Early Revisions to the IJF Referee Rules

Throughout the early years some of the major initiatives with respect to rule changes include the following:


  • Neck and leg locks were no longer permitted.


  • Standardization of referee vocabulary in Japanese.
  • Referee uniform changed from the judogi to a jacket and tie.


  • Introduction of 3 weight categories, plus Open weight.


  • Increase to 5 weight categories, plus Open weight.
  • Hand signal with hajime discontinued.
  • Bowing of contestants to referees before and after the match discontinued.


  • Introduction of the 1 meter wide Red Danger Area and the 2.5 meter safety area.
  • Introduction of the Scoreboard for open view of scores and penalties as announced by the referee.


  • Introduction of the partial score of yuko and koka and the partial penalties of shido and chui. This allowed the referees and the spectators to follow the decision making process as it occurred.
  • Prior to this initiative, the referee and judges were required to remember each and every action over the entire duration of the contest, before announcing their decision at the expiration of time, eight minutes for the semi-finals and ten minutes for the finals.
  • This initiative was strongly opposed by certain experts on the belief that the contestants would no longer strive for the full ippon win. However, the IJF statistics show conclusively that the number of wins by ippon have actually increased since the introduction of partial scores. This increase is of course also largely due to the improved technical skills of many leading competitors.
  • The penalties for non-combativity, the shido and chui encouraged the competitors to keep an active and attacking momentum throughout the contest. This made for continuous Judo action for all to appreciate.
  • At this time the role of the judges became more prominent as they were allowed to change the referee's decision if they both were of the same opinion.


  • The practice of the referee having to drag both competitors in a holding position on the extremity of the contest area, back to the centre, was revoked. This had always been regarded with some amusement as quite often the referee was not of sufficient physical strength to achieve this task on his own so he often enlisted the assistance of the two corner judges. Even so, with heavyweight competitors this was still a formidable task. It had been further argued by some that this was a good example of why women referees, not sufficiently strong for the task, should not referee.


  • The length of the matches increased from six minutes to eight for semi-final matches and finals increased to ten minutes.
  • In the event of a tie score the contestant with the lowest penalty was automatically declared the winner.


  • The practice of having a contestant kneel when receiving a keikoku was discontinued as it was deemed too humiliating. Also abandoned was the kneeling position to rearrange the judogi.


  • The guidelines for penalties were more precisely defined, bringing a more standardised application of penalisation for illegal acts.
  • The athletic ability of judoka to land from a throw in the "bridge" was discouraged by the giving of a higher score. The "bridge" landing was potentially dangerous exposing the judoka's neck or head to possible injury on severe impact with the mat.
  • When one competitor was able to stand up, with his opponent still holding onto his back, the action was stopped temporarily by the application of matte.
  • Up until this time the stopping of the time clock was not automatic when the referee called matte. To stop the clock the referee was additionally required to call jikan. As of 1976 a call of matte by the referee incorporated both commands to suspend the action on the mat and stop the clock.


  • The dangerous practice of the thrower pivoting with his head in contact with the mat, while attempting such throws as uchimata and harai goshi or makikomi, caused great concern in the Judo world. Some competitors were inflicting spinal injuries to themselves which, in some cases, left them permanently disabled. This attempted action was halted by the introduction of an immediate disqualification (hansoku make).
  • During this period the provision for "medical time" was introduced, with a maximum time limit of 5 minutes, for the competitor to have an injury treated. This privilege was, however, greatly abused and the rules had to be amended further. The medical examination/treatment problem is one which requires constant review by the Refereeing Commission.


  • In the advent of a tie the practice of automatically awarding the win to the contestant with the lowest penalty was discontinued and the referees once again, by majority vote, determined the victor.


  • Increased to 7 weight categories, plus the Open category.
  • Another new initiative in this era was the introduction of the judogi control, prior to going onto the contest area. Specific criteria were established for testing the size limits which were permitted. Long hair had to be tied securely and T-shirts for women competitors were defined in their colour.
  • For a short one year period, the competitor's grade belt was replaced entirely by a white or red belt. This was later amended to provide for the grade belt plus a second belt, the red or white sash.


  • The 1st Women's World Judo Championships were held in New York, USA


  • The first women referee was awarded the IJF "A" Licence at the Asian Games Judo Championships, Clare Hargrave, of New Zealand.

More Recent Amendments

During the past few years a number of amendments to the rules have been established including the following:

Leg Grabbing:
Prohibited unless the result is immediate.

Judogi Check:
This has been changed to permit referees to be rostered during the day, to make the control.

Converted immediately into equivalent scores and recorded on the scoreboard.

5 Second Time:
This maximum time for the competitors to be in the Danger Zone, without attacking or defending against an attack was established, with the appropriate penalty. This rule was, at first not popular, however experience has since shown that it has stopped much of the former edge of the mat negativity.

Only 2 examinations are permitted in general.

Throwing Out:
A throw is valid, even when the opponent takes a step into the safety area during the completion of the throw. This rule change was widely popular, as it allowed credit for a genuine attacking throw to score without being declared invalid over a border infringement which was not the fault of the thrower.

Kami Basami:
This ancient technique was declared dangerous and prohibited.

The new horizontal scoreboard configuration was introduced and was very well received as it helped the spectators to better comprehend the actual advantage that one competitor had over the other at any time during the contest.

The wearing of a back patch with the Olympic abbreviation to denote the nationality of the competitor was introduced. The most recent modification to this concept, introduced at the 1996 Olympic Games, was to include the judoka's name on the back of the jacket. This enhanced the personality of the competitor and made it easier for spectators to follow the contests and the resulting winner.