London 2012: Judo

Published On July 12, 2012 | By Arielle Aronson

Tell me about judo:

Judo is a form of martial arts created in Japan in which the goal is to takedown, immobilize or force an opponent to submit. There are three basic categories of techniques in judo: throwing, grappling and striking. A judo competitor can use a variety of the three techniques to attempt to beat an opponent, which happens when the judoka pins his/her opponent to the ground on the shoulder or back for 25 seconds, or when a competitor forces the opponent to submit via choke-hold, strangle-hold or arm-lock. If none of this occurs, the match ends after five minutes.

The Olympic Judo competition will be held at ExCel with 14 gold medals up for grabs (seven for women, seven for men).

What’s up with the scoring?

In judo, there are three types of points: ippon (a full point), waza-ari (a half point) and yuko (less than a waza-ari). There are also penalties in judo, one of which, a hansoku-make, results in disqualification. A shido is a more minor violation, and the competitor receives a warning for the first shido then the opponent’s score increases with each following shido committed by the competitor. The goal of judo is to score an ippon, at which point the match ends. If an ippon is not scored by the end of five minutes and the scores are tied, then the contest enters a golden period at which point the first score of any type wins.

How to qualify:

Athletes qualify for Olympic Judo based on their world ranking in the International Judo Federation. There are seven weight categories for both men’s and women’s judo that athletes attempt to qualify in. The men’s weight categories range from 60 kilograms (132 pounds) to 100-plus kilograms (220 pounds). Women’s weight categories range from 48 kilograms (105.8 pounds) to 78-plus kilograms (172 pounds).

International athletes to watch:

The Japanese tend to be the strongest Judo competitors, which is no surprise considering Japan is the birthplace of Judo. Their 35 gold medals are the most won by any nation in the history of Olympic Judo. France ranks second with 10 gold medals won in judo.

Judo will feature a few first-time Olympic moments this summer. Palestinian Maher Abu Remeleh became the first Palestinian to qualify for the Olympics on his own (without being granted a special invitation or exemption). The 28-year-old trains in Jerusalem and is the son of a judo coach. He will compete as part of the five-member Palestinian delegation at the London games.

Then there is 16-year-old Wojdan Shaherkani is one of the two women sent to represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympics. This is the first time Saudi Arabia has allowed women to compete. Shaherkani will fight in the 78-plus kilogram competition, and while Saudi Arabia mandated that its women would have to wear appropriate dress and not mix with men, the IJF ruled that Shaherkani cannot wear her hijab during the competition and may have to mix with men in the warm-up facility.

Americans to watch:

This summer is one of the most promising for the U.S. Judo team. Women’s judoka Kayla Harrison is the World No. 4 in the 78-plus kilogram weight class and is a contender for gold. Previously, the best finish for an American judoka was a silver medal. On the men’s side, 22-year-old Nick Delpopolo is the United States best hope for a medal, but he stands an outside chance of making it to the podium.

Talk like an Olympian – terms to know:

Judoka – the name for a judo competitor

Judogi – the name for the uniform judokas wear during competitions

Hajime – the command to start the fight

Soremade – the command to end the fight

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About The Author

Arielle Aronson is a sports writer and recent graduate from Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Print Journalism Magna Cum Laude. Arielle has a passion for sports cultivated from growing up with two older brothers. She also enjoys playing the piano, reading and traveling.