Judo is a modern martial art and combat sport derived from jujutsu, the hand-to-hand combat technique of ancient samurai warriors. It involves throwing opponents to the floor and holding them in submission.

Qualifying - the Road to Rio

There are 352 qualification places for the Olympic judo competition:

For each of the seven weight categories for men and women, the top 22 men and the top 14 women based on International Judo Federation (IJF) world rankings as at 30 May 2016 will qualify (252 in total), with a maximum of one athlete per weight category for any given country.

An additional 100 athletes will be directly qualified as per the IJF world ranking list of 30 May 2016 based on continental representation – Africa 24 athletes, Europe 25, Asia 20, Oceania 10 and Pan America 21.

Brazil, as host country, is guaranteed 14 quota places, with one quota place in each men's and women's event.

Twenty (20) Tripartite Commission Invitation Places are made available.

The New Zealand judo athletes who will be competing at the Rio Olympics will be announced in mid-to-late June 2016.

Competition at Rio

The judo competition at Rio will be held from Saturday 6 August 2016 to Friday 12 August 2016 at the Carioca Arena 2 in the Barra Olympic Park.

Men and women judoka (competitors) will compete in 14 weight categories.


-60kg (extra-lightweight) men

60-66kg (half-lightweight) men

66-73kg (lightweight) men

73-81kg (half-middleweight) men

81-90kg (middleweight) men

90-100kg (half-heavyweight) men

+100kg (heavyweight) men


-48kg (extra-lightweight) women

48-52kg (half-lightweight) women

52-57kg (lightweight) women

57-63kg (half-middleweight) women

63-70kg (middleweight) women

70-78kg (half-heavyweight) women

+78kg (heavyweight) women

Knock-out tournament

Judoka will take part in a single-elimination tournament after being divided into two pools by a draw. Single elimination means the loser of each bracket is immediately eliminated from winning the championship or first prize in the event (as is the case at a tennis grand slam). The winners of each pool compete for the Olympic gold medal.

Bronze medallists

An unusual twist is that there are two bronze medals. The losing quarter-finalists (four) and losing semi-finalists (two) are placed in a quarter-final repechage system to compete for the bronze medals. The two losing quarter-finalists from the first pool fight with the winner, crossing over to fight the losing semi-finalist from the second pool for one bronze medal. The losing quarter-finalists from the second pool fight with the winner, crossing over to fight the losing semi-finalist from the first pool for the other bronze medal.

"With the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, it was great to see the New Zealand public so wholeheartedly supporting and celebrating the performance of the New Zealand judo team. It was magnificent to see judo bring home five medals, and the inspiration this provided for another generation of kiwi judo kids. Now with Rio, we will have our best athletes fighting in the Olympics, and they will be at the absolute peak of their performance. With the support of the New Zealand public, our judo athletes are looking to create a little magic for us all at Rio." Robert Levy, National Coach, Judo New Zealand

Demystifying Judo

In a judo contest, competitors must try to throw their opponent onto the ground with their back on the floor, immobilise them on the ground for 20 seconds, or force a submission.

Contests last 5 minutes for men and 4 minutes for women, with scores awarded for throws, holds, arm-locks and strangles. The athlete or judoka who scores the highest amount of points wins.

The contest stops immediately if one judoka achieves ippon (the maximum score), two waza-ari (a lower score), or if the opponent either submits or is disqualified. If the scores are tied after 5 minutes (or 4 minutes for women), the contest enters a golden score period when the first score of any sort wins.


A lot of techniques are used in judo, with some 70 odd throwing techniques alone. Techniques can be classed into four categories: throws, holds, strangles and arm-locks.

Throws - there are four categories of techniques:

- where a leg/foot is used to 'trip' the opponent (a leg technique)
- where the opponent is thrown across the body (a body technique)
- where the thrower sacrifices their position (typically by putting themselves in a vulnerable position) in order to throw the opponent (a sacrifice technique)
- where the thrower counters an attack by the opponent by turning the attack to their own benefit (a counter technique)

Holds - there are many variations but in essence:

- to hold an opponent the holder must be on top and have both legs clear of the opponent’s legs
- the different names will typically refer to the different positions of the holder in relation to the opponent (eg, positioned at the head of the opponent or from the side) and to the posture of the holder.

Strangles and arm-locks – also have many variations based on the grip and the position of the initiator in relation to the opponent. 

Stars in the Sport

Best in the world

Not surprisingly, judo has traditionally been dominated by the Japanese at the World Championships and Olympic levels. But as judo has risen in popularity across the world that dominance has given way to a huge array of countries that now vie for the medals.

In the men's competition top judoaks to watch out for include Avtandili Tchrikishvili from Georgia, the very popular Teddy Riner from France, Lukas Krpalek from the Czech Republic, Elmar Gasimov from Azerbaijan and Krisztian Toth from Hungary.

