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Judo was founded in the 19th century by Jigoro Kano, based on the principles of jujitsu. This sport forbids any form of punching or kicking and relies entirely on throws, chokes, pins, locks and submissions. Indeed, the ultimate aim of a judo match is to score an ippon, which you could compare to a knockout punch in boxing. In a judo class you are likely to spend some time learning different techniques you can use, but also spend time doing randori, or freestyle sparring, fights. These fights are an excellent way to practice the techniques you’ve learned and enter into the art of tactics in judo also. Judo translates into the ‘gentle way’ which, although it sounds ironic, actually refers to the skill of turning your opponent’s strength against them to unbalance them and hijack their momentum.


In judo competition, matches are held in a ring made of tatami mats. These are usually made of foam so as to limit the damage caused by the enforced falling to the floor. Around the ring you will have two timers (people keeping the time of the fight), and two scorers who take down the points awarded. There are three judges, one is a referee who follows the fight in the ring, the other two sit outside the ring and observe the fight. These judges will check that the fighters remain within their matted area, and are called on to settle disputes in point awarding.


In terms of the actual sparring, there are four types of point that judoka can score. To win a fight, a competitor needs to score one ippon, or by scoring two waza-aris which count as an ippon. The other two, lesser, points are the yoko and koka. In a fight, if the time limit runs out before an ippon can be scored, the yoko and koka points are taken into account to decide the winner. There are also penalties in a fight if a competitor fights unfairly or uses illegal techniques. These penalties are called shido, chui, keikoku, and hansokumake.


The uniform for judo include a blue or white jacket called a uwagi, and trousers called zubon. Both are made of a type of canvas that is incredibly resistant to tears. There is also a belt system in judo, which traditionally runs: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and then black. There are also dan grades after blackbelt. All ages and abilities can train in judo as there are different weight classes in competition to cater for all.

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