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About Sambo

By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor

Sambo (also called Sombo in the US and sometimes written in all-caps) is a modern martial art and self-defense system developed in the former Soviet Union. The word Sambo is an abbreviation meaning "self-defense without a weapon" in Russian.

There used to be two Sambo forms – the sport and combative Sambo. Combative Sambo stands separately from the sport of Sambo because it includes kicks and punches.

There is no single recognized founder of Sambo. Traditionally, Anatoly Kharlampiev is considered as a founder of Sambo – his bestselling book "Sambo wrestling" was republished many times in the USSR.

Sambo became a sport on November 16, 1938. The sport was recognized by USSR National Committee of Physical Culture and Sports.

Sambo was born of native Russian and other regional styles of grappling and combative wrestling bolstered with the most useful and adaptable concepts and techniques from the rest of the world.

Each technique for Sambo was carefully considered for its merits, and if found acceptable in unarmed combat, refined to reach Sambo’s ultimate goal: stop an armed or unarmed adversary in the least time possible. The best techniques of Jiu-jitsu and its softer cousin, Judo, entered the Sambo repertoire. When the techniques were perfected, they were added into Sambo applications for personal self-defense, police, crowd control, border guards, secret police, dignitary protection, psychiatric hospital staff, military, and commandos.

Nowadays, women are widely involved in all these services, so they must manage hand-to-hand combat techniques. And, learning Sambo techniques allows every woman to become proficient in the self-defense art. Sambo is very popular sport and self defense system among women.

Although it was originally a single system, there are now three generally recognized versions of Sambo:

Sport Sambo - is stylistically similar to amateur wrestling or Judo. The competition is similar to Judo, but with some differences in rules, protocol, and uniform. The differences which catch the eye are the following: a Sambo practitioner wears either a red or blue jacket with "wings" and slits for the belt, and shorts rather than pants. Plus special boots. And the mat in Sambo is round rather than square (as in judo).

Sambo allows all types of leglocks while not allowing chokeholds, whereas judo is the other way around. Also, judo and Sambo have very different score counting systems.

Self-defense Sambo- which is similar to Aikijutsu, Jiu-jitsu or Aikido, and is based on self-defense application, such as defending against attacks by both armed and unarmed attackers.

Combative Sambo- Utilized and developed for the military, this is arguably the root of Sambo as it is now known, and includes practice with weapons and disarming techniques. Competition in combat Sambo resembles modern mixed martial arts ("no-holds barred"), and includes extensive forms of striking and grappling.

It is not a big deal for a skillful Judoka to retrain for Sambo. According to a prominent Russian female sambist and judoko, the difference between Sambo and judo is not significant. Because of the similarity, many female wrestlers participate in both sports (as Irina Nodina does). Many judokas take part in Sambo tournaments, spending just a few days for the additional training. Although, in the future they perhaps will be more separated and specialization will increase as it is happening in men's judo and Sambo.


About Cathy: She and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy, write to thecathyfactor@yahoo.com. Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.


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