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Sambo, Russian: Cамбо
Sport Sambo Leglock (Knee bar)
Sport Sambo Leglock (Knee bar)
Also known as Sombo (in English-speaking countries)
Focus Hybrid
Country of origin Russia Russia
Famous practitioners Fedor Emelianenko, Oleg Stepanov, Andrei Arlovski, Gokor Chivichyan, Blagoi Ivanov, Shamil Zavurov, Aleksander Emelianenko, Vladimir Putin, Sergei Kharitonov, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Oleg Taktarov, Rasul Mirzaev, Amir Sadollah, Nick Diaz, Rustam Khabilov
Parenthood Kodokan Judo
Olympic sport No
Official website

Sambo (Russian language: са́мбо, IPA: [ˈsambə]; САМозащита Без Оружия) is a Russian martial art and combat sport.[1][2] The word "SAMBO" is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as "self-defense without weapons". Sambo is relatively modern since its development began in the early 1920s by the Soviet Red Army to improve their hand-to-hand combat abilities.[1] Intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts, Sambo has roots in Japanese Judo, international styles of wrestling, plus traditional folk styles of wrestling such as: Armenian Kokh, Georgian Chidaoba, Romanian Trîntǎ, Tatar Köräş, Uzbek Kurash, Mongolian Khapsagay and Azerbaijani Gulesh.

The pioneers of Sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the political purges of 1937 after accusations of being a Japanese spy. Oshchepkov spent much of his life living in Japan and training judo under its founder Kano Jigoro. The two men independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as Sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov's judo-based system, then called "Freestyle Wrestling," Spiridonov's style was softer and less strength dependent. This was in large part due to Spiridonov's injuries sustained during World War I.[3]

Anatoly Kharlampiev, a student of Vasili Oshchepkov, is often considered the founder of Sport Sambo. In 1938, it was recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee.

FIAS Hall of FameEdit


  • Fedor Emelianenko (combat sambo), four-time world champion, European champion, and six-time Russian national champion.
  • Murat Khasanov, 11-time world champion, seven-time European champion, 19-time Russian national champion.
  • Irina Rodina, 11-time world champion.
  • Svetlana Galyant, seven-time world champion.


Sambo fightersEdit

Sambo fighters (Sambo practitioners) are athletes who rival under the rules of Sambo.


  • Fedor Emelianenko, four-time World Combat Sambo Champion and six-time Russian national Combat Sambo Champion in the +100 kg division. Two-time Russian national Judo bronze medalist, he was the last heavyweight champion of the former PRIDE Fighting Championships and was the consensus #1 ranked Heavy weight MMA fighter in the world for over seven years.
  • Rasul Mirzaev, World Combat Sambo Champion in Tashkent 2010.

