I’ve always been intrigued by SAMBO and always wanted to try it. SAMBO is a martial art and combat sport from the Soviet Union. The acronym “SAMBO” translates as “self-defense without weapons”.


Sambo is relatively modern since it started to develop in the early 1920s by the Soviet Interior Ministry and Red Army to improve the hand-to-hand combat abilities of the servicemen. It was meant to combine the most effective techniques of other martial arts.

Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov were the pioneers of Sambo. Oshchepkov spent several years living in Japan, 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. Later in 1957, he was cleared of these accusations. Spiridonov and Oshchepkov independently developed two different styles, which were combined together and became what is known as SAMBO.

However, it was Anatoly Kharlampiyev, one of Oshchepkov’s students, who made Sambo what it is today. Kharlampiyev was able to achieve this through political maneuvering and rewriting Sambo’s history emphasizing the fighting style’s Russian roots.

In 1938, Sambo was declared the Martial Art by the All-USSR State Sports Committee and became the nation’s official combat sport. This would not have happened without Kharlampiyev’s intervention and that is why Kharlampiyev is also known as, “the Father of Sambo.”


There are variations of Sambo. Sport Sambo is similar in style to old-time Catch wrestling and Judo and is influenced by them. Sambo allows various types of leg locks, while not allowing chokeholds. It also focuses on throwing, groundwork, and submissions, with very few restrictions on gripping and holds.

Combat Sambo, resembles modern MMA, including extensive forms of striking and grappling. Combat Sambo allows punches, kicks, elbows, knees, soccer kicks, laid kicks, headbutts, and groin strikes, as well as all kinds of throws, holds, chokes and locks, except for a standing or flying wristband.

The main difference from BJJ, apart from striking techniques, is that combat Sambo rules and regulations don’t welcome one-sided resort to ground fighting without throw or another combative maneuver (i.e., by simply sitting down and continue from the ground without even touching opponent that BJJ allows.) Competitors wear jackets, hand protection, and sometimes shin protection and headgear.

Have you trained SAMBO before, let us know!

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