Judo In The Olympics

Learn the basics Olympic Judo: rules, scoring, and techniques.

Distinct from other martial arts, Judo is based on using an opponents energy against them, throwing them off-balance and bringing them to the ground. Judo uses no weapons or blows, and matches and moves are often lightning quick. Judo has been an Olympic sport since the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, and in its short history has become a popular and widely-practiced sport.

Judo Basics:

The name of the sport, Judo, derives from two Chinese words, 'ju' and 'do', meaning 'gentle way'. Though spectators may not realize it, with all the flipping and throwing, the martial art is based on the idea of gentleness. Competitors cannot win based on brute strength or power alone, they muse use their opponents energy and power against them.

Judo originated in Japan, but is a relatively modern martial art. It was developed throughout the 1880s, by Dr. Jingoro Kano, now widely known as the father of the sport. Unlike karate or other hand-to-hand combat sports, Judo does not allow any kicks or hits. No weapons of any kind are allowed either. Instead, the emphasis is on upsetting your opponent and pinning him to the floor, incapacitating him without injury. This can be done in a variety of ways, including throws, trips, or other more aggressive moves.



In international competition, including the Olympics and World Championships, matches last five minutes for men and four minutes for women. This does not include stoppage time by the referee. Matches are played on a large square mat, measuring a minimum of 8m x 8m, and a maximum of 10m x 10m. This includes a red area around the edges of the mat that demarcates the danger zone. Attacks and throws that originate from outside the mat are invalid, and stepping outside the mat will result in a penalty.

Olympic Competition:

Since it's inception as an Olympic sport in 1964, Judo has seen a lot of changes. In order to be accepted into the Olympics in the beginning, weight classes had to be established. These ensured that larger competitors would be matched against similarly-sized opponents. Initially the sport was broken down into four weight classes, but that was expanded to include seven weight categories.

Scoring techniques for the sport are fairly complicated, and are based on a number of throws and pins, designed to incapacitate the opponent. Scoring categories are determined by the skill and technique of the throw, as well as the amount of time the opponent is unable to release themselves. For throws an opponent on their shoulder or buttocks, and holding them in place up to 25 seconds, contestants are awarded one of three scores: waza ari, yuko, and koka.

In addition, matches are ended by ippon, the final scoring move. An ippon move is defined as a controlled throw of an opponent onto his back, with considerable speed and force. Similarly, a throw onto an opponent's shoulder or buttocks can count as ippon if the opponent is unable to release himself for more than 25 seconds. Finally, if an opponent is incapacitated by a throw or move, or if they tap the mat twice with a foot or hand, indicating defeat, an automatic ippon is scored and the match ends.

Judo competitions are arranged in single-elimination tournaments. Competitors are divided into two pools, by random draw, and then compete to avoid being eliminated. As a result, sometimes the most exciting or high-profile matches take place early on in the competition, as the best players may draw into the same category and wind up competing in an early round. Players compete in their specific pools until the semi-final matches, when the pools are combined. All competitors who lose to the semi-finalists compete in their own elimination bracket for the Bronze medal, competing against the runner-up of the opposite pool. In the end, one Gold, one Silver, and two Bronze medals are awarded.

Women's Judo was added to the Olympic Games in 1992, due to rising popularity in the sport in international women's federations. Today, over 8 million people practice the sport, and it continues to grow in popularity and prestige.

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