The World Sambo Academy in Kstovo, the venue of many Sambo competitions

  • Igor Kurinnoy, a Merited Master of Sport, three time Sambo World Champion, a five time Sambo World Cup Champion and director of Borec Sports Club.
  • Umar Shokhzodayev former Russian sambo champion ranked kandidat master in the sport sambo and long time champion in the country
  • Andrei Arlovski, former UFC heavyweight champion. He was also the Junior World sport Sambo Champion, as well as a silver medalist in the World Sambo Championship and World Sambo Cup.
  • Vladimir Kjullenen, 1972 European Champion and USSR Champion, 1975 World Champion and USSR Champion.
  • Ron Tripp, 1994 World Champion and 7 times World Medalist capturing 8 US National Titles and 6 Pan Am Golds during his career (both FIAS East and West). A Judo champion and current general secretary of USA Judo. Tripp was promoted to 10th degree in Sambo in 1995 and became America's first International Distinguished Master of Sport in 1996. Also in 1996, he served as World Team Coach at the Tokyo World Championships. At the 1993 U.S. Sambo Championships, he scored a total victory throw victory over Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Rickson Gracie.[4]
  • Clinton Burke, NCAA wrestling finalist and All-American from the University of Oklahoma, was a four-time finalist in world competition beginning in 1987, when he earned a silver medal in the World Cup in Tokyo. He won World Championship silver medals in three different weight classes (62 kg, 68 kg, and 74 kg), closing his career in 1993 as runner-up in the World Championships in Kstovo, Russia.
  • Lance Campbell Sport Sambo World Champion (FIAS West). One of only eight grapplers selected to compete in the Ultimate Submission Showdown.
  • Martin Clarke, The Father of British Sambo, Multiple time FIAS British Sambo Champion, World Games Silver 1985, World Silver 1986, World Masters Silver 1997. He is the only person in Great Britain to receive the FIAS Gold Medal for services to FIAS. He holds the rank of Grand Master in Combat Sambo and Sport Sambo.[5]
  • Amy Ehlenfeldt, an accomplished US judo player; she won the 1991 FIAS World Championships in Montreal, Canada, becoming the first American woman to achieve victory over a female USSR competitor.
  • Aleksander Emelianenko, Fedor's brother, is a five-time Russian national Combat Sambo champion and three-time world Sambo champion in the +100 kg divisions.
  • Jason Gabrielson, Three-time World champion, one-time World Cup champion, Pan-American Games champion, Sixteen-time US Champion competing in all age groups (FIAS West). Only US lifetime undefeated champion. Was nominated for (but did not win) the American Sambo Association's Pioneer of American Sambo award. Is also a champion wrestler and judo competitor.
  • James Chico Hernandez, the first Sambo Champion to be featured on a box of Wheaties Energy Crunch.[6] He is a 2000 FIAS West World Cup Vice-Champion,[7] 1987, 2000 AAU United States National Sambo Champion and a three-time British FIAS Sambo silver medalist,[8][9] First Sambo Wrestler to appear in CNN/SI “Faces In the Crowd”.[10]
  • Scott Sonnon, Honourable Master of Sports in Sambo from the AASF,[11] was nominated for (but did not win) the American Sambo Association's Pioneer of American Sambo award, World University Sambo Games Silver Medalist (not an official University games event), USA Grand National and Pan-American Sambo Champion, and USA National Sambo Team Coach.[12]
  • Zurab Bekochvili, World Sambo Champion, Russian/U.S. Sambo & Judo Champion & a leading Sambo authority in Florida, USA under American Sambo Federation. Zurab Bekochvili holds a notable victory in a 1993 Sport Sambo match against Scott Sonnon
  • Igor Yakimov, World Judo Champion, as well a world Sport Sambo Champion and a medallist at the Combat Sambo world championships
  • Irina Rodina, Russian women's sport Sambo champion, Judo Olympian, and mixed martial artist
  • David Rudman, USSR, champion of the first International Sambo Tournament, at 70 kg,[13][14] and first World Champion in the weight category up to 68 kg.[15]
  • Yury Rybak, Belarussian sport Sambo champion, and World Judo silver medalist
  • Andrei Kazusionak, Belarussian sport Sambo champion, European Judo champion, and Olympian
  • Blagoi Ivanov, Won the over 100 kg Combat Sambo gold medal at the 2008 World Sambo Championships,at 22 years of age he notably defeated Fedor Emelianeko, 4 time World Combat Sambo Champion.
  • Sergej Grecicho, two time Lithuanian combat Sambo champion, mixed martial artist
  • Rumen Dimitrov, Bulgarian combat Sambo champion, and mixed martial artist
  • Rosen Dimitrov, Bulgarian combat Sambo champion, and mixed martial artist
  • Genrikh Shults, 6-times Soviet Sport Sambo champion (85 kg), the first capitan of the USSR national Judo team, European Judo champion (80 kg)
  • Vladimir Putin, KGB officer, former Prime Minister of Russia and current President, is Master of Sports in both Sambo and Judo.

