Judo, a history

Judo is derived from jujitsu, the art of either attacking others or defending oneself with nothing but one’s own body. Judo breaks down into 2 words, ju (gentle) and do (way or path) or “the gentle way”. 

Having studied the ancient Japanese self-defence forms, Dr. Jigoro Kano integrated what he deemed the best in to his own form and, in 1882, opened the Kodokan, the "place where the way is studied". The definition of Kodokan judo was completed in about 1887 with three broad aims, physical education, contest proficiency and mental training. The techniques were divided into three categories: throws (nage waza), controls (katame waza) and kicks (atemi waza). 

In 1909, Jigoro Kano became the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee, working to spread judo world-wide. In 1923, he started a women's section which focused on technical study and the kata (a formal system of prearranged exercise) but did not allow competition as he considered that dangerous to the health of future mothers. 

In the mid 1920’s, Mikonosuke Kawaishi, a jujitsu instructor, travelled and taught in the USA before moving on to the UK and establishing a jujitsu club in Liverpool in 1928.  In 1931, when it was common for jujitsu instructors to call what they taught, judo, he founded the Anglo-Japanese Judo Club in London and taught judo at Oxford University. In 1936 he moved to Paris, teaching there until he returned to Japan during the 2nd World War. Returning to Paris after the war, he adapted his teaching methods to suit European culture, developing a style of instruction and numerical ordering of techniques he felt was more suitable for the West. This became known as the Kawaishi Method. 

One of the changes Kawaishi is credited with is the introduction of coloured belts to signify the level of expertise of the judoka (student of judo). Beginners wear a white belt, progressing to yellow, orange, green, blue and brown before taking the technical and competitive examination for the rank of black belt, or dan (1st to 10th dan).

The European Judo Union was created in Germany on August 11th, 1932 with representatives from Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Reconstituted after World War II, in 1951 it became The International Judo Federation when Argentina joined. 

The British Judo Association (BJA) was officially established in 1948 as the national governing body for the sport in the UK.

Judo, a competitive sport

Official events began in the early 20th century, with the first European Championships in Dresden in 1934. 

The Kano method had been selected as a demonstration sport for the Tokyo Olympics in 1940, but these were cancelled because of the Second World War. 

Other key dates -

  • 1956 - 1st World Championships in Tokyo (Competition without weight categories).
  • 1964 - Judo included as an event at the Tokyo Olympics.
  • 1980 - 1st Women’s World Championships held in New-York.
  • 1988 - Women’s Judo included as a demonstration sport at the Seoul Olympics.
  • 1992 - Women’s Judo included as a medal event at the Barcelona Olympics.

Judo, a Paralympic sport

It was first included in the Paralympic programme at the Seoul Games in 1988, with Women's events added for the 2004 Athens Games. It is currently the only martial art in the Paralympic programme.

Judo at the Paralympic Summer Games

  • 1988 Seoul, South Korea – 6 events, 9 countries and 6 athletes (all men) participated.
  • 1992 Barcelona, Spain – 7 events, 16 countries and 52 athletes (all men) participated.
  • 1996 Atlanta, USA – 7 events, 19 countries and 67 athletes (all men) participated.
  • 2000 Sydney, Australia – 7 events, 24 countries and 83 athletes (all men) participated.
  • 2004 Athens, Greece – 13 events, 30 countries and 118 athletes (83 men and 35 women) participated.
  • 2008 Beijing, China – 13 events, 34 countries and 129 athletes (82 men and 47 women) participated.
  • 2012 London, UK – 13 events, 30 countries and 128 athletes (82 men and 46 women) participated.

British judo medal winners

  • 1988 Seoul, South Korea
    Simon Jackson - gold in Men's -60 kg
    David Hurst - silver in Men's -86
    Paul Lewis - bronze in Men's -71 kg
    Terence Powell - bronze in Men's -78 kg
    David Hodgkins - bronze in Men's +95 kg
  • 1992 Barcelona, Spain
    Simon Jackson - gold in Men's -71 kg
    Michael Murch - bronze in Men's -65 kg
  • 1996 Atlanta, USA
    Simon Jackson - gold in Men's -78 kg
    Ian Rose - bronze in Men's -86 kg
    Terence Powell - bronze in Men's -95 kg
  • 2000 Sydney, Australia
    Simon Jackson - bronze in Men's -81 kg
  • 2004 Athens, Greece
    Ian Rose - silver in Men's +100 kg
  • 2008 Beijing, China
    Samuel Ingram - bronze in Men's -90 kg
  • 2012 London, UK
    Samuel Ingram - silver in Men's -90 kg
    Benjamin Quilter - bronze in Men's -60 kg

Disclaimer -
Some information from earlier Paralympic Games (i.e. 1960-1988) such as relay and team members are not presented in the IPC source data. Therefore, final results, medal standings and derived statistics may not be complete.
Important note on the definition of participants: Only athletes that appear in the official results books in the section of final results are included in the database and counted towards participant statistics. Data for 2014 and 2016 are accurate. Statistics for previous Games are under review by the IPC.
Important note on competition partners: Competition partners eligible for medals are included in the combined participant statistics until 2014. Statistics for 2016 and beyond consider athletes with an impairment and their competition partners separately. 

