Pressure, Passivity, Shido, Yuko and how they work in Judo competition.

Recently I helped take a session for Judo players as part of the Hampshire County Squads, in the senior section I spoke briefly during some randori about Shido and how it is being used by elite Judo athletes to apply pressure and win fights. In this post I would like to discuss it in a little more detail and share some ideas on how you as a Judo athlete can use Shido and passivity in your fights.

Mr. Geri at World CupIf we look at the sport of Judo, penalties make up a large proportion of the scores. To be precise, in the recent 2011 Moscow Grand Slam which I attended, Shido made up 48.5% of all scores recorded (According to the IJF statistics for the event), and back in 2008 my own research of the Beijing Olympic Games Judo placed the percentage at 54%. In the 2009 World Championships the figure was even higher (according to IJF statistics) at 63.5%.

Watching recent elite level competitions, what I have observed is that the passivity penalty is the most popular penalty; in fact looking at statistics it is the most prevalent “score”. In Moscow it made up 31.63% of all “scores” with the next closest “score” being O-Uchi-Gari at a mere 4.81%. Now, in the latest incarnation of the rules, the first Shido does not affect the score on the scoreboard, so people call it the freebie. That said, the IJF statistics also state that the passivity Shido makes up 11.9% of “winning scores”, with O-Uchi-Gari at only 7.6%. So passivity shido is deciding matches.

Even when not directly deciding the match, the passivity shido is indirectly deciding fights based on the next 60 second or less of the fight after the first shido for passivity. What I have been observing is that immediately after that first shido for passivity, the player without the shido piles on even more pressure on the penalised player, preventing that person from attacking and quickly resulting in them getting a second shido, which results in them being a Yuko down on the scoreboard.

This is perhaps counter-intuitive, we might expect the player penalised to up the work rate. But in reality, the elite Judo player is using the first shido as a trigger to up their workrate and encourage the referee to give shido again to their opponent. It is smart play and I encourage you to watch some high level players and watch this happen and see if it plays out as I describe.

What does it mean for you as an aspiring Judo athlete?

It means that it is important for you to control the tempo and attack rate of the match. A clever approach to passivity will help you get wins. For example, you can go to Judo and practise preventing your opponent from attacking you. By this I mean through the use of strong kumi kata AND positive attacks. You can’t be negative, you need to be attacking and working to throw your opponent.

Randori is a good opportunity perhaps for you to rehearse doing all the attacks for 30-60 seconds, then stopping (this is when the first shido would happen). Then rehearse being even more positive and preventing your opponent from getting a look in for another 30-40 seconds. At which point the second shido would be likely to be awarded.

At this point, you can perhaps try a active defense. By which I mean that you cease trying to throw your opponent but defend. You do this positively by securing a good grip (kumi kata), then using movement to protect yourself from attack. After approximately 10 seconds you want to try and make a positive attack that ends up with you in a safe position on the ground. This is not your “flop and drop” seoi nage, but a good seoi nage. It is not a kick at the ankle, rather a good ashi waza where you both end up falling.

The point here being that you want to minimise the risks of being thrown, decrease your workrate (you may need the energy later in the match or later in the day), whilst not risking a penalty. You need to fight smart.

Of course, the best way to save energy is to throw your opponent for  ippon in the first exchange. But in the reality of higher level competition this is not common. So if you want to make it beyond the level you are at today, you want to start developing strategy and tactics that allow you to win the fights using not only your own skills, but your knowledge of the rules of our sport.

Please do leave your comments of what you think of what I am describing here, traditionalists may think it is bad to even discuss the idea of playing the rules/referees in this way. Sporting purists might also consider it against the spirit of our sport to play this way. Please do leave your point of view, I welcome them all. Alternatively, if commenting in public is not your thing, please feel comfortable emailing your thoughts, questions, experiences, ideas to me at

Comments (1)

zegrapplezAugust 21st, 2011 at 3:18 pm

one of my first coaches always taught me from white belt, when in doubt attack. he said attacking while an opponent is looking for that opening is a great defense if the attack is legitimate enough that it must be defended and/or countered.

he said that the higher i went in competition, trying to stop or defend throws against highly skilled throwers is a high risk/gamble situation.

i had never thought of it as positive attacking or attacking as defense/preventing the other guy from attacking/setting up. great article.

i recently competed in a regional level tournament, my first tournament in 6 months, with an injured right elbow (my predominant side/grip). yet, i was able to win 2 divisions b/c i used my attacking to keep each of my opponents from setting up and, in fact, several were penalized with shido, exactly as you described.
i’d noticed in the past few years elite players really coming after the guy after he got a shido, or definitely looking for a forward throw as they knew the penalized player would likely be coming forward with more movement to avoid a 2nd shido

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