The Khabarelli Evolution

The Khabarelli, as done by the man himself: Shota Khabarelli


“The Khabarelli” technique stands out as a unique throw in judo because it is the only throw to have been recognized by the IJF that didn’t have a Japanese name.

For many years, it was referred to by the IJF as simply the “Habarelli” (the “K” is silent which is probably why they spelled it that way).

It’s named after the former Soviet Olympic Champion Shota Khabarelli, who popularized the technique in the early 80s.

It’s actually a technique based on a Georgian wrestling move called “Gadavlia” and he wasn’t the only Soviet player from Georgia using it. His compatriot David Bodaveli was as well versed with the technique as Khabarelli was but he wasn’t as famous.

The original Khabarelli technique involved an over-the-top grip on uke’s belt with one hand, and a grip on uke’s trouser leg with the other. Tori would usually start the technique by hooking his leg into uke’s leg ouchi-gari style and then try to pick uke up.

At that point, uke is in a fix. If he resists the pick up by pulling backwards, tori throws him with ouchi-gari. If he doesn’t resist, he gets picked-up and thrown to his front with a frontal ura-nage-like throw.

It’s a very effective technique because once you’ve got the belt and trouser grips and the attacking leg hooked in, there’s very little uke could do to avoid conceding a score.

After the IJF banned leg grabs, the classical version became illegal but players from Georgia soon modified their grips so that instead of their hand grabbing the trouser leg, they grab the belt, by the side instead. So, both hands end up gripping uke’s belt (one over the top and one by the side).

Today, that is the approached used by Khabarelli specialists such as Ivaylo Ivanov (BUL) and Mikita Sviryd (BLR).

See how the Khabarelli has changed over the years.

Judo purists might dislike the Khabarelli, denigrating it as a “non-judo” technique but these same people would probably be very surprised to learn that the Kodokan recognized this technique in 2017 and it is now officially part of the Gokyo, where it is known as “Obi-Tori-Gaeshi” and is classified as a hand technique.

Interestingly, in the official video of the technique made by the Kodokan (available on the Kodokan YouTube channel), it is shown to be done with a trousers grip. In other words, the Kodokan version is illegal by IJF standards. But it is the version that Shota Khabarelli himself used during his time.