This history of Sambo matches Winston Churchill's description of Russia as a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." I spent well over a decade researching, traveling and studying it's manyonion layers. What you read of this history may not be the ultimate truth, but it is the most sensible collection of convincing lies that no one to date has been able to accurately debunk.
Only a decade ago, no information could be located anywhere. The new generations weren’t alive for the “Cold War” and the phenomenon of clandestine subterfuge that it had institutionalized Sombo. I hope to fill that void by sharing my version of the story.
Sambo (Russian: самбо but also called Sombo in the US and sometimes written in all-caps SOMBO) is a modern martial art, combat sport and self-defense system developed in the former Soviet Union, and recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee in 1938, presented by Anatoly Kharlampiev.
The word is an acronym of САМозащита Без Оружия(SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya) meaning "self-defense without aweapon" in Russian. This grappling style has its roots in traditional folk styles ofwrestling such as Armenian Koch, Georgian Chidaoba, MoldovanTrîntǎ, Uzbek Kurash, and Mongolian Khapsagay but also in themartial traditions of the West and of the Far East. How those threeveins pump from the same heart is the moral to the story Iwish to share with you.
The Three Patriarchs:Spiridonov, Oshchepkov, Kharlampiev
The founders of this style sifted deliberately through all of the world’smartial arts available to them to augment their military’s hand-to-handcombat system. Their distinct concentration, their uniqueperspectives and their individual discoveries resulted in threedivergent flavors.
The primary founder was Vasili Oshchepkov, a Russian who at age 19was admitted into Japan's Kodakan by Professor Jigoro Kano in 1911.In 1913, Oshchepkov was the first Russian, the fourth European inhistory, to receive a black belt ranking in Judo (eventually earning hisnidan; second degree black belt in 1917 out of then only five degrees).In 1921, Oshchepkov served in the Red Army as a commandertraveling covertly for special purpose missions into China where hestudied Wushu.
Oshchepkov had observed Kano’s distillation of Tenjin Shin’yo RyuJiujitsu and Kito Ryu Jiujitsu into what he named Judo. Oshchepkovrecognized Kano's genius in distilling Jiujitsu into a deliberate,educational process. When he returned to Russia, he taught judo toelite Red Army forces at the Central Red Army House. He usedKano’s philosophy in formulating the early development of his newRussian art.
Sambo was in part born of native Russian and other regional styles ofgrappling and combative wrestling, bolstered with the most usefuland adaptable concepts and techniques from the rest of the world. Itsearly development stemmed from the independent efforts of anotherRussian, Victor Spiridonov, a combat veteran of World War I, tointegrate the techniques of Jiujitsu into native wrestling styles. His"soft-style" was based on the fact that he received a bayonet woundduring the Russo-Japanese war which left his left arm lame.
In 1918, Lenin created Vseobuch (Vseobshchee voennoye obuchienieor “General Military Training”) under the leadership of N.I.Podvoyskiy to train the Red Army. The task of developing andorganizing Russian military hand-to-hand combat training fell to K.Voroshilov, who in turn, created the NKVD physical training center,“Dinamo.”
Spiridonov was one of the first grappling and self-defense instructorshired for Dinamo. As a “combatives investigator” for Dinamo, hedrew from Judo and Jiujitsu, Greco-Roman wrestling, AmericanCatch-wrestling, non-sport British pugilism and Dutch Silat, andmany Slavic wrestling styles.
Both Oshchepkov and Spiridonov hoped that the Russian styles couldbe improved by an infusion of the techniques distilled from Jiujitsuby Kano into the new “Judo” style of grappling. In 1923, Oshchepkovand Spiridonov collaborated with a team of other experts on a grantfrom the Soviet government to improve the Red Army’s hand-to-handcombat system. Spiridonov had envisioned integrating the entireworld’s fighting systems into one comprehensive style that couldadapt to any threat. Oshchepkov focused on creating a consistentlysuccessful competitive fighting format for teaching the variousdepartments within the Soviet military.
