About Judo

Judo is a martial art and Olympic and Paralympic sport.

Judo was devised by Professor Jigoro Kano in Japan.

Judo means “the gentle way”

What is Judo?

Judo is a martial art which was founded in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. It was formed by adapting Ju-Jitsu techniques into a form where the Judo players (or judoka) use movement, balance and leverage to gain an advantage over their opponents.

Judo is comprised of 2 main components: Throwing Techniques and Ground Techniques. While this may seem limiting in terms of variety and options, it is surprising how many ways you can be thrown!

The throwing techniques range from simple trips and sweeps, to more complex techniques which involve throwing your opponent over your shoulder or body.

The ground techniques range from simple hold-downs, to complex armlocks, and even strangles.

As Judo consists of these 2 main elements, it is natural for one to follow into the other, so it is commonplace for a Judoka to throw his opponent to the ground, then to follow them to the ground and attempt to pin their opponent.

Modern Judo consists of further techniques from the original Japanase/Ju-Jitsu techniques. These were introduced to Judo by various countries as they took up Judo. Russia for instance is a particularly strong influence, adding a lot of pick up-style throws to the Judo Range.

As a wise coach once told me, Judo is like a 3-legged stool – its 3 legs consist of: Competition, Randori (Free Practice), and Kata (Formal Techniques). Knowledge of each reinforces the others, and knowledge of all 3 builds the best Judoka.

What age do I have to be to participate in the sport?

Judo is a sport for all ages, from children as young as 4 all the way up to adults in their later years. I know of a number of (very good) Judoka who are in their 50’s and even 60’s!

At Katana Judo Club however, we can only normally accept beginners of age 5+. This is due to health and safety requirements.

Do I need special equipment to participate?

To experience Judo fully, every Judoka MUST have a Judo suit (or ‘gi’). This comprises of a pair of trousers, a thick jacket, and a belt (‘obi’).

For beginners, it is still possible to have a go at the sport without a suit, but as a club we ask that all participants wear tracksuit bottoms (preferably without metal zips etc.), and a long-sleeved top. Bear in mind though that since virtually all Judo techniques involve holding the jacket, your clothing may take some damage!

Aside from the suit itself, the only other restrictions on attire is that all Judoka must be bare-footed, and must not be wearing any jewellery/watches/earrings/hairclips or metal of any kind etc. as these may cause injury to yourself or others.

It is recommended that women wear a bra that has no hard fixings (e.g. a pull-on sports bra).

We also recommend that if you are to wear a t-shirt under your jacket (this is a requirement for women and girls), that the t-shirt be white.

Socks may only be worn in the event of an injury or contagious condition on the foot, which must be notified to the coaches and the sock should be white.

Is Judo a contact sport?

Judo is not a contact sport in the same way that Karate is a contact sport. Judo does not involve any striking or kicking techniques, relying solely on throwing your opponent to the ground and then holding them down.

Since throwing is a major component, we use special padded mats to practice on. These take out a considerable amount of the impact when you are thrown, and we also teach special techniques for falling and being thrown which will further reduce impacts to prevent injuries.

Do I need to attain a certain fitness level to participate?

Judo is a fairly demanding sport, and your fitness level will affect your experience of the sport to a degree. It does not however mean that if you are unfit that you cannot participate. No matter how large or small you are, or how fit you are, there are techniques which you can still perform.

To help raise fitness, each practice session starts with at least a 15 minute warm-up, which is aimed at increasing stamina and general fitness, as well as improve the general flexibility of participants.

What about learning Japanese terms and etiquette?

As Judo originated in Japan, it is natural that virtually all of the techniques have Japanese names. The names do however translate fairly well to English. We teach both the English and Japanese names for all techniques we practice, with an emphasis on the Japanese as this is what is required for grading.

There are also quite a few Japanese terms which are used every day at Judo sessions, and these are important to learn, but you should pick them up fairly quickly.

With regards customs and etiquette, as the Japanese do, we show respect to our Senseis (Teachers), to the Dojo (Practice hall) and to our fellow Judoka (Players) at each session. This is performed by a bow (or ‘Rei’).

Each session starts with a bow when you enter the Dojo, followed by a formal bow while lined up in front of the Sensei.

Each session ends with a formal bow to the Sensei again, and again a bow as you leave the Dojo.

It is also customary to bow to your partner before and after each contest.

Do I need a licence to participate?

A licence is important to have when practising Judo as it also contains an insurance policy to cover you for accidents while practising the sport. A licence is required in order to grade and to enter competitions.

For beginners, we require you to obtain a licence after your first 4 practice sessions with us. Licence forms can be obtained at one of the practice sessions, or completed on the BJA website.

What are all the belts in Judo?

Depending upon your age group, there are different coloured belts available. Generally, any coloured belt aside from black is a “Student” grade, while black is a “Masters” grade

For Seniors (both male and female), there are 6 grades before black, denoted by different coloured belts:-

  • Red – 6th Kyu
  • Yellow – 5th Kyu
  • Orange – 4th Kyu
  • Green – 3rd Kyu
  • Blue – 2nd Kyu
  • Brown – 1st Kyu

Junior grades have the same coloured belts, but have 3 grades (called ‘Mon’) per belt. These are signified by stripes on the end of the belt.

How do I progress and how fast can I reach black belt?

To progress in levels in Judo, you can either be graded within your own club, or you can attend a grading event at another club. Generally a grading event will constitute some form of Randori (free fighting) against opponents of similar grade/size as yourself. You will also be required to demonstrate your knowledge of Judo, including both fighting, ground techniques, as well as Japanese terminology, and for higher grades, Kata (formal techniques). Grades are awarded based upon performance at these events, and your knowledge of the sport.

You can be graded at most once every 3 months, though should you fail to grade at a grading event, you can attempt to grade again after 6 weeks.

At each grading event, you can progress a maximum of 1 grade/belt at a time.

To achieve a black belt in Judo, you must become 1st Kyu, then gain 100 points from competitions and gradings (max 10 points per single contest). Once you have achieved this you must pass a theory exam to demonstrate your knowledge of the sport.

Theoretically then, this means you could get your 1st Kyu in 15 months, and gain your black belt within the next year. That is, with a LOT of hard work, and more importantly good technique.

Everybody progresses at their own speed though, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t reach your black belt for many years, as it will be all the more special when you do achieve it.

What about competitions?

An important aspect of Judo is competing against other Judoka. In the club, we regularly have a Randori (Free practice) session, which allows our members to compete against each other to hone their techniques.

Any Judoka who wishes to compete in a competition can do so if they feel ready, though the Club Sensei may provide advice if they do not think you are ready for a competition at present.

Competitions work in a similar way to gradings, though with a lot more structure, and a lot more pressure on the participating Judoka. Competitions consist of different categories for each weight group, as well as categories for specific grade groups (generally ALL Kyu grades or all Black belts). The most notable difference between the two partitions is that in weight categories, you can be fighting any grade from yellow belt to 10th Dan! Whereas in grade categories, you’ll only be facing people of roughly similar grades, but they can be of ANY size/weight.

Competitions work on a knockout basis, but those knocked out may get a second chance to get a medal (3rd place only though) in a separate knockout called the Repecharge.

Each contest lasts approximately 5 minutes (depending on grade) and ends as soon as one Judoka scores 10 points (or “Ippon”).

If you wish to enter a competition that has been advertised on the club noticeboard, please see Sandra with your license number, age, weight, grade and entry fee.