In the women's competition, the judokas expected to be in the medal hunts include Urantsetseg Munkhbat from Mongolia, Kayla Harrison from the USA, Kim Polling from The Netherlands, Yuri Alvear from Colombia and Andreea Chitu from Romania.

New Zealand's best

Our top New Zealand judokas include: Moira de Villers who competed at the London Olympics in 2012, won silver in the women's 70kg at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and is current Oceania champion in her weight class; and Jason Koster who won bronze at the Glasgow Games in the men's 100kg and is also Oceania champion in the 100kg. Both Moira and Jason are very well placed to qualify for Rio.

Adrian Leat and Darcina Manuel are also in contention for qualification for Rio. Adrian won silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in the men's 73kg, and Darcina won bronze at the Glasgow Games in the women's 57kg and bronze at the 2015 Asian Open.

Did you know?

Judo, which is commonly translated as the ‘gentle way’, teaches the principle of flexibility in the application of technique. This is the flexible or efficient use of balance, leverage and movement in the performance of judo throws and other skills. Skill, technique and timing, rather than the use of brute strength, are the essential ingredients for success in judo.

The father of judo, Dr Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), developed the martial arts form known as kodokan judo as a derivative of jujutsu in the 1880s. Kano stressed the philosophical principles of judo, adding methods of physical, intellectual and moral education, and eliminating many of the dangerous parts of jujitsu.

Progression in judo is measured in two ways:
- For those who are competitively-minded there are many opportunities to pit oneself against other judoka in tournaments that are run at local, regional, national and international levels.
- The other way to progress is by a grading system of belts. To attain the highest belt, a black belt, jukodas must progress through six different coloured belts, each measuring achievement in the learning of techniques and their application. Even when the black belt is attained, this is only the first level of black belt or '1st DAN'. DANs are awarded up to 10th DAN, although there are only two or three living judokas who have been awarded the 10th DAN.

The highest grade awarded in New Zealand to date has been an 8th DAN. Currently there are three living 8th DANs in New Zealand.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the grade of the 8th DAN.

Few Olympic sports have such a wide spectrum of countries competing and medalling as judo. Even Japan, which used to maintain a firm grip on the top ranks of judo, must battle with a United Nations' rainbow of worthy competitors.

Judo is one of the most global sports at the Olympics, with over 200 countries represented in the IJF and around 120-130 competing at World Championships.

At the 1964 Tokyo Games, when Japan was dominant in world judo, Anton Geesink from The Netherlands stunned the hosts by winning an historic judo gold in the open-weight division.

In France judo is one of the top four participation sports – along with football, tennis and horse-riding – and judo competitions are hugely popular spectator events with crowds of around 13,000 attracted to World Championships held there.

The term 'kodokan' breaks down into ko (lecture, study, method), do (way or path), and kan (hall or place); thus it means 'a place to study the way'. Similarly judo breaks down into ju (gentle or soft method) and do (way or path) or 'the soft way', which in loose translation means using the opponent's strength against them. 

Judo Terminology

Judoka - A practitioner of judo.

Tatami - Japanese mat that judo is practised on. The contest area is 8x8m, with a minimum 3m safety area all the way around.

Judogi - Judo uniform, which is constructed to withstand the pulling and tugging that occurs while fighting.

Waza - Judo techniques:
     nage-waza – throwing techniques
     katame-waza – grappling techniques.

Ippon - One point scored in a single manoeuvre to win a bout by: throwing the opponent onto their back with force, speed and control; holding an opponent for 20 seconds; or gaining submission to a strangle hold or arm-lock.

Ouchi-gari, uchi-mata and seoi-nage - The three popular throwing techniques:
     ouchi-gari - the thrower hooks their leg inside the opponent’s adjacent leg (eg, right leg to inside of left leg) and throws the opponent towards the opponent’s rear.
     uchi-mata - a hip throw in which the thrower’s leg catches the inside of the opponent’s leg to throw the opponent in a forward direction.
     seoi-nage - the thrower turns their body in front of the opponent so that both are facing in the same direction, and then the thrower loads the opponent up on their shoulders and throws over the shoulders. 


1880s - Dr Jigoro Kano from Japan developed the martial arts form known as kodokan judo as a derivative of jujutsu.

1882 - Dr Kano opened his first school, or dojo, in Japan.

Late 1890s - Judo was first introduced to London, and in the early 1900s was first taught in the USA.

1956 - Judo's international profile was boosted by the introduction of the World Judo Championships, but for men only.

1964 - Judo made its first appearance at the Olympic Games in in Tokyo. However, it was not included in the Olympic programme in 1968 in Mexico City, but returned at the 1972 Games in Munich and has been at every Games since.

1980 - Women's World Judo Championships first held.

1987 - Men's and women's World Championships were combined.

1992 - Women's judo was added to the Olympic Games in Barcelona.

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Judo Games History