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Russian Sambo Origins  
Sambo
Sambo
The Russian Martial Art SAMBO is an acronym derived from SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, the westernized spelling of the Russian phrase. Tranlated it means: self-defense without any weapon.

Sometimes CAMBO, reflecting the Cyrillic characters instead of the Latin letters, is used as the name of the sport. CAMBO and SAMBO should be considered synonymous.

The sport has its origins in post World War I Russia, which was about to become the Soviet Union. The Czarist Russian Army had been badly defeated by Germany. The Red Army had only just prevailed in the Russian Civil War and had been unable to prevent an incursion conducted by Britain, France, and the United States in support of anti-communist factions. At some point in 1918 Lenin gave orders the intent of which were to improve the training of what would become the Soviet Military.

Unarmed combat was one aspect of this effort and it was decided that a new, and very Soviet, form of martial arts should be created by amalgamating the best techniques from martial arts forms from all over the world with a variety of traditional wrestling styles that existed in various Russian republics. The eventual system that resulted was taught in three tiers according to the differing requirements of: the Special Forces, police forces and basic training for the ordinary soldier. The version for Special Forces included deadly techniques such as quick incapacitation and silent killing whereas the ordinary troops were taught more basic moves as much for fitness training as self-defense. This basic level of instruction for troops was later developed into a sport for civilians. This was the direct ancestor of contemporary SAMBO.

SAMBO combines techniques from judo, jujitsu, several traditional wrestling styles from Russian republics, also aikido, karate, and even some moves from Italian fencing. The goal is always to defeat/incapacitate an opponent as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Participants in SAMBO wear either blue or red uniforms consisting of shorts, jackets, and special shoes called ‘sambovki’. Each contestant is required to have both a red and a blue uniform available when participating in competitive events.

Originally, there was no colored belt system of rankings but Western practitioners have adopted belting systems similar to other martial arts forms. Sambo is unique in that it was developed purposely and deliberately to become a national martial arts style. This served several purposes among them better training and effectiveness for the Soviet Military at several levels, fitness for the masses, and source of national (Soviet) unity.

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