Their development team was supplemented by Anatoly Kharlampievand Ivan Vasilievich Vasiliev who also traveled the globe to study thenative fighting arts of the world. Ten years in the making, theircatalogue of techniques was instrumental in formulating the earlyframework of the art. Here,Oshchepkov’s and Spiridonov’s improvements in Russian wrestlingslipped into the military’s hand-to-hand-combat system.
Kharlampiev is often called the “father of Sombo.” This may be largelysemantics since only he had the longevity and political connections toremain with the art while the new system was called “Sambo”.However, Kharlampiev's political maneuvering is single-handedlyresponsible for the USSR Committee of Sport accepting it as theofficial combat sport of the Soviet Union in 1938 - decidedly the styles"birth".
Spiridonov, however, was the first to actually begin referring to thenew system as Samoz, short for “Samozashchita” or Self-defense.Samoz was a softer, more aikido-like system that could be used bysmaller, weaker practitioners or even wounded soldiers and secretagents. Spiridonov’s inspiration to develop Samoz stemmed from hisinjury that he suffered that greatly restricted his ability. Refined versions of the style are still used today orfused with specific applications to meet the needs of modernRussian commandos.
Each technique for the style was carefully dissected and considered forits merits, and if found acceptable in unarmed combat, refined toreach Sambo's ultimate goal: stop an armed or unarmed adversary inthe least time possible. Thus, the best techniques of Jiujitsu and itsmore competitive cousin Judo, entered into the the styles repertoire.When the techniques were perfected, they were woven into applications for personal self-defense, police, crowd control, borderguards, secret police, dignitary protection, psychiatric hospital staff,military, and commandos.
In 1929, Oshchepkov was invited to Dinamo, where he took thesportive form of SAMOZ, coupled with the Randori (the competitiveact of applying techniques against fully-resistant, non-compliant,uncooperative partners who were attempting to equally applytechniques) concept of Judo and the physical education conditioningof Wushu to form the style.
Oshchepkov was enamored with the principle of force-on-forcetraining with a fully resistant partner to experience the requirementof timing and rhythm to apply techniques. He regularly conductedcompetitions between Leningrad and Moscow gyms in order to fieldtest his theories and techniques. Oshchepkov's study of physicaltraining, early kinesiology and biomechanics, from pioneers such asMuller, Buk, and Suren was just as important a contribution as theRandori methodology of training techniques under resistance.
The Leningrad Sport Committee abolished Oshchepkov’s competitionbetween Leningrad and Moscow fighters. The Soviet State regime didnot want to recognize the part Japanese Judo played in the new freestylefighting (not yet officially named.) The State insisted oneliminating every reference to Judo. Oshchepkov sent harshly criticalletters to the All-USSR Sport Committee, Army's Inspection ofPhysical Culture and Sport, in Moscow, Leningrad, Ukraine andBeyond-Caucasus Institutes of Physical Culture.
In 1937, the entire country was under the pressure of nightly arrests.The slogan "better to arrest ten innocent than to miss one spy" wasthe basis for the inner security service of that year. The criterion ofcriminal unreliability was very simple: a man would be arrested if hemade foreign travel or had relatives or friends in other countries. AsOshchepkov lived in Japan studying directly with Kano, he belongedto this category. On September 29, 1937, the decree read:"Oshchepkov Vasili Sergeevich is sufficiently unmasked as Japanesespy... citizen Oshchepkov is prosecuted due to clause 58 article 6." Inthe night of October 1, 1937 he was arrested in his home. Although astaunch patriot wrongly accused of being a Japanese spy, ten daysafter his arrest, Oshchepkov was led to a Siberian Gulag andsubsequently shot in the head for his fraternization with "Japaneseimperialists."
Sambo would have disappeared at this point, if it weren’t for thepolitical savvy of one of Oshchepkov's students, Anatoly Kharlampiev,who used cunning diplomacy to revise the history of the art.Kharlampiev redefined the style to be a compilation of techniques fromvarious Soviet Republics, an exclusively Soviet State-centric combatsystem and sport.
