Sambo (martial art)
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Sambo at the 2015 European Games
|Highest governing body||Fédération Internationale de Sambo|
|First played||Soviet Union, 1920s|
|Country or region||Worldwide|
|World Games||1985, 1993|
of Amateur Sambo
|Also known as||Sombo (in English-speaking countries)|
|Country of origin||Soviet Union|
|Famous practitioners||Fedor Emelianenko, Alexander Pushnitsa, Oleg Taktarov, Igor Vovchanchyn, , Vitaly Minakov, Volk Han, Andrei Kopylov, Chris Dolman, Gokor Chivichyan, Oleg Stepanov, Genrikh Shults, David Rudman, Andrei Arlovski, Blagoi Ivanov, Alexander Emelianenko, Vladimir Putin, Khaltmaa Battulga, Sergei Kharitonov, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rasul Mirzaev, Rustam Khabilov, Dean Lister, Islam Makhachev, Ali Bagautinov, Omari Akhmedov, Oleg Prudius|
Judo, Jujutsu, Kurash, Alysh, Bökh, Ssirum, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Catch Wrestling
Sport Sambo, Kulachniy Boy, Pankration, Kickboxing
Sambo (Russian: са́мбо, IPA: [ˈsambə]; самозащита без оружия) is a Soviet martial art and combat sport. It originated in the Russian SFSR in Soviet Union. The word "SAMBO" is an acronym of samozashchita bez oruzhiya, which literally translates as "self-defence without weapons". Sambo is relatively modern, since its development began in the early 1920s by the Soviet NKVD and Red Army to improve hand-to-hand combat abilities of the servicemen. It was intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts.
The pioneers of sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov spent several years living in Japan and training in judo under its founder Kano Jigoro. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the Great Purge after being accused of being a Japanese spy.
Spiridonov and Oshchepkov independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov's system, called "free wrestling" in Russia (known in the West as catch-as-catch-can wrestling or simply catch wrestling), Spiridonov's style was softer and less brutal. It was also less strength-dependent, which in large part was due to injuries Spiridonov sustained during World War I.
- 1 Styles
- 2 History
- 3 Uniform and ranking
- 4 Competitions
- 5 FIAS Hall of Fame
- 6 Sambo fighters
- 7 Name controversy
- 8 References
- 9 Sources
- 10 External links
There are multiple competitive sport variations of sambo (though sambo techniques and principles can be applied to many other combat sports). Below are the main formats that are recognized by FIAS.
- Sport sambo (Russian: Борьбa Самбо, Bor'ba Sambo, lit. Sambo Wrestling) is stylistically similar to old time catch wrestling and judo, and in a lot of ways influenced by them, but with some differences in rules, protocol, and uniform. More akin to catch wrestling, and in contrast with judo, sambo allows various types of leg locks, while not allowing chokeholds. It also focuses on throwing, ground work and submissions, with 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 forms of striking and grappling. Combat sambo allows regular punches, kicks, elbows and knees, as well as soccer kicks, headbutts and groin strikes, in addition to throws, holds, chokes and locks, except for a standing or flying wristbar. The chief distinction from Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), apart from striking techniques, is that combat sambo rules and regulations do not permit a one-sided resort to ground fighting without throws or other combative maneuvers (i.e., by simply sitting down and continuing from the ground without touching his opponent that BJJ allows). In terms of aliveness, combat sambo surpasses ARB by design, though both were designed for combat situations only. Competitors wear jackets as in sport sambo, but also hand protection and sometimes shin protection and headgear. 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.
Combat sambo is designed to tackle certain tasks. The effectiveness of this martial art determined by its structure, namely by three components: boxing, sambo and adapters. Adapters of combat sambo were developed by the academician G. S. Popov. The task of adapters is to ensure the safe transition from middle distance to close one, as well as the consistent usage of sambo and boxing techniques. The given configuration provides the fusion of two martial arts into a single system.
Origins and influences
Sambo's early development stemmed from the independent efforts of Vasili Oshchepkov and Viktor Spiridonov to integrate the techniques of Catch wrestling, Judo, Jujutsu, and other foreign martial arts into native Turkic wrestling styles and Georigian chidaoba (ru:Чидаоба, ka:ქართული ჭიდაობა). Oschepkov taught judo to elite Red Army forces at the Central Red Army House. Vasili Oschepkov was one of the first foreigners to learn Judo in Japan and had earned his nidan (second degree black belt, out of then five) from judo's founder, Kano Jigoro. Spiridonov's background involved indigenous martial arts from various Soviet regions as well as an interest in Japanese jujutsu (though he never formally trained it). His reliance on movement over strength was in part because during World War I he received a bayonet wound which left his left arm lame. Both Oschepkov and Spiridonov independently hoped that Soviet military hand-to-hand combat techniques could be improved with an infusion of the techniques distilled from other foreign martial arts. Contrary to common lore, Oschepkov and Spiridonov did not cooperate on the development of their hand-to-hand systems. Rather, their independent notions of hand-to-hand combat merged through cross-training between students and formulative efforts by their students and military staff. While Oschepkov and Spiridonov did have occasion to collaborate, their efforts were not completely united.