How judo has evolved

Video replay technology was introduced at the London 2012 Olympics in an effort to eradicate judging controversies due to the, sometimes difficult, nature of scoring.

Rules of judo

Paralympic judo is a sport for visually impaired competitors only. Those competing are separated by weight divisions, rather than by the severity of their impairment; meaning that people across all 3 categories of visual impairment (B1, B2 and B3) all compete together.

  • B1: This category encompasses no light perception in either eye up to light perception, but there is an inability to recognise shapes at any distance or in any direction. 
  • B2 & B3: Both of these categories involve a low level of usable partial vision, those in the B3 category will be able to see more than those graded as B2. 

A red circle on the kit indicates that the athlete has a B1 level of visual impairment. A yellow circle indicates that the athlete is deaf as well as having a visual impairment.

The rules are the same as Olympic judo aside from the fact that participants must start each fight, known as a combat, by holding onto each other’s suits and must remain doing so for the duration of the contest. 

Until the end of 2016 each men’s combat lasted 5 minutes and each women’s lasted 4 minutes; however, this was changed by the International Judo Federation (IJF) so that all contests, in both the Olympics and the Paralympics now last 4 minutes. This was primarily done to try and encourage more attacking judo. 

Points are awarded for throws, holding techniques or submissions, scoring an ippon ends the contest. If neither competitor scores an ippon, the winner is the judoka (competitor) with the highest number of points, from throws and holds such as a yuko and a waza-ari, at the end of the bout. 

  • Ippon
    An ippon scores 100 and ends the contest.
    Ippon can be scored in four ways:
    Throwing your opponent largely on their back with considerable force and speed.
    Holding down your opponent with Osaekomi waza (holding techniques), who is unable to escape for 20 seconds.
    When your opponent submits tapping twice or more with their hand or foot or say maitti (I give up) as a result of osaekomi waza (holding techniques), shime waza (choking or strangling techniques) or kansetsu waza (arm locks).
    Scoring two waza-ari against your opponent.
  • Waza-ari
    Waza-ari scores 10.
    Waza-ari can be scored in two ways:
    Throwing your opponent but lacking one of the three elements for ippon – largely on their back or with force and speed.
    Holding down your opponent for 15 seconds or more, but less than 20 seconds.
  • Yuko
    Yuko is scores 1.
    Yuko can be scored in two ways:
    Throwing your opponent but lacking two of the three elements for ippon – largely on their back or with force and speed.
    Holding down your opponent for 10 seconds but less than 15 seconds. 

Shidos (penalties) are given for a range of reasons and can ultimately lead to victory and/or disqualification. Collecting four penalties can award victory to the opponent. 

If the scores or penalties are tied at the end of the bout, the bout continues with winner being the first to score, known as a ‘golden score’. There is no time limit during ‘golden score’.

Governing bodies

Visually impaired judo is governed internationally by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA), one of the International Organisations of Sports for the Disabled (IOSDs) recognised by the IPC as the sole representatives of a specific impairment group. 

The British Judo Association (BJA) is the governing body for the sport in the UK.

Regional clubs

The BPA have created an online directory, Parasport, where you can search for and find out about sport and physical activity in your area.

UK Wide
British Judo has a club finder here.

JudoScotland has a club finder here and contact details for JudoScotland Education & Development.

Disability Sport Wales provides a list of clubs.

Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Judo Federation organises Adaptive Judo days, details can be found here.


Judo stories

An interview with blind judoka Ian Rose

Ian Rose talks about the importance of judo in developing his self confidence and identity as a visually-impaired person. Read more

Video still of an interview with Simon Jackson about Blind Judo

An interview with blind judoka Simon Jackson

"Judo lends itself to a visual impairment because it’s tactile. You don’t ‘do’ judo until you’ve got hold of each other, so it’s perfect for somebody like me whose got bad eyes." Read more

Winning Gold at Seoul

Simon recalls what it was like to compete and win gold at the Seoul Games in 1988. Read more