In 1938, Kharlampiev's Sambo’s history was acknowledged,unsurprisingly by the All-USSR State Sport Committee as his creationbased upon Soviet training methodologies and heritage. From thispoint forward, it would be known as the fighting art of theMotherland. Its adherents and promoters surrounded it with all ofthe patriotic nationalism associated with the former Soviet Union.
In 1942, a covert special military operations school preparedprofessional assassins named Volkodav (wolf-killer). The 18 trainersat the school were under the management of two time “Hero of theSoviet Union” and Captain of Marine Reconnaissance, NikolaiLeonov, the sworn enemy of Adolph Hitler. Their training wasinformally called as "a system of survival in extremeconditions" (sometimes just “the system” or Systema and sometimesjust “survival” or Vyzhivaniya). It was intended strictly for theofficers of Soviet Army GRU Spetsnaz.
One of the best graduates of this school was Alexsei Kadochnikov,often referred to as "Grandfather" and a legend among SovietSpetsnaz. As direct schooling from the Spiridonov’s tradition,Kadochnikov inserted his academic engineering into thisbiomechanical perspective. He established the principle ofefficiency as the primary emphasis of all training. The style of hand-to-hand fighting, designed by Kadochnikov, is a direct descendent ofSpiridonov's school.
In the 1970s, the Russian art flooded the international Judo competitive sceneand revamped the entire perspective of what it meant to grapple. Sostrong were the Soviet Sambists in Judo competition and sosuccessful, that rules changes were made to limit the use of theirunique strengths and skills.
In 1980, Sambo was a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games inMoscow, Russia. However, due to boycotts, it failed to bring sufficientnumbers for continued inclusion as a participatory game. That wasnearly the death-knell for the discipline, as in less than 20 years, theSoviet Union would fall, and with it all of the State sponsored athleticprograms, including the Russian fighting art.
According to the International Federation of Associated WrestlingStyles (FILA), it is one of the four main forms of amateurcompetitive wrestling practiced internationally today, the other threebeing Greco-Roman wrestling, Freestyle wrestling and Judo. FILAaccepted it as the 3rd style of international wrestling in 1968until it formed its own organization Federation InternationalAmateur Sambo (FIAS) in 1985.
In the mid-1980s, Combat Sambo competitions began to be held.These “no-holds-barred” mixed martial art competitions invited anyfighter of any background to compete in their win by knockout orsubmission only competition. Although called barbaric, this usheredin new life into the art.
In 1991, I began training with Andrew Bachman, Sambo WorldBronze Medalist. With him, I fought on the USA SOMBO Team, andwas elected as USA National SOMBO Team Coach for the UnitedStates SOMBO Association.
Andy introduced me to his coach, who happened to by an US OlympicGreco-Roman wrestler alternate, five time World Sambo silvermedalist, a Class A gymnast and the only man to ever defeat HavaliaHussein – known as “The Great One” in Sombo. He received hisMaster of Sport rank directly from Evgeny Mikhailovich Chumakov,the training partner and advisor to Anatoly Kharlampiev. Chumakov,the USSR Champion of Sombo, was the author of the famous “100Lessons of Sombo.” Unfortunately, despite this man’s incrediblefighting abilities, he is now a convicted criminal and I don’t want togive him any energy by publishing his real name.
During this time, I was introduced to Josh Henson, one of the mostsignificant figures in Sombo’s history, President of FIAS, andinternational promoter of the sport. Mr. Henson and I workedtogether for quite a few years, and although we had a rockyrelationship, I learned a great deal from him.
In 1992, I was appointed as the President of the association in chargeof American Combat SOMBO. I was appointed with the task ofcreating the American SOMBO Belt Ranking System. I became verywell acquainted with Kharlampiev’s Sombo through this experience,but my quest demanded that I look deeper into the history.Inconsistencies and blatant disinformation caused me to pushfurther. My investigations caused me to be named “unpatriotic” forstudying with Russians and former Soviet coaches and athletes. AndI became the “black sheep” of American SOMBO for many years, untilI basically out-lived the involvement of those incumbent officials.
