10 things to know about judo

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Judo enjoyed the exclusivity of being the sole martial art in the Paralympic program until para taekwondo debuted at Tokyo 2020. Find out more about the return of one of the world’s oldest sports in his spiritual home:

1. Paralympic judo is exclusively reserved for athletes with a visual impairment. They are classified in B1, B2 or B3. B1 athletes have the most severe handicap and wear a red circle on their uniform called a judogi to ensure that the referees are aware that they may need guidance before, during and after a match. All athletes compete regardless of their ranking.

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2. Athletes really rely on their senses, tactics and instincts in Paralympic Judo with just a few changes to the rules of the showy version. Judokas must begin by mastering their opponent’s judogi. They have to keep it during the match and can be penalized for not making an effort to do so.

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3. Judo became the first sport of Asian origin to be included in the Paralympic Games when it was introduced in Seoul in 1988 with men’s competitions. Britain’s Simon Jackson won the first gold medal, competing in men up to 60 kg.

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4. Six women’s events were added to the program in Athens in 2004. The French Karima Medjeded was crowned the first female Paralympic champion, winning up to 48 kg.

Susanne Shuetzel (white), another 2004 Athens gold medalist © Getty

5. The scoring system awards an ippon (a point) for a successful technique that wins a match by its successful execution, a waza-ari (a half point) and minor points (called yuko). In a modern match, a judoka will often play conservatively and work for a win based only on partial minor point scores. This is a major change from traditional judo, where the judoka risked everything in the ippon attempt.

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6. In para sport, no penalty is imposed on the judoka for leaving the mat unless it is intentional. The referee helps guide the athletes by saying “jogai” as they approach the edge.

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7. Brazilian Antonio Tenorio is the most decorated athlete with four consecutive gold medals won between Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008 in men over 100 kg. Tenorio added a bronze and a silver to his collection at London 2012 and Rio 2016, respectively.

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8. The inventors of judo, Japan, are unsurprisingly the most successful country at the Paralympic Games with 12 gold medals and 30 medals in total. Satoshi Fujimoto is Japan’s most decorated judoka with five Paralympic medals, including three gold.

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9. The sport was created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano as a physical, mental and moral education in Japan. Kano developed judo from his knowledge of jujitsu and samurai, eliminating the most dangerous techniques and emphasizing the importance of randori (free practice).

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ten. The venue for Tokyo 2020, the Nippon Budokan, is an iconic venue for Japanese martial arts. The Budokan was originally built for judo competition at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, hence its name, which translates to Martial Arts Hall in English. The national championships for the different branches of martial arts (judo, kendo, karate, aikido, etc.) are held annually at the Budokan.

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