An Introduction To Judo

Not sure what judo entails? Not a problem, here’s our introduction to the elegant martial art.

This article will cover the positive effects the popular martial art of judo can have. We'll tell you everything you need to know, including how the sport began, some of the basic rules, and how you can get involved.

What is Judo?

Judo is a system of self defence, which makes use of an opponent's strength to overcome them, meaning that a smaller opponent can defeat a larger opponent. ‘Ju’ means gentleness or giving way, and ‘do’ means way of life, thus making Judo mean literally ‘the gentle way’ or ‘the way of giving way.’ Judo was founded in 1882, in Japan, by Professor Jigoro Kano, who envisioned it as a way of becoming physically and mentally fit through disciplined training.

Health Benefits

Judo can be practised by all ages and is a relatively safe sport as it does not involve any kicking or striking techniques. It is an excellent activity to increase physical fitness, boosting key leg and arm muscles, improving agility and flexibility, and developing the body's cardiovascular system. Judo is open and accessible to participants with a wide variety of disabilities. Because of the close contact involved in judo it is the ideal sport for the blind or visually impaired.

Olympic Integration

In 1964 at the Tokyo Olympic Games, men’s judo was included in the Games at the request of the host country Japan. In 1988 women’s judo was a demonstration event and in 1992 became a full medal event.

In the Olympics, judo competitors compete in the following weight divisions:

Extra lightweight: Men — 60kg (132lb), Women — 48kg (106lb) Half lightweight: Men — 66kg (145.5lb), Women — 52kg (115lb) Lightweight: Men — 73kg (161lb), Women — 57kg (126lb) Half-middleweight: Men — 81kg (178.5lb), Women — 63kg (139lb) Middleweight: Men — 90kg (198.5lb), Women — 70kg (154.5lb) Half-heavyweight: Men — 100kg (220.5lb), Women — 78kg (172lb) Heavyweight: Men +100kg, Women +78kg

Getting started in judo

If you fancy taking to the mat and trying your hand at judo, then it is best to start with a properly registered club who provide professionally qualified coaches. Most towns or cities will have a martial arts club, or even a specialised Judo club. If you’re a gym member it’s more than likely they offer judo or martial arts classes. Don’t be afraid to look further afield though, Google is a great way to find judo clubs and their reviews.

What you need to know

Before starting, you’ll need to know about equipment, rules and etiquette. We'll talk you through the judo ring, the clothing worn, and some of the basic rules.

The Matted area

A judo contest is conducted on vinyl covered foam mat area called ‘tatami’, the contest area being a square 8m x 8m (26.25ft x 26.25ft). This is surrounded by a red outer metre ‘danger area’ which is inside the playing area, but competitors can only remain in that area for a few seconds before attempting a throw or they will be penalised. There is a 3m (9.85ft) outer zone ‘safety area’ in which participants can be thrown as long as the thrower remains inside the contest area.

Judo Uniform

Judo competitors are called ‘Judokas’ and the clothing they wear is called ‘Judogi’. Judo pants are called ‘zubon’ and the jacket is called ‘uwagi’. The belt identifies the skill level of the competitor, with black belt being the highest. For identification purposes, one participant will wear a completely blue uniform and the other will wear white.

The referees in judo

Three referees oversee a bout. One central referee controls the contest by moving around the mat, while two others sit at opposite corners. Each decision has to be agreed upon by at least two of the three or it is changed.

The judo contest

An Olympic contest lasts 5 minutes for male 'judokas' and 4 minutes for women, provided that it hasn’t already been stopped by the award of an ‘Ippon’.