In 1993, I began working with Michael Galperin, whose teacher wasone of Oshchepkov’s students and Kharlampiev's partners, IvanVasiliev. Mr. Galperin honored me with as an honorary lifetimemember of his organization, the United States Combat SomboAssociation. From Mr. Galperin, I came to learn more aboutOshchepkov’s Sombo, and its distinction from Kharlampievan style.Those discoveries spurred me deeper into my studies, especially whenI stood right in the middle of a huge political eruption in Sombo…
In 1993, FIAS split into two organizations. I was there. But I was stilltoo young in Sombo to understand what had happened and why itwas so monumental. To me, it just seemed like an argument, a vote,and people storming out of the meeting. The content, thecontroversy, is irrelevant. It’s arguable that all martial arts that get tothe level of popularity of Sombo, will face this… Both organizationsused the same name and logo. I actually made the mistake of tryingto mend the two organizations together by agreeing to be on the USANational Coaching Staff for both. I suspect that I only managed tofocus their arguments on me rather than doing any good.
And although in 2005, FILA reached an agreement with one of thetwo organizations to reassume control over the sport, the otherorganization claims that the two organizations were reunified in2006. At present FILA sanctions international competition in thestyle as does FIAS. Both organizations conduct separate worldchampionships and other international events. By the time you read this, it’s likely that more political changes may occur.
But then… July 14, 1995, at the 6th tournament of a new so-called “noholds-barred” sport, the Ultimate Fighting Championships® (VI), atwo time Russian Sombo Champion astounded the world: OlegTaktarov. "Sombo is not just a style," observed Mr. Taktarov, "Butrather a combination of all the best techniques in any self-defense,martial art, and fighting style." Oleg was not only a Russian Sombochampion, but also the four time full-contact Euro-Asian JiujitsuChampion. He demonstrated, and more importantly stated, thatSombo was an evolving strategy. I observed his fighting style adaptwith each new opponent he faced, and became reinvigorated in myinvestigation and practice.
What is important is how the above time-line merges next, and howthe different lineages converged in my training.
In 1996, I received an invitation from Alexander IvanovichRetuinskih, a Red Army commander, who was a student of andeventually partner to Alexsei Kadochnikov from 1976-1982. Mr.Retuinskih was a former USSR Sombo and Judo Champion,Distinguished Master of Sport in Sombo and Judo, DistinguishedCoach of Russia, and the founder of “Systema” R.O.S.S.
Alexei Kadochnikov followed Spiridonov's SAMOZ closely, sinceKadochnikov was also a professor of engineering. When Retuinskihbegan to improve upon his teaching, Kadochnikov partnered withRetuinskih in co-research and development. It was at this point,where relations between Kadochnikov and Retuinskih becamepressured. Kadochnikov believed that competitive resistance did nothelp improve fighters for combat. It is important to understand Mr.Retuinskih's history in order to appreciate the different path histraining took from Mr. Kadochnikov.
When Alexander Retuinskih was 7 years old, he began learningspecialized gymnastics/acrobatics, that later formed his interest inbiomechanics and psychology. At the age of 12, he began studyingboxing; at 14, Sombo and Combat Sombo; and at age 19, Judo andhand-to-hand fighting. He became a Master of Sport in Sombo andJudo and a champion of different competitions in Russia and theUSSR. In the 1980's, he began researching Russian Martial Arts.From 1982-1989 he was an Instructor of hand-to-hand combat for thepolice of Krasnodar and Krasnodarskay oblast. It was in 1991, thatMr. Kadochnikov and Mr. Retuinskih finally split and went differentways.
Beginning in 1991, Mr. Retuinskih was the organizer and leader of theInternational and All-Russian Training-Practical Seminars on RMA.Beginning in 1993 he became Chairman of the Russian CombatSombo Committee of the Russian Sambo Federation and Vice-Chairman of the International Combat Sombo Commission of FIAS(International Sambo Federation) and the General Director of theRETAL (Russian Combat Skill Consultant Scientific & PracticalTraining Center).
