Judo contains a number of rituals inherited from Japanese culture, one example being the codification of bowing to your opponent before and after competing.1

However bowing doesn't carry the same obvious connotations of respect to many non-Japanese judoka, and so there is a tendency to shake hands/embrace after a match as well, this being a more natural gesture of respect/camaraderie for many people.2

It seems that hand-shaking/embracing after bowing has been the standard in international competition since its earliest days:

But this doesn't seem to be universal between Japanese competitors themselves, e.g:

Is it bad etiquette/frowned upon to additionally shake hands/embrace after a judo match in Japan?


1. The IJF rules specify that contestants must bow to eachother when indicated by the referee before and after competing, but only "The contestants must NOT shake hands before the start of the contest."
2. So much so that refusing to shake hands with a competitor is grounds for disqualification from the Olympics by the IOC.

2 Answers 2


I feel that this question can be split in two sub-questions:

  1. Is shaking hands bad etiquette in Japan?
  2. Does this apply to (Japanese) Judo?

While I have trained in Judo for a few years, my best insight for this question comes from my current training at a Kyokushin dojo. As such, I feel like I can readily answer (1), but probably not (2).

In Kyokushin karate, it is customary, after each partnered drill or bout of sparring, to bow ("rei") and shake hands ("akushu"). As far as I know, this practice is common in International events as well as in Japan.

As a reference, this video shows Japanese karateka performing light randori at a seminar. After each bout, upon the instructor's call of "otagai ni rei" (bow to each other), students bow and shake hands before finding a new partner.

This "bow and shake hands" greeting is also very common in the corporate sector, and most people establishing new business relations will exchange a similar greeting right after exchanging business cards.

Consequently, I do not think that shaking hands itself constitutes a breach of etiquette in Japanese martial arts. "Akushu" is generally considered a sign of acknowledgement and respect, though perhaps the original trappings of Judo did not include it. I was previously training at a fairly traditional Canadian dojo (white gi only, lots of bowing, lots of mokuso, etc.), and we'd normally bow and shake hands after randori as well. I can't, however, say if that was something specific to our dojo (or even to western Judo in general) or if it was the normal Japanese thing to do.


Some info from the IJF regarding what they consider appropriate bowing etiquette during matches:


The ceremony of the bow was formalized by the IJF Education Commission. It must be scrupulously observed. The bows and particularly the bow to the opponent at the beginning of the fight must be respected rigorously and it is prohibited to use bows or ceremonies from other combat sports or disciplines. It is, of course permissible to congratulate the opponent at the end of the fight or apologize for an awkward gesture.

  • I feel like this should be the accepted answer, in that it has a direct citation, but perhaps so explication of why this is important in the context of competition would be useful? (My sense is this is good practice, even in an informal, private "friendly match".)
    – DukeZhou
    Jul 9, 2021 at 21:28
  • This is probably to prohibit in particular the 'gasho rei' salute from Shorinji Kempo
    – Huw Evans
    Mar 23 at 15:53
  • @HuwEvans I imagine this is more so in reference to fist bumps/shaking hands from BJJ, wrestling etc. Mar 23 at 17:04
  • @brazofuerte is that still a 'rei' though
    – Huw Evans
    Mar 23 at 19:46
  • There is also the squat type bow used in kendo.
    – Huw Evans
    Mar 23 at 19:54

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