|Also known as||Sombo (in English-speaking countries)|
|Country of origin||Russian SFSR|
|Famous practitioners||List of Practitioners|
|Olympic sport||No, but IOC recognized|
Sambo (Russian: са́мбо, pronounced [ˈsambə]) is a Soviet-origin Russian martial art, an internationally practiced combat sport, and a recognized style of amateur wrestling included by UWW in the World Wrestling Championships along with Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling.
It originated in the Russian SFSR in the Soviet Union. The word sambo is an acronym of the romanization samozashchita bez oruzhiya (Russian: самозащита без оружия), which literally translates to 'self-defence without weapons'. The correct, official English spelling, approved by USA Wrestling and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, is SAMBO.
Sambo is relatively modern since its development began in the early 1920s by the Soviet NKVD and Red Army to improve hand-to-hand combat abilities of the servicemen. It was intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts.
The pioneers of sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov spent several years living in Japan and training in Judo under its founder Kano Jigoro. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the Great Purge after being accused of being a Japanese spy.
Spiridonov and Oshchepkov independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov's system, called "free wrestling" in Russia (known in the West as catch-as-catch-can wrestling or simply catch wrestling), Spiridonov's style was softer and less brutal. It was also less strength-dependent, which in large part was due to injuries Spiridonov sustained during World War I.
Anatoly Kharlampiev, a student of Vasili Oshchepkov, is also considered a founder of sambo. In 1938, it was recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee.
There are multiple competitive sport variations of sambo (though sambo techniques and principles can be applied to many other combat sports). Below are the main formats that are recognized by FIAS.
|Both Sambo wrestling (left) and Combat sambo competitions require Sambovka jacket and shirts as a uniform, and held at a standard wrestling mat. However, Combat sambo competitions also require gloves, headgear, mouthpiece, groin, and shin protection equipment to minimize injuries.|
Combat sambo is designed to tackle certain tasks. The effectiveness of this martial art determined by its structure, namely by three components: boxing, sambo, and adapters. Adapters of combat sambo were developed by the academician G. S. Popov. The task of adapters is to ensure the safe transition from middle distance to close one, as well as the consistent usage of sambo and boxing techniques. The given configuration provides the fusion of two martial arts into a single system.
Sambo's early development stemmed from the independent efforts of Vasili Oshchepkov and Viktor Spiridonov to integrate the techniques of Catch wrestling, Judo, Jujutsu, and other foreign martial arts into native Turkic wrestling styles, Armenian kokh, Romanian trîntǎ, Mongolian khapsagay and Georgian chidaoba (ru:Чидаоба, ka:ქართული ჭიდაობა). Oschepkov taught judo to elite Red Army forces at the Central Red Army House.
Vasili Oschepkov was one of the first foreigners to learn Judo in Japan and had earned his Nidan (second-degree black belt, out of then five) from judo's founder, Kano Jigoro. Spiridonov's background involved indigenous martial arts from various Soviet regions as well as an interest in Japanese jujutsu (though he never formally trained it). His reliance on movement over strength was in part because during World War I, he received a bayonet wound which would leave his left arm lame. Both Oschepkov and Spiridonov independently hoped that Soviet military hand-to-hand combat techniques could be improved with an infusion of the techniques distilled from other foreign martial arts. Contrary to common lore, Oschepkov and Spiridonov did not cooperate on the development of their hand-to-hand systems. Rather, their independent notions of hand-to-hand combat merged through cross-training between students and formulating efforts by their students and military staff. While Oschepkov and Spiridonov did have occasion to collaborate, their efforts were not completely united.
Each technique was carefully dissected and considered for its merits, and if found acceptable in unarmed combat, refined to reach sambo's ultimate goal: to stop an armed or unarmed adversary in the least time possible. Thus, many techniques from jujutsu, judo, and other martial systems joined with the indigenous fighting styles to form the sambo repertoire. When the techniques were perfected, they were woven into sambo applications for personal self-defense, police, crowd control, border guards, secret police, dignitary protection, psychiatric hospital staff, military, and commandos.
In 1918, Lenin created Vsevobuch (General Military Training) under the leadership of N. I. Podvoyskiy to train the Red Army. The task of developing and organizing Red Army military hand-to-hand combat training fell to K. Voroshilov, who in turn, created the NKVD physical training center, Dynamo Sports Society.
