by Elie A. Morrell, Shichidan


The introduction of the ‘Golden Score’ in judo competition was initially adopted in late 2001 and early 2002. Most competition during this time period used the golden score procedure and awarded a win to the tori for a successful osaekomi that reached the 10 second mark.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) provided little guidance during this time period with regard to the application of the golden score procedure.

What eventually ensued were deliberations on how to apply the golden score procedure during team contests or round robin tournaments where the accumulation of points was the primary consideration for overall wins.

In tournaments where point accumulation is the deciding factor, an ippon win merits the maximum number of points. A koka merits the least amount of points. Therefore, in golden score matches the decision was made that obligated the tori to attempt to maintain an osaekomi for the full 25 seconds even though a koka score or higher had been attained.

The issue was finally resolved in October of 2002 by the IJF with the concurrence of the U.S. Referee Commission. The decision stipulated that there were to be no exceptions.

The golden score procedure was formally implemented in January of 2003.

An additional area which needed to be resolved involved was what to do if the tori committed a prohibited act at some point after the 10 second mark was reached during an osaekomi, but prior to the 25 second mark. In this instance, the uke is declared the winner.

The rationale for declaring the uke the winner is based on the fact that when the golden score procedure is used for a match, the win is based on “the first called score”. After the prohibited act is committed, the referee calls matte and returns the players to their starting positions. The referee then penalizes the tori for the prohibited act, announces soremade and awards the win to the other player. Whatever scoring mark was reached by the tori between the 10 and 25 second time interval is of no consequence since it was never officially called by the referee. A strange new way of doing things!

If the uke should attempt and manage to escape from an osaekomi after the 10 second mark but prior to the 25 second mark, he would automatically lose the match. The referee would announce toketa followed by matte. The players would then go to their starting positions and the referee would announce the appropriate score and then call soremade. The referee would then indicate that tori was the winner.


The most significant handicap imposed on the uke after having been pinned for 10 seconds or more is the forfeiture of the match if an escape is attempted and successful. It is reasonable to assume that if the uke is aware of the consequence of an escape after the 10 second mark has been reached, no attempt to escape will be made. This handicap would be common at all levels of competition.

Handicaps can be classified in accordance to the age groups that are competing. The designation of the age groups are arbitrary and are called the minimum, intermediate and maximum handicap levels.

Minimum Handicap Level

This uke has no restrictions regarding attacking with techniques from any of the waza groups. In an osaekomi situation this player can, after the 10 second mark is reached attack with either shime waza or kansetsu waza. No attempt to escape the osaekomi should be attempted between the 10 and 25 second marks. An escape results in loss of the match. An attempt to apply a shime waza or a kansetsu waza without disturbing the osaekomi can be difficult. Also, the type of osaekomi in effect will influence the type of attack that the uke may attempt.

Intermediate Handicap Level

The uke can only attack with shime waza techniques because of either age and/or rank restrictions. Otherwise, the same conditions apply to this player as the player in the minimum handicap level.

Maximum Handicap Level.

This uke has no alternative attacks that can be attempted for the conditions discussed for the uke in the minimum handicap level group. This level is representative of junior players who are restricted from using shime waza or kansetsu wazabecause of age. If a player at this level fails to escape from an osaekomi before the 10 second mark is reached, he automatically loses the match.


When the golden score procedure was first used in judo competition and the 10 second mark was reached in an osaekomi, the match was over and the tori was the winner. The outcome was appropriate and made sense since it adhered to written IJF judo contest rules. Historically, when new changes have been made to the contest rules, things were simple at first. What typically follows are the “what ifs”or some items that should have been thought of before the change(s) were implemented in judo contests.

In the case of the golden score,the business of team contests and round robin should have been noticed prior to implementing it in judo competition. The same goes for the case where the tori commits a prohibited act during an osaekomi call between the 10 second and 25 second marks. Both of these situations came up after the fact.

What apparently has gone unnoticed are the handicaps to the uke during the application of the golden score procedure. This oversight seems to be far more significant than the two items discussed in the previous paragraph.

It seems that in all fairness to the total judo community, that a return to the initial method of a win for the tori when the 10 second mark is reached during an osaekomi would be very prudent. If this is not feasible, then as a minimum, the golden score should never be allowed to be used in junior contests.

Finally, to bring home the point, it is suggested that judo players engage in the following procedure: Have a player allow you to secure an osaekomiundisturbed for 10 seconds. Then ask the player to attempt an attack without disturbing the osaekomi. Uke will notice that he isfaced with a situation that he undoubtedly has never practiced before. That is, attempting to make an offensive move against an osaekomi without being able to disturb it, for in doing so, the consequence is the loss of a match.

The conclusion that has to be drawn regarding a golden score match where tori has succeeded in overcoming the uke with an osaekomi for at least 10 seconds is that it is a Win/Win situation every time! Once you have attempted to practice the above procedure I believe you will arrive at the same conclusion. In a judo contest, a call of toketa is most likely to precede any successful offensive move by the uke after the 10 second mark has been reached.

daisho Golden Score Handicaps