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What is Judo?

Judo is a highly competitive, Japanese grappling martial art which combines standing techniques such as throws with ground-based techniques such as pins, chokes, and armlocks. It was the first Olympic martial art, introduced at the 1964 Olympic games, and it was the only one until 2000, when Tae Kwon Do was introduced.

Judo was invented in 1882 by Professor Jigoro Kano, who distilled the essential elements of Jujutsu (the traditional martial art of Japanese samurai), focusing on those techniques which maximize efficiency with minimum effort. Professor Kano described his philosophy in the application of ju yoku go o seisu, or "gentleness controls hardness":

"... resisting a more powerful opponent will result in your defeat, whilst adjusting to and evading your opponent's attack will cause him to lose his balance, his power will be reduced, and you will defeat him. This can apply whatever the relative values of power, thus making it possible for weaker opponents to beat significantly stronger ones. This is the theory of ju yoku go o seisu."

Realizing that this philosophy could be applied widely in a philosophical sense, Professor Kano named his system based on the Japanese characters Ju, which means "gentleness," and do, meaning "way" or "path." Thus, when translated literally, judo means "the way of gentleness."

Today, judo has grown to be a popular worldwide sport, practiced by men and women of all age groups for physical fitness, self defense, and sport. Its worlwide popularity has directly influenced the development of other martial arts such as Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Practitioners of judo are called judoka.

How Does Class Work?

Typically class lasts for two hours, with the first 1-1.5 hours devoted to general conditioning, instruction, and refinement of technique. Then, the last 30-60 minutes of each class is reserved for randori, meaning literally "taking chaos," but referring to "free sparring." During randori, players will simulate a match, practicing their technique in a live sparring situation. While first-time students are generally discouraged from participating in randori until they have demonstrated their ability to move and fall properly, randori is an integral part of judo instruction, and all levels of students, from white belts up to black belts, are expected to eventually take part.

If you are attending your first judo class, plan to bring a signed copy of the liability waiver, a bottle of water, and an old sweat shirt / sweat pants. Remove your shoes before entering the dojo (place of intstruction), and introduce yourself to one of the coaches before class starts.

New members of any experience level are welcome to join at any point during the year.

How Does a Match Work?

In judo, a match is started with two players standing and continues until one player scores an ippon, or full point. Ippon can be awarded in five ways: (1) throwing an opponent to his or her back with force, speed, and control, (2) pinning an opponent for 25 seconds with his or her back touching the mat, (3) applying a hold or lock to an opponent's arm such that he or she is forced to submit (i.e. an armbar), (4) choking an opponent to force a submission, or (5) the disqualification of an opponent due to an accumulation of penalties or the use of forbidden techniques.

Partial points may also be awarded to acknowledge the demonstration of proper technique that does not result in an ippon. A half-point, or waza-ari, is the second-highest score that can be earned. Waza-ari may be awarded in two ways: (1) throwing an opponent so that he or she lands partly on the back or fully on the back but lacking one of the three criteria required for ippon (force, speed, and control) , or (2) an opponent is pinned for between 20-25 seconds. The accumulation of two waza-ari by one player in a match results in an ippon.

A third score, known as a yuko, may be awarded to acknowledge the demonstration of techniques that do not qualify for waza-ari. Yuko may be thought of as one-thousandth of a point; although no accumulation of yukos will result in a waza-ari or ippon. Yuko may be awarded for a throw in which an opponent lands on his or her side or for a throw which lacks two of the criteria for an ippon. Additionally, yuko may be awarded for a pin which lasts between 15-20 seconds.

If an ippon is not scored within the time limit of a match (usually 3-5 minutes), the winner is determined as the player who has accumulated the most partial points. For instance, a player with a score of 0-1-0 (0 ippons, 1 waza-ari, 0 yukos) would beat a player with a score of 0-0-3 (0 ippons, 0 waza-aris, 3 yukos). If two players are tied at the end of the time limit, an additional "golden score" round may be played in which the first player to score is declared the winner.

Judo Terminology

Some Useful Japanese Words

Japanese
English
ashi
foot or leg
gari
reaping
guruma
wheel
hajime
begin
harai/barai
sweep
ippon
full point
kansetsu waza
locking techniques
kata
formal exercises
katame/gatame
mat hold
katame waza
pinning techniques
kiotsuke
attention!
koshi/goshi
hip
kuzushi
off balance
matte
wait
nage waza
throwing techniques
ne waza
mat techniques
o
big or major
obi
belt
otoshi
drop
randori
free practice
rei
bow!
seiza
sitting on knees
sensei
instructor
shiai
contest
shime waza
choking techniques
tai
body
tatami
judo mat
te
hand
tori
person practicing technique
uchi komi
'fitting in' practice
uke
person technique is practiced on
ukemi
practice falls
waza
technique
zarei
sitting bow

Counting

Japanese
English
ichi
one
ni
two
san
three
shi
four
go
five
roku
six
shichi
seven
hachi
eight
ku
nine
ju
ten

Pronunciation

Japanese
English
a
ah (baa)
e
eh (metal)
i
ee (knee)
o
oh (stove)
u
oo (tool)

 


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