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Articles: Judo


Judo is a Japanese martial art and combat sport which mainly focuses on grappling the opponent, and throwing them to the ground. The ethos of Judo is to be efficient and economical, and to use the minimum force to gain the maximum effect. Judo is played internationally by both men and women of all age groups.

The martial art of Judo was founded by Jigoro Kano at the end of the 19th century; in 1882, Kano founded his first Judo gym ‘dojo’ to begin teaching his own form of martial art which was derived from traditional Jujutsu. Kano based his teachings on a philosophy of maximum efficiency versus minimum effort. Kano decided to rename the sport since he felt the term Jujutsu was insufficient to describe his technique, and thus he renamed it Judo, meaning ‘gentle way’.

The sport of Judo is governed by the International Judo Federation, which was founded in 1951. Thirteen years later, Judo made its debut as an Olympic sport during the 1964 Olympics. The sport has a global appeal and is practiced in many countries, but it is an especially popular sport in Japan, France, Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, and Poland.

Anyone can participate in Judo; both men and women of all age groups can participate in Judo - in fact, in Japan, there are many Judo practitioners in their 70’s and 80’s.

How a Judo match begins

Before stepping onto the Judo mat, individual participants called ‘Judoka’ bow to the mat to symbolize that they have cleared their head of any negative or evil thoughts. After stepping onto the Judo arena, the players line up in the middle of the arena facing each other, and the referee stands between both players to one side. Once the positions are set, the players bow to each other to show respect and demonstrate no intention to injure the other player. After the bows, the referee commences the start of the bout with a hand signal.

A Judo bout takes place on a large padded square mat that is at least 14 x 14 meters overall; however, the actual area designated for combat is normally 8 x 8 or 10 x 10 meters.

All participants must wear a white two-piece uniform called a ‘Gi’ which can be no shorter than 5 cm above the wrists and ankles. The top of the ‘Gi’ is held in place with a colored belt that denotes the rank of the player, with black being the highest rank and white the lowest.

Rules of Judo

Judo bouts last for 5 minutes and all matches must be won - there are no draws in Judo matches. If the match is tied on points at the end of the play, the players carry on until one player scores a point to determine a victor.

The main objective in judo matches is to win by an ‘ippon’, which is throwing the opponent to the floor on their back in a decisive manner. If a player cannot win by ‘ippon’, he can try to score 2 ‘waza-ari’, which is a not completely decisive throw to floor. The ‘waza-ari’ is worth half an ‘ippon’ and two would equate to a winning ‘ippon’. Any throws other than that are awarded as a ‘youko’, which is the smallest point that can be awarded in Judo. One of the idiosyncrasies of Judo is that one ‘waza-ari’ is worth more than an infinite number of ‘youkos’ in a match.

To deal with violations, a penalty point, ‘shido’, is awarded for minor rule infringements. Major infringements result in the awarding of ‘hansoku make’. This penalty results in forfeiture of the match and expulsion from the tournament. Violations are numerous and complex in Judo and are designed to protect the players. Violations can be awarded for incorrect grip on an opponent, gripping inside an opponent’s sleeve, punches, joint manipulation (apart from the elbow), banned techniques etc. To exemplify these technicalities, a player can only use a ‘normal’ grip with his right hand on the upper left hand side of the opponent’s ‘Gi’. In total, there are 25 minor infringements and 13 major infringements in Judo.

Unlike Sumo wrestling, it is not permitted to push your opponent outside the fighting area, and doing so will result in the award of a minor violation penalty. If on the other hand, a player intentionally places one foot out of the play area, he is penalized with the award of a minor penalty, and if the player places both feet out of the area, then a major penalty is awarded. If during the fight, the players unintentionally leave the area, then the referee can stop the fight and return them to the center of the arena. Additionally, referees stop fights for major point awards as well as violations, or if they believe a player’s safety is at risk.

In Judo, if a player receives medical treatment, he is disqualified; however, he can opt to treat himself with the advice of the medical team and carry on. Judo is officiated by three referees, one floor referee and 2 corner referees.

Flow and tactics during a Judo match

Judo matches’ flow and tactics tend to vary greatly depending on the skill level of the players, at the lower levels they can be a great tussle as each player struggles to throw the opponent on his back decisively. You will also see plenty of attempts of leg sweeps used to gain the advantage. This does not happen at the top end of the game, since players are skilled enough to avoid a sweep and counter the player who is now at a huge disadvantage since they are standing on one leg. Therefore, at the top level, players will grip early, and then the game will be a slow tactical affair as each player jockeys for positional advantage to execute a throw. Once the match has gone to the ground, players will then try and force their opponent onto their back using skill and technique.

Professional Judo

The International Judo Federation runs the global judo season year round. The federation is also responsible for publishing the international rankings of Judo players from around the world. The biggest tournaments for individuals are the Olympics and the World Championships, and for teams there is the Judo Team World Championships held every year. However, it is worth noting that most players who participate in the individual tournaments do not take part in the team events.

For Japanese Judoka, the All Japan Judo championship is one of the most prestigious tournaments; it is not open to non-Japanese competitors.

There is no set route for turning pro - it’s a matter of training and improving and wining tournaments. In fact, some of the best Judo practitioners do not fight competitively, but teach and practice judo for its spiritual and self-discipline elements.

In terms of tournament structure, most judo tournaments are knockouts with repechage. This is where there is a main draw that culminates in first and second places, and an ancillary draw where the defeated fighters from every round in the main draw drop into to end in 3rd place, which is awarded to 2 contestants. Organizing tournaments this way allows fighters to have multiple fights as well as giving every fighter a chance even if they are defeated once.

Betting on Judo

Betting on judo can only be described as intermittent; it is only possible when major events occur. As a rule of thumb, betting on Judo is a straight up betting on the winner of the bout, or on the tournament victor.