Spiridonov was a combat veteran of World War I and one of the first wrestling and self-defense instructors hired for Dynamo. His background included Free wrestling (i.e. Catch wrestling), Greco-Roman wrestling, many Turkic folk wrestling styles, and Japanese jujutsu. As a combative investigator for Dynamo, he traveled to Mongolia and China to observe their native fighting styles.
In 1923, Oschepkov and Spiridinov collaborated (independently) with a team of other experts on a grant from the Soviet government to improve the Red Army's hand-to-hand combat system. Spiridonov had envisioned integrating the most practical aspects of the world's fighting systems into one comprehensive style that could adapt to any threat. Oschepkov had observed Kano Jigoro's distillation of Tenjin Shinyo Ryu, Kito Ryu and Fusen-ryū jujutsu into judo, and he had developed the insight required to evaluate and integrate combative techniques into a new system. Their developments were supplemented by Anatoly Kharlampiyev and I. V. Vasiliev who also traveled the globe to study the native fighting arts of the world. Ten years in the making, their catalog of techniques was instrumental in formulating the early framework of the art to be eventually referred to as sambo.
Kharlampiyev is often called the "father of sambo". This may be largely semantics since only he had the longevity and political connections to remain with the art while the new system was named "sambo". However, Kharlampiyev's political maneuvering is single-handedly responsible for the USSR Committee of Sport's accepting sambo as the official combat sport of the Soviet Union in 1938 – decidedly the "birth" of sambo. So, more accurately, Kharlampiyev could be considered the father of "sport" sambo.
Spiridonov was the first to begin referring to the new system with a name similar to 'sambo'. He eventually developed a softer style called Samoz that could be used by smaller, weaker practitioners or even wounded soldiers and secret agents. Spiridonov's inspiration to develop 'Samoz' stemmed from his World War I bayonet injury, which greatly restricted his left arm and thus his ability to practice wrestling. Refined versions of sambo are still used today or fused with specific sambo applications to meet the needs of Russian commandos.
After being recognized by FILA (known since September 2014 as United World Wrestling) in 1968, by the U.S. National Amateur Athletic Union in 1972, and after being included to the program of the 1973 World Wrestling Championships along with Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling (which are indeed Olympic sports,) Sambo was rapidly making its way to become an Olympic sport.
The first World Cup was contested in 1969. Don Curtis, a member of the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Committee, had predicted in 1975, that the Russians will introduce the Sambo wrestling in the 1980 Olympics program in Moscow. In 1975 the first United States National Sambo Championships were held in Mesa, Arizona, in 1977 it was contested along with G.R. and Freestyle at the first Pan American Wrestling Championships in Mexico City, and included in the schedule of the upcoming 1983 U.S. Olympic Festival and the 1983 Pan American Games (the 1983 Pan American event in Caracas became the first and subsequently the last edition of Sambo at the Pan Am Games.) In 1979 the National AAU Sambo Committee established several annual awards to honor outstanding persons in the sport of Sambo wrestling. By the 1980s it has been included to Pan American Games, National Sports Festival and AAU Junior Olympics program.
But as a result of political complications of the 1980 Olympic boycott which arouse after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Sambo was at first reduced to a demonstration sport at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, USSR. But later, because of the sport's strong association with the Soviet Union, it was relinquished of the demonstration sport status. It is true that youth sambo was demonstrated in the Games' opening ceremonies; however, sambo was never formally recognized as a demonstration sport. This common error in history books is noted in several sources including From SAMOZ to SAMBO by Anatoly Makovetskii and Lukashev's History of Hand-to-Hand Combat in the First Half of the 20th Century: Founders and Authors. Furthermore, the official documents of the 1980 Olympic Organizing Committee do not mention sambo as a participating sport in the Games. Nevertheless, Jerry Matsumoto, Head of the U.S. Sambo Association, saw in 1990 Sambo becoming an Olympic sport, at least at the demonstration level, within the next eight years.