Soviet special forces training held the condition of "absolute secrecy"- so the nebulous designation of "Systema" - or plainly, "the system" -was assigned to special forces combatives training - anotherprominent reference call-sign was "Combat Sombo Spetsnaz." Duringthe fall of the Soviet Union, many trainers were left in the field to fendfor themselves. As a result, we saw the emergence of a diverseamount of styles appear such as Vyzhivaniya ("Survival"),Rukopashni Boi ("Hand to hand combat"), Kulachni Boi ("Hand tohand fighting"), as Kadochnikov's Systema, Vasiliev's Systema,Ryabko's Systema, etc...
In 1995, Alexander Retuinskih patented RossijskayaOtechestvennaya Systema Samozashchity or in acronym, R.O.S.S.,"Russian Native System of Self-defense." He did this to create a senseof Russian identification and pride, to create an understanding ofRussian Martial Art as an entire System. But he also did this todifferentiate his System from others, so that people would understandRetuinskih had devised a unique system of combative educationbased upon his unique study and experience, and that of his researchand development team. The ROSS educational system was patentedas "Know-How" (registered with the State enterprise "Informpatent"Committee of the Russian Federation by patent and trademark onApril 4, 1995).
Beginning in 1997 he became the Chief of the Department of Hand toHand Combat for Cossack Military. He was ranked as a General of theCossack Military. With his interaction with the Cossack populationcame a large influx of interaction with the Cossack folk styles ofmartial art, such as Sploch.
In 1998, at St. Petersburg State Academy of Physical Culture, theDepartment of Bayonet Fencing and Russian Martial Art ROSS wasopened. Now, Mr. Retuinskih writes dissertation at the Departmentof Hand-to-hand Combat of St. Petersburg Military College ofPhysical Culture. The Subject of the dissertation is "Methodic 'ROSS'used in teaching". In February of 2000 Retuinskih was awarded thehighest award in sports, the "Distinguished Coach of Russia."
In 1998, I began working with Boris Shapovalov, DistinguishedMaster of Sport in Sombo, President of the Ukrainian Federation ofRussian-Style Martial Art (Kadochnikov System) and Chairman of thePolice Sombo Commission for FIAS. With Mr. Shapovalov'sguidance, I coached the first in history USA Police Sombo Team,competing in the 1999 World Police Sombo Championships inLithuania. From Mr. Shapovalov, an expert in both Mr.Kadochnikov's "Systema" and Mr. Retuinskih's ROSS, I came tounderstand the actual pedagogical differences between the systems ofRetuinskih and Kadochnikov.
I also had the honor of training with the last of the royal line of pre-Soviet Russia, the late Prince Boris Golitsin, who in the GreatPatriotic War received a maiming bayonet wound to his rightshoulder. He composed a fighting system based upon his father'steaching of "Golitsin family-style" (a pre-Soviet, Russian Martial Art)to accommodate his "disability" - though after training with him, Iwould hardly qualify it as a disability, since with one mostly paralyzedarm, I saw him bayonet fight three men, and have personally felt thepain of his whack. However, this was an independent line having onlyrecently collaborated with ROSS (in the past 10 years).
Mr. Retuinskih studied extensively with the famous AlexanderMikhailovich Krivorotov, the first in history Distinguished Coach ofRussia in Sombo, direct student of Viktor Oshchepkov. Krivorotov,due to Mr. Retuinskih's exhaustive research and development, beganstudying under Retuinskih. I've had the distinct honor of trainingwith Mr. Krivorotov. It’s difficult to describe to people what it waslike training with the world’s best Sombo coach. Suffice it to say thatI learned the difference between amateur and professional training.