Each technique was carefully dissected and considered for its merits, and if found acceptable in unarmed combat, refined to reach sambo's ultimate goal: to stop an armed or unarmed adversary in the least time possible. Thus, many techniques from jujutsu, judo, and other martial systems joined with the indigenous fighting styles to form the sambo repertoire. When the techniques were perfected, they were woven into sambo applications for personal self-defense, police, crowd control, border guards, secret police, dignitary protection, psychiatric hospital staff, military, and commandos.
In 1918, Lenin created Vsevobuch (General Military Training) under the leadership of N. I. Podvoyskiy to train the Red Army. The task of developing and organizing Red Army military hand-to-hand combat training fell to K. Voroshilov, who in turn, created the NKVD physical training center, Dynamo Sports Society.
Spiridonov was a combat veteran of World War I and one of the first wrestling and self-defense instructors hired for Dynamo. His background included Free wrestling (i.e. Catch wrestling), Greco-Roman wrestling, many Turkic folk wrestling styles, and Japanese jujutsu. As a combatives investigator for Dynamo, he traveled to Mongolia and China to observe their native fighting styles.
In 1923, Oschepkov and Spiridinov collaborated (independently) with a team of other experts on a grant from the Soviet government to improve the Red Army's hand-to-hand combat system. Spiridonov had envisioned integrating the most practical aspects of the world's fighting systems into one comprehensive style that could adapt to any threat. Oschepkov had observed Kano Jigoro's distillation of Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu, Kito Ryu and Fusen Ryu Jiu-Jitsu into Judo, and he had developed the insight required to evaluate and integrate combative techniques into a new system. Their developments were supplemented by Anatoly Kharlampiyev and I. V. Vasiliev who also traveled the globe to study the native fighting arts of the world. Ten years in the making, their catalogue of techniques was instrumental in formulating the early framework of the art to be eventually referred to as sambo.
Kharlampiyev is often called the "father of sambo". This may be largely semantics, since only he had the longevity and political connections to remain with the art while the new system was named "sambo". However, Kharlampiyev's political maneuvering is single-handedly responsible for the USSR Committee of Sport's accepting sambo as the official combat sport of the Soviet Union in 1938 – decidedly the "birth" of sambo. So, more accurately, Kharlampiyev could be considered the father of "sport" sambo.
Spiridonov was the first to begin referring to the new system with a name similar to 'sambo'. He eventually developed a softer style called Samoz that could be used by smaller, weaker practitioners or even wounded soldiers and secret agents. Spiridonov's inspiration to develop 'Samoz' stemmed from his World War I bayonet injury, which greatly restricted his left arm and thus his ability to practice wrestling. Refined versions of sambo are still used today or fused with specific sambo applications to meet the needs of Russian commandos.
As an Olympic sport
After being recognized by FILA in 1968, by the U.S. National Amateur Athletic Union in 1972, and after being included to the programme of the 1973 World Wrestling Championships along with Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling (which are indeed Olympic sports,) Sambo was rapidly making its way to become an Olympic sport.
The first World Cup was contested in 1969. In 1975 the first United States National Sambo Championships were held in Mesa, Arizona, in 1977 it was contested along with GR and freestyle at the first Pan American Wrestling Championships in Mexico City, and included in the schedule of the upcoming 1983 U.S. Olympic Festival and the 1983 Pan American Games (the 1983 Pan American event in Caracas became the first and subsequently the last edition of Sambo at the Pan Am Games.)
But as a result of political complications of the 1980 Olympic boycott which arouse after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Sambo was at first reduced to a demonstration sport at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, USSR. But later, because of the sport's strong association with the Soviet Union, it was relinquished of the demonstration sport status. It is true that youth sambo was demonstrated in the Games' opening ceremonies; however, sambo was never formally recognised as a demonstration sport. This common error in history books is noted in several sources including From SAMOZ to SAMBO by Anatoly Makovetskii and Lukashev's History of Hand-to-Hand Combat in the First Half of the 20th Century: Founders and Authors. Furthermore, the official documents of the 1980 Olympic Organizing Committee do not mention sambo as a participating sport in the Games. As a side note, demonstration sports were suspended after the 1992 Summer Olympics. With the changes in Olympics Judo in for 2013 and the proposed removal of Freestyle Wrestling from the Olympics, there has been a great migration of wrestlers to SAMBO because of its all-encompassing techniques and dynamic yet consistent rules.
