By Joshua Hagen
Photo by Altai World Photography
If you’re not yet familiar with this technique, you soon will be, as it has lately exploded in popularity. No longer just used by the Mongolian team, the Mongolian Uchi Mata is now popping up all over the place. Why? Because it’s super effective. It has helped Mongolia, a nation of about 3 million people, to become a global powerhouse. Not only is it effective, it’s relatively easy to learn. Many techniques in judo are rather complicated, requiring you to use a collar and sleeve grip to throw your opponent to the ground. What I love about this throw is its innate simplicity. If I were to ask any 5-year-old to lift up his friend, even if he had never done judo before, he would undoubtedly wrap both arms around them in a bearhug, and lift. He would probably achieve the desired result, too, and so would you, using Mongolian uchi-mata.
Mongolian’s national sport is a folk wrestling they call Bökh. As you can see from the title image, they wear very tight sleeves that would be hard to get much of a grip of. Then there is a large baggy swath of fabric across the back, much like what is used in Georgian wrestling (chidaoba). The difference in the gripping area with these wrestling styles forces you to alter or create your own technique, as attempting a classic uchi-mata in this scenario wouldn’t make much sense.
Judo has risen to the challenge, and we're witnessing an infusion of Mongolian and Georgian-inspired throws in our sport. If you're not at least familiar with them, the likelihood is that the match will be over so quickly, you'll be left wondering what just happened.
Still widely practiced in Mongolia, Bökh no longer merely influences the National Mongolian Judo team, but the greater world grappling community as well. The success of the Mongolian judoka is intrinsically linked to the nation's wrestling repertoire. Techniques like the Mongolian (Bökh) Uchi-Mata are one of their greatest exports.
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