Judo, a history

Judo can trace its origins back to the late 19th century in Japan. Its name means “gentle way”, although the sport is anything but. 

The British Judo Association (BJA) was officially established in 1948 as the national governing body for the sport in the UK. Since there is very little adaptation required to make it accessible for those with a visual impairment, it can probably be assumed that the modified form of judo was being played from early on in its life in this country.

Judo, a Paralympic event

It was first included in the Paralympic programme at the Seoul Games in 1988. It is currently the only martial art in the Paralympic programme.

Judo at the Summer Paralympic Games
1988 Seoul, South Korea
1992 Barcelona, Spain
1996 Atlanta, USA
2000 Sydney, Australia
2004 Athens, Greece – Women’s competition introduced for the first time
2008 Beijing, China
2012 London, UK

British judo medal winners

  • 1988 Seoul, South Korea
    Simon Jackson – gold in Men's -60 kg
    Terry Powell – bronze
  • 1992 Barcelona, Spain
    Simon Jackson - gold
  • 1996 Atlanta, USA
    Simon Jackson - gold
    Ian Rose - bronze
    Terry Powell - bronze
  • 2000 Sydney, Australia
    Simon Jackson - bronze
  • 2004 Athens, Greece
    Ian Rose - silver
  • 2008 Beijing, China
    Sam Ingram – bronze in Men's -90 kg
  • 2012 London, UK
    Sam Ingram - silver
    Ben Quilter - bronze in Men's -60 kg

How judo has evolved

The fundamentals of the sport of judo, and therefore also Paralympic judo, have hardly changed in the 100 plus years since it was devised. Video technology is utilised in order to make correct judgements, and some small tweaks to the rules have been implemented to make it more spectator friendly, but it is principally the same sport as it always has been.

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. 

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. 

A contest is won by one of the fighters throwing the other on their back or forcing a submission, and thus scoring the ippon; or, should neither fighter be able to do this, the one who has scored more points over the course of the contest by administering skillful attacks to their opponent shall be declared the winner.

Governing bodies

The British Judo Association (BJA) is the governing body for the sport in the UK. Visually Impaired judo is governed internationally, including Paralympic tournaments, by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA).

Regional clubs

Judo Scotland

Welsh Judo

Northern Ireland 
Northern Ireland Judo Federation


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