In 1968, the FILA accepted sambo as the third style of international wrestling. In 1985, the sambo community formed its own organization, Federation International Amateur Sambo (FIAS). In 1993, FIAS split into two organizations, both of which used the same name and logo and the two groups were often referred to as FIAS "East" (under Russian control) and FIAS "West" (under US and Western European control). This split mirrored the last days of Cold War politics of the time as well as the recent break-up of the Soviet Union. In the U.S., disagreements between the sport's organizers and the rise of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the 1990s slowed down the growth of sambo before the success of several sambo fighters increased its popularity a decade later. In 2005, FILA reached an agreement with FIAS "West" and re-assumed sanctioning over sport sambo. However, in 2008, FILA again discontinued sanctioning sambo and sambo is now notably missing from the FILA website. At present, only FIAS sanctions international competition in sport sambo. In 2014 FIAS and FILA signed a cooperative agreement. While this does not place sambo back on FILA's recognized list, it does move towards unity and prevents future 'turf wars' regarding the sport's promotion. A similar agreement was signed by FIAS and the International Judo Federation in 2014 as well. Both FIAS and the World Combat Sambo Federation host international combat sambo competition. The American Sambo Association has continued to host freestyle sambo tournaments in the US and Canada since 2004. These events are unrecognized by FILA. Rumours rising in 2012 stating that sambo will be included as a demonstration sport in the 2016 Olympics are therefore not supported by any facts, and thus sambo is still a very long way from maturing into an Olympic sport, notwithstanding the effort that is being put into the matter. Indeed, given the intention of the Olympic Committee to remove classic wrestling from the Olympic roster, there are rumors that sambo is highly unlikely to ever make it to the Olympics. However, sambo has been included in the 27th Annual Summer Universiade for the first time in history. FIAS submitted an application to the International Olympic Committee IOC to consider sambo for the 2020 Games and has devoted 2010–2013 to creating a sambo commission in the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). As of November 30, 2018, sambo has indeed received temporary recognition by the IOC. This close relationship is reestablishing the global popularity and media emphasis on sambo.
Uniform and ranking
Similar to wrestling, a sambo practitioner normally wears either a red or a blue competition outfit. The kurtka (куртка) or sambovka (самбовка) as it is called, looks similar to a Judo gi top and belt, but has wrestling style shorts and shoes which match the uniform's color. The sambo uniform does not reflect rank or competitive rating. Sport rules require an athlete to have both red and blue sets to visually distinguish competitors on the mat.
Also similar to wrestling ranking system used in Russia, a competitive rating system is used (rather than the belt color ranking system used in judo and jujutsu). Various sport organizations distribute these ranks for high levels of competition achievement or in some cases coaching merits. People who have earned these ranks are known as 'Masters of Sport.' Institutions that grant a sambo 'Master of Sport' in Russia include FIAS, FKE, and the International Combat Sambo Federation. Other nations have governing bodies that award 'Masters of Sport' as well, including the American Sambo Association in the United States 
FIAS World SAMBO Championships
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|1||1973||September 6–11||Tehran, Iran||Soviet Union||10||11|
|2||1974||July 26–28||Ulan Bator, Mongolia||Soviet Union||10||5|
|3||1979||December 11–14||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||11|
|4||1980||May 30–31||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||11|
|5||1981||February 28 – March 1||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||12|
|6||1982||July 3–4||Paris, France||Soviet Union||10||11|
|7||1983||September 30 – October 1||Kyiv, Soviet Union||Soviet Union||10||8|
|8||1984||June 14–15||Madrid, Spain||Soviet Union||10||10|
|9||1985||September 19–21||San Sebastián, Spain||Soviet Union||10||11|
|10||1986||November 21–24||Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France||Soviet Union||10||8|
|11||1987||November||Milan, Italy||Soviet Union||10||9|
|12||1988||December 1–5||Montreal, Canada||Soviet Union||10||11|
