I'm quite interested in the conversation between Judo & Jujutsu, and Judo and BJJ, and was inspired by this question to inquire about the contemporary Kodokan curriculum.

  • What is the scope of the contemporary Kodokan curriculum?

Is it purely focused on competition Judo, or does it include techniques not utilized or allowed in the modern sport, and which pre-date Olympic Judo?

Also, is there a division between Judo schools in general re: focus on competition vs. focus on real world combat? I'm not a judoka but have always loved the art, love watching it, and was advised that it is a "complete martial art" in the sense of having applications for any situation.

  • 2
    I think you should train judo as soon as possible. I once asked a lot of similar questions about judo (on a different forum), and it was fantastic when I bit the bullet and joined a dojo. Nov 12, 2020 at 8:25
  • @DaveLiepmann too old to be competitive and I already have 30 years in with an art that focuses on superior leverage with a better teacher than I'd have access to if I started up with another art. (But I'm quite happy to see Harrison owning the competition, b/c she had more to lose by entering MMA than any competitor in the history of the sport:)
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 14, 2020 at 1:59

2 Answers 2


The Kodokan curriculum is not purely focused on sport competition, but modern practitioners frequently ignore non-sport elements.

The Kodokan Judo curriculum includes basics, techniques, and kata. These are internationally standardized, and rank is determined based on evaluation of these skills. Everyone studies basics and techniques. Competitors frequently ignore kata, while those who believe in judo as a martial art often study some kata.


  • postures
  • falling
  • walking movements
  • turning movements


  • throws (nage)
  • pins (osaekomi)
  • chokes (shime)
  • joint-locks (kansetsu)

Throws are also studied with counters (gaeshi) and combinations (renraku).

Judoka spend an inordinate amount of time distinguishing between techniques.


  • Nage no Kata (throwing)
  • Katame no Kata (ground grappling)
  • Kime no Kata (traditional self-defense)
  • Goshin Jutsu (modern self-defense)
  • Ju no Kata (gentleness/flexibility)
  • Itsutsu no Kata (principles of the flow of forces, from traditional Tenjin Shinyō-ryū jujutsu, preserving one root of Kano's system)
  • Koshiki no Kata (also known as Kito-ryu no Kata, just a set of core techniques, preserving the other strand of origin of Kano's system)

As originally designed by the founder, techniques which are too dangerous to practice in randori are preserved and practiced in kata. These techniques include striking, responses to striking, joint locks against joints other than the elbow, and defending weapons including knives, swords, and pistols.

My personal view is that judo kata is a poor preparation for striking. Many attacks are cariactures; practicing them does not make you a better striker, and opponents should not be expected to be so generous in telegraphing their attacks.

Proficiency in kata is nominally required to advance in rank, though in practice I think this rarely happens. A great premium is placed on competition record for promotion.

Safety and Combat Training

Judo's contribution to martial arts according to the founder was it's emphasis on randori training, where practitioners train in a non-cooperative but relatively safe manner. The set of permitted techniques is intentionally restricted to balance safety with the liveness of full-force techniques. This contrasts with kata, where safety is achieved through prearranged sequences, which was dominant at the time of judo's founding.

No obviously superior method has been developed to improve judo randori's mix of safety and liveness. Other systems (BJJ) believe the set of relatively safe techniques is slightly different, but no method of training unrestricted full force striking on partners exists where the injury rates are acceptable. Attempting to train "street" or "real world" combat necessarily generates more injury risk. Application to combat obviously requires extrapolation, but judo's conclusion to this problem is that it is better to actually train full-force with a restricted set of techniques than it is to simulate using all techniques. Judo displaced its contemporary jujutsu because the randori training method was superior to the alternative

I have never seen a judo school focus on street combat ("real world" combat). There is a division between practitioners who believe judo is purely a sport versus a martial art, but this is at the individual level. Randori is a foundational judo training element due to the injury concerns, even if your intention is to train judo for combat rather than sport.

The way techniques are practiced in their formal setting often differs substantially from the way they are performed in competition. In Nage no Kata, for example, throws finish with the thrower in a superior position: standing, balanced, and with control of the partner's arm to guide their fall and control their movements afterward. To succeed in competition, as long as a throw is scored as an ippon, the match ends. You will often see the thrower roll through and end up in an inferior position, but because the throw is scored an ippon, this inferior position does not matter in the sport setting. This difference is important for self-defense considerations but is not related to the curriculum.

Types of Judo Competition

The dominant form of judo competition is governed by the International Judo Federation (IJF). This shiai competition is the international sport you see at the world championships and Olympics. The rules for IJF judo change every few years.

Other types of judo competition exist:

  1. Kata - Pairs perform for judges and are scored.
  2. Kosen - this alternate rule set results in substantially more groundwork and is practiced at some Japanese universities
  3. Freestyle - Another alternate rule set with different scoring, similar to previous versions of IJF rules where grips on legs were allowed.
  4. groundwork only - appears in local competitions
  • 1
    First, I would like to add that in Japan, Taiso (traditional Japanese exercising - a bit like martial arts yoga) is part of the curriculum. Since the introduction in France, there were 50,000 new members and it is currently introduced in Germany as a formal and independent aspect. From what I understand, many of the individual forms and exercises are known to us from warm-ups etc. Nov 12, 2020 at 9:08
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    That said, Kime-no-kata: traditional self-defence (Goshin-jutsu is supposed to be modern); Itsutsu-no-kata: principles of the flow of forces (from traditional Tenjin Shinyō-ryū jujutsu, preserving one root of Kano's system); Koshiki-no-kata: also known as Kito-ryu no Kata, just a set of core techniques, preserving the other strand of origin of Kano's system. Nov 12, 2020 at 9:13
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    It may be worth mentioning that there are pure groundwork (mostly local ones) and pure kata competitions as well in judo, the latter even up to official world championships. Generally, groundwork is often trained more than competition would suggest, even though obviously not by high-level competitors. In the classical Kodokan curriculum, it is quite a strong part, though. Nov 12, 2020 at 9:19
  • Thanks for the answer. I use "street combat" to refer to real world situations, as opposed to sport competition. (Perhaps I should revise this in the question proper?)
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 14, 2020 at 1:56

Is it purely focused on competition Judo, or does it include techniques not utilized or allowed in the modern sport, and which pre-date Olympic Judo?

To answer in terms of specific techniques: yes, Kodokan waza comprise not only competition-legal techniques, but also:

  • classical techniques involving leg grabs
    (e.g. morote-gari, kibishu-gaeshi, kuchiki-taoshi, kata-guruma, sukui-nage)
  • kinshi-waza: classical techniques banned from randori and competition for injury concerns
    (e.g. ashi-garami, do-jime, kani-basami, kawazu-gake)

As mattm says, while these techniques are forbidden in randori and competition, they are preserved in the form of kata, and many Japanese competitions follow non-IJF rulesets permitting leg grabs.

Note Kodokan waza does not include any other leg locks, neck locks, or small joint locks which pre-date the first formalisation of katame-waza in 1920.

Interestingly, the current Kodokan syllablus no longer contains daki-age, a kinshi-waza previously banned from competition only but as of 2017 has been removed from the Kodokan list of waza entirely.

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