As of 20101 the IJF made it illegal to grab the legs or trousers during direct attacks in tachi-waza, and as of 2013 it is illegal to touch the legs whatsoever during tachi-waza. I have heard multiple possible reasons for this rule introduction:

  • to distinguish judo more clearly from freestyle wrestling as an Olympic sport
  • to reduce the opportunity for counter-throws, and so encourage more direct throwing attempts
  • to penalise a style of judo favoured by athletes from Russia, Mongolia etc
  • to penalise a tactic of attempting a low-scoring technique using a leg grab, and acting defensively from then on

But I haven't seen any direct explanation from the IJF as to what influenced this decision. Which, if any, was the real motivation for this change?

1. IJF Refereeing Rules 2011-2012

2 Answers 2


I have seen no official documentation for this decision, so I can only relay what I have heard from international referees on this subject.


The word in US referee clinics at this time was that judo was in danger of being removed from the Olympics because it was too easily confused with existing wrestling events. Remaining in the Olympics was seen as an imperative, and rule changes were made to ensure this. Wrestling, however, also had difficulties remaining in the Olympics.

Counters were not motivation

In the first rule changes, you could touch the legs sometimes, for counters and attack continuations. This was very complicated for officials, as is discussed in your link. As an occasional referee, I was glad that the rules were simplified to no leg grabs. [As a competitor, I would prefer all leg grabs be legal, which would be equally easy to referee.] Removing certain counters as a goal for removing leg grabs makes no sense to me because we tried leg grabs for counters, but it was too hard to distinguish what attacks were direct.

Handicapping a style

As far as I know, this is a side-effect and not the motivation, but that is taking the first-hand explanations from IJF-A referees at face value.

Koka judo

Other rule changes continue to address negative tactics where players make one small score, then ride out the rest of the match while perhaps accumulating some penalties. Leg grabs were certainly not the only way to do this.


Here is the justification given by the IJF in their notification of amendments to the Refereeing Rules from 2010 which introduced the ban on leg-grabs:


The IJF's wish is to defend fundamental judo values.
Within this scope IJF particularly devotes itself to preserve and develop education, physic and mental trumps of Judo.

« Judo is a physic and mental education system ».

From the other side, IJF would like to change Refereeing rules during Olympic qualification period. For this reason it has proceed to experimentations and decided new rules for the period from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2012.

    New rules for the period from 1/01/2010 to 31/12/2012

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