New 2013 Judo Rules

The International Judo Federation (IJF) released a new set of rules for 2013 through 2016 and beyond. Last time (4 years ago) they made a drastic change banning leg attacks, which stirred the ire of the judo community, but eventually people calmed down, though I personally think that the long term effect of that rule change will be bad for the growth of judo in relation to other martial arts. This time the rule changes are less controversial but still very interesting. Here’s a basic overview, ordered from most important to least important in my humble but very biased opinion:

  1. No time limit on Golden score (aka overtime period). A match does not end until one of the contestants scores or gets a shido (penalty). This means that we could see some matches that take both guys into some deep waters.
  2. Old school ippon: Give the ippon score only to throws that result in “real impact”. Meaning, bring back the old school ippon. This is not so much a rule but a guidance to the refs. So it’s unclear whether it will change anything, but one can hope.
  3. No running from the pin or submission: Once the pin or “effective” submission starts inbounds and both contestant go out of bounds, the pin and submission attempt is allowed to continue! My judo instructor Ray will appreciate this one 😉
  4. Shidos don’t lead to points: It’s still 4 shidos for disqualification, but now getting 1, 2, or 3 shidos does not give your opponent points. Shidos are used only as tie breakers. They are now more like advantages in BJJ. So if you have 3 penalties against you but you threw your opponent for a yuko, you still win.
  5. Shorter pin: Pin duration reduced from 25 seconds down to 20 seconds. (10 seconds for yuko, 15 seconds for waza-ari).
  6. The Rhadi Ferguson rule: It sometimes feels like the IJF has a special committee on how to best annoy one of America’s most outspoken judoka, Dr. Rhadi Ferguson. Four years ago, the IJF banned his bread-and-butter throw morote gari. This time the IJF is penalizing the breaking of your opponent’s grip with two hands. This further reduces the grip fighting game, and in my opinion will make fighters more cautious in engaging and not less.
There are other rule changes, but these are the main ones as I see it. I’m a big fan of judo as a sport and in the bigger context of martial arts and combat in general. I don’t just want to see the sport of judo grow, but also want to see more effective judo on display in MMA. I think the sports of MMA, submission grappling, and wrestling have to be considered in developing the rules for the sport of judo. The rules should try not to discourage cross-training by banning techniques that are used effectively in other disciplines.

One thought on “New 2013 Judo Rules

  1. Alan

    For me, I’m not a fan of any rules that water down the art. There are a number of throws that involve grabbing the legs, not just morote gari. Why not just water it down to make Seio Nage, O-Soto Gari, and O-Goshi the only legal throws? They should stop messing with things.

    1. Lex Post author

      I don’t know Alan, I don’t really like osoto either. I think we should make that illegal as well. In fact no leg-tripping moves at all; those go against the spirit of judo 😉

  2. Gustav

    I had not heard of the new grip breaking rule, seems to me like it will keep people from engaging in “good judo”. Although, grip fighting has become such an enormous element at the higher levels that this might turn technique back to being top of the list.
    One rule I heard discussed, that I guess wasn’t agreed upon after all, was to remove the waza-ari and only have yuko and ippon scores which I think would be an interesting change in our sport.

    1. Lex Post author

      Removing waza-ari would indeed be very interesting. Or rather I hope they would remove the yuko, meaning only give a score to significant techniques, and an ippon to the really big ones.

  3. amitabak

    IJF rules updated:
    Mixed emotions.
    Better Ippon
    Weigh in
    Shido accounting
    Osaekomi – great. No more running away from the mat tricks.
    Shortening the time to score points.

    Ta-guruma banned
    Losing gokyo techniques is bad. Period.
    Bad technique with no kuzushi is punishable with te-guruma. that’s Judo spriit

    Ya right, a teenagers 3 years apart are equally matched.
    18 Vs 15… This is not the “Sprit of Judo” This is what made
    the Eastern Block in the 70-80’s so successful.
    Show me a 15 years old matched to 18 and I’ll show you in 9/10
    cases “Scientific mutant” who doesn’t represents the norm nor the
    spirit of Judo.

    1. Lex Post author

      It’s not, but I think of it as a long marriage. Sure it changes, but in the end you still love each other 😉 No reason to give up on judo. Keep stepping on the mat, and voicing your concern when you can. It’s the practitioners of judo that help it grow in the right direction.