|13||1989||November 8–11||West Orange, United States||Soviet Union||10||9|
|14||1990||December 7–10||Moscow, Soviet Union||Soviet Union||10||18|
|15||1991||December 28–29||Montreal, Canada||Soviet Union||10||8|
|16||1992||November 6–10||Herne Bay, England||Russia||10||14|
|17||1993||November 9–15||Kstovo, Russia||Russia||10||28|
|18||1994||October 7–9||Novi Sad, Yugoslavia||Russia||10||20|
|19||1995||September 1–3||Sofia, Bulgaria||Russia||9||23|
|20||1996||November 1–3||Tokyo, Japan||Russia||18||23|
|21||1997||October 10–12||Tbilisi, Georgia||Georgia||18||20|
|22||1998||October 16–18||Kaliningrad, Russia||Russia||18||20|
|23||1999||November 12–14||Gijón, Spain||Russia||18||20|
|24||2000||November 25||Kyiv, Ukraine||Russia||18||21|
|25||2001||October 20–21||Krasnoyarsk, Russia||Russia||18||26|
|26||2002||November 26–29||Panama City, Panama||Russia||18||19|
| Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France (Combat Sambo)
St. Petersburg, Russia
| Prague, Czech Republic (Combat Sambo)
| Prague, Czech Republic (Combat Sambo)
|30||2006||September 30 – October 2
| Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Combat Sambo)
|31||2007||November 7–11||Prague, Czech Republic||Russia||27||43|
|32||2008||November 13–17||St. Petersburg, Russia||Russia||27||48|
|33||2009||November 5–9||Thessaloniki, Greece||Russia||27||46|
|34||2010||November 4–8||Tashkent, Uzbekistan||Russia||27||26|
|35||2011||November 10–14||Vilnius, Lithuania||Russia||27||65|
|36||2012||November 8–12||Minsk, Belarus||Russia||27||64|
|37||2013||November 7–11||St. Petersburg, Russia||Russia||27||70|
|38||2014||November 20–24||Narita, Japan||Russia||27||82|
|39||2015||November 12–16||Casablanca, Morocco||Russia||27||80|
|40||2016||November 10–14||Sofia, Bulgaria||Russia||27||77|
|41||2017||November 9–13||Sochi, Russia||Russia||27||90|
|42||2018||November 8–12||Bucharest, Romania||Russia||27||80|
|43||2019||TBD||Cheongju, South Korea||27|
FIAS World Cup
Sambo World Cup and Supercup have been contested since 1969, initially held by FILA, and since 1985 by FIAS.
- World Cup editions
- 1969, Soviet Union
- 1970, Sochi, Soviet Union
- 1975, Moscow, Soviet Union
- 1977, June 9–12, Oviedo, Spain (initially has been planned in the programme of the 1977 Wrestling World Cup along with freestyle wrestling event)
- 1980, Madrid, Spain
- 1981, September 18–20, Pontevedra, Spain
- 1982, Bilbao, Spain
- 1984, October 12–14, Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela
- 1985, September 22, San Sebastián, Spain
- 1986? Tokyo, Japan
- 1987, April 4–5, Morocco
- 1993, Nizhni Novgorod, Russia
- 1994, May, Kstovo, Russia
- 2001, Moscow, Russia
- Supercup editions
United States National Sambo Championships
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2020)
United States National Sambo Championships known initially as the National AAU Sambo Wrestling Championships are the annual championships held in the United States. American enthusiasts of martial arts took up Sambo shortly before it was contested at the 1973 World Wrestling Championships and was rapidly making it way to become an Olympic sport in 1980.
|1975||May 10||Mesa, Arizona||Community College||10|
|1976||June 5||Chandler, Arizona||Chandler High School gym||10|
|1977||April 23||San Diego, California||Jackie Robinson Memorial YMCA||10|
|1978||May 20||Chula Vista, California||Southwestern College||10|
|1979||April 21||Walnut, California||10|
|1980||August 2||Kansas City, Missouri||20|
|1998||April 11||Washington, D.C.|
FIAS Hall of Fame
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- Fedor Emelianenko (combat sambo), four-time world champion, European champion, and six-time Russian national champion.
- Murat Khasanov, 11-time world champion, seven-time European champion, 19-time Russian national champion.
- Irina Rodina, 11-time world champion.
- Svetlana Galante, seven-time world champion.
Sambo fighters (sambo practitioners) are athletes who train, compete and coach under the rules of sambo.
American Sambo Association U.S. Sambo Archive
The American Sambo Association (ASA) has compiled the most extensive archive of American sambists competing abroad as well as U.S. based sambo tournaments held since 1973; as well as other important pieces of U.S. Sambo history dating back to 1968. The database currently has over 1400 entries. Only verifiable results have been included in the database (no word of mouth reports are included). To be listed in the ASA archive, verifiable evidence of an athlete's participation and/or placing must be provided; this can include official results, photos on the podium, magazine or newspaper articles, certificates, passbooks, awards, etc.
