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Sambo (Russian: са́мбо, IPA: [ˈsambə]; самозащита без оружия) is a Soviet martial art and combat sport. It originated in the Russian SFSR in Soviet Union. The word “SAMBO” is an acronym of samozashchita bez oruzhiya, which literally translates as “self-defence without weapons”. Sambo is relatively modern, since its development began in the early 1920s by the Soviet NKVD and Red Army to improve the hand-to-hand combat abilities of the servicemen. It was intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts.
The pioneers of sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov spent several years living in Japan and training in Judo under its founder Kano Jigoro. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the Great Purge after being accused of being a Japanese spy.
Spiridonov and Oshchepkov independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov’s system, called “free wrestling” in Russia (known in the West as catch-as-catch-can wrestling or simply catch wrestling), Spiridonov’s style was softer and less brutal. It was also less strength-dependent, which in large part was due to injuries Spiridonov sustained during World War I.
Anatoly Kharlampiev, a student of Vasili Oshchepkov, is also considered a founder of sambo. In 1938, it was recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee.
Today SAMBO consists of three components: Sport SAMBO (Olympic sport), Self-defense SAMBO, and Combat SAMBO.
- Sport SAMBO is similar to Judo, but with some differences in rules, protocol, and uniform.
- Self-defense SAMBO is similar to Aikijujutsu and intended to be entirely defensive against attacks by armed and unarmed criminals.
- Combat SAMBO is a very aggressive system designed to prepare an individual to be effective in any situation. The purpose of Combat SAMBO is to “survive.” Combat SAMBO includes techniques from both Sport and Self-defense SAMBO, but uses them in different ways. It includes techniques that are dangerous and prohibited in sports. The Russian Military, Police, special Crowd Control units, Marines, and others have employed Combat SAMBO for all aspects of self-defense and close combat.
Combat SAMBO is continuously evolving. With its ever-growing arsenal of techniques adopted from many martial art and fighting forms, it is one of the most comprehensive self-defense and survival systems in the world.
Warrior Strength Martial Arts offers training in Sambo. If you would like to learn more – do not hesitate to reach out.