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Judo, in Japanese meaning "the gentle way", is a martial art and combat sport that is characterized by its focus on grappling rather than striking, particularly in the use of throws when standing and submission holds and pins while on the ground. People who train in judo are called judoka, judoists, and occasionally judo players. The places where judoka train are called dojos or training halls, but also clubs, schools, and other names.


Common techniques:

Other techniques:

Phases of combat

Judo theory generally divides the combat that is trained for in judo into two phases: the tachi waza phase, or the standing portion, and ne waza phase, or the ground portion. These ranges are similar and perhaps the same as the clinch and ground ranges of combat as typically seen in mixed martial arts. During a judo match, in the tachi waza phase, a judoka will typically look to throw his opponent for ippon or take his opponent down in order to enter the ne waza phase. In the ne waza phase, a judoka will typically look to submit his opponent or escape back to his feet or stall so that the referee will stand the combatants up in order to re-enter the tachi waza phase. While it is possible to submit an opponent while standing, it is, in reality, much more difficult to submit an opponent who is standing than an opponent who is on the ground.


Training in judo typically consists of drills, randori, or sparring, shiai, or competition, and sometimes kata, or forms. The amount of time spent during training on each of these four methods varies from dojo to dojo as well as from nation to nation.


Drills include uchi-komis and nage-komis, which are typically performed with a partner.

Uchi-komis are drills that have one partner performing the motions of a throw up to but not including the actual throwing. There are also shadow uchi-komis, where the uchi-komi is performed without a partner.

Nage-komis are drills that have one partner performing the entire motion of a throw, including the actual throw.

Ground grappling techniques are also trained through drilling.


Randori is freestyle playing or sparring, where both judoka are attempting to best each other according to the rules of shiai, albeit with less intensity than in a shiai. Usually randori forms the majority of the training for a judoka, although this is not the case in all dojos.

Randori is usually broken down into three types: standing only, ground only, and standing and ground combined. Typically, judoka spend less time on ground-only randori than on stand-up randori, because of the concentration in shiai on wins by throw.

Standing-only randori begins standing, with the goal being to throw the other judoka to the ground. Judoka stop, stand up, and begin again once they end up on the ground. Judoka usually begin standing-only randori not touching each other so that they can fight for grips.

Ground-only randori starts on the ground, with the goal being to force the other judoka to submit using a submission hold or to pin the other judoka for 25 seconds. Judoka stop and go back to the ground when one or both players stand up. Judoka sometimes begin this kind of randori facing each other on their knees, back-to-back, or sometimes in a position, like one judoka pinning the other or one judoka in the other's guard.


Training may also include kata, or forms, although not all dojos practice kata, and the usefulness of kata is often debated amongst judoka. Performance of kata is also often required to receive high ranks.

Judo kata is always performed with two judoka, with one performing the techniques and the other receiving them.

Judo competitions tend to favor wins by throws, and thus typically there is a concentration on training throws.

When training, a judoka wears a judogi, usually just called gi. The modern gi is a quilted cotton jacket and cotton drawstring pants, fastened by an obi, or belt. The obi is usually colored to indicate rank. The jacket is intended to withstand the stresses of throwing and grappling, and as a result, is much thicker than that of a karate uniform (karategi). The first judogi were undied and thus off-white, and then were changed to white as they were dyed. Later, the blue judogi was used in competition in order to distinguish the two competitors during a match. Purists and some Japanese practitioners tend to look down on the use of blue judogi.


Jigoro Kano created judo.

Rank and Belt Colors

There are ranks leading up to black-belt ranks, or kyus, and then black belt degrees, or dans. There are 10 dan ranks awarded in ascending numerical order.

Originally, there were six kyus in reverse numerical order.

On belts, a beginner wears a white belt. The kyu ranks from 5 to 1 are usually yellow, orange, green, blue and brown. The first five dan ranks are signified by black belts. The 6th through 8th dans are signified by a belt with alternating red and white strips. The 9th and 10th dans are signified by a solid red belt.

While technically there is no limit as to the number of dans that can be awarded to any judoka, nobody has ever been awarded anything higher than a 10th dan.

Shiai, Competition, and Self-defense


Judo is popular as a combat sport and is an Olympic sport. Judo competitions tend to drive the evolution of the art, and so changes to the rules of competition tend to affect the way that judo is practiced outside of shiai.

A judo match takes place between two judoka, typically of the same sex and in the same weight class and rank or experience level. The goal of the match is to score ippon, or a full point, by one of several ways:

  • throwing an opponent to the ground on his back
  • forcing an opponent to submit through the use of a legal submission hold, typically on the ground
  • pinning an opponent to the ground for 25 seconds

Shiai rules ban the use of all joint locks that do not target the shoulder or elbow joints. Thus, leg locks, spinal locks, wrist locks, small joint locks, and other submission holds are illegal. This restriction is typically explained that such joint locks are more dangerous than legal joint locks, although the correctness of this explanation has been challenged.

No striking is allowed during competitions, thus requiring competitors to use the grappling techniques that judo encourages.

Kata competitions

There are also competitions for performances of kata, which are judged and scored.

Judo in Mixed Martial Arts

There are judoka, mixed martial artists with backgrounds in judo, and mixed martial artists who cross-train in judo have found success in mixed martial arts. Some high-profile examples are Karo Parysian, Hidehiko Yoshida, Fedor Emelianenko and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.

Judo in self-defense

Judo is often promoted as an effective form of self-defense, as the ability to control an opponent through grappling is a useful skillset in a fight. The actual amount of usefulness of training solely in judo is often debated.