• Katharina Haecker stands in front of the Olympic rings (Katharina Haecker)Source: Katharina Haecker
Judo may mean ‘the gentle way’ and reflect a moral code which demands politeness, courage, self-control and respect, but the four minutes bouts can be as physically demanding as boxing and wrestling.
Erin Byrnes

SportSister, Australian Olympic Committee
8 Aug 2016 - 8:36 AM  UPDATED 8 Aug 2016 - 8:36 AM

The sport is all about strength, speed and control, while also requiring the mental agility to quickly spot and exploit your opponent’s weakness.

Basic rules

Judo contests are fought on a mat, or tatami which is 14m x 14m, with a smaller contest area of 10m x 10m marked inside it. 

At the start of each contest, the athletes stand four metres apart, facing each other on the tatami. The referee gets the contest underway by shouting ‘Hajime!’ and stops it by shouting ‘Matte!’

Two judokas gain points for throws and holds in a bid to beat their opponent. A contest lasts a maximum of five minutes for men and five minutes for women, and the athlete with the highest score is the winner. 

The best score is ippon, which can be achieved for a throw, a hold, a strangle or an armlock, and results in immediate victory. 

Other scores are waza-ari and yuko. These depend on the type of throw or how long a judoka can immobilise his/her opponent.

Fighters compete in events determined by their weight.

Who are we cheering for?

Chloe Rayner (-48kg), Miranda Giambelli (-78kg) and Katharina Haecker (63kg) will all hit the mat for Australia in Rio. All three were either born overseas, or have competed for other countries before, making it a truly mulitcultural team.

An Italian, a German, and a Brit all walk onto an Australian judo mat...
Australia’s judo team for Rio features three women that were either born overseas, or competed for other countries.

Who’s going to clean up?

Japan is a huge judo nation, as the sport originates from the Japanese martial art Jujitsu. Since the sport became a firm fixture on the Olympic programme, Japan has dominated the medal table.

Jargon buster

Judoka: An expert or practitioner of judo

Dojo: Practice hall

Rei: Bow

Hajime: The referee’s command to start a judo fight

Soremade: The referee’s command to end a judo fight

Judogi: A judo uniform

(Not so) fun fact

Women’s judo wasn’t introduced to the Games until 1992 in Barcelona.

Olympic history

Australia has competed in every Olympic judo competition since it was introduced in 1964, for two bronze medals. Maria Pekli scored a third in the women's 59 kilogram category at Sydney

2000. In the women's judo demonstration event at Seoul 1988, Suzanne Williams won a gold medal, but unfortunately it didn’t count towards Australia’s medal tally.


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This guide was put together with help from sportsister.com