Sambo: the Russian martial art

Surely you have heard about Sambo, but do you know what this discipline consists of and what were its origins? Sambo is considered one of the most interesting sports practices of all time. In this sport, the strengths of two competitors are measured, who must fight until they achieve victory.

Sambo could be described as a contact sport. This discipline originated in Russia and has been recognized as a national sport by the Soviet Union since 1938. Learn more about its history, origins, characteristics and techniques in the following article.

What is El Sambo?

It could be defined as a type of modern martial art that had its beginnings in Russia and has become one of the contact sports disciplines most popular and practiced in the world. Sambo means “self defense without weapons” and that is precisely one of its characteristics: It is practiced without the use of any type of weapons.

In the 1938s, Sambo was recognized as a national sport by the Soviet Union. It basically consists of a contact or wrestling sport that was inspired by other popular martial arts techniques such as judo, Armenian koch and Mongol khapsagay.

What are the origins?

This sports discipline had its origins in the European continent, specifically in Russia, where it took its first steps. It was born inspired by other types of traditional martial arts, especially Judo. It is currently described as one of the four main forms of competitive wrestling.

It is believed that El Sambo began to have prominence at the beginning of the 20th century. In the beginning I was thinking to be a mix of martial arts styles to achieve a more efficient sport. It is said that it was Lenin who delegated to a group of experts the search for a combat system that would define his Red Army.

This is how this team of experts undertook important trips around the world in order to learn more about the different techniques and most popular combat movements of that time, such as Judo, Karate and Kung Fu. With the passage of time, a new style of martial art was given shape, mixing movements, turns and techniques. This is how El Sambo was born.

The team of experts that created El Sambo

The story tells of three experts who were designated by Lenin for the search for the best martial arts that served to create a new discipline proper to the Red Army. These experts were: A. Kharlampiev, V. Spiridonov and VS Oshchepkov. Let’s briefly know about each of them.

Anatoly Kharlampiev: He is described by many as the father of Sambo. It is said that thanks to him, the Soviet Union agreed to accept this discipline as a national combat sport of the country.

V. Spiridonov: A benchmark of the First World War. During his years of life he focused on practicing different fighting styles. He was a member of the group of specialists appointed by Lenin and toured places such as Mongolia, Japan and China, where he studied the best combat techniques. After an injury to one of his arms, he created a new version of sambo, softer and less intense, known as the Samoz.

VS OchschépkovDuring his life he devoted himself to studying Judo in the company of its creator, Jigoro Kano, reaching the 2nd Dan Black Belt. He focused on teaching the elite forces of the Red Army the techniques of judo and karate. In the end he came to consider himself a traitor and Japanese spy, assuring that Sambo had its origin in judo.

Sambo Evolution: Styles

The contact sport known as El Sambo has evolved over the years. Today it could be said that there are three different styles of this discipline, although at first it was devised as a unique martial art.

  • Borba Sambo or Fight Sambo: It is quite similar to amateur wrestling or Judo, although it has several differences. In Sambo all types of leg locks are allowed but no chokes.
  • Sambo self defense: In this style, the player will have the opportunity to apply different defense techniques against their armed or unarmed rivals.
  • Combat Sambo: Considered the most popular and well-known style of sambo because it is very similar to the original techniques of this martial art. In the combats you see forms of judo, karate and even kick boxing.

Sambo equipment

In order to practice this sport such as Sambo, you need special equipment. The first is the jacket or Kurtka, which is completely different from the one used in other types of martial arts. This jacket allows the Sambo participant to put the belt inside, through some eyelets, to prevent the jacket from coming off.

The jacket used by the sambo practitioner is usually blue or red, however other different colors can also be observed. The belt, shorts of the same color as the jacket and the shoes (known as the Sambuki), are also part of the basic clothing of this sport.

To practice Sambo it is also necessary to use special gloves for mixed martial arts that will allow a better grip during combat. The practitioner must put on a mouth and tibial protective helmet and shell to avoid accidents in the middle of the competition.

Sambo rules

There are some basic rules that must be followed when practicing this type of modern martial art such as Sambo:

  • The combat lasts six minutes for adults, five for juniors and four for teachers, schoolchildren and cadets.
  • The competition is won by total victory, by technical superiority, by points difference at the end of the combat.
  • If there is no winner within the established time, the match is decided by the majority vote of the officials.
  • There are some grabs that are not allowed during combat, for example, bending the arm behind the back, submission shoulder, wrist, neck, fingers of the hand, twisting the opponent’s head, among others.

Keep reading about Jiu Jitsu.

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