A Brief History of Sambo

A Brief History of Sambo

Sambo is a Russian martial arts developed during the soviet era. It was designed to teach soldiers of the red army hand-to-hand combat skills. The name is an acronym of “samozashchita bez oruzhiya” which means “self defence without weapons”, and it was designed to incorporate the most effective elements of several martial arts into one discipline.

Both Vasili Oshchepkov and Viktor Spiridonov worked to integrate the techniques of martial arts such as catch wrestling, judo, Japanese jujutsu, and other foreign martial arts into native Turkic and Georgian wrestling. Oschepkov was one of the first foreign students of judo founder Kano Jigoro, training in Japan and earning a second degree black belt – he taught Judo to the elite troops of the Red Army. Spiridonov’s martial arts background was in the various native styles present in different Soviet regions, as well as an interest in Japanese Jiu Jitsu. He focused on martial arts utilising technique over brute strength after a bayonet injury in World War One limited the use of his left arm. Interestingly, the two fathers of sambo didn’t work together to develop their style; instead their individual styles developed into one system through student cross training and military requirements. 

The whole goal of sambo was to neutralise an armed or unarmed opponent in the least possible time. Martial arts techniques were analysed and if they suited this ultimate goal of sambo they were integrated into the system. In 1938 the Soviet Union accepted sambo as their official combat sport – often called the ‘birth of sambo’.

In modern times sambo has become known as a highly effective form of wrestling that’s been proven time and again in mixed martial arts competitions. Possibly the most famous and successful fighter with a sambo background is Khabib Nermagamedov – current lightweight UFC champ and undefeated MMA fighter.

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