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Olympics guide: Judo


Judo chop! Austin Powers has perfected this martial art, but all you need to do is read this. Cheat sheet your way to Judo viewing bliss...

When? 6-12 August 2016

Golds up for grabs: 14

Olympic presence: Men 1964 & 1972–present; women 1992–present.

Olympic Format: Seven weight categories for both men and women.

Past Champions: Japan: 34 | France: 12 | South Korea: 11


The basics

The Playing Space

Judo bouts are conducted on a tatami, based on the traditional Japanese domestic floor mat but now made of foam and covered in vinyl. The tatami must be scrupulously clean - in the event that blood is inadvertently spilt during a fight, the contest will be stopped and a maniacal cleaning process will follow. The contest area (pictured, below) is a bounded inner square at least 8m by 8m and no larger than 10m by 10m. Bouts last for five minutes for men and four for women. If no one is ahead at the end of ‘regular time’, the contest continues on a ‘first to score wins’ basis.

New Kit

The difficulty of distinguishing white-clad judoka in action has led, at the insistence of the IJF, to the introduction of contrasting coloured suits, a move bitterly opposed by the All Japan Judo Federation. Japanese competitions continue to be conducted in all-white judogi, with one contestant wearing a red belt.

How to Win a Bout

Kano envisaged just one way of winning a bout – an ippon, scored from a throw that puts the opponent directly on to his back, or from a long hold or submission. For Kano this system aligned judo with the all-or-nothing peril of real combat. However, the demands of sporting competition and TV schedules have meant that endless bouts without ippons could not be tolerated, hence the introduction of lesser scores for imperfect throws – the waza-ari and the yuko – which function as tiebreakers.

Ippon is scored for a 30-second pin, a throw direct onto the back or a submission in a lock or choke hold. An ippon scores one full point and ends the match.

Waza-ari is scored for a throw not directly onto the back or of insufficient power to qualify as an ippon and for holds of twenty seconds. When two waza-ari are awarded in the same match they make an ippon and the match ends.

Yuko is scored for a throw of inferior quality to a waza-ari. One waza-ari beats any number of yukos.

If a bout ends in a draw, the contestants effectively fight a second bout, only this time the first to register any kind of score wins. If neither scores, the result is decided by hantei – a vote by the referee and two corner judges.


A judoka is penalised for inactivity, the use of illegal moves, and standing outside the mat area. The first penalty received is a warning, the second is a yuko awarded to the opponent. A third penalty is scored as a waza-ari and a fourth – called hansoku-make – constitutes an ippon. Hansoku-make can also be awarded for a very serious incident of dissent or rule-breaking.

(Image: Rex Features)



Olympics guide: Gymnastics


Olympics guide: Fencing


Olympics guide: Handball



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