After watching a number of matches during the Olympics it seemed like a lot of opportunities for submissions weren't even pursued.

In the matches I observed I only saw two legitimate submission attempts; an arm bar and a key lock.

Many times I saw competitors achieve back mount against their opponents, only to instantly let them go, rather than attempting a rear naked choke. Are chokes allowed?

Which submissions are not allowed in competitive Judo?

  • 2
    attempting a rear naked choke is hard. It is easy to defend wearing a judogi. Oct 25, 2012 at 14:46
  • not hard for jiu jitsu or sambo practitioners
    – Tassisto
    Feb 4, 2014 at 7:52

5 Answers 5


Judo's groundwork (newaza) looks strange to someone from a Brazilian jiujitsu, wrestling, or SAMBO background. Its approach is fairly unique to this particular combat sport. Why? Because rule-sets determine tactics.

The basics of judo newaza

Other than throwing the opponent, one can win in judo by pins, arm-locks that attack the elbow, and chokes. Some players get very good at applying techniques within that narrow range. Olympic judoka who have particularly notable groundwork include Flavio Canto, Jimmy Pedro, AnnMaria Burns (now AnnMaria de Mars), and her daughter Ronda Rousey.

The other significant rule is that the match will be paused and restarted standing if there is a lack of progress in groundwork. Application of this rule varies widely across different referees and different levels of competition. For some referees a stand-up could be triggered by five seconds of no movement, despite a choke or technique being applied. For others, up to twelve seconds of inaction is acceptable, and significant attempts at turnovers, pins, chokes, armlocks, or transitions are enough to allow groundwork to continue.

Anti-groundwork biases

There are a number of reasons that groundwork is frequently nowhere to be seen in judo matches at all levels.

Many modern referees allow very little time for groundwork before standing the players up to restart the match standing. Therefore, many elite judoka simply prefer throws to groundwork. It's common for these players to work for the referee's stand-up instead of a choke or armlock, except for one or two scenarios for which they have techniques they are very confident in.

Many players also focus their judo training time on throws instead of groundwork. This means they might eschew groundwork simply because they might end up in a bad position against a player better versed in groundwork. Because the rules allow for stalling on the ground, which leads to a referee's intervention, this is a successful strategy.

It's also common for judoka to view groundwork as more tiring or time-consuming than stand-up work. Many players avoid groundwork for that reason.

Outlawed and uncommon submissions

From the perspective of modern grappling in the vein of Abu Dhabi Combat Club or NAGA, more submissions are illegal than legal:

  • All leglocks are illegal, including heel hooks, straight ankle locks, kneebars, toe holds, and calf crushes.
  • All small-joint manipulations are illegal, including finger locks, wrist locks.
  • Bicep crushes are illegal.
  • Both blood chokes and air chokes (attacking the arteries and attacking the trachea) are legal, but neck cranks are not. In addition, one cannot touch the "mask of the face" of one's opponent, so smothering and many wrestling-style cross-faces are illegal. The triangle choke is explicitly allowed and taught in judo (as the sangaku-jime). However, some referees will disqualify a BJJ-style triangle choke finish where the head is pulled down, on the grounds that the neck is being strained.
  • Shoulder locks are not allowed, but since there is a good deal of overlap between elbow locks and shoulder locks, and it's tough to tell as a third party which one is being affected, they are often allowed by referees. All forms of "arm entanglement" locks (ude garame) are explicitly allowed and taught in judo, making Americanas, key locks, and Kimuras legal. "Chicken wings", where the arm is forced up the back in a Kimura-like fashion, are not legal, since they more obviously attack the shoulder.
  • Straight elbow locks are the most popular submission in judo, and are definitely legal.

