The word judo means 'gentle way' in Japanese and, although it appears to be anything but gentle, the aggression of the players is very much controlled.
Nicola Fairbrother, BBC Sport
"Judo is a mix of skill, strategy and strength. Technique can and does often overcome power, meaning the sport is exciting and unpredictable. The moment to look out for is the ippon throw, which often comes from nowhere. Euan Burton is Team GB's top seeded competitor at -81Kg and is a former European and world championship bronze medallist. Karina Bryant in the +78kg is Great Britain's most consistent heavyweight of all time. She has won six world championship medals, but has never won an Olympic medal. Watch out for Frenchman Teddy Riner in the +100kg. He is one of the best heavyweights of all time and is winning everything at the moment."
Skill, technique and timing, rather than brute strength, are the essential ingredients for success in judo.
Let's not kid ourselves too much though, judo is only the 'gentle way' to an extent. A look at the official list of 66 throwing and 29 grappling techniques reveals that 'shime-waza' or 'strangulation' is an option.
Judo made its Olympic debut at the 1964 Tokyo Games and Japan is the dominant force, winning three times as many gold medals as any other nation. Great Britain, by contrast, has won just one Olympic judo medal since 1992 (Kate Howey's silver in 2000) and has never won a gold.
More than 180 nations are members of the International Judo Federation. In Beijing, Mongolia celebrated its first ever Olympic gold medal when Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the men's -100kg event.
Why is it good for you?
Judo burns approximately 340 calories per session and helps improve fitness levels, balance, coordination and flexibility.
For those not wanting to take part in combat, the moves involved in the sport can still be done as conditioning and strength-building exercises.
The throws and holds involved in judo provide an effective form of self-defence training. It also lowers peoples risk of sustaining serious injury in other sports as judo teaches people how to fall in a safe manner.
Although it is an individual sport, judo is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people as you train in groups.
Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.
Judo is good for the mind as well as the body. Specific rules ensure you will build self-confidence, self-discipline and respect for yourself and others, with many of the moves involving a great deal of mutual trust.
Judo is a fun and challenging activity,
suitable for peoples of all ages and abilities. All clubs that are registered with the British Judo Association offer free starter sessions, and have 'judo gi' (uniforms) that you can borrow while you take part.
Can you compete?
Get your performance under pressure analysed in just 20 minutes by four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson
Every new skill and technique you learn contributes to your grading. As you progress, you will be given a new coloured belt to denote the standard you have reached.
Judo clubs provide the perfect base for people to learn the various techniques involved in the sport in a safe and controlled environment. Clubs can be found in sports centres, gyms, schools, colleges and universities throughout the UK.
Use the British Judo Association's
to discover where your nearest club is located. A list of
upcoming competitions and judo training events for coaches and athletes
can also be found on the Association's website.
As judo is a tough combat sport, a licence that provides insurance is required to take part in competitions and advanced training sessions. Information about where you can obtain the licence and its cost can be found on the
British Judo Association,
It is vital that judo sessions are overseen by a qualified trainer. The British Judo Association's
scheme accredits club that are committed to providing a safe and effective environment to learn the sport.
More on the British Judo Association website
Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?
'Join In Local Sport'
aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on
18/19 August, 2012
- the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.
More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.
As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.
Find an event
The competition format at London 2012
- From Saturday 28 July to Friday 3 August, 386 athletes will compete at the ExCeL Arena.
- There are 14 judo events, seven for men and seven for women, with all using a knockout format.
- Each weight category is split into two groups.
- The defeated quarter-finalists will compete in two 'repechage' contests.
- The 'repechage' winners face the defeated semi-finalists to determine who gets the two bronze medals in each event.
More on the London 2012 website
The rules at London 2012
There are 66 throwing techniques and 29 grappling techniques officially acknowledged in judo, which basically involves throwing opponents to the floor and holding them in submission.
Judo contests are fought on a mat ('tatami') which measures 14m x 14m, with a smaller contest area of 10m x 10m marked inside it.
At the start of each contest the athletes stand 4m apart until the referee shouts 'hajime' to begin the action.
As well as the referee, two line judges sit outside the contest area to help confirm any decisions.
Great Olympic moment
Ulla Werbrouck's gold in the -78kg event at the 1996 Games came with just two seconds of the final remaining. Werbrouck had left the 1992 Olympics with a broken knee and her leg in plaster. Four years on she became the first Belgian woman to win gold at a summer Games.
Contests last up to five minutes, with scores awarded for different throws and holds. However, a contest ends immediately if a competitor is awarded the highly-prized 'ippon' - the maximum score.
An ippon can be scored by a clean, forceful throw; by holding the opponent mainly on his or her back for 30 seconds (under control); or by submission to a strangle, a choke or a lock applied against the elbow.
Ippon sometimes occurs just seconds into a match but a contest going the full distance lasts five minutes for men and four minutes for women. If the scores are tied, a sudden death 'golden score' period comes into play.
This system, designed to take the decision out of the referee's hands, first appeared at an Olympics in 2004. The first athlete ('judoka') to score any point is declared the winner, providing drama akin to a penalty shoot-out in football.
If the scores are tied after five minutes, the contest enters a golden-score period, when the first score of any sort wins.
In a sport which promotes politeness, courage, sincerity, self-control, honour, modesty, friendship and respect, penalties ('shido') are given to players who infringe the rules.
The first penalty only earns a warning, but the second and third result in points being awarded to the opponent, with the fourth equating to an ippon and therefore ends the contest.
A judoka can be disqualified ('hansukomake') for deliberately hurting their opponent.
More on the Team GB website
Ones to watch
A terrible showing at last year's world championships led to GB's elite coaching staff being replaced. Now under the guidance of 1999 world champion Daniel Lascau, confidence has returned and
has since won world and European medals at half-heavyweight (under 81kg).
won world silver in 2009.
of France is as strong a favourite as you will find in any sport. The 22-year-old 6ft 8in heavyweight has already won five world titles and enjoys superstar status in his home country.
Others to watch are South Korea's
who won lightweight silver in Beijing despite a fractured rib, and
(women's half-heavyweight), who could win USA's first judo gold.
Judo is a traditional Japanese wrestling sport, and the word ju-do means "the way of suppleness".
Founded in 1882 by Dr Jigoro Kano, judo is a refinement of the ancient martial art of Jujitsu.
London 2012 weight divisions
-60kg, -66kg, -73kg, -81kg, -90kg, -100kg, +100kg
-48kg, -52kg, -57kg, -63kg, -70kg, -78kg, +78kg
Dr Kano studied what he considered to be the best of Jujitsu's techniques and developed a sport which involves no kicking or punching, rather relying on fluid movements and throws to put an opponent on his or her back.
The sport first appeared at the Olympic Games in 1964 in Tokyo, was left out in 1968, but returned in 1972 and has remained ever since. Women's judo was added to the Games in 1992 in Barcelona.
Judo is now the most popular martial art in the world, with 13 million participants in 111 countries.
Since its Olympic debut at the 1964 Tokyo Games, Japan has won three times as many gold medals as any other nation.
More on the IOC website