The two competing Judokas, one in a white and one in a blue uniform, compete for five minutes. However the contest may end in just a few seconds if a judoka scores an ippon by using a successful technique. If neither of the judokas completes an ippon by the end of the game, the winner is the competitor who scores the greatest value point. If no score is recorded or both competitors are equal at the end of the five minutes, the bout is extended and may end with the first score earned: ‘the Golden Score rule‘. The object of the sport is to dominate an opponent by using superior throwing, grappling, stranglehold, or arm-lock techniques.
Judokas fight on a square mat of 64 square metres surrounded by a safety zone. At the beginning and at the end of a match, opponents bow to one another, which is the traditional Japanese sign of greeting and respect.
A team of two judges and one referee score the match, using Japanese terms Ippon, Waza-ari, Yuko and Koka. The majority vote determines the decisions.
Ippon: A competitor scores Ippon (immediate win) by executing a throw that hurls an opponent flat on his or her back with considerable force, speed and control. A win by Ippon can also be achieved by holding one’s opponent down on his/her back for 25 seconds, after the referee announces the hold applied is permissible, or by forcing an opponent into submission by means of a grappling technique, arm lock or stranglehold.
Waza-ari (almost Ippon): Waza-ari is awarded for a throw executed with control, but lacking one of the required elements for Ippon. Waza-ari is also awarded for holding down an opponent for at least 20 seconds, but less than 25.
Yuko (almost Waza-ari): Yuko is awarded for a throw executed with control, but lacking two of the required elements for Ippon. A Yuko is also awarded for holding down an opponent for at least 15 seconds.
Koka (almost Yuko): Koka is awarded when a Judoka throws his or her opponent to the ground on the shoulder, hip or buttock, using force, speed and control. A Koka is also awarded for holding an opponent down on the ground for no less than 10 seconds.
The match ends when one of the Judokas scores an Ippon or two Waza-ari. An unlimited number of Yuko and Koka can be scored. However, one Waza-ari in the match beats any number of Yuko and Koka, and one Yuko beats any number of Koka. If, at the end of regulation time, the score is tied, the opponents fight an additional five-minute round. The first point or penalty determines the winner. Combat is halted immediately after the first point is scored. If the tiebreaker goes to five minutes without a score or penalty, the judges decide the outcome.
All of the Olympic judo events, seven for men, seven for women – are played in a knockout format. The winners of each contest qualify for the next round, while the two finalists go head to head in the gold medal contest. The defeated quarter-finalists compete in two ‘repechage’ contests, and the winners go up against the two defeated semifinalists in determining the winners of the two bronze medals in each event.