Your First Judo Shiai- Part 1

Kids lining up at the start of a Judo Shiai
Young Judoka getting ready to start their day at a Judo Shiai
Photo by Catch Central Florida © 2009 at the2009 Sunshine State Games and published with permission under cc by-sa 3.0)

Your First Judo Shiai

In part 1 we discuss getting ready to go to a Judo Shiai. In part 2 we will talk about what to expect when you get there

Part 1, Getting Ready

So you’ve decided to take the plunge, and go to your first Judo Shiai, or Judo Tournament. Cool. After all, you’ve been attending the club for a few months at least now. Why not actually put all that practice to use? Sure, you face your friends at the club, and that can certainly be a gauge of your progress, but how about facing off against someone you’ve never met before? Or 3 of them? You decide to put all this practice to the test. Off you go, to your first Shiai. Before you do anything else…

Talk To Your Sensei

The first step is going to be talking with your Sensei. Let them know you’re interested. Let them help you assess whether you’re ready, or maybe need a bit more mat time. If you’re both satisfied you’re ready to go, then depending on your age, you’ll want to talk to your parents and see if they’re on board as well. If everyone agrees, on to the next step…

Find a Tournament

In order to go to a tournament, you’ll need to find a tournament, hopefully near you. If you don’t know of one already, ask your Sensei. If your Sensei doesn’t know, ask your Sensei which Yudanshakai your Dojo is a member of, or which Judo national organization you are affiliated with.

Okay, so what’s a “Yudanshakai”? Your Yudanshakai is a large organizing body your Dojo is affiliated with that is in charge of a region of your country. For instance, my club’s Yudanshakai is called Nanka, which is in charge of Southern California.

Okay, so what’s the difference between that and a national organization? The Yudanshakai is a part of the national organization. Here in the United States for example, your Yudanshakai is most likely a part of USJA- United States Judo Association, USJF-United States Judo Fereration, or USA Judo. So, my club is in Nanka, and is a part of the USJF.

Whichever website you go to, there will be a list of tournaments on them. They maintain these lists because shiai events cannot be sanctioned without these governing bodies knowledge, and it is in everyone’s best interest their members know what’s going on in. Especially when it comes to tournaments. The Yudanshakai is most likely going to have a list of tournaments that would be easier for you to navigate. The tournaments listed would most likely be more local to you. Those same tournaments will be on the national organization’s website as well. However, you’ll need to navigate a much larger list as their reach is national rather than regional. Either way, there should be a link to a website or a .pdf file where you can download an entry packet. The entry packet will have all the information you need on the tournament you are interested in. Next…

Fill Out The Entry Packet

The paperwork to enter the event is going to ask you some basic information. What’s your name? What’s your mailing address? What’s your gender? How old are you? What Dojo are you a part of? What is your current rank? What do you anticipate your weight to be when you get to the tournament (More on that shortly)?. The form may even ask what your tee shirt size is because they may have a special early entry gift for you. Not always, but it’s been known to happen. This list of questions I have here is by no means complete. You’ll see what I am talking about when you get the packet.

Also, in some cases, your Sensei is going to need to sign off on your tournament entry document. Not always, but it can happen. Of course, if you are considered a minor in whatever jurisdiction you reside in, you are most likely going to need to have a parent or legal guardian sign the form as well. Also, you’ll need…


You will need special insurance that covers you in case of an injury in your specific sport related activity. Some Dojos require you to purchase this insurance when you join their club, in which case that’s the insurance they are talking about. Here in the United States, when you signed up to join your dojo you may have filled out a form joining your Yudanshakai. Part of joining the Yudanshakai is being enrolled in their special insurance program. You most likely received a membership card in the mail about a month later with your name, your rank, your Yudanshakai, the national organization‘s name you are now a part of, and your membership number. This is your proof of insurance. I cannot speak on if this is how it is where you are located, so you’ll want to talk to your Sensei to be sure.

If you don‘t have the necessary insurance, you can either download an insurance form from the Yudanshakai’s website, or usually you can fill out a form and pay for the insurance at the venue. I wouldn’t rely on that though. It would be a real disappointment to show up at the venue and find out they don’t have the insurance forms so won’t let you participate.

Pay The Fees

Do you have the entry form and insurance form filled out? Good. Time to pay the entry fee. It’s best to pay early. It’s usually cheaper than paying at the door, and it gives the organizer a better idea of how many people they can anticipate for the event so they can plan accordingly. Put all of this into an appropriately addressed envelope, and send the paperwork and check to whoever the paperwork says needs it. It doesn’t hurt to have contact information from who is getting the information packet and check so you can verify they received it all. If the tournament organizers are up to snuff on how modern technology works, you may even be able to send the form with payment over their website. Your results may vary.

Remember, not all tournaments take registration at the door. Sometimes they’ll take registration up until the day before. They may even only take preregistration. That information should be in the registration paperwork, so act accordingly. Once you’ve taken care of this you’ve signed up and are now ready to go. Now it’s time to…

Pack For The Trip

At the least, you typically need a white gi. You’re going to need the aforementioned insurance card if you have one. From there you’ll most likely need 2 different colored belts depending on what the tournament officials require. Here in the States, you need a white belt and a blue belt. I’ve seen white and red, and I’ve seen green and orange as well. At the high end competitions it is required that one Judoka wear a white gi, and the other a blue gi. Whatever you need, it should be in the registration packet. Whatever they say you need, you’ll need it with you. Sometimes they may have some extra belts to borrow, but that’s not always the case. It’s best to bring your own.

Why do you need different colored belts or gis? This is so the referee can differentiate between the two judoka when they are assessing scores and penalties so they are given to the right person. You can learn more about how scoring works at a Judo Shiai here.

As I said earlier, your gi and two different appropriately colored belts are the bare minimum. In the near future, I’ll be starting an e-mail newsletter. When I do, as an incentive for signing up, I will be giving you a free copy of a sheet I use that is a list of everything I take with me to a Tournament. Extra clothes, spending money, a first aid kit and a WHOLE bunch more useful information will be on this list and I will give it to you for free just for signing up. Alright then, off you go to the event

 Your first Judo Shiai, Part 2

Be the first to comment on "Your First Judo Shiai- Part 1"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.