Olympic Preview: Judo

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

First Olympic Appearance: 1964 (men); 1992 (women)

by Mike Morrison and Mark Zurlo

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Did You Know?
Despite the fact that judo means, "the gentle way," it is the only Olympic sport where choking and breaking an opponent's arm is legal.

Wierdest Rule:
According to the rulebook, judoka must "be clean and have dry skin and short finger nails and toe nails. They must also be free from body odor."


While many other martial arts focus more on punching and kicking, judo is a mix of strength, flexibility, and using a competitor's strength, weight, and momentum against him or her. Technique and balance, rather than power, is the key.

Men's judo contests last a maximum of five minutes, while women's last a maximum of four. To win the contest a judoka (or competitor) must score an Ippon (10 points) by using a successful technique. Lesser scores such as waza-ari (7 points), yuko (5 points) and koka (3 points), can be awarded when a technique does not warrant an Ippon. Two waza-ari add up to an Ippon. Yuko and koka do not add up. Athletes may also receive penalties. The winner is the athlete who has scored the greatest points at the completion of five minutes.

[The "Golden Score" rule will be used for the first time at the 2004 Olympic Games.] In cases that the match has no winner after the five-minute period, the referee will extend the match for an extra five-minute period with the score returning to zero. The athlete who scores the first point wins the match.

Both the men's and women's competitions are broken up into seven weight classes each. The classes are—extra lightweight (the limit is 132 pounds for men, 106 for women), half lightweight (143 and 115), lightweight (157 and 123), half middleweight (172 and 134), middleweight (190 and 146), half heavyweight (209 and 159), and heavyweight (over-209 and over-159).

The judo competition in Beijing will be held August 9 to 15 at the University of Science and Technology Beijing Gymnasium. The arena will hold 8,024 spectators, and after the games will continue to host sporting events, as well as cultural activities and art performances.

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