Competitions are an excellent way to see how you compare with judoka from other clubs and at different levels; they can also serve as valuable learning tool and are likely to boost your confidence. Atmosphere at competitions is tense, as you would expect, but it is also very friendly and supportive with a good air of sportsmanship and clear honouring of the judo code.
How to prepare for your first competition
You should probably read through your judo handbook, which shows and teaches you the moves you’ve already practised and it’s always good to revise what you already know so you are better able to do each move.
You could watch You Tube videos to see how other players take an initial grip and set up throws.
Attend judo regularly and apply yourself to lessons full heartedly.
At competitions, there are various rules about uniform. Firstly, check your uniform is clean. Then check your jacket sleeves and trouser hems are long enough – If you are not sure, check with your sensai or a qualified referee (who may be a player at the club). If you are female, you will need a white T-shirt: other colours are not really permitted.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of waiting around at these fights: be prepared to wait several hours or several minutes. Take a book with or electronic entertainment device if you are likely to get bored. I would recommend taking a camera or other recording device with so you can watch your fights back and learn from your performance.
What to wear and bring to each competition
You will need to bring your judogi
Bring suitable zori
You might like to take a flannel and hand towel (especially if you participate in lots of fights) or bath towel. Most places have showers available.
Some water to drink
Perhaps a light lunch (depending on what time you fight and weigh in at)
A camera and a friend to film you (so you can recognise your achievements and learn from your mistakes)
What to expect
When you enter the venue, you will need to register your presence and weigh in (be weighed). This is to ensure you are in the correct weight category… although at times the weight categories are combined (especially if you are an adult female – in which case belt-colours can also be combined, so beware: yellow belts can be expected to fight brown belts!).
You will need to remember the letter of your group (which relates to your age, gender and weight).
Listen for that letter when announcements are made and go to your given location promptly. It is embarrassing being called out by name in front of everyone, and even worse to miss your fight!
You may have several consecutive fights, or you may have a breather between two fights.
If you are not fighting immediately, find yourself a seat and make yourself as comfy as you possibly can.
If you know when you are likely to be fighting, spend a while warming yourself up first. Nobody will call you to do so. Work through warm-up exercises typical of your judo lessons – possibly start with your head and work your way down to warm up your feet and ankles. If you can, partner up with another judoka and practise throws and break-falls.
If you feel an adrenalin build-up, jump up and down a bit and go for a jog around the venue or on the spot.
Do not eat a lot before you fight. Have a gulp of water and take a deep breath … remembering to let it out.
Don’t expect to win every match. There will nearly always be players bigger and better than you!
After the competition
When your group have finished fighting, there will probably be a short intermission.
You may use this time to reward yourself with something tasty to eat.
Stick around for that because straight after, announcements are made to say who won what. You may get a medal even if you don’t win any of your fights! If you are awarded a medal, be sure that your photographer is attentive and takes a photo.
Change quickly into your every-day clothes, and celebrate the achievement of your efforts participating … or have a hot bath if you ache!