08 April 2020

Getting started – Judo

October 29, 2010

Judo isn’t necessarily one of the first sports you might think of when choosing an activity for it’s fitness elements, however, as a highly technical and competitive combat sport it is slowly becoming more recognisable as the martial art of choice for many women.

JudoJudo star Kim Renicks (pictured below left) explains: “Judo is a fun sport. It keeps you really fit, that’s one of the good things about it, because you’re constantly moving it does help keep your fitness up really high.

“Judo is also a good way to learn discipline because you’ve got to respect the person you’re fighting and after every fight you’ve got to shake their hands, sort of show respect, even if you lose.”

So, it sounds like a pretty good all-rounder to us! Here’s Sportsister’s getting started guide with all you need to know to allow you to check it out for yourself.

What’s it all about?

Judo, which literally means ‘gentle way’, is a Japanese martial art and combat sport. Since its inclusion in the 1964 Olympic Games it has progressed rapidly as a sport and is also thought by some to be an effective educational system in both a physical and moral sense.

With a competitive nature, the aim is to either throw your partner to the ground, immobilise them or force them to submit. There are two main phases of combat, the standing phase and the ground phase, and both require their own techniques and skills.

As a form of exercise judo provides a brilliant cardiovascular workout, promoting health and wellbeing, stamina and overall fitness. Ideal for all ages and abilities, fighters can progress up through the ranks, meaning that goals are realistic and achievable with effort.

The basics

On joining a club the first thing you are likely to be taught is technique, rather than how to compete straight away. After learning the foundations you’ll be shown how to fight and fall safely, to take the shock out of your fall if you are thrown, which will stop it hurting so much!

You’ll then be taught to throw whilst static, which will evolve into fighting with a bit more movement before competing with others of a similar ability and weight within the club.

Each fight lasts a maximum of five minutes, but with effective scoring can last anything from a few seconds to the full five minutes.

As it gets more serious you’ll compete against other women in your weight category. For senior women the categories are 48kg, 48-52kg, 52-57kg, 57-63kg, 63-70kg, 70-78kg and 78kg plus.


The aim is to throw your partner to the ground (on a mat!) on her back in a controlled manner, pin her to the mat for 25 seconds or to force her to submit. Any of these score ippon (one point) which immediately wins the fight.

Overall there are now three types of scoring in judo, ippon, waza-ari and yuko. A waza-ari is awarded for a throw that might not have enough power or control to be deemed an ippon or for a hold of twenty seconds. They are worth a half-point, so two must be scored for a win.

The yuko is the lowest type of scoring and is only really used as a tie-breaker. One waza-ari beats any number of yuko, but scoring a waza-ari as well as a yuko will defeat a partner with only a waza-ari and no yuko.

If the scores remain even after the five minute fight is over a sudden death situation will take place, with the first to score deemed the winner.

But what should I wear?

Fighters should wear a judo suit (judogi) whilst competing. The judogi is a heavy, reinforced suit made up of a jacket, trousers and belt. Female competitors should also wear a t-shirt and many also choose to wear shorts to make changes easier.

Judo suits range in price and you can often rent or pick up second hand kit from clubs, although brand new it can cost from £105 upwards with belts costing around £30-£50.

Your belt is evidence of your ability. Beginners start off on white, and as they develop they move up through the rankings from red to yellow then orange, green, brown and finally black.

Is it dangerous?

We asked the expert! Kim explains: “No actually, judo is meant to mean ‘the gentle way’ so it is not too aggressive. It can get a bit but if you get a clear enough throw you don’t get hurt so when you’re training and you’re doing the throws and you land nicely, it’s quite good.

“You do get a lot of shoulders and maybe knees but that’s over time. You don’t really get injured quite a lot. A few stubbed fingers but that happens in all sports.”

Judo2How will it benefit me physically?

As a cardiovascular workout it works your whole body, improving your stamina, health and overall fitness level. Your physical strength and power will increase as a result of trying to control the movement of your partner, whilst you may find you become more flexible from moving in various ways. The posture and balance of a judo fighter can also improve with physical co-ordination, reflexes and reaction times enhanced.

Is it for me?

The main attributes of a good judo fighter are to be strong and fast, although having a good technique is just as important. Kim explains: “I think it depends because some people win from just being very strong and physical so they’ll win that way and then for other people it’s just very technical so they know how to play the game.”

Fellow judo fighter Sarah Adlington adds: “ Mentality is a big thing I think because it’s tough, like you have to take the knocks, get thrown, pick yourself back up and go again.

“It’s technical, it’s tactical but you need a bit of strength and you need a bit of agility and you need a bit of speed so it’s all round really but I think that’s what makes it so different and it’s an individual thing so there’s only you, you haven’t got to rely on anyone. Obviously you’re working with your coach but it’s just you.”

Sounds intriguing! So how do we get involved?

Where to start?

Learning the basics with a qualified judo coach is important. The British Judo Association is the official Governing Body for judo in the UK and holds a list of registered clubs with qualified coaches so you can be assured that you’re learning from the best. Visit www.britishjudo.org.uk for an up-to-date list of clubs in your area.

For more information visit www.britishjudo.org.uk.

Jessica Whittington, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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