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Judo Olympic Rules Explained (Full FAQ)

What are the judo Olympic rules? How do you win a judo match? Why don’t we see more submissions in judo competitions? In this post we’ll explore some of these basic Judo questions.

Object of Judo

In judo, the goal is to throw an opponent to the ground, immobilize them, force them to land on their back, or in some cases submit by applying a joint lock.


Why Don’t We See More Submission in Judo?:

The reasons why we don’t see more submission in Judo, especially in competition, is because:

  • Competition rules generally don’t allow much time for “newaza” (ground techniques)
  • Referees usually end the match shortly after a throw and limit “ground work”
    • This could be due to lack of submission knowledge from the referees
    • Additionally, since competitors may also be stood up shortly after reaching the ground they usually prefer not to spend as much energy grappling on the ground
  • The IJF (International Judo Federation) seems to have favored the rules more in terms of throws
  • There is also a no leg grab rule that limits some techniques such as double leg and single leg techniques seen in freestyle wrestling which could also limit control on the ground

In judo, scoring points is key to winning a match. You can score points or end a match by throwing an opponent perfectly, gaining an advantage in position to submit, and pinning the opponent for a certain period.

How Does Judo Work in the Olympics?

Olympic Judo competitions will consist of a single-elimination tournament in which the gold and silver medalists will be determined.

  • In the Gold Medal Match, the winner of both tables will advance to the next round.
  • The top eight judokas in each weight class will be seeded to prevent top competitors from facing each other early in the tournament.
  • All other participants will be randomly selected for their spots in the bracket.
  • There will be five minutes of regulation time for all men’s matches and four minutes for all women’s matches.

What Are the Rules of Olympic Judo?

In judo competition at the Olympics, matches consist of two judoka (judo practitioners) competing against each other to score points or throw the other judoka to the ground.

The judoka who scores the most points or throws the other judoka to the ground wins the match.

There are three main ways to score points in judo (these will be explained in the following section):

  1. ippon
  2. waza-ari
  3. yuko

The highest score in judo is an ippon, worth 10 points. An ippon is awarded for a total throw or hold-down that puts the opponent completely off balance and on their back.

If a judoka scores an ippon, the match is over, and they are declared the winner.

Matches in judo at the Olympics are typically 5 minutes long for men and 4 minutes for women, with an additional “golden score” period if the match is tied at the end of regulation time.

During the golden score period, the first judoka to score a point or throw the other judoka to the ground is declared the winner.

Judo at the Olympics also includes a system of penalties for rule violations.

Penalties can be either shido (minor infractions) or hansoku-make (major infractions).

Multiple shido penalties can result in the loss of a match, while a single hansoku-make penalty results in immediate disqualification.

How is Olympic Judo Scored

As mentioned, there are three ways to score in the match; ippon, waza-ari, and yuko.

Let’s walk you throw how to achieve them and what each score means,

Ippon

  • A full-ground throw in which an opponent lands mainly on his back with considerable force and speed.
  • Hold down (immobilize) your opponent for 20 seconds.
  • Submission or force him to tap out.
  • Equivalent to 100 points.

Waza-ari

  • A throw that exhibits force and authority but isn’t clear enough to be an ippon.
  • Immobilizes an opponent for 15-19 seconds.
  • Two Waza-aris end the match. 
  • Equivalent to 10 points.

Yuko

  • Only one of the three ippon elements apply; force and speed of the throw and putting the opponent on his back.
  • Immobilizing an opponent (hold) for 10-14 seconds.
  • Equivalent to a point.

As you watch a judo match, you’ll likely see a scoreboard that displays the various scores each competitor has earned. Each type of score is displayed separately, with a tally for each.

Judo Penalties

In judo, there are two levels of penalties, from most severe to least severe.

  • Hansoku-make: Grave infringement. Disqualification for the offending judoka. Assessable if the opponent is intentionally injured, if he or she behaves unsportsmanlike, or if the rules have been violated repeatedly. The negative equivalent of an ippon.
  • Shido: Slight Infringement. Assessed for any rules violation that does not warrant immediate disqualification. The first three shidos are warnings. If a competitor receives four shido in one match, those shidos become hansoku-makes, immediately ending the match. Examples include non-combativity (the player does not attack enough), intentionally stepping out of bounds, playing too defensively, and putting a hand directly on the opponent’s face.

Judo Etiquette

Each judoka must follow certain rules of etiquette, just as they do with other martial arts. In addition to showing respect for judo’s long history and those who have developed it, including Jigoro Kano (1882) and others, correct etiquette facilitates cooperation and learning.

