scored
KokaReferee signals a koka has been scored
HikiwakeReferee signals the match is a draw
ShidoReferee signals a penalty has been given
KeikokuReferee signals a warning for a serious offense
Hansoku-makeReferee signals immediate disqualification for a severe offense
Osae-komiReferee signals a pin
Sono-mamaReferee signals that the competitors should hold their current position
TsuzuketeReferee signals that the competitors should continue fighting
Matte (Kesa-gatame)Referee stops the match due to a potentially dangerous situation (such as a neck crank)

Note that some signals may vary slightly depending on the tournament or region.

Role Of Coach Or Spectator

When participating in a judo tournament, it's essential to understand the various roles of coaches and spectators present. Coaches play a crucial part in helping their athletes make decisions during a match while ensuring they follow the rules and maintain proper sportsmanship. On the other hand, spectators must remain quiet during matches and not interfere in any way. Coaches are allowed to provide verbal instruction from outside of the tatami and signal for timeouts or substitutions. However, they are not permitted to physically help their athletes during a match.

Coaching staff should also be aware of all referee signals and decisions to advise their athletes effectively. Spectators, too, must know referee signals and decisions, keep a respectful distance away from the tatami, and avoid making loud noises that can distract competitors and referees.

Knowing these roles is vital for all involved parties to ensure a safe and fair competition atmosphere at judo tournaments.

Post-Match Protocols

Following the match, it is vital to adhere to proper judo etiquette. Firstly, both competitors should bow to each other, demonstrating mutual respect and appreciation for each other's efforts and skills. Next, competitors should shake hands or embrace, displaying good sportsmanship and camaraderie. It is also important to show gratitude to the referee, coaches, and all others involved by bowing in their direction.

If your opponent has sustained an injury during the match, it is important to check on them before leaving the mat. Showing concern and sympathy for your opponent is a sign of respect and graciousness that will be remembered by others in attendance.

After leaving the mat, take time to review your match with your coach or teammates. Discuss any errors made as well as successful strategies to learn from them for future tournaments. This process will help you become a better judoka over time.

When leaving the tournament venue, take the time to thank all those who supported you both mentally and physically in preparation for your matches, such as family members, friends, coaches, and teammates. It is important to recognize all those who contributed to your success!


What Is The Difference Between An Ippon And A Waza-Ari?

Ippon and waza-ari are two types of points in judo. Ippon is the highest point score and guarantees immediate victory for the competitor who scores it. Waza-ari, on the other hand, is a lower scoring point that provides an advantage over the opponent without leading to an immediate win.

The key difference between the two lies in the level of control one has over their opponent. To earn an ippon, a competitor must exhibit complete control over their opponent, either by forcing them into submission or pinning them for 25 seconds. Meanwhile, a waza-ari can be obtained with less control, either by placing the opponent in a dangerous position or by executing superior throws or holds.

Here are some examples of the differences between an ippon and a waza-ari in Judo:

  • A throw that lands an opponent on their back with force and control results in an ippon, ending the match and declaring the scorer the winner.
  • A throw that puts the opponent in a dangerous position but not on their back results in a waza-ari, providing an advantage but not ending the match.
  • Pinning the opponent to the mat for 25 seconds results in an ippon, but a shorter pin may only result in a waza-ari.
  • A successful submission hold results in an ippon, while a high level of control over the opponent may result in a waza-ari.

The difference between the two lies in the level of control and dominance demonstrated by the competitor over their opponent. An ippon requires a higher degree of control and often leads to an immediate victory, while a waza-ari provides a lesser advantage but still rewards skilled technique and control.

Waza-ari vs. Ippon

What Are Some Examples Of Penalties?

Here are some examples of shido penalties in Judo:

  • Gripping the opponent's sleeve or lapel with only one hand for more than a few seconds
  • Applying an illegal technique, such as a chokehold or joint lock, or using excessive force to execute a throw
  • Stepping out of the competition area intentionally or repeatedly
  • Failing to attack or engage with the opponent for an extended period of time
  • Refusing to obey the referee's commands or showing unsportsmanlike behavior, such as arguing with the referee or using foul language
  • Failing to bow or show proper etiquette before or after the match

Depending on the severity of the violation, a shido penalty can range from a verbal warning to a more severe penalty, such as hansoku-make, which results in immediate disqualification from the match. Shido penalties are given to encourage athletes to follow the rules and maintain the proper spirit of Judo.


In Judo, Hansoku Make is the highest level of penalty that can be awarded to a competitor for violating the rules of the sport. It results in an immediate disqualification of the competitor from the match and may also lead to further disciplinary action depending on the severity of the violation.

Hansoku Make can be awarded for a variety of infractions, such as using illegal techniques, excessive brutality, or failing to comply with the instructions of the referee. Some examples of actions that may result in Hansoku Make include striking an opponent, intentionally causing injury, or engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct.

The penalty is severe and considered a major violation of the rules of Judo. As such, competitors are advised to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations governing the sport to avoid inadvertently engaging in any actions that could lead to a disqualification.

Hansoku Make

The world of competitive judo can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Understanding the rules and etiquette of the sport can help you feel prepared for your first tournament. The minimum age for competing in a judo tournament is generally 14, so if you're younger than that, keep in mind that you have some time to learn before you compete. Before the tournament, warm up with appropriate exercises to get your muscles loose and your heart rate up. Experienced judo players use certain strategies such as feints and exchanges to gain an edge over their opponents. It's also important to understand the difference between an ippon and a waza-ari so you know when an opponent has scored enough points to win a match. Finally, illegal techniques are not tolerated in judo tournaments and will result in disqualification if used.

By familiarizing yourself with these rules before your first tournament, you'll be able to enter the competition feeling confident and ready. You'll also be able to appreciate the beauty of this martial art even more by understanding what makes it unique as well as how complex and dynamic it is. Judo is a great way to test your physical and mental strength while having fun at the same time. So get out there, practice hard, stay focused, and show everyone what you're made of!