Randori means “free exercise.” When we practice randori, we use any technique we like, while our partner is doing the same. The goal is to be quicker and better than your partner! Randori is competitive, but is always done in a spirit of playfulness and friendliness. There is no scoring in randori, and no winning or losing.
We start by bowing to each other. That signals that the match is beginning. Each partner takes hold of the other’s jacket and they try to pull each other to a position where they can throw their opponent to the ground. The key is to maintain your balance while disrupting the other person’s balance.
There are 67 traditional judo throws, each with a right and left version. The foot throws are some version of sweeping your opponent off his or her feet. It is an elegant way to trip somebody while maintaining control of their body. The forward throws typically involve bending low and having your opponent do a forward roll over your back.
The ground work portion of randori is a lot like wrestling. There are two goals: either holding the other person on his or her back for 25 seconds, or having the other person give up, or “tap out.” If both partners want to and both have training, they can include chokes and joint locks.
Each randori session typically lasts about two or three minutes, and ends with a bow. The partners shuffle around, and play begins again.