Sambo is a form of Russian combat sport and martial art. The term "SAMBO" is actually an acronym for the words SAMooborona Bez Oruzhiya that literally translates as "defense of the self without the use of weapons". The sport is referred to as Sombo in various English speaking countries. Sambo is a relatively modern form of martial art and was only developed during early 1920s by Soviet Red Army in order to develop their hand-to-hand combat abilities. Originally meant to be a combination of the most efficient techniques from other forms of martial arts, Sambo is rooted in Japanese judo, wrestling styles that are practiced internationally, as well as numerous folk wrestling styles such as Georgian Chidaoba, Armenian Kokh, Tatar Kr?, Moldavian Trnt?, Mongolian Khapsagay, Azerbaijani Gulesh and Uzbek Kurash.

The pioneers of the Sambo martial art were Vasili Oshchepkov and Viktor Spiridonov. Oshchepkov spent most of his life residing in Japan and taking judo lessons from the founder of judo, Kano Jigoro. Later he was accused of being a spy from Japan and was imprisoned during the days of political turmoil in 1937. Oshchepkov died in his prison cell. Viktor Spiridonov was a war veteran from World War I, where he sustained injuries. Two different styles of combat was developed independently by the 2 men, which then combined to form what is normally considered to be Sambo today. Oshchepkov had a more judo-based approach which was frequently referred to as "Freestyle Wrestling" during those days. Spiridonov's style, on the other hand, was much softer and less dependent on strength, due to the war injuries sustained by Spiridonov.

Sambo Image A student of Oshchepkov by the name of Anatoly Kharlampiev, is frequently considered to be the official founder of the sport of Sambo. Sambo was recognized as a form of official sport by USSR All- Union Sports Committee.

Various Styles of Sambo

Three competitive variations of the Sambo sport are recognized by the FIAS or Federation International Amateur Sambo. However the techniques and principles of Sambo can also be applied to various other combative sports.

Sport Sambo: Sport Sambo or Sambo Wrestling is similar in style to Judo or Olympic Freestyle Wrestling. However it is characterized by some different rules, protocols and uniform. Unlike judo, the Sambo sport allows occasional leg locks but no chokeholds. Sambo focuses mainly on throwing, submissions and ground work and compared to Judo, it has very few restrictions when it comes to gripping and holding.

Combat Sambo: This form of Sambo is developed and used by the military. It is characterized by a modern mixture of martial arts, and includes extensive forms of grappling and striking where, quite unlike the Sport Sambo, bent joint locks and choking are legal. The competitors in Combat Sambo wear jackets like in Sport Sambo; they also use protection for their hands, shin and head. In 2001, the 1st Federation International Amateur Sambo World Combat Sambo Championships were organized.

Freestyle Sambo: This is a uniquely American form of competitive Sambo, the rules of which are created by ASA or American Sambo Association in the year 2004. The rules of Freestyle Sambo are different from the rules of traditional Sport Sambo. Unlike Sport Sambo, where choke holds, twisting leg locks, neck cranks and other forms of submissions that can be used in Combat Sambo are not allowed, Freestyle Sambo permits all of them. Freestyle Sambo focuses on fast ground work and throwing skills. Strikes are not allowed in Freestyle Sambo. This rule was created by the ASA for encouraging non-Sambo practitioners from jiujitsu and judo to take part in Sambo events.