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Rules of judo


A judo bout is a match between two opponents, or judoka, trying to score either by throwing the opponent or by applying a legitimate hold that makes the opponent submit or immobilises him or her for a specified time. The first judoka to score one point wins the contest.

Bouts last five minutes for both men and women. If neither person has scored a point by the end the winner is the contestant who scores half a point. If both or neither scores half a point, the winner is determined by who has accumulated the most credits, counted in koka and yuko.

Although neither results in actual points a yuko is awarded if two elements of a throw are missing or a judoka pins an opponent for 15 to 19 seconds. A koka is awarded if three elements of a throw are missing or if the opponent is pinned for 10 to 14 seconds.


One point can be scored and therefore the bout won by pulling off a good throw. Immobilising an opponent with a legal move for 25 seconds or forcing them to submit during a move such as an armlock can also end the contest.

Winning by a point in judo is called an ippon. To achieve an ippon with a throw, it must meet four criteria. The opponent must be thrown mainly onto his or her back, and the throw must be made with control, force and speed.

It is also possible to accumulate moves of a half point value to achieve the necessary point. A half point is called a waza-ari, and is awarded when a judoka almost scores an ippon. When it is awarded after a throw it means three of the four criteria were met, or if awarded following a hold it means it was only held for 20 seconds.


Penalties can lead to the credits and points being awarded. The smallest offences lead to koka, the more significant to yuko. More serious offences may result in hansoku-make, which means an ippon is awarded against the transgressor, but the referee must confer with the judges before awarding such a penalty.

Other rules
  • At the beginning and end of each bout, the two judoka must bow to each other and the contest area.
  • Judoka must be clean and have dry skin and short nails on both feet and hands. They also must be free from body odour!
  • A judoka in a hold submits by tapping twice on the mat with a hand or foot. Punching or putting a hand, foot, leg or arm on an opponent's face is prohibited.
  • Judoka are not permitted to bend back an opponent's fingers to break a hold. If an injury serious enough to end the bout occurs, and an opponent is clearly to blame from an illegal move, they will lose the bout
  • Judoka may not make derogatory remarks or gestures to their opponents.
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