  4. Glenn

    I have been envolved in Judo for 41 years. I have gone from being a competitor to a coach to a referee. I still coach and referee. The rule changes I have been thru are quite a bit. When I fought we had Wazari and Ippon scores only, when the Yuko and Koka were intreduced I did not like it. The Koka was finaly taken out as a lot of competitors would get that score and not fight any more. The biggest change I have seen is the leg grab rule, which was brought in when more mixed martial arts came into Judo. The worst was the Brazilian Jui-Juitsu and some wrestlers that would come in not knowing how to fight stand up and want to go directly to the ground were they felt comfortable and at home, if the mixed martial artist want to come into Judo or any other martial arts they should learn the sport and rules. As for some of the new rules being implemented, I think the removal of the two handed grip breaking is a bad move (even in the time of my fighting we did not use it much, we worked around it), I would like to see the Yuko dissapear (there has been talk about this happening) and go back to the Wazari and Ippon scores (the talk is, is to get back to more dynamic Judo with the big throws, which has started to come back and make it more interesting), I would also like to see the Golden Score be dropped as I think this would make the competitors fight harder knowing that there is no second chance to try and score. I agree with Lex on his comments and for the fellow that is leaving Judo because of the rule changes, why give up on something that you have worked so hard for and love to do. Just suck it up, keep on doing Judo and get involved with trying to change the way the rules are being made. Who knows maybe the old style of Judo will come back one day, which was hard work and very aggressive fighting (which was fun to watch)

    1. Mike Brown

      So….basically what you are saying is that if people who, all things being equal follow the competition rules; don’t fight the way you want them to fight, or use techniques you are unable to counter…then those techniques should be banned. I am sorry…but that is just stupid. Last time I checked ground fighting was a major component of Judo.

  5. Bansi lal

    I am an indian and a player of 66 kg. Well, Yeah it is too best for future of judo. Changings are must in judo rules. We are all happy with new rules and good decision of IJF.:-) i love judo alot..

    1. Lex Post author

      A lot of people like the new rules, but there are also a lot of people that are worried about the trend these rule changes set for the evolution of judo in the next several decades. Thanks for commenting Bansi. Keep training hard.

  6. Jim Straughan

    I think the old school leaders in Judo need to have fresh blood introduced .
    They are failing miserably in promoting there sport … lets be clear it is a sport not a religion or cult or even martial art .. well for most participants .
    Just look at the numbers in North America or lack of them. In Canada other than Quebec which seems to get unjustifiable amounts of support from the government judo appears to be on the verge of dying out.
    Perhaps North American Judo should leave the fold ?
    Perhaps develop a home grown Organization that reflects the needs of present and future generations in North America .
    A big failing in combative sports is the black belt mentality, that the leaders and movers and shakers need to be black belts. The reality is they bring too much personal baggage to the table .
    Far too many black belts from my 40+ years experience in various martial arts and combative sports suffer from what I call black belt ego, having a black belt does not make you a better businessperson, organizer, leader or hardly ever an innovator.

    1. Lex Post author

      Great points. We can’t forget that judo is a young martial art relative to span of human civilization. We’ve been fighting for millennia, but only in the last 100 years have we started to really figure this stuff out. The internet in the last 10 years changed everything. Information! It’s exciting to see how BJJ, wrestling, judo, MMA all evolve in the next 50 years. Some will fall away, some will change, some will grow.

      1. luc

        Not great points, dont humor him.

        The first line is just a WTF?!?!, it makes it seem like its a bunch of geezers at the IJF. Its not. Dont agree with him on stupid points just because youre polite. And geezers dont like change so if you want status quo, chances are you will get it from an older person not a young one. Young people are more prone to change things so getting young people to keep the rules the same makes little sense.

        Judo is dying out in Canada? any proof or was that picked out of the underwears? Numbers please….

        >?Quebec which seems to get unjustifiable amounts of >support from the government

        First define this unjustifiable support and then explain why the hell its unjustifiable. I have the feeling jealousy is involved here and once again opinion without any proof masquerading as fact.
        Maybe,just maybe, the quebec judo federation does one hell of a job compared to other CA federations?
        I know how soccer has evolved with the rest of the world in Quebec the past 15yrs or so while the Canadian association and other provincials ones were still stuck in british 19th century mentality.
        Could be that this is the same here too?
        Quebec organizes great tournaments and seminars and is a great combination of older greyheads with just retired athletes running the sport.

