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Judo Game Rules and Judo Scoring

Learn how to follow the Olympic rules of judo contests. This guide explains the basics of judo rules for scoring and judging international tournaments.

RULES OF JUDO: Judo is one of the most modern of all Japanese martial arts. It was originally developed around the early 1880s in Japan.

The traditional rules in judo techniques and its adaptive traits derive from an older martial art form called jujitsu.

Some rules for judo may seem a little confusing to the untrained eye. But, the word judo basically translates to ‘gentle way‘.

Thus, this simplified explanation will help beginners score and judge professional contests. The information in this guide comes from the IJF Judo Official Rules Book used in judo tournament rules.

After all, it has now become one of the most popular competitive sports. This came about after it made huge waves at the All-Japan Judo Championships in 1930.

Judokas became even more popularized two years later. That is when the rules of judo made their first formal appearance at the Los Angeles Olympics (as an exhibition sport).

Judo game rules became an official Olympic sport for men when Tokyo hosted the Games in 1964. The same thing occurred for women at Barcelona in 1992.

Judo Rules and Regulations

Aim of Judo Regulations

The aim of judo, as a competitive sport, is to beat your opponent on points. Competitors try to achieve a higher judo score – whilst displaying honour and grace.

Rules of Judo Competition Area

A judo competition takes place on a mat called ‘tatami‘ which measures 14 x 14 meters square. There is also a smaller combat square area of 10 x 10 meters marked inside the perimeter of the mat.

Judo Rules and Regulations used by Judokas in the United KingdomJudo Game Rules for Equipment

A competitor’s gi must be durable enough not to tear or to rip during the battle. When a judoka’s limbs get extended, the gi must be no more than 5cm above the ankles and wrists.

All competitors must wear a belt wrapped around the jacket. They must tie the belt with the traditional knot.

Judo Competitors ‘Judokas’

Each judoka (athlete) must wear a traditional uniform called a ‘gi‘. The gi originates from the kimono and other Japanese garments.

General Rules and Regulations of Judo

  • Judokas (athletes) must bow before stepping onto the mat. They must also bow to each other before and after a competition or a practice session.
  • As a rule, bouts last five minutes in international competitions. Each bout gets won when one judoka gets awarded ‘ippon‘.
  • The player with the highest judo score at the end of the bout gets declared the winner if no ippon got awarded.
  • Rule infringements result in the awarding of penalties. They may be ‘shido‘ for minor faults or ‘hansoku make‘ for major infractions.
  • Four shidos (or one hansoku make) results in the award of ippon to the opponent.
  • Judokas must not use any outlawed techniques which include:
    • Attacking any limb joints (other than the elbow).
    • Punching or kicking your opponent.
    • Touching your opponent’s face.
    • Intentionally injuring the opponent in any way whatsoever.
  • Players must score more points than their opponent to win a bout. Points get awarded for throws or holds. Penalties also getting awarded for various infringements of judo regulations.

Rules for Judo Scoring

Athletes can achieve three different types of judo score in a bout:

  • Ippon: Is the best in that it results in immediate victory. You can achieve it by throwing an opponent in such a way to make them land on their back. Alternative methods of scoring ippon include:
    • Trapping an opponent in an arm hold or stranglehold. It should be to the extent that it forces them to submit.
    • Immobilizing an opponent on the floor for at least 25 seconds.
  • Waza-ari: Is a half point in that the award of two waza-ari in a bout is the same as ippon. Thus, the winner gets declared.
    • Waza-ari gets awarded for lesser throws than those scoring ippon. It occurs by immobilizing the opponent for less than the time required to score ippon.
  • Yuko: Gets awarded for short immobilizing holds and some less effective throws or locks. One score of waza-ari outscores any number of yuko.
    • Even if an athlete has one score of waza-ari and many of yuko, one score of ippon by the other athlete would supersede them all.

There are two types of penalties awarded in judo:

  • Shido: Awarded for minor rule infringements such as stalling tactics or prolonged periods of non-aggression.
    • The first penalty would be a warning.
    • The second giving a score of yuko to the opponent.
    • The third a waza-ari and the fourth, ippon – (hence the match).
  • Hansoku Make: Awarded for major rule breaches or for the accumulation of four shidos. This automatically gives the match to the opponent. It also results in expulsion from the tournament itself if it was for a major judo rules infringement (rather than for four shidos).

Judo Umpires and Officials

As a rule, the contest should get officiated by three referees. Each referee should be of different nationalities than the two competing athletes.

There is usually one referee on the mat with a radio communication system. It connects to the two judges at the table of the mat who assist with a video CARE system. The referees get assisted by scoreboard keepers, timekeepers and contest sheet writers.

Winning a Judo Competition

Judokas (judo athletes) win a match by either:

  • Achieving ippon.
  • Gaining two scores of waza-ari (and hence ippon).
  • Having accumulated more points than the opponent by the end of a bout.

A period of ‘Golden Score‘ ensues in situations where the scores are identical at the end of a bout. This overtime period means the first score of any kind wins the match for the athlete

Hantei (the majority decision of the referee and the two corner judges) decides the contest if the scores are still level at the end of this extra period.

Advanced Judo Game Information


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Olympic Judo Rules and Regulation used by Judokas in the United Kingdom