FanPost

Sambo: A Brief History

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via www.mmatko.com

 

The other day in ANS's most recent riveting fanpost, he, Andrew Keller, Ulf, and myself were having a discussion about future fanposts. It came up that some of the other members on this site might want to read about some forms of martial arts that they may be less familiar with. The suggestions ranged from judo to capoeira. I personally have no experience in either of those disciplines, but one discipline that was suggested that I also have some experience with is Sambo. I have trained in it and have learned about its history from the man who trained me. Not only does the sport have a very interesting history that comes with it, it is also very effective in the ring or the cage.

Sambo is a Russian martial art. The word sambo was actually originally an acronym for a Russian phrase, which loosely translates into English as "self-defense without weaponry." Sambo is most closely related to judo among the martial arts, with various elements of Greco-Roman wrestling, Savate (French kickboxing) and karate visible as well.

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Sambo was originally developed by two men, Vasili Oschepkov and Victor Spiridonov, as a hand to hand combat system for the Red Army of Russia. The two men actually came up with two different styles working towards the same goal - a revamping of the Red Army's hand to hand combat system. Their independent goals were to create a fighting system based on practicality, incorporating the most efficient maneuvers and techniques from various martial arts around the world. Oschepkov even traveled to Japan to learn judo from its creator, Kano Jigoro. Both men worked separately teaching their techniques. However, through the integrating of their pupils, the two styles merged. After WWI, Vladimir Lenin began a program to train the Russian Army in a variety of tasks, including hand to hand combat. The styles of Oschepkov and Spiridonov were supplemented by the instruction of a man named Anatoly Kharlampiev, who had traveled the world learning different styles of fighting. Kharlampiev is known as the "Father of Sambo" and is credited with the naming of the martial art. To this day, the Russian military's main form of hand to hand combat is a style of sambo known as Combat Sambo.

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There are three distinct styles of sambo, each of which come with an increasing amount of techniques permitted. The most mild form of sambo is known as Sport Sambo. This form is almost a carbon copy of judo, the only major difference being that sport sambo allows leg locks, which judo does not, while disallowing chokes, which judo permits. The next form of sambo is known as Freestyle Sambo. This version of sambo follows a rule set derived here in America. It was developed in 2004 by the American Sambo Association. The major difference between this form and Sport Sambo is that Freestyle Sambo allows chokes. The final, most intense, form of Sambo is the aforementioned Combat Sambo. This form is the only form of sambo that employs striking, as well as all the permissions of freestyle sambo on the ground.


In today's world of MMA, Sambo is a highly effective, yet underutilized martial art. Obviously, the most famous Sambo practitioner is Fedor Emelianenko. He is a 6 time Russian Combat Sambo Champion, and a 3 time World Champion.

However there are many other MMAists that are highly touted Sambo practitioners. Fedor's brother Aleksander has been a Russian and World Champion 3 times.



At age 19, Andrei Arlovski won the World Junior Sambo Championships. Dean Lister and Amir Sadollah have both been U.S. National Champions in their respective weight divisions. Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was a former national champion in his weight division, and holds the title of Master of Sports.

The title Master of Sports leads me to the next interesting fact about Sambo. There are no belts, rather you receive a title based on your promotion. The rankings range from Third-Class Junior Sportsman to Merited Master of Sports. A Third-Class Junior Sportsman is essentially equivalent to being on your high school's JV Sambo team, while Merited Master of Sports (the rank Fedor holds) is equivalent to being a World Champion who has also contributed significantly to the development of the sport, for example parlaying your knowledge of Combat Sambo into a mixed martial arts career that saw you become the greatest heavyweight of all time using predominantly that very martial art.

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I have never stepped into a gym with a certified Sambo trainer. Instead, I have learned from one of my dad's coworkers, Yuriy, a former member of the Russian Army. My father is a police officer and introduced me to Yuriy when I inquired about Sambo. He possesses a staggering amount of knowledge about the art, despite not being a certified instructor. If any of you have any interest in learning Sambo, I encourage you to look at www.ussambo.com, the American Sambo Association website. There you can find a gym in your area. If there are none near you, then I would suggest asking ANYONE that is Russian ex-military; they are all taught the art very extensively, and I know from experience that you can get great instruction from someone like this. I hope you all enjoyed the piece. Please let me know if you would like to see more pieces like this in the future.

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