Back mount is a particularly interesting case. Since there are no points awarded for hooks, and there is intense time pressure to advance to a pin, choke, or armlock, the calculus for back mount is decidedly different than it is under Brazilian jiu-jitsu or mixed-martial-arts rules. Instead of holding the superior position and waiting for a good choke, it is generally a better strategy to explosively attempt an armbar or collar choke. This is because naked chokes often take longer to set up in the gi, it doesn't help the judoka to stay on the back, and there's virtually no down side to losing the position if the submission attempt fails. Other players, instead of going for the hail-Mary choke, will go for a turnover to a pin, or simply stand up.

  • a solid post, but i really have to disagree with : "It's also common for judoka to view groundwork as more tiring or time-consuming than stand-up work. Many players avoid groundwork for that reason." i don't know anyone who thinks it's more tiring, it really is just the lack of time allowed that deters most judoka from engaging in ground work. And the BJJ style triangle is ONLY called for being illegal if you pull down on the head. lots of bjj people can finish with out that.
    – Patricia
    Aug 1, 2012 at 12:49
  • 4
    @Patricia Here's one to view groundwork as more tiring. Depending on the situation of course. If I know that the opponent is better at ground than in standing position, I'd rather leave the ground.
    – user1221
    Oct 12, 2013 at 9:16

According to the Sport and Organization Rules of the IJF (2019), the following applications of katame-waza are illegal:


  • Joint-locks applied anywhere other than the elbow (i.e. neck, spine,17 wrist, hip, knee, ankle, finger,16 toe locks etc).1
    • The leg-lock ashi-garami is explicitly illegal.14
    • Exception: The twisting lock ude-garami (i.e. Americanas and Kimuras) are explicitly permitted.13
  • Joint-locks applied when both uke and tori are in tachi-waza.2 3
  • Throws which may place the elbow joint in danger where tori deliberately falls face-down.4 5 18
  • Kansetsu-waza where uke's leg is stretched.6 7


In addition to the situations already mentioned (e.g. double-tachi-waza, stretched uke's leg), the following shime-waza are also banned:

  • Strangles using just the fingers9 10
    • Exception: Ryo-te-jime is explicitly allowed.
  • Strangles using the belt9 10
  • Strangles using the skirt of the gi-jacket9 10
  • Do-jime11 15
  • 'Leg scissor' chokes applied to the neck or head11
  • Shime-waza with the legs "assisting the grip" (e.g. in ryo-te-jime)11
  • Strangles which may endanger the neck/spine (e.g. those involving neck cranks).12


  • "It is never allowed to hold an osaekomi just around the head/neck without control of at least one arm."

Citations from IJF SOR:

  1. Direct hansoku-make for acts against the spirit of judo: NOT allowed to continue to the next contest, out of competition... To apply kansetsu-waza anywhere other than to the elbow joint.

  2. A1. Exceptions
    Situations that are not allowed during tachi-waza
    a) To apply kansetu-waza or shime-waza (alone or combined with a judo throwing technique) when both athletes are in a standing position or move with this technique from tachi-waza to newaza (See Article 18).

  3. 29. If both of the athletes are in a tachi-waza (standing position) and one or both apply kansetsu-waza or shime-waza. Mate and shido should be announced. However, if the action is dangerous or can injure the opponent, it will be hansokumake.

  4. To attempt such throws as harai-goshi, uchi-mata, etc., with only one hand gripping the opponent’s lapel from a position resembling ude-hishigi-waki-gatame (in which the wrist of the opponent is trapped beneath the thrower’s armpit) and deliberately falling, face down, onto the tatami is likely to cause injury and will be penalised. No intent to throw an opponent cleanly onto his back is a dangerous action and will be treated in the same way as ude-hishigi-waki-gatame.

  5. 3. To fall directly to the tatami while applying or attempting to apply techniques such as ude-hishigi-waki-gatame (see point 2 above).

  6. Situations where the referee shall announce mate: [...]
    j) When tori applies shime-waza or kansetsu-waza by stretching uke’s leg.

  7. 25. In shime-waza or kansetsu-waza while over-stretching the leg is forbidden: the referee will announce mate immediately and sanction the contestant with shido.

