What Is Ground Fighting In Judo?

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Judo is a fantastic martial art discipline with a strong focus on throws, pins, and submissions. It involves using your opponent’s force against them, which plays to the strengths of smaller and lighter individuals. One of the unique aspects of Judo is its emphasis on ground fighting where techniques like pins, chokes, and joint locks are crucial. However, like any martial art, Judo has specific rules that govern how ground fighting is conducted.

In this article, we’ll explore the Judo rules for ground fighting, the techniques involved, and the methods of scoring points.


What is Ground Fighting in Judo?

Ground fighting in Judo is a component of grappling that involves attempts to gain a positional advantage over your opponent while on the ground. The goal is to hold your opponent down in a position where they are immobile or set up an opportunity for a submission.

To achieve this goal, Judo practitioners typically use pins, chokeholds, and joint locks. Pins are the most often used technique in Judo, and their sole goal is to hold the opponent down onto the mat for 20 seconds, which is considered a full point in Judo.

Chokes or strangles are another technique used in Judo ground fighting. This technique aims to restrict oxygen flow to the opponent’s lungs. Joint locks, on the other hand, involve applying pressure on specific joints, such as elbows or shoulders, to force the opponent to submit.


What Are the Rules for Ground Fighting in Judo?

The International Judo Federation (IJF) has specific rules that regulate ground fighting in Judo. Here are the most important rules to know:


1. Pinning:

Pinning is the most critical aspect of ground fighting in Judo. It involves immobilizing your opponent onto the mat for a minimum of 20 seconds or until your opponent is pinned. If this is achieved, you earn a full point in competition.

The IJF has identified three forms of pinning in Judo:

Tate-Shiho-Gatame: The attacker lies flat on the opponent’s chest while keeping their head up.

Kami-Shiho-Gatame: The attacker pins the opponent’s upper body and arm with their arms.

Yoko-Shiho-Gatame: The attacker pins the opponent’s back, but the attacker’s body is perpendicular to the opponent.

The referee starts counting when a Judoka is held down in one of these positions. If the opponent escapes from the pinning, the timing of the count is stopped, and a new count begins when the pinning is restored.


2. Submission:

In Judo ground fighting, a submission is when an athlete forces their opponent to submit (give-up) using a joint lock or choke. When a submission is successful, the contest is over.

The Uke (person receiving the technique) is responsible for tapping, slapping, or tapping twice on the ground to stop the contest in submission combat. Continuing with joint locks or chokeholds after submission leads to immediate disqualification.


3. Positioning:

In Judo ground fighting, positioning refers to how the athletes align themselves on the mat. The IJF stipulates that Judokas can’t perform a straight arm lock while one leg is entangled with the other person.


4. Fouls:

Fouls are penalized in Judo as they can be dangerous and cause great harm to one of the athletes. Fouls may lead to disqualification, caution, or warnings. Here are some common fouls during ground fighting:

– An athlete intentionally strikes their opponent.

– A Judoka places their hand on their opponent’s face (excluding the neck).

– An athlete applying joint locks or strangleholds that involve squeezing the nose, ears, or fingers.

– An athlete pulls their opponent’s fingers or toes.

– Athletes eye gauge or fish-hooking (inserting fingers into the mouth or nose) to gain an advantage.


5. Standing Fighting Recomencement:

If the referee believes that further progress would not be made after approximately 20 seconds of ground fighting, the referee can return the athletes to a standing position to continue the contest.


6. Time Limits:

Contests in Judo have a set time limit, which varies depending on the category of the contest. Most men and women’s competitions last for five minutes in the first round of the contest. However, the finals can last for seven minutes.


What Are the Scoring Methods in Judo Ground Fighting?

In Judo ground fighting, there are several ways to score points. The following are four of the most common opportunities for scoring:

1. Pinning: A full point is awarded when an athlete pins their opponent for 20 seconds.

2. Submission: When an athlete successfully forces their opponent to submit through a joint lock or choke.

3. Escape: An athlete can score half a point when they escape from being pinned for 10 seconds.

4. Waza-Ari: A Waza-ari, which means “half a score” in English, is awarded when an athlete executes a near-perfect technique.



Ground fighting forms a crucial part of Judo and offers a chance to Judokas to showcase their grappling skills. With the ground fighting rules, guidelines, and scoring methods known, athletes have everything they need to compete. The Pinning technique is the most critical element of Judo’s ground fighting and remains the primary ground fighting technique. Chokeholds and joint locks are also valuable techniques that offer excellent opportunities to gain points or win the contest. With these techniques in mind, Judokas can improve their ground fighting strategies and compete at the highest level.

Maxim Tzfenko

Maxim Tzfenko

"I live and breath Martial Arts"

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