Most Judo tournaments are “sport” judo events where two individual players compete with one another in a match to see who can score a victory over the other. Olympic Judo — and most local, regional, national, and international events — operate under the sport judo rules of the International Judo Federation (IJF).
But Judo is bigger than just sport. Many Judo techniques that we avoid for safety in a free practice or sparring format are preserved in the seven katas of Judo. These formal Judo forms have a team of two judoka demonstrating a pre-determined series of techniques with choreographed attacks and counter-attacks. Much of Judo’s true martial arts heritage is preserved in these formal kata which include striking and weapon attacks as well as the more commonly seen throws, pins, chokes, and armlocks.
Kata competition pits several teams of partners performing the same kata against each other. A panel of judges scores each kata team on the basis of comparison to competitive standards. The highest overall score for that kata wins.
Kata competition provides an opportunity for judoka to learn and demonstrate kata for an audience with feedback. While many kata competitors are also sport or shiai competitors, kata competition expands the competition community to include those who choose not to compete in sport Judo. Because the range of actions is well known, kata permits judoka recovering from an injury or with chronic physical problems to continue to learn, practice, and compete.
Since Judo accommodates participants of every age and physical condition, kata and kata competition are an important part of Big Judo.