You bow to show respect for your teacher(s) (sensei) and fellow judo students (judoka).

Judoka needs to be modest; boastful or bullying behavior is not acceptable. Judo players are expected to respect their opponents after a match ends and avoid arrogant displays that may offend others. Judo fighters are expected to remain modest regardless of the result of the match.

Other important judo etiquettes;

  • Except for women (required), undershirts are not worn.
  • Remove all metal objects, jewelry, piercings, and other items.
  • A Judogi should always be kept clean, with short nails.
  • It is important to wear the complete judogi at all times.
  • Some dojos, especially those following Kodokan etiquette, consider it good manners to refrain from chit-chat and walk directly in front of the sensei.
  • Line up footwear along one side of the tatami mats, and step into footwear every time you leave the mat.

General Judo Safety Guidelines

Judo is a dynamic and exciting sport that requires skill, technique, and strategic thinking.

It is a great way to improve physical fitness and develop self-defense skills, and it is enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels worldwide. However, taking precautionary measures for safety is necessary for a physical sport like this.

Here are some of the things you should not do during the match;

  • Do not injure an opponent intentionally.
  • You are not allowed to punch, kick, or strike.
  • It is forbidden to touch your opponent’s face.
  • Joints other than the elbow cannot be attacked.
  • You can’t use kawazu gake and kani basami techniques.
  • No metals during the match, including wedding rings, earrings, hair ties with metal parts, wristwatches, and more.
  • Female judokas must wear a plain white T-shirt. Long hair must be tied in a ponytail or a bun.

How Do You Win an Olympic Match in Judo?

There are several ways a match could end before the time expires, as listed below.

  • Scoring an ippon
  • Scoring two waza-aris
  • The opponent is penalized with hansoku-make (serious violations)
  • The opponent receives four shido penalties (minor violations)
  • An injured opponent withdraws from the match

Judo Submission Rules

In judo, a submission is a technique that forces an opponent to tap out, indicating that they have given up and can no longer continue the match. Submissions are typically used to end a match quickly and avoid injury to the opponent.

In IJF style judo, submissions must be chokes or joint locks at either the elbow. It is not allowed to use knee bars, neck cranks, heel hooks, or wrist locks as submissions. 

Submissions can be applied from standing or on the ground.


  • Competition rules generally don’t allow much time for “newaza” (ground techniques)
  • Referes usually end the match shortly after a throw and limit “ground work”
    • This could be due to lack of submission knowledge from the referees
    • Also since competitors may also be stood up shortly after reaching the ground they usually prefer not to spend as much energy grappling on the ground
  • The IJF seems to have favored the rules more in terms of throws
  • There is also a no leg grab rule that limits some techniques such as double leg and single leg techniques seen in freestyle wrestling

If a submission is applied from standing (or during a throw), it must be done slowly enough for the opponent to tap out before any damage is done. If a submission is applied on the ground, it can be done quickly. If a submission is not applied within 10-15 seconds, both competitors will have to stand up. It’s important to note that if it’s done on the ground and with the opponent’s first tap out, then an ippon is scored, and the match is over.

It is important to note that the rules of judo may vary slightly depending on the competition or organization. It is always a good idea to consult the rules of the specific competition or organization you are participating in.

Other Frequently Asked Judo Questions

How Long is a Judo Match?

All men’s matches will be played for five minutes, and all women’s matches will be played for four minutes.

There are no multiple rounds during regulation time, but if there is no winner at the end, judokas will compete in a sudden-death “golden point” overtime.

After the referee announces the winner, the competitors adjust their judogi and face each other to bow.

Can Judo Win in a Street Fight?

In a street fight, anything can happen, and there are no rules, so it is important to do everything you can to protect yourself and avoid a street fight at all costs.

That being said, like other martial arts, judo can teach you some basic self-defense techniques that might be useful in a physical altercation.

Judo emphasizes using proper technique, balance, and leverage to control an opponent rather than relying on strength or size. It also teaches practitioners to remain calm and think clearly under pressure.

So yes, it can be helpful in a potentially chaotic situation.

However, the best action in a potentially violent situation is always to de-escalate and get away safely.

What Is Judo Weakness?

Like any martial art, Judo has its strengths and weaknesses. One of its main weaknesses is it’s limited striking.

Judo does not place any emphasis on striking techniques, such as punches and kicks – in fact they are not taught in the training room and are illegal in competition.

This means that judo practitioners may not be as skilled at defending against or delivering strikes as those trained in arts that focus more on strikes.

Judo is primarily a ground-based martial art, focusing on throws, take downs, and submission holds.

Hope this has been helpful – thanks for reading and see you in the next one!