Other notable sambo fightersEdit

  • Khabib Nurmagomedov is a Russian mixed martial artist. He competes in the UFC Lightweight division. He is a former Sambo world champion
  • Dennis Siver is a German-Russian mixed martial artist. He competes in the UFC Featherweight division.
  • Amir Sadollah is American mixed martial artist. Fights as a Middleweight in the UFC. Has a black belt in Sambo.
  • Vinny Magalhães is a Brazilian mixed martial artist (UFC, M1 Global), ADCC champion, nogi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion & M1-Global Light Heavyweight Champion who stated that he currently studies Sambo leg locks.
  • Nick Diaz is an American mixed martial artist (UFC, StrikeForce, EliteXC) that has been practicing Sambo with his Bulgarian National Sambo coach for 12 years.[citation needed]
  • Heath Herring is an American Heavyweight mixed martial artist (UFC, PRIDE FC)[citation needed]
  • Gokor Chivichyan
  • Hiroshi Hase, Japanese Olympic wrestler-turned-pro wrestler who learned sambo in an expedition to the Soviet Union in 1989.
  • Takayuki Iizuka, Japanese pro wrestler who learned sambo in an expedition to the Soviet Union in 1989.
  • Dean Lister, an American mma fighter (UFC) and 2x ADCC champion has a background in Sambo.
  • Stephen Koepfer, president of the American Sambo Association, he was awarded a Master of Sport of Russia in Combat Sambo in 2009.[16] One of the US team coaches for the 2008 FIAS 70th Anniversary world championships.
  • Alexey Oleinik, Ukrainian mixed martial artist, and Combat Sambo competitor
  • Ibragim Magomedov, a Russian mixed martial artist.
  • Victor Nemkov, Russian World Cup champion, and emerging mixed martial artist .
  • Oleg Taktarov, UFC 6 Champion, UFC '95 Ultimate Ultimate Tournament finalist, and actor.
  • Megumi Fujii, a current MMA-fighter. She is known as the "Princess of Sambo."
  • Sergei Kharitonov, a former PRIDE Fighting Championship competitor.
  • Satoko Shinashi, an accomplished Japanese mixed martial arts competitor often called the "Queen of MMA."
  • Oleg Prudius, a Ukrainian professional wrestler best known for performing on WWE's RAW Brand as Vladimir Kozlov, has experience in Sambo among other martial arts.
  • Professional wrestler Dave Taylor was a Sambo champion[citation needed] in England and is a third-generation[citation needed] practitioner of the sport.
  • Volk Han, Russian hybrid wrestling competitor and mixed martial artist. Also the first primary trainer for the Russia Top Team, the mixed martial arts team for which Fedor Emelianenko, Aleksander Emelianenko, and Sergei Kharitonov all were members.

Fictional sambo fightersEdit

Name controversyEdit

Although Sambo is a Russian acronym, exponents of the sport in the English-speaking world have faced problems concerning the word's (linguistically unrelated) racial overtone. Sambo representatives were forced to choose the "politically correct" spelling Sombo.[17] The name had unwanted association in other countries, too. In Swedish, "sambo" is the term for an unmarried couple living together on permanent basis.[18] Nevertheless, this "sombo" is not an official spelling. Instead, officials have moved to reference the sport with an acronym spelling: SAMBO. This is the spelling as made official by the official site of FIAS,[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Schneiderman, R.M. (June 19, 2010). "Once-Secret Martial Art Rises in Ring’s Bright Lights". the New York Times. 
  2. "Once-secret KGB martial art fights for recognition". Time Live. Retrieved December 4, 2010. 
  3. Виктор Афанасьевич Спиридонов (Viktor Spiridonov) – biography at (in Russian)
  4. Rickson Gracie Interview. (2006-10-13). Retrieved on 2011-10-09.
  5. "BSF Organisation". Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  6. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. (2002-08-12). Retrieved on 2011-10-09.
  7. Tatami. Retrieved on 2011-10-09.
  8. Find What You Want. Retrieved on 2011-10-09.
  9. Sombo Results 2001 till 2008. Retrieved on 2011-10-09.
  10. "Faces in the Crowd". CNN. October 21, 1997. 
  12. Martial Arts Biography by Scott Sonnon
  13. USSR. – Agentstvo pechati "Novosti". Retrieved November 9, 2011. 
  14. ".". Daily Times. November 23, 2005. Archived from the original on April 16, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2011. 
  15. "YIVO | Jews in Sport in the USSR". Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  17. Who runs International Sombo? by Martin Clarke
  18. [1] Swedish wikipedia
  19. "The International Sambo Federation (FIAS)". Retrieved 2013-09-18. 


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External linksEdit



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