An Introduction to Judo Etiquette

Final da Copa do Mundo de Judô por Equipes

Judo is, as the European Judo Union put it, “More than Sport”. Judo is a mental and physical education where the larger goal is to improve society by improving individuals within that society. And important aspect in achieving this key aim of Judo is the ettiquette and culture of Judo. In this post I want to discuss how the ettiquette, manners and culture of Judo will be seen by you as a Judo parent and also the benefits it can provide your child.

Recently, I helped deliver a coaching course for Judo coaches working towards their Level 3 qualification in the European Judo Union ( Part of the assessment and work was around the ettiquette of Judo and a podcast on this subject is available at from three of the coaches who attended. This module and the podcast form much of what is included in this post.

Ettiqutte in Judo is often most visible in the bowing that takes place in clubs and at competitions. The “Rei” (bow) is often the first experience of the culture of Judo that children and parents have. When people step on the Judo mat they bow, when the class starts their is one (or more) bows made, when we practice we bow, when we compete we bow. The bow (rei) is a safety feature, a matter of manners and also part of the culture of Judo.

In Judo there has been much debate, discussion and even legal cases involving the bow.

The outcome of which has been that the Bow in Judo has clearly been identified as a cultural element of Judo that is not religous in nature. It serves many purposes and it will help if you as a parent understand some of the merits of the bow and reinforce the importance with your child. The bow is often first described to children in Judo as how we say “Hello”. It is comprable to the handshake in western culture.

The bow is also an important safety feature within a Judo club. The initial bow, done with the whole class and instructor serves as an opportunity for everyone to “switch on” and focus in on the class ahead. The instructor/coach also has an opportunity to look at all the students and ensure that they have removed their jewllery, are clean and tidy and that there is nothing visibly of concern.

At the start of any period where two partners work together, they will typically bow. This signifies they are ready to work. If they don’t bow, you know they ar enot ready.

Similarly, at the end of a practice, they bow tells both parties that they are finished and that the other person is not about to attack them. This extends to contests or Randori, the bow at the start can act as a trigger; from that point on the other person needs to be aware that the match has started and they need to defend themselves. Aggressiveness can be expressed/released during this time. At the end of the fight/randori the bow identifies the end of this period where being aggresive is acceptable. Players turn of the attack mode and all emotional content stops. Think of it as a off switch to the required aggression required to fight with another person.

At the end of a class, the bow closes out the learning. It can be a mental flag that the class is over. Everyone knows that between the start bow and end bow, they behave as Judoka. menaing they show good concentration, obey the instructor, respect their partnerd and display good manners (no swearing etc).

This “showing respect” element of the bow and of Judo culture in general is expressed in the bow. This is both in terms of the Judo use of the bow and the cultural meaning of the bow as inherited from Japanese culture. In Judo respect for ourselves and others is integral and the ettiquette of Judo expresses this culture of respect.

The bow is not the only expression of this culture. The rules of our sport are also shaped by the Judo culture of respect. Unlike other martial arts, Judo’s rules restrict most “dangerous” attacks such as kicks and punches, knee and elbow strikes, etc. We play our “game” in a way that is respectful to our parters, we do not allow behaviour that is “against the spirit of Judo”. By this we generally mean, actions that are agianst the respectful culture of Judo.

In Judo this culture of respect is apparent in our high personal standards for appearance, hygiene and behavior. We expect Judo suits to be washed regularly, finger and toenails are kept clipped short. Judo students are clean and tidy and listen quietly when being taught. These ettiquette elements serve to help children develop into good members of society; and also help with important health and safety issues. Hygiene is important to protect one another from the spread of diseases for example. Similarly short finger and toenails prevent scratches and cuts.

As a parent, you can observe and ask the club officials about the ettiquette standards expected and displayed in the club. You can then help your child learn what is expected of them and how they can live up to the expectations. This makes the job of the coaches easier and also engages you as the parent in the establishing of ettiquette standards in your child. Often, this process started in the Judo club extends to the home and we see the high standard of behaviour and ettiquette adopted at home, school and elsewhere.

This general increase in ettiquette beyond the Judo club is one of the benefits of Judo that parents enroll their children into Judo to receive. If you as the parent learn about the ettiquette of Judo and help your child abide by it, then you encourage the same standards be applied at home or school.

In this way, the culture of Judo becomes a positive part of your childs character; giving them an advantage in later life.

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This entry was posted by LanceW on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 at 4:41 pm and is filed under Judo . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Bob's burger says:

    Our club has a computer plugged into a TV we use for scorekeeping or just watch videos with students and some left this web page onscreenlast week.

    Absolute wonderful piece. Ive re-read it 4-5 times.

    Definitely something to pass on your own dojos or people who have kids.

    Judo as a sport is very nice but it does not demand simply physical achievement but a whole slew of things as demonstrated in its credo.
    Self confidence, humility, respect and discipline
    as well as the others qualties HAVE to be a part of the teaching curriculum /
    Luckily many dojos still demand it and parents almost always see that its an excellent tool in t he education of their child as well. )

    Its so nice to be able to read someone who says it so well.


  2. Eve H. says:

    As a Judo Player (Judoka) I think that these bows are very important for many reasons. It also helps to ‘unite’ a Judo club. It is really an essential part of this sport. Without it Judo is not Judo.

  3. Aimee Claire McMillan says:

    awesome post! really explains well 🙂 😀

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