In 1968, FILA accepted sambo as the third style of international wrestling. In 1985, the sambo community formed its own organization, Federation International Amateur Sambo (FIAS). In 1993, FIAS split into two organizations, both of which used the same name and logo, and the two groups were often referred to as FIAS "East" (under Russian control) and FIAS "West" (under US and Western European control). This split mirrored the last days of Cold War politics of the time as well as the recent break-up of the Soviet Union. In the U.S., disagreements between the sport's organizers and the rise of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the 1990s slowed down the growth of sambo before the success of several sambo fighters increased its popularity a decade later. In 2005, FILA reached an agreement with FIAS "West" and re-assumed sanctioning over sport sambo. However, in 2008, FILA again discontinued sanctioning sambo and sambo is now notably missing from the UWW website. At present, only FIAS sanctions international competition in sport sambo. In 2014 FIAS and FILA signed a cooperative agreement. While this does not place sambo back on UWW's recognized list, it does move towards unity and prevents future 'turf wars' regarding the sport's promotion. A similar agreement was signed by FIAS and the International Judo Federation in 2014 as well. Both FIAS and the World Combat Sambo Federation host international combat sambo competition. The American Sambo Association has continued to host freestyle sambo tournaments in the US and Canada since 2004. These events are unrecognized by UWW. Rumors rising in 2012 stating that sambo will be included as a demonstration sport in the 2016 Olympics are therefore not supported by any facts, and thus sambo is still a very long way from maturing into an Olympic sport, notwithstanding the effort that is being put into the matter. Indeed, given the intention of the Olympic Committee to remove classic wrestling from the Olympic roster, there are rumors that sambo is highly unlikely to ever make it to the Olympics. However, sambo has been included in the 27th Annual Summer Universiade for the first time in history. FIAS submitted an application to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider sambo for the 2020 Games and has devoted 2010–2013 to creating a sambo commission in the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). As of 30 November 2018, sambo has indeed received temporary recognition by the IOC. This close relationship is reestablishing the global popularity and media emphasis on sambo.
Similar to wrestling, a sambo practitioner normally wears either a red or a blue competition outfit. The kurtka (куртка), also called a sambovka (самбовка), looks similar to a Judogi top and belt but has belt loops, shoulder straps, wrestling style shorts, and shoes which match the uniform's color. The sambo uniform does not reflect rank or competitive rating. Sport rules require an athlete to have both red and blue sets to visually distinguish competitors on the mat.
Also similar to the wrestling ranking system used in Russia, a competitive rating system is used (rather than the belt color ranking system used in judo and gendai jujutsu). Various sport organizations distribute these ranks for high levels of competition achievement or in some cases coaching merits. People who have earned these ranks are known as 'Masters of Sport.' Institutions that grant a sambo 'Master of Sport' in Russia include FIAS, FKE, and the International Combat Sambo Federation. Other nations have governing bodies that award 'Masters of Sport' as well, including the American Sambo Association in the United States 
Main article: World Sambo Championships
|1||1973||6–11 September||Tehran, Iran||Soviet Union||10||11|
|2||1974||26–28 July||Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia||Soviet Union||10||5|
|3||1979||11–14 December||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||11|
|4||1980||30–31 May||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||11|
|5||1981||28 February – 1 March||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||12|
|6||1982||3–4 July||Paris, France||Soviet Union||10||11|
|7||1983||30 September – 1 October||Kyiv, Soviet Union||Soviet Union||10||8|
|8||1984||14–15 June||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||10|
|9||1985||19–21 September||San Sebastián, Spain||Soviet Union||10||11|
|10||1986||21–24 November||Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France||Soviet Union||10||8|
|11||1987||November||Milan, Italy||Soviet Union||10||9|
|12||1988||1–5 December||Montreal, Canada||Soviet Union||10||11|
|13||1989||8–11 November||West Orange, United States||Soviet Union||10||9|
|14||1990||7–10 December||Moscow, Soviet Union||Soviet Union||10||18|
|15||1991||28–29 December||Montreal, Canada||Soviet Union||10||8|
|16||1992||6–10 November||Herne Bay, England||Russia||10||14|
|17||1993||9–15 November||Kstovo, Russia||Russia||10||28|
|18||1994||7–9 October||Novi Sad, Yugoslavia||Russia||10||20|
