Member of Team USA Competes in Paralympic JudoMember of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Judo


Invented in the late 19th century, judo is the only martial art contested at the Paralympic Games. The sport emphasizes both physical and mental discipline, and as such it has a rich system of traditions and culture. Competitions feature two opponents (called judokas) who use the forces of balance, power and movement to throw each other to the floor. On the ground, judo shares techniques with wrestling as judokas attempt to pin and control one another using chokeholds and locks.

The Father of Judo, Dr. Jigoro Kano, assembled judo out of pieces of several martial art schools, primarily jujitsu, a Japanese tradition of unarmed combat. While many judo techniques are derived from arts designed to hurt or even kill, judo is modified so as not to hurt opponents. Dr. Kano became a member of the International Olympic Committee and worked to spread the sport worldwide.

Paralympic judo competition is open to judokas with visual impairments. Olympic and Paralympic competition are similar with some adjustments made for the sake of those who can’t see—for example, instead of using hand signals, the referee will verbalize calls, scores and time remaining.


Men’s judo debuts at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Men’s judo debuts at the Seoul Paralympic Games

Women’s judo debuts at the Barcelona Olympic Games

Judo included in the International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) World Championships in Madrid, Spain

Women’s judo debuts at the Athens Paralympic Games


Judo includes seven weight classes for men and six for women, totaling 13 medal events. Athletes from each of the three sport classes (B1, B2 and B3) compete together.

Each fight lasts five minutes for men and four minutes for women. The first judoka to achieve an ippon score, or the judoka with the most points at the end of the match, wins. If the bout ends in a tie, the next judoka who scores a point wins.


Every athlete wears a judogi, a judo uniform consisting of a jacket and trousers made of thick cloth and a belt tied at the waist. One opponent wears blue (“ao” in Japanese) and the other wears white (“shiro”).

Judokas spar on a mat made of a special synthetic material that absorbs impact. The mat’s center of eight by eight meters (26×26 feet) is the combat area, surrounded by a four-meter (13-foot) safety perimeter.


The rise of martial arts: Japan was ruled by samurai for many centuries, giving rise to several forms of martial arts, including jujitsu. At the end of samurai rule in the mid-19th century, Dr. Jigoro Kano rescued jujitsu from extinction by inventing judo and spreading it around the world.

What judo is not: Unlike karate, judo does not involve kicking, punching or striking. Unlike aikido, judo does not involve applying pressure to joints. Unlike kendo, judo involves no equipment or weapons.

Vocab lesson: Much of the vocabulary used in judo is Japanese. To start a bout, the referee gives the command “Hajime!” To stop the fighting, the referee yells “Matte!” A shindo is a penalty.

Scoring: Judokas can achieve three types of score.

  1. Yuko is the lowest score, awarded when a judoka immobilizes the opponent for 10 seconds.
  2. Wazari is awarded when a judoka immobilizes the opponent for 15 seconds OR takes down the opponent without meeting the requirements of an ippon. Two wazaris equal an ippon.
  3. An ippon is a perfect throw in judo: throwing the opponent onto his or her back with strength, speed and control. An ippon is also awarded when a judoka immobilizes the opponent for 20 seconds or if the opponent submits while trapped in a lock or hold.

Athlete Spotlight:

Christella Garcia

B1 judoka Christella Garcia first tried judo as a child, but she stopped practicing when the program was canceled. As an adult, she rediscovered the sport through a friend and met a coach—Willy Cahill, co-founder of the Blind Judo Foundation—who motivated her to work hard and become a world-class athlete.

She has fought through pain, learning to alter her style to avoid agitating a shoulder injury (itself the result of judo practice). But of being blind? Garcia appreciates that her judo club in Sacramento doesn’t separate sighted and visually impaired judokas; they are all held to the same high standards. Garcia may feel this way because she believes her impairment has actually opened doors for her, particularly with the opportunity to compete in judo at the international level.

Garcia competes in the 70-kilogram weight class. She took first in the USA National Judo Championships for the Blind & Visually Impaired in 2009, 2010 and 2011. She has competed at the IBSA World Games and the Parapan American Games as well as at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Althete Spotlight Christella Garcia


Paralympic judo competition is open to male and female judokas with visual impairments.

Physical Impairment

Visual Impairment

Intellectual Impairment

Judokas with visual impairments compete in sport classes B1–3. Each judoka is assigned a class based on his or her visual acuity and/or field of vision; those with poorest vision are assigned to B1, while B2 and B3 include judokas with more moderate and mild impairments. Regardless of their classification, all athletes compete together and are divided by weight class.

Learn more about athletes with visual impairments in the Paralympic Games.





Blind judokas compete in sport class B1. These athletes are identified with a red circle on the sleeve of their uniform.

Impairment Severity Scale



B2 class judokas have moderate visual impairments.

Impairment Severity Scale



Judokas with the mildest visual impairments—though still severe enough to qualify for the Paralympics—compete in sport class B3.

Impairment Severity Scale