        The middle paragraphs are the usual lets start a new org BS. I blame that living in a country-continent that isnt in tune how international sports are organized (hence MLB, NFL and even NBA and NHL) mixed in with a world government paranoia so common.
        Absolute nothing said of interest.

        The last two paragraphs give moronic a whole new meaning.

        Go to FIBA, FINA, FILA, FIVA and you will see that ex-players and coaches and people who have played the game are always involved.
        You WANT to have people who live and breathe the sport to be involved how its run. Yes, you let lawyers write contracts and business majors do business deals but the idea that a sport should be run by people who dont know the sport is an american thing. hence you have David Stern, Gary Bettman and Bud Selig run the pro leagues (but again, pro leagues are not national or international federations).

        This is nothing more than the same whining which says nothing and takes a lot of its idea from a place where the sun dont shine. One of the most common of these meme usually blames the japanese for the rules changes even though in the top 20 people in IJF there is barely 1-2 japanese.
        Too many people who are clueless and dont have facts spout opinions as such.

        Im not a fan of all the rules but the only one I have huge problems is the penalty for touching someones pants. It should be a shido. It is a minor technical offense not something which requires expulsion.
        Overall, we seen less hunched backs (good!) and less grip fighting which is a good thing. I finished watching this years Bercy Open and it seems that it has had the same effect on international level judo as it has local and national.

        Actually, can you do an interview with Rhadi and Pedro to find out how the rule changes have affected theiir style and how they have coped. I fought only once at the Pedro tournament years ago and thought fighting his students was the most tedious experience in the world especially after living in France for a while where they cant seem to wait to get their hands on your gi and throw you.
        Grip fighting was an important part of judo but playing hand tapping for 2mins before any actual judo throw is attempted was reason enough to kill it off. Its these zealots who ruined it for everyone else. I like grip fighting but I understand why they got rid of it.

        As for sport evolving, thats one of the reasons wrestling was almost taken off the Olympics, it didnt evolve. It wasnt appealing to non-practitioners and didnt want to change rules to make it more appealing and exciting. The new guy at FILA did more changes in 6months than they did in 40years and saved the sport from its self satisfied smugness.
        Judo has been at the forefront of change whether in the rules, how it is refereed and even how it is promoted: is there any other sport that you can see its top events on Youtube like we can for Judo for free? Cmon, find me one.

        But evolution and change are always a hard thing to accept. People like the status quo because they know it and are comfortable with it. Change scares people.

        Ask someone who played volleyball in high school 20yrs ago if they recognize their sport anymore. If they havent followed the sport since school, they might be surprised to find out what a libero is and why a player wears a different shirt or why you can score at any time nowadays. Those are huge changes which drastically changed the sport and guess what? lots of people were pissed off at that too.

        Change scares people, it makes no difference if the change is good or bad.

        Whining on the other hand, never scares people.

        1. Lex Post author

          I love this comment, gave me a good laugh. I like it when people cut through the bullshit. I’ll definitely talk to both Rhadi and Jimmy in the coming months. Both of them embraced the changes right away, which must of been hard. Rhadi complains about it more now, so perhaps he had more trouble adjusting to it. It’s a hell of a change though. Love your comments man, it’s very refreshing.

          1. Mike Brown

            Your conflating “accepting” the bullshit knee-capping the IJF imposed on this Martial Art, with “embracing” these changes. Rhadi and Jimmy ARE NOT in agreement with the rule changes….for what one would hope are obvious reasons…..
            I know I am comming off as a hostile ass…but I am sorry….the end result of these rule changes make Judo less effective as a Martial Art that you can depend on actually working no matter if your assailant is standing up straight, hunched over…or going for a leg pick…..for the sake of looking pretty and attracting audiences that never cared about or will ever care about it.

  7. Dave

    I started Judo in 1997 at age 35. As a former high school wrestler, I was stoked to add to my wrestling skills, more takedowns and of course chokes and armbars, of Judo. My kids competed, as did I. Now it’s so confusing, who wants to try?. Many outside Judo think we are running from Wrestlers and BJJ, not differentiating ourselves as some proclaim. Personnaly, I think those that embrace the new rules cannot defend a good double leg takedown, or strong ground fighting. And unfortunately, neither will a generation of kids learning under the IJF rules.

    1. Lex Post author

      I absolutely agree. It’s very concerning. But at the same time, you have to remember that judo never allowed a real double leg takedown in that you only score points when the person lands on their side/back (and butt for koka). Most successful double legs and single legs (in wrestling) end with the wrestling facing down. That’s not a score in judo. I think that sport judo was never a complete art, nor is any other martial art. The idea is that you should practice judo AND wrestling AND jiu jitsu. Maybe have a favorite, but cross-train in all of them.