Mr. Retuinskih also trained with Vladimir V. Volosov, DistinguishedCoach of Russia in Sombo, Chairman of Sambo Academy in Kstovo -the world's largest Sombo academy; Vladimir P. Guliaev -Distinguished Coach of Bashkiria in Sambo; Uriu A. Shulik - Masterof Sport in Sambo, Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences, the currentProfessor of Krasnodar State Academy of Physical Culture; G.Potoroka - Master of Sport in Sambo and Judo (deceased).With my experience with Mr. Retuinskih, I gained the final completepicture on Sambo: Kharlamievan, Oschepkovan, and Spiridonovanstyles.
Beginning in 1999, I served as Vice-President of the AmericanAmateur Sambo Federation, the US governing body for the sport ofSambo, under the guidance and company of Dr. Leonid Polyakov,FIAS Vice-President, AASF President, who received his Doctorate ofPhysical Education through a dissertation on Sambo itself. By Dr.Polyakov, in 1999, I was awarded the Distinguished Master of Sportin SAMBO, the highest achievement in SAMBO, for my contributionsto the sport. Dr. Polyakov through our meetings and travelsconnected me with the international leader of Sambo, Mr.Tikhomirov.
FIAS President and All-Russian Sambo Federation President, MikhailTikhomirov appointed me as the Chairman of the InternationalCombat Sambo Commission for FIAS in 1999 when we were togetherin Lithuania for the World Police Sambo Championships.
In 2000, Igor Yakimov, World Sambo and Judo Champion, andNorth America's highest-rated Sambo Coach, appointed me as theUSA Director of United Federation of Russian Sambo. Mr. Yakimovand I worked together for a short time in the attempt to bring"Combat Sambo" tournaments to the West.
In 2006, I began coordinating efforts with a young mustangorganization, the American Sambo Association and its President,Stephen Koepfer. Steve remained refreshingly apolitical despiteextreme pressures to the contrary, and developed his own variationon sport rules called “Free-style Sambo” – which includes chokes,strangulations and positional fighting opportunity for Samboathletes. The development of Steve’s organization is another exampleof evolution erupting, regardless of oppressive attempts to confineand traditionalize Sambo.
Three Rivers Return to One
I have an interwoven history with Sambo, and for whatever divinegrace was given the opportunity to train only one step removed fromeach of the founders of Sambo – Spiridonov, Oshchepkov andKharlampiev, and the three “flavors” that they created.
From Spiridonov: we have inherited an emphasis on efficiencyover effort, on leveraging our strengths and mitigate our weaknessesuntil such a time that they too become strengths.
From Oshchepkov: we have inherited a practical measuring stickto determine the efficacy of our theories, a cauldron in which we canmelt away the slag from the pure gold so that no potentially valuablemethod goes uninvestigated or unevaluated.
From Kharlampiev: we have inherited the flexibility to continueour discipline no matter what the format in whole or in part so thatwe can ensure that our legacy will continue to survive.
Each vein of Sambo has kept the heart of this creature alive.Although once separate, I believe they are now integrated. They eachhave pumped the life into the content of this article, and they eachspeak to you through it.
I believe that I have earned the right to say what I believe was theoriginal intent of Sambo, and I believe that I have earned the right torenovate Sambo to meet the needs and desires of modern dayfighters. I realize that doing so will not sit well with traditionalistswho believe Sambo should stay “as it was.” They are wrong.
Sambo was never in its history a specific style. It evolved withhistory. It adapted to the challenges threatening its existence.It
survived all of the attempts foreign and domestic to squash themethodology from existence.
When you read the core doctrine of Sambo, I believe you will see whyI believe it is the direct descendent not just in lineage but in bone andflesh of each of the forefathers of this discipline.
My Philosophy of Sambo
I’ve laid out this article in step-by-step format, so that it’s easiest tounderstand. You can start at the bottom with technique and workbackwards up to tactics. The inherent strategies are embedded so youdon’t really have to understand them at the beginning. The underlyingbeliefs (or doctrine) are self-explanatory, but if you do understand whatbeliefs created this science, since all science is based upon underlyingassumptions, then you’ll be able to question those beliefs, and once youaccept them, strengthen them.
