any moment if a player is awarded a full point, or an ippon, which
can be earned in one of four ways: 1) when a player forcefully flips
his opponent onto his back; 2) when a player pins his opponent on the
mat for 30 seconds; 3) when a player forces an opponent to submit by
trapping him in an armlock; 4) when a player causes an opponent to
submit or lose consciousness briefly with a choke out, a move that
sounds worse than it looks. An ippon is to judo what a knockout is to
boxing. It is dramatic and instantaneously rewarded. Most Japanese
judoists, technically skilled and stylish to a fault, try to score an
ippon every fight.
Players can also win a match by scoring fractions of a point,
which are awarded for throws that don't meet the criteria for an
ippon. This style is known as koka judo, and many Europeans
specialize in it. In koka judo a player tries to accumulate a half
point, and if he succeeds, he adopts a defensive posture for the
remainder of the match. Koka judo has given the Japanese fits.
Led by world champs Yosuke Yamamoto, Hirotaka Okada and Hitoshi
Sugai, Japan should fare well at Seoul, but the French, Soviets,
Americans, West Germans, British and South Koreans are all capable of
winning gold medals, too. Besides Swain, the top U.S. hopefuls are
Kevin Asano, at 132 pounds, who got a bronze medal in the 1987 world
championships, and Bob Berland, who is fighting at 209 pounds, after
having won the silver medal at 189.5 pounds in Los Angeles.
The Japanese have only themselves to blame for the parity that has
pumped new life into the sport. Nearly all world-class players now
spend a portion of the year training in Japan. As Britain's Elvis
Gordon, who competes in the open category, said recently in Tokyo,
''If they started keeping all of us from training here, it would
make them look worried.'' The Japanese should look worried. --