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Sambo as a modern martial arts combat sport  
Sambo is a modern martial arts combat sport and self-defense system developed in the Soviet Union and recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee in 1938, presented by Anatoly Kharlampiev, which was also called Sambo or Cambo. The word Cambo or Sambo is an acronym of “SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya” which means "self-defense without weapons" in Russian. Sambo is a combination of Chinese Shuaijiao, Japanese judo and traditional folk styles of wrestling such as Armenian Koch, Georgian Chidaoba, Moldovan Trînta, Uzbek Kurash, Mongolian Khapsagay and Azerbaijani Gulesh.

Sambo was established by Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov, who died in 1937 during the political purges for refusing to deny his education in judo under its founder Kano Jigoro. They developed two different styles but have the same name. A soft style by Spiridonov, aikido-like system developed after he was maimed during World War I. Anatoly Kharlampiev, Victor Spiridonov's student often officially recognized as the founder of Sport Sambo.

There are usually five recognized styles of sambo in general. Sport Sambo is stylistically similar to recreational wrestling or judo. The competition is similar to judo, but different in rules, protocol, and uniform. For example, Sambo allows all types of leg locks, while not allowing chokeholds and focuses on throwing, ground work and submissions, it is in contrast with judo; Self-defense Sambo is similar to aikijutsu, jujutsu or aikido and is based on self-defense application, such as defending against attacks by both armed and unarmed attackers. Self-Defense Sambo was considered by many practitioners as part of Combat Sambo and not a system unto itself; Combat Sambo was utilized and developed for the military, Combat Sambo includes practice with weapons, including disarming techniques. The competition of Combat Sambo resembles older forms of judo and modern mixed martial arts, including extensive forms of striking and grappling.

In 2001, the first FIAS World Sambo Championships were held; Special Sambo was developed for Army Special Forces and Rapid Reaction Police (Militsija) teams and other law enforcement formations. Due to different tasks and aims,the Special Sambo style differs from team to team; however, the base of any special system developed in that field is of course Sambo.

The word "Special Sambo" is a relatively new term which refers to specialized versions of combat Sambo; Freestyle Sambo was uniquely American set of competitive Sambo rules created by the American Sambo Association (ASA) in 2004. Their rules differ from traditional Sport Sambo in that they allow choke holds and other submissions from Combat Sambo that are not permitted in Sport Sambo. Like all Sambo, freestyle sambo focuses on throwing skills and fast ground work. In Freestyle Sambo, strikes are not permitted. This rule was created and set in order to encourage non-Sambo practitioners from judo and jujitsu to participate in Sambo events.

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