Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Having made its Olympic debut at Tokyo 1964, judo returns to the Nippon Budokan for one of the most highly-anticipated events of Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"  

We will show you the rules and highlights of judo in one minute. Whether you are familiar with judo or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.

One Minute, One Sport | Judo

"One Minute, One Sport" will show you the rules and highlights of Judo in one minute


Judo means the ‘gentle way’, but it is a full-on combat sport in which a false move or the slightest loss of concentration can result in defeat.

Judo originated in Japan in the late 19th century, as an activity embracing physical, mental, educational and moral aspects. The founder, Dr. Kano Jigoro, was the first Japanese member of the International Olympic Committee.

Judo was introduced as an Olympic sport for men at the Tokyo 1964 Games. The event took place at the Nippon Budokan. Judo will return to the same venue for Tokyo 2020. The women's events were added to the Olympic programme at Barcelona 1992.

The objective of judo is to throw or takedown an opponent to the ground; subdue them with a pinning hold, or force them to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Athletes (known as judoka) wearing white or blue judogi (judo uniforms) face each other on a 10m x 10m mat and deploy any of the 100 techniques available. These are divided into 68 nagewaza (throwing techniques) and 32 katamewaza (grappling techniques).

The highest score a judoka can earn is “Ippon”, it is the ultimate way to claim victory in the match and is the highest score in judo. After Ippon is scored, the match is over. A judgement of Ippon for a throwing technique puts the opponent on their back with strength, speed and control. If a throw or other technique is successfully executed but all the requirements for ippon are not met, waza-ari (a half-point) is awarded. Two waza-ari's in one match is the equivalent of Ippon. Penalties can also be awarded for passivity or behaviour deemed contrary to the spirit of judo.

If scores are tied, the bout goes into ‘Golden Score' or overtime. The first contestant to achieve a further score wins.

Judoka execute these techniques in the blink of an eye and an athlete behind on points can often achieve a major turnaround in the final seconds of a match. This is a sport where you can't look away for a moment.

Event Programme

  • - 60kg (Men)
  • - 66kg (Men)
  • - 73kg (Men)
  • - 81kg (Men)
  • - 90kg (Men)
  • - 100kg (Men)
  • + 100kg (Men)
  • - 48kg (Women)
  • - 52kg (Women)
  • - 57kg (Women)
  • - 63kg (Women)
  • - 70kg (Women)
  • - 78kg (Women)
  • + 78kg (Women)
  • Mixed Team

Essence of the Sport

Grappling for advantage

Judo techniques are not just about throwing an opponent on the ground. First, the opponent must be put off balance. To do this, judoka grab each other to gain an advantage. A firmer grip in a good position can make it easier to execute a throw.

Grappling techniques are decided from the moment the judge declares osaekomi (a pin) has been established. If the pin lasts over 10 seconds, waza-ari is awarded, 20 seconds results in an ippon.

Shimewaza (chokehold) and Kansetsuwaza (joint lock) techniques can cause injury, so the athlete on the receiving end can signal ‘maitta’ (‘I give up’). If this happens, the other judoka is awarded ippon.

Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games

Developing judo around the world

When judo entered the Olympic programme at Tokyo 1964, Japan won the gold medal in all classes except one. Since then, the sport has spread throughout the world. In the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, 126 nations competed in the judo event, of which 26 achieved a medal. Judo is particularly strong in European countries such as France, Russia, the Netherlands and Italy; across Asia including Japan, Republic of Korea, China and Mongolia; and in Central and South American countries such as Cuba and Brazil.

Judo at the Olympic Games is divided into classes by weight. The lightweight men's (73kg or below) and women's (57kg or below) classes, athletes are known for their speed and agility. They use quick footwork to get close to their opponent to execute a throw. Power and speed are combined in the middleweight class (men between 81 and 90kg, and women between 63 and 70kg). In the heavyweight class (men over 100kg, women over 78kg), victories are often gained by power rather than speed. Recent years have seen heavyweight judoka displaying faster movements since greater body weight alone does not guarantee success.

At the end of 2016, the International Judo Federation  revised its rules to shorten men's matches by one minute so that those for both sexes are four minutes long. Also, judging criteria were limited to scoring only from ippon or waza-ari. For katamewaza (grappling techniques), the time for judging waza-ari was reduced from 15 seconds to 10 seconds. These changes were designed to encourage more aggressive and attacking judo to make matches exciting.

The mixed team event will make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games. In this format, teams of three male judoka (under 73kg, under 90kg and over 90kg) and three female judoka (under 57kg, under 70kg and over 70kg) drawn from the individual competition will join forces to become the inaugural Olympic Judo team champions. Countries with well-rounded men and women teams are expected to do well in this event.