Ippon (一本) literally "one full point", it is the highest score a fighter can achieve in a Japanese martial arts ippon-wazari contest, usually Judo, karate or Jujutsu.

Ippon in Judo

In Judo, an ippon is awarded when one of the judoka accomplishes one of the following:

  • A throw ending with an opponent largely on his/her back, demonstrating full control, having such amplitude that the feet of the player receiving the action leave the tatami (the contest mat); the back does not necessarily have to touch, it is the exposure that is considered by the referees. Landing in a bridge will score Ippon, even though there was no direct contact of the shoulder blades with the mat.
  • Pinning an opponent with his/her back touching the mat for 25 seconds; The contestant being held may not have any control of any part of the attacking player's body for the pin to be scored. This differs from a wrestling pin as if the person that has their back facing the mat has their legs wrapped around any part of the attacking player's body (for example guard), the pin will not be scored.
  • Applying such a hold to the arm, above the wrist but beneath the shoulder, that causes the player receiving the action to submit. (For example an "elbow lever" or arm-bar.)
  • Strangling the opponent to induce a submission; a strangle can be induced with the uniform, arms, legs or with the opponent's own shoulder muscle.
  • Disqualification of one of the contestants (hansoku-make). A disqualification can be assessed through an accumulation of penalties (awarded for infractions such as non-combativity, improper hold, false attacks, etc.), by applying a forbidden hold or technique (e.g. Kani Basami (scissors), pressure holds to the spinal cord, submissive holds to the legs, the wrist or the shoulder), or by seeking medical attention for an injury other than blood or a potentially grave injury.

Ippon in Karate

In shobu ippon kumite, a method of karate competition, a ippon is awarded for a technique which is judged as decisive, this is usually a move which connects cleanly, with good form and with little opportunity for the opponent to defend against it. Kicks to the head of an opponent or judo throws followed up with a strike to the downed opponent are particularly likely to be considered a winning ippon technique. A competitor is declared the winner upon achieving a judgement of ippon.

Occasionally shobu nihon kumite is used, in which two decisive strikes (or four less-decisive strikes, scored as waza-ari) are required for a win. In many tournaments, sanbon scoring is used. This promotes a flashier style of fighting more suited to a spectator sport. More traditional tournaments usually use ippon or nihon scoring however.

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