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A rookie's guide to Judo

By UofGathleteGraham 21 Mar 2016

Judo or ‘the gentle way’- is an individual sport, classed as a martial art.

Originating in Japan from 1882, it has been recognized as a national treasure and is now classified as an Olympic sport.

What is often forgotten is that Judo is a relatively theoretical sport, focusing on spiritual self-improvement and virtuous principles. The founder, Jigaro Kano, based Judo upon the principle that:

 'One should find maximum efficiency with minimum effort.'

Nonetheless, while there is a deep tradition of Eastern philosophy underpinning the martial art, Judo is essentially a highly competitive sport.

Often classed as a grappling sport, the objective is to score more points than your opponent. This is done through throws or pins, and penalties awarded for infringements. A victory can also be achieved by submission by strangling or choke or an arm lock. 
Like many other sports, there is a sense of formality regarding uniform where all players must wear a judo suit, or a ‘Gi’. It consists of a jacket, drawstring trousers and a belt, or an ‘Obi’. Typically, tougher suits are preferred as they are harder to grip, making it harder for your opponent to take dominant grips against you.

The order of obis starts from a spectrum of light to dark of eight belts (i.e. white, red… brown then finally black). Belts are awarded for knowledge up to brown belt, however, the black belt must be fought for to be awarded. ‘Dan’ grades can be achieved after the black belt is awarded, going up to 12th dan, however, the highest ever achieved is 10th dan.

Additionally, there are 3 types of scores awarded during a judo contest...

  • Ippon’ - the highest score possible, resulting in instant victory. This is achieved by throwing an opponent in such a way that they land flat on their back. Other ways to score an ippon is by pinning an opponent on their back for 25 seconds or forcing an opponent to submit by trapping them in a strangle/choke or an arm lock.
  • Waza-ari’ is the next best score, two waza-aris add up to give an ippon and will result in victory. A waza-ari is awarded when an opponent is thrown with control and accuracy but does not land straight on their back, more so when they land on their side but closer to their back than side. Waza-ari is also awarded when an opponent is pinned for 20 seconds
  • 'Yuko' is the lowest score available and is awarded when an opponent is thrown on their side or when an opponent is held down in a pin for 10 seconds minimum.

Contests can also be won or lost on penalties, a 'shido' is the lowest form of penalty and is awarded for passivity, prolonged periods of not attacking or not engaging an opponent (eg. backing off). The outcome of a contest is only decided by shidos when both competitors are equal on score. The accumulation of 4 shidos results in a hansoku-make, which is an immediate disqualification from the contest. Hansoku-make is also awarded for a serious offence, against the spirit of judo. Any grips below the belt, known as leg grabs are also given hansoku-make.

Essentially, Judo is important to me as it combines great fitness, physicality and safety, unlike some other sports. Judo encompasses various physical skills such as speed, balance, strength, power and agility.

Nevertheless, what makes Judo so unique is its focus on the individual, allowing one to stand out and participate within their own realm.

- Graham Malley


UofGathleteGraham is started judo when I was 7 years old and is a member of Northern Irish Squad.
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