RMAX Sambo Philosophy
StrategiesPosition Before Submission
TacticsThe Saddle Series and Transitions
TechniquesThe Seven Core Leg Locks
S.E.A.T. Sambo Doctrine
• Sustainability: In order for a training method to be useful, itmust be non-destructive to the practitioner. If you cannot sustainthe ability to practice it because it destroys your body, it will notbe of any use when you need it.
• Evolution: One needs to experience the unexpected andunfamiliar in order to foster continued evolution. Although soundmechanics are universal, training methods must be allowed toevolve as all approaches are relative to the time, culture and eventin which they were born. Any means necessary to accomplish thetask. Any potentially valuable method should be weighed andtested on its own merit regardless of origin or association.
• Aliveness: One needs fully alive resistance to become mentallytough and emotionally controlled. Only through actualuncooperative competitive opposition does one truly ownknowledge.
• Transferability: Good mechanics are universal (context-free),so studying them will allow you adaptability to whatevercircumstances you encounter. Regardless of what format, so longas ideas are considered and tested, the adaptation is alwaysorganic, never in isolation.
These above original intentions have all been neglected, ignored orredefined in an emasculated manner with the 'traditionalizing' ofSambo. I have no taste for it, and stay true to the original intentionslisted above.
The 3 Strategies of Sambo
There are three modes of Sambo that end up being taught, though theseare different than the traditional 3 flavors of Sambo (which were selfdefense,combat and sport):
• Self-Defense: Self-Defense oriented Sambo involves a very largecurriculum of techniques resembling stand-up Jiujitsu, groundJudo, Boxing and Kickboxing. Unfortunately, due to the volumeof material, there is often not enough time spent facing resistantopponents. However, it doesn’t claim to be a competitive sphereof martial art. Self-Defense Sambo should remain an adjunct tocompetitive resistance so that the more fine motor techniqueshave a platform of timing and rhythm which only alive, dynamicresistance creates within the nervous system. There are many inthe West who only train in Self-defense Sambo, when it was neverintended to be trained in to the exclusion of the other two aspects.
• Sport-Wrestling: Sport Sambo is an incredibly athletic gamewhich is much like a combination of Judo and Freestyle wrestling,but including leg locks and excluding chokes. However, from itsbirth to the current day, it remains besieged with politics. Fromone organization and one event to the next, the rules are sodifferent that it’s difficult to prepare and have a good time.Moreover, the rules have become so restrictive that preparing forsport Sambo requires that you to become a lesser overall fighter(from a mixed martial arts perspective). Basically, you have totrain dangerous habits, like exposing your neck to strangulation,or never developing a good closed guard game.
• Mixed-Fight or “Combat Sambo”: I know that thetraditionalists will be in a tizzy over me saying that one of theflavors of Sambo is mixed martial arts (MMA). I say this notbecause it was a deliberate intention of the founders (although,historically, I could argue that easily, especially since few peopletruly know the history of Sambo). I say this because it is the modeof actually studying the discipline. When you go to class, and workin dynamic drills, you face people of diverse backgrounds, levelsand abilities. With no formalized ranks in Combat Sambo,everyone fights everyone. What I’m saying here is that the modein which Combat Sambo is studied is more important than thecontent of the actual class: facing other martial artists of mixedbackgrounds. This is the superiority of Combat Sambo as adelivery system for timing and rhythm, the essential virtues offighting efficacy.
I find category 3 – Sambo for MMA or “Combat Sambo” – to be themost athletically stimulating, intellectually challenging and personally/professionally fulfilling. So, when I’m discussing tactics and techniques,I am only speaking to fighting other martial artists – MMA - not toSport-wrestling or Self-defense.
Originally, these three flavors were meant to be synergistic, but frankly,most non-professionals do not have the time, energy or inclination topractice all three. Most people aren’t familiar enough with SportwrestlingSambo to be interested, and most people will not invest thelong years of practice to refine the Self-defense aspects of Sambo. Butthat’s not relevant to this article, which regards specifically CombatSambo and its stage in the mixed martial arts world.