  8. If a contestant (blue) commits a slight infringement and throws his opponent (white) but the latter (white) takes advantage of the situation to continue in ne-waza, the referee must announce the penalty for blue and at the same time allow the action to continue in favour of white until it reaches a conclusion either or score or mate. If blue counterattacks (e.g. breaks the osaekomi-waza and takes over the control, breaks the osaekomi-waza by applying shime-waza or kansetsu-waza) the referee must announce Mate!.

  9. Shido is given to any contestant who has committed a slight infringement:
    To apply shime-waza using either your own or your opponent’s belt or bottom of the jacket or using only the fingers.
    enter image description here

  10. Shime-waza is not allowed with either your own or your opponent’s belt or bottom of the jacket, or using only the fingers. [S]hime-waza while over-stretching a straight leg is forbidden. Special attention will be given to situations: where tori, whilst applying a shime-waza, also over-stretches and straightens uke’s leg. Mate must be called immediately and a shido given.

  11. To apply leg scissors to the opponent’s trunk (dojime), neck or head (scissor with crossed feet, while stretching out the legs). In shime-waza (e.g. ryote -jime) it is forbidden to use the legs to assist the grip.

  12. 5. To make any action this [sic] may endanger or injure the opponent especially the opponent’s neck or spinal vertebrae or may be against the spirit of judo.
    enter image description here

  13. H1.2 Names of Judo Techniques, UGR, TGT

  14. H1.3 Penalties, AGR/P04

  15. H1.3 Penalties, DOJ/P08

  16. H1.3 Penalties, P05

  17. H1.3 Penalties, P38

  18. H1.3 Penalties, P41


Chokes are allowed, and elbow attacks are allowed. Everything else is not allowed.

There is a bit of a grey area when it comes to "key locks" or ude garami, which can put the shoulder in peril, but it also attacks the elbow so is allowed, as well as the guillotine choke which while a choke can also be a neck crank, so some referees will prohibit it.

Most of the time chokes are abandon because ground work progress has to be pretty much instantaneous, so if the defending judoka can keep his/her chin down for 2 or 3 seconds, matte (stop) is called and they are stood back up.


The reason why backmount is very often abandoned, is because in judo, you only have a very little time to get a pin or submission.

Basically, if the situation isn't making progress in about 5 seconds, competitors are commanded to stand up, and continue the match in tachiwaza, standing position.

For this, the rear naked choke is a pretty rare submission in judo, because you don't have much time, and if the opponent doesn't tap out, the match will continue in standing position.

Basically, you're allowed to make arm locks to shoulder or elbow, or even in between. As said, it is very hard for a third party (referee) to know the exact part of arm where the lock is placed. No wrist locks, or any kind of leglocks.

You are allowed to do any kind of chokes, not neck cranks, and a guillotine from head is a neck crank, but if you have an arm in between, it's counted as a choke.

  • 1
    Would +1 for the first 3 paragraphs, but mount does score points, starting at 10 seconds. The only locks that are allowed are those that attack the elbow. Shoulder locks are only allowed if they could reasonably be seen as (or cannot be distinguished from) elbow locks, such as in the case of some forms of ude garami. Jul 7, 2013 at 20:09
  • @DaveLiepmann Sorry for the late response. Yeah, mount does score points starting from 10 seconds, as it's a pin. You're right about the locks, but basically any lock allowed in judo can do damage on the shoulder if executed poorly. I'm updating my answer about the mount, I meant you don't get points the same way from it like in BJJ.
    – user1221
    Oct 12, 2013 at 9:11

Chokes, armbars and figure-four armlocks are allowed like basically every standard submission with very few exceptions. Often when getting a position like back mount, the competitors don't go for a submission because they have very little time to pin the opponent before the ref breaks them up.

  • 2
    @mattm (and corradoCane): That's why outside and sometimes even inside judo, the full name hiza ude hishigi gatame is more useful - the other technique's full name is hiza ashi hishigi gatame, like included in katame no kata and forbidden in competitions. Jul 12, 2016 at 12:26

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