  8. Alesja

    No leg grabs? Are you kidding me? Those were some of the key techniques which made sport entertaining!
    Does it mean you can’t touch leg at all now? Like for example securing it for Kouchi-gari throw? Or when doing a windmill like through where you lift opponent on your back?

    1. Lex Post author

      Nope, no leg grabs in any situation on the feet, not as a combination nor a counter. Terrible change in the sport… but it’s actually better than the half-n-half rule set that was in place the last three years. Now, at least the job of the ref in this regard is much easier.

  9. Pete Bromley

    AS a former wrestler and now a judoka, I competed under the ijf banner and ruleset until I went to the 2013 senior nationals and was disqualified in the second match for touching a leg.At that point, I realized that the already dicey rules were now garbage,and made a concientious descision to never fight in another Usa Judo event.I am now affiliated with Steve Scott’s Freestyle judo movement,having opened up North Carolina’s first AAU Freestyle Judo club.No more foolish rule sets-freestyle is good judo under the old rules with easy to understand scoring,referees that look like refferees and not insurance salesmen,and no rank belts in competition,just belts that identify for scoring purposes.The result has been better rounded,more competent and intense fighting and competition,with no pompous,over rated red and white belt judoka strutting their stuff and dealing with politics.If you gents really want to give judo a go,check out freestyle judo-judo the way it should be!

    1. Lex Post author

      I like freestyle judo, and I hope it grows and becomes a major competitor to IJF judo, but it’s a tough road. And all large organization struggle with politics. I’m sure AAU Freestyle Judo will as well, especially as it grows in popularity.

  10. Marcus Day

    When people say that Judo isn’t really a martial art I cringe a bit. I have been doing karate since 1997 at the age of 14 and have studied Judo for the last five years. Judo is a great martial art. I have heard of many judokas who have used their skills in real self defense situations.

    I am indeed disheartened by the new IJF rules because when you take away techniques that does nothing for the “spirit” of Judo but kill it. I mean you can’t even do kata guruma anymore and that was a technique put into the system by Jigoro Kano himself!

    As for leg grabs: if you don’t train how to do them then how can you train to defend them. I’m sick of hearing the argument about wrestlers and BJJ practitioners. Judo, and I mean old school Judo, was meant to hold its own against ANY grappling art. Can we truly say that now? Not with these new pansy-ass rules that make it look like Judo is running scared from wrestling and BJJ.

    I still love Judo but I practice real Judo: leg grabs, two hand grip breaks and all.

    PS. If you don’t think double legs can score ippon check out Kate Howey or Rhadi Furgeson.

    1. Lex Post author

      Double legs make for less exciting sport judo on average. It’s a sad reality. For every big beautiful pickup there are hundreds of stalling attempts. That’s what makes it such a tough dilemma. To me, Ben Askren in MMA embodies this dilemma. His style is boring for many to watch, but is very effective. So… what’s more important, making a sport exciting or bringing it closer to a set of techniques that are effective in a fight? Very tough question in my mind.

  11. Noego

    lets all be real here ,we all know why all these rules are placed in judo. ( if you still wanna call it that ) I respect judo, and I have many friends who do judo but in my eyes the only judo is freestyle ! We all know why they take away double leg takedowns ,breaking grips with two hands etc. Takedown means taking a man down!!!! So I don’t think these these select people in judo like takedowns, like they say they do. They like trips and throws maybe. But they also like changing the rules because people who don’t do judo take them down as well. Not all jiujitsu players pull guard lol. And a athlete with a wrestling back ground will do well if he or she learns to fight with the kimono. Man up! Let’s face it everyone, this is why! Don’t make me post videos of bjj players winning judo tournaments in the black belt division. Who don’t train in a judo school. And Yes! I practice bjj. But I love the hell out of judo and respect the creator of judo and I also respect traditional jiujitsu because with out it there would be no Kano jiujitsu which became judo , or bjj. But everyone forgets about traditional jiujitsu for some reason huh. LoL. This is gonna hurt for the bjj haters but I got several respectful judo black belts as my students that agree with every word you just read. These martial arts go well together my friends. Just accept and adapt and you will be happy. Have fun. Happy holidays ! Leave the ego at the door ,train safe.


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