|19||1995||1–3 September||Sofia, Bulgaria||Russia||9||23|
|20||1996||1–3 November||Tokyo, Japan||Russia||18||23|
|21||1997||10–12 October||Tbilisi, Georgia||Georgia||18||20|
|22||1998||16–18 October||Kaliningrad, Russia||Russia||18||20|
|23||1999||12–14 November||Gijón, Spain||Russia||18||20|
|24||2000||25 November||Kyiv, Ukraine||Russia||18||21|
|25||2001||20–21 October||Krasnoyarsk, Russia||Russia||18||26|
|26||2002||26–29 November||Panama City, Panama||Russia||18||19|
| Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France (Combat Sambo)
St. Petersburg, Russia
| Prague, Czech Republic (Combat Sambo)
| Prague, Czech Republic (Combat Sambo)
|30||2006||30 September – 2 October
| Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Combat Sambo)
|31||2007||7–11 November||Prague, Czech Republic||Russia||27||43|
|32||2008||13–17 November||St. Petersburg, Russia||Russia||27||48|
|33||2009||5–9 November||Thessaloniki, Greece||Russia||27||46|
|34||2010||4–8 November||Tashkent, Uzbekistan||Russia||27||26|
|35||2011||10–14 November||Vilnius, Lithuania||Russia||27||65|
|36||2012||8–12 November||Minsk, Belarus||Russia||27||64|
|37||2013||7–11 November||St. Petersburg, Russia||Russia||27||70|
|38||2014||20–24 November||Narita, Japan||Russia||27||82|
|39||2015||12–16 November||Casablanca, Morocco||Russia||27||80|
|40||2016||10–14 November||Sofia, Bulgaria||Russia||27||77|
|41||2017||9–13 November||Sochi, Russia||Russia||27||90|
|42||2018||8–12 November||Bucharest, Romania||Russia||27||80|
|43||2019||7–11 November||Cheongju, South Korea||Russia||27||80|
|44||2020||4–8 November||Novi Sad, Serbia||Russia||27||30|
Sambo World Cup and Supercup have been contested since 1969, initially held by FILA, and since 1985 by FIAS.
|1984||12–14 October||Puerto la Cruz|
|1985||22 September||San Sebastián|
United States National Sambo Championships known initially as the National AAU Sambo Wrestling Championships are the annual championships held in the United States. American enthusiasts of martial arts took up Sambo shortly before it was contested at the 1973 World Wrestling Championships and was rapidly making its way to become an Olympic sport in 1980.
|1975||10 May||Mesa, Arizona||Community College||10|
|1976||5 June||Chandler, Arizona||Chandler High School gym||10|
|1977||23 April||Southeast San Diego, California||Jackie Robinson Memorial YMCA||10|
|1978||20 May||Chula Vista, California||Southwestern College||10|
|1979||21 April||Walnut, California||10|
|1980||2 August||Kansas City, Missouri||20|
|1984||3 March||Kansas City, Missouri||Kansas City North Community Center|
|1984||30 March||Washington, D.C.|
|1987||28 March||Kansas City, Missouri||Bishop Ward High School|
|1988||9 April||Newark, New Jersey||Essex County College||29+3(t)|
|1989||10 November||Newark, New Jersey|
|1990||13 May||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||27|
|1991||31 March||Covington, Kentucky|
|1992||28 March||Cincinnati, Ohio|
|1993||27 March||Norman, Oklahoma||Norman High School|
|1994||26 March||Chula Vista, California||Southwestern College|
|1996||South Annville, Pennsylvania||Annville-Cleona High School|
|1998||11 April||Washington, D.C.|
|2006||19-20 August||North Palm Beach, Florida||North Palm Beach Community Center|
The national Sambo competition also was held along with Greco-Roman and Freestyle events at the 1987 and 1988 AAU/USA Grand National Wrestling Championships on July 1, 1987, and July 6, 1988, respectively, both held at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. Next year it was contested at the 1989 AAU/Carrier Grand National Wrestling Championships on July 5 at Metra in Billings, Montana. 1990 AAU Grand National Wrestling Championships also hosted a national Sambo competition at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 10. 1992 AAU Grand National edition hosted a national Sambo competition in July in Amarillo, Texas. 1994 AAU Grand National Wrestling Championships also hosted a national Sambo competition at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, Michigan on July 13. 1995 AAU Grand National edition hosted a national Sambo competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 1999 AAU Grand National Wrestling Championships also offered Sambo to competitors on June 30 at Metra in Billings, Montana. The 2002 AAU Grand National Wrestling Championships saw Sambo competition on June 19 at Hirsch Coliseum in Shreveport, Louisiana.
USA Wrestling has added Sambo as a style since the 2007 U.S. National Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada.
See List of Sambo practitioners
Although sambo is a Russian acronym, exponents of the sport in the English-speaking world have faced problems concerning the linguistically unrelated racist term. Sambo representatives have opted to use the alternative spelling Sombo to avoid offence. In Swedish, "sambo" is the term for an unmarried couple living together on permanent basis. To avoid confusion, FIAS also references the sport with its acronym spelling: SAMBO.