Sambo is a Russian martial art and combat sport. The word "SAMBO" is an acronym for SAMooborona 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.
Intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts, Sambo has roots in Japanese Judo, Jujutsu and Karate plus international styles of wrestling and Russian styles of folk wrestling.
There are three recognized competitive sport variations of Sambo (though Sambo techniques and principles can be applied to many other combat sports).
- Sport Sambo (Russian: Борьбa Самбо, Bor'ba Sambo, Sambo Wrestling (eng)) is stylistically similar to Olympic Freestyle Wrestling or Judo, but with some differences in rules, protocol, and uniform. For example, in contrast with judo, Sambo allows some types of leg locks, while not allowing chokeholds. It focuses on throwing, ground work and submissions, with (compared to Judo) very few restrictions on gripping and holds.
- Combat Sambo (Russian: Боевое Самбо, Boyevoye Sambo). Utilized and developed for the military, Combat Sambo resembles modern mixed martial arts, including extensive forms of striking and grappling. Combat Sambo allows punches, kicks, elbows, knees, headbutts and groin strikes. Competitors wear jackets as in sport sambo, but also hand protection and sometimes shin and head protection. The first FIAS World Combat Sambo Championships were held in 2001. The World Combat Sambo Federation, based in Russia, also sanctions international combat sambo events.
- Freestyle Sambo – Created and debuted by the American Sambo Association (ASA) in 2004. These rules differ from traditional Sport Sambo in that they allow choke holds and other submissions that are not permitted in Sport Sambo such as certain neck cranks and twisting foot locks. Freestyle Sambo, like all Sambo, focuses on throwing skills and fast ground work. No strikes are permitted in Freestyle Sambo. The ASA created this rule set in order to encourage non-Sambo practitioners from judo and jujitsu to participate in Sambo events.
The fighting style Sambo, originally conceived as a means of unarmed crowd control for the police, is a form of wrestling developed by the Soviets in the early 1930's. Sambo is a distillation of over 20 folk arts native to the Soviet Union as well as Greco-Roman Wrestling, Judo, Jujutsu, and free-style wrestling.