This is a brief introductory guide to judo tournaments for beginners, spectators and parents.

Start of a Contest

rules Tournament Guide Prior to a judo contest (shiai) one contestant is assigned a blue sash to wear in addition to their obi (belt) and/or they will be asked to wear a blue Judogi. After the contestants have bowed and stepped forward, the referee announces hajime (begin) to start the contest.

Scoring a Contest


  • Ippon (full point)
  • Waza-ari (almost ippon, half point)
  • Yuko (almost waza-ari)


  • Hansoku-make (very serious violation, disqualification)
  • Shido (minor violation, warning the first time, then increasing score for the opponent each time)


In Judo competition the objective is to score an ippon (one full point). Once such a score is obtained the competition ends. An ippon can be scored by one of the following methods:

  • Executing a skillful throwing technique which results in one contestant being thrown largely on the back with considerable force or speed.
  • Maintaining a pin for 25 seconds.
  • One contestant cannot continue and gives up.
  • One contestant is disqualified for violating the rules (hansoku-make).
  • Applying an effective armbar or an effective stranglehold (this does not usually apply for children).
  • Earning two waza-ari (half point). A waza-ari can be earned by: 1) a throwing technique that is not quite an ippon (for example the opponent lands only partly on the back, or with less force than required for ippon); 2) holding one contestant in a pin for 20 seconds; or 3) when the opponent violates the rules (shido) three times.

If the time runs out with neither contestant scoring an ippon, then the referee will award the win to the contestant who has the next highest score. For example, a contestant with one waza-ari would win against an opponent who scored 4 yuko.


Waza AriYukoWaza AriYuko

There should be one or two scoreboards to show the state of play. Because in Judo it is always the highest quality score that wins, the score-board is laid out left to right to show the scores like a number.

Looked at in this way, the score is 10 to 3: white’s single waza-ari beats the lesser quality of blue’s 3 yuko. The Ippon score is not shown on the scoreboard because there can only be 1 Ippon and scoring it ends the match.

Basic Judo Referee Signals
(Learn more about Referee Signals)

shiai1 Tournament Guide

Ippon (full point): Opponent is thrown on the back with force, or held under control on the mat for 25 seconds.

shiai2 Tournament Guide

Waza-ari (near ippon): Throw is not completely successful, or opponent is held under control for at least 20 seconds.

shiai3 Tournament Guide

Yuko (almost waza-ari): Throw is partially successful, or opponent is held under control for 15 to 20 seconds.

shiai5 Tournament Guide

Osaekomi (mat hold begins): Opponent is held under control on his or her back and the time starts.

shiai6 Tournament Guide

Matte (stop): Match is stopped temporarily and the time clock pauses.

What to Expect at a Judo Tournament

The Competition Judogi

The Competition Area

Tournament and Event Calendars

ju Tournament Guide

“The main object of Judo lies in this point. It seeks to augment human strength, morality and intellect by human means and efforts. It tends to train young people in the habits and condition conducive to the accomplishment of great undertakings.” –T. Shidachi, April 29, 1892