Sambo Wrestling

samboOne of the first men who was successful in studying “combat wrestling” was V.A.Spiridonov, officer of old Russia Army. He came to army as volunteer, became officer, fought during Russia-Japan war 1904-05. After the war he began to study European version of Japanese jujutsu. During WWI he was injured and retired. Since 1919 he worked in the field of physical development of soldier and began to develop new system of self-defence. Up to the end of 1930s he never denied that his system was based on Japanese art of close-range combat.

Since 1920s, Spiridonov’s system “Sam” became to spread among USSR policemen and borderguards. At 1928 year his students won a match against German’s judo wrestlers (2:1).

Another famous person of that time – Vasilii Sergeevich Oshchepkov. He was born on Sakhalin island, at that time – Japanese land. He studied judo in Kodokan-judo, up to 2nd dan. At 1920s he worked in Vladivostok and in China. Later, after a short period of working in Novosibirsk, Oshchepkov came to capital, and was successful in partial pushing of Spiridonov’s school. On the base of judo he developed new system of hand-to-hand combat for army. He called this system “free-style wrestling”.

Ochscepkov’s system was for fighter, Spiridonov’s system – for saboteur. Oshchepkov didn’t agreed to keep silence about oriental origin of his system. As a result, he was arrested as “Japanese spy” and immediately killed in prison. His school kept existence and became a base of modern sambo (SAMBO is “SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya” – “Self-defence without weapon”). New heads of school (Kharlampiev, quickly named as “creator of sambo”, and others) made great efforts for deleting all similarities between sambo and oriental martial arts. Gradually the best martial art of soviet time became not the best sport competition art…

Spiridonov’s system had another fate. This system didn’t exist officially, but kept in real life: this school was popular among NKVD officers. Many methods became a part of sambo. But army’s sambo and police’s sambo had different purposes: soldier usually has to kill his opponent in situation when he lost his weapon, policeman prefer to keep his opponent alive (but immobilised).

1938, October, 16: data of signing the order about “borning” sambo. This order said, that this system “was created on the base of elements from national kinds of wrestling – georgian, tadjik, kazakh, uzbek, kirghiz – and best elements from other kinds of wrestling”. Obviously, that at 1928, at Stalin’s time, Georgian wrestling was the first, and there was no place for European and Japanese kinds of wrestling. But what can we say about wrestling of different USSR nations?

samboAsian national kinds of wrestling
Most Asians (and, partially, caucausian) kinds of wrestling are “belt wrestling” (i.e. wrestling with catching the belt) in Moslem variant. Static catching by two hands or by one only (in this case another hand is free for catching above the belt), lifting and throwing… There are no ground fighting. Competitions took place on special yard – “maidan”.

Names for most Middle-Asia kinds of wrestling originate from turk’s word “kurash”. Uzbek kurash, tatarian kuresh, kazakh kures… Even azerbaidjan gurassu – from the same family. Techniques and rules are very similar to each other. Fight is finished when opponent has to touch the ground “in the third point”. There are exist throws over the legs, but there are no throws made by legs. Catching the legs is rare too. No strikes, no kicks. Up to 1940s, for instance, uzbeks called fist-fighting as “Russian fighting”.

Caucausian kinds of wrestling have little difference. No rigid fixing of hands. In Azerbaidjan “belt” is a zone below the waist (short bridges), in Georgia and Armenia – zone above the waist (leather jacket).

For hiding Japanese origin, sambo enriched national kinds of wrestling. It is very interesting to compare textbooks on such kinds of wrestling, published at 1930s and at 1950s. Latest books usually have much more techniques, adopted from sambo.

Buryats have its own kind of wrestling – buhe barildaan (“wrestling of strong men”). Several clans have special kinds of martial arts. Most known is hara moriton (“black horsemen”), which include horseback riding, unarmed combat, using different tools (whip, lasso, belt etc). According to legends, this system was founded by legendary heroes – Azhirai Buhe and his assistant Haramtsagai-mergen. They were heads of military group, came to Baical lake from Mongolia on the black horses and protect local habitants from evil tribes. Similar methods are known from other siberian national minorities – for example, Tuvinians have kyuresh, karakyuresh, lamakyuresh etc.

Our Time
After the WWII sambo became a popular kind of sport. It has sport part, based on Oshchepkov’s methods, and its continue – combat part (so-called “combat sambo”), which has in addition many jointlocks and strikes (originated from Spiridonov’s system), forbidden in sport sambo. Now there are several centers of sambo in Russia, main point is small town Kstovo in Nizhnii Novgorod’s region.

samboAnother version of Spiridonov’s system is so-called “Kadochnikov’s system”. A.A.Kadochnikov works as teacher of theoretical mechanicks in Krasnodar military colledge of rocketry and artillery. On the base of Spiridonov’s work and his own knowledge’s about mechanics of movement he developed his own system of hand-to-hand combat. This is science-based investigations of our time, useful in real fighting. He tried to establish his system as basic system for army’s hand-to hand combat, but without success. But later, at 1980s, several students of Kadochnikov began to claim, that their system is old Russian martial art, that they able to prepare a good fighter during four months and instructor – during two years. At the same time they outraged all other martial arts, claimed that oriental martial arts are “unnatural” for western people; but they didn’t accept challenges from representatives of oriental martial arts. Several years later their popularity in USSR became very low, but some of them were successful in opening schools in other countries. Usually they claims that this is an old Russian martial art, or that this is a system of Russian special forces (“spetsnaz”). In real life, Russian special forces use simplified hand-to-hand combat systems, based on shotokan karate, taekwondo and sambo.

In recent years one of Kadochnikov’s students – Retyunskih – developed his own system – ROSS (“Russian Own System of Self-defence”).

In the years of separating the USSR several men claimed themselves as “heirs” of styles, which as if existed among ancient russian (ukrainan, belorussian etc) people. As examples it is possible to name “slaviano-goritskaya bor’ba” (slavic-hill wrestling), created by A.Belov from Moscow, “cossack’s style”, popularized on Ukraina, “buza” and its main “master” – G.Bazlov from Tver’, “skobar'” from Sankt-Peterburg and its main “master” A.Gruntovskii, “asilki” (“belorussian ninja”) etc etc etc.


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