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Judo is a Japanese martial art that uses strength and balance to knock an opponent to the ground or immobilise them.

The sport was created at the end of the 19th century by Jigoro Kano, a jiu-jitsu master who wanted to develop a method of self-defence.

Over the years, the sport gained popularity and professionalism. No wonder it was entered in the 1964 Olympic Games. Since then, it has won fans and practitioners all over the world.

In this complete and up-to-date guide, we’ll find out a little more about judo’s history, rules, scoring system and main moves.

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History of Judo

Founded by master Jigoro Kano in 1882, judo is a martial art that originated in Japan. Kano was a fighting scholar who sought to create a system of self-defence that combined efficient techniques and ethical principles.

Judo, which means “gentle way”, was developed from jiu-jitsu, but Kano introduced significant modifications to make it safer.

Master Kano established the first judo school, the Kodokan, in Tokyo that same year. He organised the fighting techniques into a structured system, classifying them into categories.

In addition, Kano developed a grading system based on coloured belts to indicate the skill level of the practitioners.



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Judo quickly gained popularity in Japan and eventually spread around the world. In 1964, it was included in the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first martial art to be part of the competition.

Today, the sport is practised all over the world, with national and global federations regulating the sport and promoting tournaments.

What are the fundamentals of judo?

história do judô
What are the fundamentals of judo?
  1. Nage-waza (Projection Techniques): These are the throwing techniques, where the practitioner uses balance and strength to project the opponent onto the ground;
  2. Kuzushi (Imbalance): Before applying a projection technique, it is necessary to create an imbalance in the opponent, making them vulnerable to attack. In this way, they can be projected more easily;
  3. Katame-waza (Control Techniques): This involves ground immobilisation techniques, chokes and joint locks. The aim is to control and submit the opponent until they give up the fight;
  4. Ukemi (Falling Techniques): Learning how to fall safely is crucial in judo to avoid injuries during projections;
  5. Tsukuri (Positioning): Refers to proper preparation and positioning before executing a projection technique. It includes precisely adjusting the position of the feet and body;
  6. Kake (Execution): This is the final phase of the technique, where the practitioner actually executes the projection or control, taking advantage of the imbalance previously created by grabbing the sleeve or collar of the opponent’s kimono;
  7. Randori (Free Practice): This is a form of training in which practitioners have the opportunity to apply the techniques they have learnt in a more dynamic way, facing real opponents;
  8. Kata (Pre-Determined Forms): These are sequences of predetermined movements that help improve technique, understanding of the principles and artistic expression of judo;
  9. Shiai (Competition): Competitions are an important part of judo, where practitioners have the chance to test their skills against opponents from other academies;
  10. Ethics and Philosophy: Values such as respect, humility, courtesy, friendship and self-control are fundamental in judo. The philosophy of the sport goes beyond the mat and influences behaviour in everyday life.

What is the main objective of judo?

golpes de judô
What is the main objective of judo?

The main objective of judo fighting is to apply efficient techniques to project or control the opponent in order to secure victory.

This can be achieved through blows that utilise hands, arms, legs, feet and even hip and back strength.

In addition to the competitive aspect, judo aims to promote personal development and ethical and moral values.

Practitioners therefore seek to improve their character, discipline, mutual respect, mind and body through sport, but in a non-violent way.

How do win a judo fight?

There are several ways to win a judo fight, which lasts a total of four minutes. The easiest way is to apply an Ippon, which is a perfect blow that guarantees the judoka automatic victory.

Another way to triumph in a fight is to accumulate two Waza-ari, which are “almost perfect” blows worth half a point each. If the four minutes are up, a Waza-ari against no points from the opponent is also enough to win the fight.

If the fight ends in a draw, i.e. with no points scored by either judoka, the match goes to the Golden Score. The first to score an Ippon or Waza-ari wins the match.

There are also victories for penalising the opponent. If the opponent breaks the rules or deliberately avoids the fight, they receive a penalty called a Shido. Three Shidos accumulated results in automatic defeat.

If the opponent violates a very serious rule, they can be disqualified from the fight without having to accumulate three Shidos.

What are the rules of judo?

  • Greetings: Before the fight begins, the judoka greet each other and then wave to the referee and his assistants;
  • Etiquette and respect: Respect is fundamental in judo. Competitors must act in a courteous and respectful manner throughout the fight;
  • Duration of the fight: Professional judo fights last four minutes;
  • Start and end of the fight: The fight begins with the competitors positioned in their areas on the mat, awaiting the referee’s release. The match ends when one of the judoka wins by ippon (maximum point), two waza-ari (half points), by accumulating penalties from the opponent or by disqualification;
  • Scores (Ippon and Waza-ari): The main objective in judo is to score an ippon, which is the maximum score and results in immediate victory. Ippon can be achieved through projection techniques, immobilisation, strangulation or an articulated choke. If there is no ippon, judokas can score waza-ari (half a point), depending on the execution of the techniques;
  • Prohibitions: There are certain actions forbidden in the sport’s fights, such as grabbing the opponent’s kimono inappropriately, performing illegal blows, touching the opponent’s face, among others;
  • Penalties (Shido and Hansoku-Make): The referees can impose penalties called shido for unsportsmanlike behaviour, passive behaviour or any violation of the rules of judo. Accumulating three shidos results in immediate disqualification (Hansoku-Make). The Hansoku-Make can also be applied without accumulating shidos if the fighter breaks a very serious rule;
  • Golden Score: In the event of a draw, if there is no winner after regulation time, the fight continues on the so-called “Golden Score”, where the first to score any points wins. Remember that the number of shidos (below three) is not considered a tie-breaker.

What are the judo moves?

regras do judô
What are the judo moves?

Judo is characterised by a variety of throwing techniques, ground control, immobilisations and chokes. In the Ippon Seoi Nage, for example, the fighter lifts his opponent over his shoulder and throws him to the ground.

In the Soto Gari, the judoka uses the outside of his foot to sweep his opponent’s leg and consequently unbalance him.

The Juji Gatame, on the other hand, is an arm lock, where the judoka applies pressure to the elbow joint to immobilise the opponent.

Click here to see a list of the main strikes.

What equipment is used in judo?

The judogi is the uniform used in judo. It consists of a kind of jacket (wagi), trousers (shitabaki) and belt (obi). In the case of women’s wrestling, women must also wear a white T-shirt under the wagi.

Another important element of the fighters’ clothing is the identification patch, usually sewn onto the judogi.

These patches identify important elements such as the federation, country and, in some cases, even the athlete’s name.

Judo weight classes (women)

  • Extra Lightweight: up to 48kg
  • Half Lightweight: up to 52 kg
  • Lightweight: up to 57 kg
  • Half Middleweight: up to 63 kg
  • Middleweight: up to 70 kg
  • Half Heavyweight: up to 78 kg
  • Heavyweight: over 78 kg

Judo weight classes (men)

  • Extra Lightweight: up to 60kg
  • Half Lightweight: up to 66 kg
  • Lightweight: up to 73 kg
  • Half Middleweight: up to 81 kg
  • Middleweight: 90 kg
  • Half Heavyweight: up to 100 kg
  • Heavyweight: over 100 kg

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