Your First Judo Shiai- Part 2

Kids on multiple mats at a tournament
Kid’s tournament taking place on multiple mat areas
1ª Copa de Judô de Votuporanga 10-08-13 (93) © 2013, André Luiz D. Takahashi Permission to use under CC BY 4.0

Your First Judo Shiai Part 2

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

At The Venue

Please note: Try to get there early. Like an hour or so. There are things to do prior to the start, and I’ve always preferred avoiding long lines

Well you made it. Along with all the other people there, you may also be there with your teammates and Sensei. Maybe you’re there with a few club members. It could also very well be you are the only one representing your dojo. People are milling about. Acquaintances are chatting with one another. There may even be dealer booths with folks selling their wares- They run out of the belts I was telling you about earlier pretty fast, so try to remember to bring your own. Referees are having last minute meetings with each other and the Senseis in attendance.

Don’t worry about any of that. Your job right now is to find the registration table. This is where you check in and are given further instructions. If you’ve preregistered, this is where they’ll find your name on the list. If you are registering at the site this is where they add you to the list. They will verify you have the appropriate insurance as discussed in part 1. If everything seems to be in order, they will then verify your weight…

“Weight” Classes

Higher end tournaments, that is to say ones where there is some influence on national ranking, have weight classes that are broken down in a universally accepted weight class system. In order to qualify for these weight classes you must weigh at or under the weight you have registered for. This is serious business. If you miss this, you will most likely be disqualified from entering into that particular tournament without a refund.

That’s not you. That’s the high end folks. This is your first tournament. Unless the tournament paperwork said otherwise, your weight classes aren’t quite so stringent. What will most likely happen is they will group everybody by age. Everyone in that age group will be broken into about 3 – 5 groups of around the same weight- Lightweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight will be the bare minimum, and there may be a Super Lightweight (usually for the littlest of the little kids) and Super Heavyweight (more likely seen in the adult categories). Then you will be assigned to a Pool…


The group you are put into is called a “Pool”. The Pool consists of people who are somewhat around your age, and somewhere around your weight. This is of course a loose interpretation, as this can vary by who has shown up to the tournament. The larger the tournament the more likely you will be in a group that is fairly close to your age and weight, and the smaller it is, the less likely it will be. Now it‘s time to get yourself ready…

How It Starts

You got to the venue. Good. You registered. Great. You weighed in. Fantastic. Now would be a good time to get your gi on and go onto the mat area and do some warming up. It’s okay, there are a bunch of others out there doing the same thing. Just like you, they are working out some of those pre tournament jitters, loosening up tight muscles and whatever else needing to be done to mentally and physically prepare for the day‘s activities.

This pre tournament activity ends when everyone is called onto the mats. The event begins typically with everyone on the mat lining up in lines facing perpendicularly to a long line of referees, organizers and other special guests. Then, there is some sort of prayer or affirmation depending on where you are. Here in the United States, things usually start off with the Pledge Of Allegiance and/or the singing of The National Anthem.

Then, any quick or not so quick announcements are given by the tournament coordinator, like where the Pooling Area is; more on that in a moment. Maybe the head judge wants everyone to know about something the referees are being hyper vigilant about for this particular tournament. Perhaps they will be handing a out a couple of awards to some dignitaries. Once this is all done, Kiotsuke (attention) is announced, followed by Rei (bow). At this point, the event has officially begun. The tatamis are cleared, and the first of the competing Pools are called to the mats…

Your Pool Is Called

All the shiais I’ve been to start with the kids or in the case of larger tournaments, the kids and the high end competitors competing first. Then as the day progresses, more competitors are called to compete as room becomes available.

When it comes to your turn, usually your name is announced along with the others in your pool from a list called a Pool Sheet.  You meet at the Pooling Area. Once everyone on that Pool Sheet has arrived to the Pooling Area, they as a group are escorted to the mat they will be competing on. The Pool Sheet is given to the Table Judge. The Table Judge will then assign matches in whatever way is appropriate to the venue. Since this is your first ever shiai you will most likely be in a pool that is sorted randomly rather than by seed (ranked). You then wait for them to call your name…

And You’re Up

Your name is called by the Table Judge. You are assigned to go the blue side of the mat or the white side, or whatever color system they are using. You will be called onto the mat by the Head Referee-The one standing in the middle of the mat area. You bow before entering the competition area. You step into the competition area, and move to the center. You bow to your opponent. The Head Referee says “Hajime”

The rest is up to you.

Your First Judo Shiai, Part 1

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