Ranjit Dalvi, a wrestling aficionado and sportswriter deeply invested in grappling, loves his two laments in the sport: how Bombay’s Anglo-Indian community slowly faded from the frame of Indian hockey. And how Maharashtra, with its rich history steeped in wrestling, lost out to northern wrestlers, clinging to mud dangals.
Dalvi is that insightful niche voice that jettisoned journalists will seek to get an accurate picture of the precise situation on the ground in the interiors, without crediting him for his in-depth knowledge. He spouts details, but his lamentations aren’t just about modern wrestlers chasing after lucre. He argues that Maharashtra have lost technique on the mat, in addition to the raw strength that Haryana hammered on. It speaks with the same weight as the tomes about the defeat of Panipat from Maratha to the end of that loss in the history of Marathi literature – with introspection and brutal honesty, a clinical look at the history of dead men and why they died.
After painstakingly following India’s top wrestlers over the past two decades of Olympic success, Dalvi issues another warning of a sinking ship: Indian wrestling itself is falling behind – not to mention the two medals in Tokyo – because ‘it doesn’t adapt fast enough to international trends where nimble grapplers will have an advantage over simple strong. Where Haryana began to pose a danger to Maharashtra fifty years ago, he believes Japan and Iran will leave India far behind in Asia, the gap widening even more than it expected. ‘was.
Dalvi has a bright little idea, and the recent World Championships have convinced him even more: Indian wrestling must urgently harness and grow the sport in North East India.
Not too slyly, but he preaches poaching on the existing judo talents available in the explosive hillside athletes of the northeast, and transplanting them into the fight, if India is to expand and evolve into a sport, beyond his stagnant strength-based northern style. Or at least incorporate judo into wrestling. “India’s wrestling techniques need an injection of judo moves. And the Northeast has the athletes to achieve this because of their body structure and martial arts skills,” he firmly believes. Especially in the lower weight divisions, India’s northeast could even take on the invincible Japanese, absorbing their style.
But it’s a hybrid of wrestling judo that he believes is primarily important to break free from the leg defense limbo the Indians are stuck in. well could still at next year’s Asiad – is in the judo throws in the air.
Where wrestling relies on striking force, judo uses leverage and body position to throw opponents off balance with flexible shoulder and hip techniques to use fast, flowing throws. It was that surprise split-second move that Indian wrestlers lacked at Worlds, and riffing judo could be a game-changer, and that’s where Dalvi says the northeast should be tapped for talent.
The proliferation of MMA has actually pitted different fighting styles against each other in the cage, making it possible to see in real time how this hybrid could be used. Khabib Nurmagomedov mixes the two beautifully – even if the grappling hook is stronger. But Canada stumbled over Jason Morris referencing judo’s foot sweeps and upper body takedowns as he carefully tipped them into the fight. Additionally, Japanese wrestlers — women too, but mostly men — seem adept at borrowing either an outside leg kick or an inside thigh throw from judo into the mat.
The CWG in Coventry – some distance from the Birmingham cluster of venues – only put judo and wrestling on the periphery (Rugby 7 too, feeling the spiritual similarity) – where North East wrestling enthusiasts England – Manchester primarily and the Scots descended from judo wrestling clubs. There is no doubt that there is an overlap – Georgia, where many talented wrestlers come from, has its own native variety called – Chidaoba, which marries wrestling and judo techniques.
The low flex of wrestling makes cheeky throws against stances unsolvable, because of the way they stun the opponent by throwing them off balance. Judo transitions well to wrestling, which is better for groundwork with leg attacks and over sprawls and gripping when throwing – or threatening to throw, and relying on technique rather than strength which could decrease. Popular Youtuber Jeff Campbell presents reels on how wrestlers can train to knock out judo – for example. Use the hook to hoist opponents over the thigh and throw them (called Uchi mata). Campbell speaks or ‘Harai Goshi’ – “the adaptation, you execute it with your arm around the back of your opponent’s head and throw it over your hips. At the same time, make sure to reap with your leg .
From Burrabazar in Kolkata to the naturally nimble judokas of the northeast, wrestling could seek to add dimension to its currently clunky and stunted style by borrowing from cousin.
The North East has two centers that cater to wrestlers superficially in Manipur, started in the mid-1980s as part of the Special Zone Games programs. But for a region that has set the tone for boxing and weightlifting, and where judo itself could take off, given the recent accomplishments of the cadets, the fight must go up and tap into the careful genetic adjustments for the sport, regardless of tradition – or lack thereof.
So when Sushil Kumar lost to Yonemitsu in the London final, it was a surprise shot in the 23rd minute of the second period that stunned the Indian. At the recent World Championships, when UWW picked their top five moves, four were throws relying on off-balance opponents, but not strictly judo staples, more technique than strength. This included Kyle Drake’s ambush of young Sagar Jaglan in what was instructive on where the fight is headed.
But what the northeast offers is a smaller body, lower center of gravity, lean muscles, proportional limbs, explosive strength and natural fighting instinct, plus agility. The culture of brute force might need to be instilled, and given how Maharashtra has struggled to absorb it, it will remain an unknown variable asterisk. But their stance, posture, toughness, high-protein diet, and unfussy meat consumption provide wrestling with a prime opportunity to raid gyms for raw talent. Judo will give the project the most leverage. If only they saw it as clearly as Ranjit Dalvi: the northeast is ripe for struggle.