In order to practice Judo, one must begin by finding a dojo (training hall). After that, one must thoroughly learn the basics, and begin training both the body and mind.
Finding a dojo
The sport of Judo takes place on tatami mats, and cannot be performed just anywhere. Moreover, failing to learn the fundamental waza from a qualified instructor could result in injuries. One should begin practicing Judo by finding a nearby dojo, or by taking a Judo introductory course offered periodically by community organizations, etc. The instructors who preside over these courses are experienced and skillful teachers. Even children as young as 5 can attend such courses. Judo is open to just about anyone, without regard to age, sex, or physical size.
Training at the dojo
Because Judo "begins and ends with respect (a bow)", beginners are first taught Judo etiquette (Reiho). They then learn the fall breaking (Ukemi) techniques. Break falls are the most fundamental part of Judo, and must be mastered in order protect oneself from injury. Even the most able-bodied practitioners of Judo repeatedly practice break falls in order to polish their fundamental skills and to adjust their bodies. Only after mastering the break fall techniques, does the beginner begin to learn the Judo waza.
Although all age groups practice the same Judo drills, these drills can be divided into the following 3 categories.
- Kakari geiko (Continuous attack practice)
- Also referred to as an "Uchikomi", it consists of repeatedly practicing a waza form. These drills are used as Judo warm-ups.
- Yakusoku geiko (Agreed-upon practice)
- The students are paired, with the agreed-upon waza then being performed (one agrees to perform a throw, and the other agrees to be thrown). This drill is an effective way to learn how to both apply a waza and check an attack.
- Randori (Free sparring)
- This is also referred to as "Randori" (free sparring), and involves actual combat with an opponent. Serving as a method for enacting an actual bout, this is the most commonly performed drill.
Entering a Judo competition
Judo competitions are held in various parts of the country, with the competitors classed by age (juniors, junior high or high school, university, and company employees, etc.). However, because only those who have been selected by a dojo or school may enter a competition, the Judo practitioners must work hard to raise their skill level in order to be selected. Skill is the primary criterion for selection, and those selected may enter a competition regardless of their belt color (Dan or Kyu rank). Those selected by a dojo or school may enter the available competitions in formal bouts.