Entrance into judo competition as a new judoka is contingent on the go-ahead of a recognized judo instructor. What criteria would an experienced judoka instructor use to make that determination?

I expect many instructors require at least some ukemi ability, if not basic strength, knowledge of the competition format (including tapping) and skill in throwing and pinning.

My coach's standard was essentially, "Can you do ukemi? Do you understand how judo works--throwing, pinning, choking, tapping?" Should instructors be concerned with anything else?

  • Main point should be : what LEVEL of competitions are you talking about ? I've ref some competitions with very little kids (4-5 years old ), who just stand still, and takes turn throwing each other, 5 time. than we score the kid base on their falls, their techniques, etc. This require basicly no knowledge aside from listenting to the rules. Start with easy local competitions, and see for youself if its too easy or too hard. Jul 10, 2014 at 14:30

4 Answers 4


I feel that pretty much anybody can enter into competition, and learn from it. If a judoka knows how to fall safely, knows at least one throw and one hold down, there is no reason they cannot compete.

Of course any coach has an obligation to be open with their students and if you feel someone should not compete inform them on why, and how they can get to that level.

Competition is an important tool to help a student grow and learn. By not allowing a student to enter competition, if that is what they desire, it is going to hold them back.

Fortunately judo allows us to use it with less of a threat of bodily injury compared to other arts.


I think the main criteria a coach/sensei should look at before allowing his/her students to compete are:

  1. Can they handle losing? If the kid cries everytime they get thrown in randori, or pinned in ne waza randori, they aren't ready to compete.
  2. Do they know the rules? Can they follow them?
  3. Do they have a couple throws they can do in randori?
  4. Do they have any osae waza they are able to hold with some success? Are they aware of how to escape from the usual ones?
  5. Break falls of course should be very good, but that's a given i think.
  6. If the student is an adult, then they should be able to their ego aside and tap when the time is right.

I imagine this list is a little different then ones other people will suggest, but to me, #1 is probably the most important. If a kid doesn't handle losing well, then competing in a tournament will likely be a terrible experience for him/her and their parents. It may even be enough to make them quit.

Adult Students

For a new adult student, there isn't much different from the kids. The ego stuff still stands for sure. As far as physical requirements: if they can't do 5 minutes of randori, they shouldn't be competing. I don't think strength specifically is something that needs to be measured, as you know, judo is about kuzushi, using momentum, and their weight movement. They should be able to last a match without falling over from exhaustion.

It's also important to note that, even if you can do 5 minutes of hard randori no problem, chances are new competitors will find themselves completely gassed after one match, even if they are quite fit. Stress, nerves, and adrenaline all play a big factor.

  • Nice answer. Do you see any prerequisite strength or physical attributes for adult newcomers who want to compete? May 14, 2012 at 20:08
  • 1
    @DaveLiepmann I've added some more information about adults. I don't think there is much difference for adults then kids.
    – Patricia
    May 15, 2012 at 13:24

According to the IJF Statutes, competitors must comply with International Judo Federation (IJF) and International Olympic Committee rules. The IOC rules usually amount to antidoping laws, weight classes, etc.

Wikipedia has a decent article for Judo competition rules. For a more official answer, read the IJF Referee rules. This answers the question of A) what standards are enforced.

As to what should be enforced, that is up to the sensei at your dojo. If a sensei tells you that you are not ready for competition, then listen and work on the areas he has you working on. The IJF provides the minimum requirements for competition, and all dojos will comply with those rules if they want to compete in a sanctioned tournament. However, there does need to be some freedom for the individual dojos to select the competitors that represent the dojo. The sensei will emphasize the strategies and techniques that they feel are important to the particular style of Judo.

I personally don't think that there is any way to come up with an authoritative or even useful list of techniques that are absolutely required. If you take a dozen sensei, you will have a dozen answers. Even on the commonalities, there will be disagreement on the emphasis necessary.

  • Maybe I'm not phrasing myself well. I don't mean "who is allowed to compete?" (which your rules links refer to) or "who will best represent the dojo?" (which your paragraphs about techniques to know addresses). I'm trying to ask "what should a judo coach make sure of before he allows a new adult white belt to compete?" May 9, 2012 at 19:37

From The Medical Care of the Judoka by Anthony Catanese, MD, FACS, 4th dan judo:

If the athlete's neck muscles are not strong enough to hold the head stable while being thrown, he or she is prone to getting one of these [head/neck/spine] injuries. For this reason, an athlete should not be playing in a tournament until a certain level of strength and skill has been achieved.

Many instructors have rules designed to prevent an athlete who is inexperienced from getting hurt in a tournament. Some instructors want their students to be playing for about six months before being allowed to play in a tournament. Other instructors require athletes to be yellow belts. The instructor determines the rules on an individual basis for the safety of the student. If an athlete is a wrestler who has been doing judo for only a couple of weeks, he or she is likely fine to compete in a tournament.

So the take-home points seem to be:

  • A basic level of strength and skill
  • and a certain amount of time training (yellow belt or ~6 months)
  • or past experience

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