Judo is a combat sport derived from the ancient martial art of Jujutsu. Judo helps develop self defence, self confidence, fitness and discipline.

What is Judo?

Judo is a sport a bit like wrestling, where opponents compete by attempting to throw each other from a standing position to the ground or by pinning their opponent down. There is a strict set of rules and having clothing to hold on to makes the techniques used very different from wrestling.

Judo is a very “pure” sport and instills great discipline in its exponents. It is excellent for developing and maintaining fitness, particularly for those taking up the sport beyond their teen years. Judo also develops strength, balance, co-ordination, flexibility, agility, confidence, etiquette, social opportunities and is ideal cross-training for other sports. The challenge of competition and the opportunity to display that discipline and skill, is a vital component in Judo’s continuing development in New Zealand.

Traditionally seen as a male sport, female participation is slowly growing. For many girls their initial interest is in self-defence. However, the higher profile and improved international rankings of successful women in Judo have seen an increase in girls aspiring to competition goals. The involvement of past successful female international players on the new Coaching structure established in 1996 is also providing positive mentors for young players.

The New Zealand Judo Federation promotes Judo as a sporting activity. To encourage participation in competition fighting and to improve standards, the Federation organises tournaments at regional, national and international levels.

Where do you do Judo?

There are 53 Judo clubs throughout New Zealand catering for all ages from juniors to adults competing in international tournaments. Judo is practised on “tatami”, Japanese style mats. Bouts are of usually 3 to 5 minute duration and are conducted in bare feet with a referee in attendance.

To locate a club near you visit the website listed below.

What age can your child start Judo?

Children as young as 4 years old, even younger in some cases, can start Judo. However, adults 70 years old and higher have also been known to take up the sport. In other words, age is no barrier. Some “judoka” or practitioners of judo participate at competitive and even internationally competitive levels, while some enjoy Judo for recreational purposes at club level without entering competitions. The safe and enjoyable Kiwijudo programme is designed to provide a sound base for young people to experience the very positive aspects of Judo in an introductory course linked to clubs.

How do you progress over time?

Progression in the sport is measured in a grading system. A judoka progresses through six different coloured belts. Each belt measures achievement in learning the techniques and their application. The final belt is a “black” belt but even when this is attained, it’s only the first level or “1st DAN”. DANs are awarded up to 10th DAN although, in the world today, there only two or three living and typically they are not young. The highest grade awarded in New Zealand to date has been an 8th DAN. There are three living 7th DANs in New Zealand.

The other way to progress is in competition. Competitive tournaments are organised at local, regional, national and international levels. They are run by categories based on age, gender and weight and are generally available to all age groups, regardless of gender. Many commence competing while at primary school.

All competition is designed to encourage participants on to greater honours, and those in events at regional and national levels may be spotted by National Coaches and selectors for representative honours or national development squads.

The height of achievement for competitors is selection to represent New Zealand at World Championships or Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

What gear do you need for Judo?

For your first sessions you will not need to worry about a uniform, the most suitable clothing will probably be a rugby jersey and tracksuit pants. When you’re ready, the club will be able to assist you in purchasing a judo uniform called a Gyi. The uniform is specially constructed to withstand the pulling and tugging that occurs while fighting.

How much does Judo cost?

Costs to join depend on the Club. Usually they start at about $35, rising as the athlete gets older and more qualified.

How much time does Judo take to learn?

Youngsters will typically start out with a once-a-week training session, lasting between 1 and 2 hours, depending on their age. As they progress, their training hours and sessions per week will increase with their age and physical ability. The amount of training time will vary greatly depending on how competitive your child wants to be.

Great Judo Websites


The website of Judo New Zealand has all the information from Club venues, Instructors and up-and-coming Events, as well as links to other international sites.


This is the website for Worldwide Judo, the governing body for this sport.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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