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Myths about Sambo Print E-mail

Myth 1: Sambo is Russian altered Japanese Judo (because one of creators was Judo 2nd Dan Kano's student).

Pioneers of Sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Only Oshepkov trained Judo under Kano and died in prison in 1937. Spiridonov's style was very different, softer and less strength. Then two systems cross-pollinated and became what is known as a "beginning" of Sambo and was quite different from what we know as Sambo today. Today's Sambo got shaped due to a work of Anatoly Kharlampiev and a number of other people who were sent by the Soviet Union government to travel the globe to study native fighting arts for ten years. The result was a catalog of techniques, which is now referred as Sambo. The techniques were from many (around 12 only major) systems, mostly from Central Asia. Sambo is much more related to Uzbeki Kurash and Georgian Chidaoba than to Japanese Judo.

Myth 2. Sambo throws are taken from Japanese Judo, you can see it at Sambo competitions

The techniques depend on human's body mechanics and rules. As all humans have mostly the same body mechanics (some injuries may change it), it's rules of competition are what really shape techniques. Standing in Georgian Chidaoba shaped Sambo techniques similar to Japanese Judo. Incredible perfection of Chidaoba-type belt grips and throws (now famous "Russian grips" in Judo) brought Russian Judokas many Olympic gold medals (and made one of the dramatic rules change in Judo to restrict advantage of those incredible grips). Russia is still considered to be a number 1 nation in Judo (Google it yourself, YouTube has nice videos), Japanese are the second.

Myth 3. Sambo is not as realistic for self defense compared to BJJ

There is no doubt that BJJ is a great martial art. The art of body chess is a very realistic self defense only if your fight is considered a gentlemen's "one on one" fight - assuming it's a very long time on a soft and flat floor without "interrupting" from other "helpers" and no bad "street techniques" allowed. Sambo is the opposite - it was developed as a base for police forces against real criminals, while at the same time allowing low injury training and sport. The result became a lot of throwing with a focus to slam the opponent - and in case of ground work, a very fast finish or back off. All to reduce the probability of recieving kicks to the head while on the ground by "good Samaritans" or other street techniques like biting the fingers or neck, eye gouging etc as easily in any close contact ground work. The longer you are in very close contact, especially on the ground - the more probability of "dirty" techniques to happen.

Myth 4. Sambo ground work is weaker than in BJJ

Like mentioned above the rules shape the techniques as human body mechanics are almost the same globally. Rules in turn are often are result of assumptions. BJJ has one assumption of street fight, Sambo another. In my opinion today's Olympic Judo rules do not have assumptions at all and Olympic Judo is hard to call a combat sport (ice hockey arguably is more combat...). Who is right or wrong for street fight is not a meaningful logical question as a street fight itself depends on various hard to predict conditions - where in most cases a knife or gun would be a winner. Sambo allows many leg locks, which are prohibited in BJJ (due to BJJ's assumption of a higher probability of injury - which contradicts stats of Russian Sambo). Such Sambo techniques reduce an importance of the BJJ's famous "guard game". At the same time FIAS Sport Sambo rules (all allowed in Combat Sambo discipline), prohibit chokes and limit the time on the ground, making many BJJ positional priorities irrelevant.

Chokes are mostly considered to be a cleanest submission with no injury whatsoever "just putting an opponent to sleep". However these people forget that a choke held for a few minutes longer in anger or rage may kill or leave someone a vegetable with irreversible brain damage. As a submission a choke is as "clean" as a referee is good. In the case of a street fight and police-criminal relations it cannot be clean. Soviet Sambo assumption was better to break a limb and interrogate later than choke to death for police cases. For the rest of the huge country it was to avoid increased deaths in street fights.

Myth 5. Sambo disallowed chokes and allowed leg locks to differentiate itself from it's parent sport Judo

Sambo became a fully shaped sport system in 1938 in the Soviet Union, immediately involving an enormous number of people practicing the sport across a huge country with rules not much different from what we have today (compare to the so often and sometimes dramatic Judo rules changes). That time Soviets and the rest of the world didn't pay much attention to Judo sport. There were American wrestling, French wrestling, boxing and politics to worry about, but not Judo sport - even 1932 the Judo presentation (preso only) at the Olympics made even Kano ambivalent about it's future as a world sport. For Judo it all happened much later - in 1964 in Tokyo - after the world totally changed due to World War 2, when Japan became a US subordinate with all the US business and politics aftermath. But then in 1938 Stalin's Soviet Union Sambo could not do a "market re-positioning" with Judo - the latter was just not yet around. Yes, as ridiculously funny it may sound, all those so well marketed famous Judo "thousands years of perfection legacy" was just not there in 1938 for Soviet Union sport Sambo to worry about.

Myth 6. Russians try to reduce Judo influence importance for Sambo for marketing purposes

Sambo is an international sport involving more than 80 countries (see FIAS documents). Sambo (all variations) does not belong to Russians any more - today it is a world wide sport involving a huge community due to its incredible combination of combativeness, real sportsmanship, athleticism and low injury qualities. Sambo is very popular in Japan with Japanese Sambo masters (not converts from Judo). Sambo and Combat Sambo are more in competition with UFC and other MMA variations than Judo. With those Sambo variations having a very clear advantage of sportsmanship, athleticism and low injury qualities. It has all the properties and advantages of a world wide sport.

Original Judo (not today's sport variation) is one of 12 major (there are many more non major) influences for Sambo and it has a well respected place in Sambo's history. One out of many. For example Uzbeki Kurash and Georgian Chidaoba influenced more standing work in Sambo than Judo. Later, for 1964 Olympics, when Russian sambists had to adapt to Judo Olympic sport,  they did the opposite - they adopted Sambo techniques to Judo Olympic sport rules, creating so well known "Russian Judo style", "alternative Russian grips" and Judo Nation Number 1 - Russia.

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