Its name means 'gentle way', but Judo is a full-on combat sport in which a false move or the slightest loss of concentration can result in defeat.
Judo originated in Japan in the late 19th century, as an activity embracing physical, mental and moral aspects. Its founder, Kano Jigoro, was the first Japanese member of the International Olympic Committee.
Judo became an Olympic sport for men at the Tokyo 1964 Games, when the competition was staged in the [link to] Nippon Budokan - the same venue that will be used at Tokyo 2020. Women's events were added to the Olympic programme at Barcelona 1992.
The objective of Judo is to throw or takedown an opponent to the ground; subdue them with a pinning hold, or force them to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Athletes (known as judoka) wearing white or blue judogi (judo uniforms) face each other on a 10 x 10 metre mat and deploy any of the 100 techniques available. These are divided into 68 nagewaza (throwing techniques) and 32 katamewaza (grappling techniques).
The highest score a judoka can earn is called ippon or one point, which wins the four-minute match. A judgment of ippon for a throwing technique requires strength and speed that lays the opponent on their back. If a throw or other technique is successfully executed but all the requirements for ippon are not met, waza-ari (a half-point) is awarded. Penalties can also be awarded for passivity or behaviour deemed contrary to the spirit of Judo.
If scores are level and there is no clear winner, the bout goes into 'Golden score' overtime. The first contestant to achieve a further score wins.
Judoka execute these techniques in the blink of an eye and an athlete behind on points can often achieve a major turnaround in the final seconds of a match. This is a sport where you can't look away for a moment.
International Federation: International Judo Federation
- - 60kg (Men)
- - 66kg (Men)
- - 73kg (Men)
- - 81kg (Men)
- - 90kg (Men)
- - 100kg (Men)
- + 100kg (Men)
- - 48kg (Women)
- - 52kg (Women)
- - 57kg (Women)
- - 63kg (Women)
- - 70kg (Women)
- - 78kg (Women)
- + 78kg (Women)
- Mixed Team
Grappling for advantage
Judo techniques are not just about throwing an opponent on the ground. First, the opponent's posture must be weakened. To do this, judoka grab each other to gain an advantage. A firmer grip can make it easier to establish a position of strength and execute a throw.
Grappling techniques are decided from the moment the judge declares osaekomi (a pin) has been made. If the pin lasts for 10 seconds, waza-ari is awarded. After 20 seconds, ippon is declared. In the heavyweight class, it can be very difficult to escape a pin.
Chokehold and joint lock techniques can cause injury, so the athlete on the receiving end can signal 'maitta' ('I give up'). If this happens, the other judoka is awarded ippon.
Developing judo around the world
When Judo entered the Olympic programme at Tokyo 1964, Japan won the gold medal in all classes except one. Since then, the sport has spread throughout the world. It is particularly strong in European countries such as France, Russia, the Netherlands and Italy; across Asia including South Korea, China and Mongolia; and in Central and South American countries such as Cuba and Brazil.
Judo at the Olympic Games is divided into classes by weight. In the lightweight men's (73kg or below) and women's (57kg or below) classes, there are a comparatively large number of active Asian judoka. Athletes in the lightweight classes are known for their speed. They use quick footwork to get close to their opponent to execute a throw.
Power and speed are combined in the middleweight class (men between 81 and 90kg, and women between 63 and 70kg). Besides Japan, men from countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Georgia are known for their strength, while women from France, Japan and Cuba regularly take home medals.
In the heavyweight class (men over 100kg, women over 78kg), victories are often gained by power rather than speed. Recent years have seen heavyweight judoka displaying faster movements since greater body weight alone does not guarantee success. Japanese and French judoka are especially prominent in this class.
At the end of 2016, the [link to: ijf.org] International Judo Federation revised its rules to shorten men's matches by one minute so that those for both sexes are four minutes long. Also, judging criteria were limited to scoring only from ippon or waza-ari. For katamewaza (grappling techniques), the time for judging waza-ari was reduced from 15 seconds to 10 seconds. These changes were designed to encourage more aggressive and attacking judo where ippon would be sought after.
For the Tokyo 2020 Games, a new event category, Mixed Team, has been added. In this format, teams of three male judoka (under 73kg, under 90kg and over 90kg) and three female judoka (under 57kg, under 70kg and over 70kg) drawn from the individual competition will join forces to bid to become the inaugural Olympic Judo team champions. Japan and France are expected to do well in this new event since their judoka in every class are traditionally strong.
How are the weight differences between classes decided?Answer
A：By a process known as sequential classification - or an increase in a value by one each time. For men, with classes at 60kg, 66kg, 73kg, 81kg and 90kg, start at 60kg and add 6 to get 66kg. Now add 7 and you get 73kg. Next, add 8 and you get 81kg. Finally, add 9 and you get 90kg. The women's classes from 48kg are likewise separated by differences of 4kg, 5kg, 6kg and so on.
- Nippon Budokan