- Fedor Emelianenko, four-time World Combat Sambo Champion and six-time Russian National Combat Sambo Champion in the +100 kg division. Two-time Russian national Judo bronze medalist, he was the last heavyweight champion of the PRIDE Fighting Championships and was the consensus No. 1 ranked Heavy weight MMA fighter in the world for over seven years and undefeated for 10 years in all of MMA.
- Marko Kosev, Bulgarian national and the first and only one five-time world combat sambo champion.
- Vitaly Minakov, four-time Sambo World Champion, four-time Russian National Champion.
- Alexander Pushnitsa, three-time Sambo World Champion, two-time European Champion, nine-time champion of the USSR, Merited Master of Sports of the USSR.
- Rasul Mirzaev, World Combat Sambo Champion in Tashkent 2010.
- Igor Kurinnoy, a Merited Master of Sport, three-time Sambo World Champion, a five-time Sambo World Cup Champion and director of Borec Sports Club.
- Andrei Arlovski, UFC heavyweight champion. He was also the Junior World Sport Sambo Champion, as well as a silver medalist in the World Sambo Championship and World Sambo Cup.
- Vladimir Kyullenen, 1972 European Champion and USSR Champion, 1975 World Champion and USSR Champion.
- Ahad Rajabli, World Champion and multiple champion of Azerbaijan.
- Rustam J. Sudoczki, World Games Gold 1991. 9 times world Champion of Combat Sambo and MMA. He holds the rank of Grand Master in combat sambo and sport sambo.
- Chris Dolman, 1969 World Cup Champion, 1985 World Champion and 1985 World Games Champion. Eight-time Judo champion of Netherlands, European Judo silver medalist, four-time Greco-Roman wrestling champion of Benelux. Also the first primary trainer for Rings Holland and Dolman Gym, the mixed martial arts teams for which Alistair Overeem, Valentijn Overeem and Gegard Mousasi all were members. Also trainer and co-owner of Chakuriki Gym.
- Volk Han, 1987 and 1988 USSR Champion, 1987 and 1988 Russian National Champion, Merited Master of Sports of the USSR. Multiple freestyle wrestling champion of Dagestan. Also the first primary trainer for the Russian Top Team, the mixed martial arts team for which Fedor Emelianenko, Aleksander Emelianenko, and Sergei Kharitonov all were members.
- Andrei Kopylov, 1986 and 1991 Spartakiad of Peoples of the USSR Champion, 1991 USSR Champion. Also primary trainer for the Russian Top Team.
- Ron Tripp, 1994 World Champion and 7 times World Medalist capturing 8 US National Titles and 6 Pan Am Golds during his career (both FIAS East and West). A Judo champion and current general secretary of USA Judo. Tripp was promoted to 10th degree in sambo in 1995 and became America's first International Distinguished Master of Sport in 1996. Also in 1996, he served as World Team Coach at the Tokyo World Championships. At the 1993 U.S. Sambo Championships, he scored a total victory throw over Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Rickson Gracie, the only time Gracie was defeated in competition.
- Clinton Burke, NCAA wrestling finalist and All-American from the University of Oklahoma, was a four-time finalist in world competition beginning in 1987, when he earned a silver medal in the World Cup in Tokyo. He won World Championship silver medals in three different weight classes (62 kg, 68 kg, and 74 kg), closing his career in 1993 as runner-up in the World Championships in Kstovo, Russia.
- Lance Campbell Sport Sambo World Champion (FIAS West). One of only eight grapplers selected to compete in the Ultimate Submission Showdown.
- Martin Clarke, The Father of British Sambo, Multiple time FIAS British Sambo Champion, World Games Silver 1985, World Silver 1986, World Masters Silver 1997. He is the only person in Great Britain to receive the FIAS Gold Medal for services to FIAS. He holds the rank of Grand Master in combat sambo and sport sambo.
- Amy Ehlenfeldt, an accomplished US judo player; she won the 1991 FIAS World Championships in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, becoming the first American woman to achieve victory over a female USSR competitor.
- Aleksander Emelianenko, Fedor's brother, is a five-time Russian National Combat Sambo Champion and three-time World Sambo Champion in the +100 kg divisions.
- Jason Gabrielson, Three-time World champion, one-time World Cup champion, Pan-American Games champion, Sixteen-time US Champion competing in all age groups (FIAS West). Only US lifetime undefeated champion. Was nominated for (but did not win) the American Sambo Association's Pioneer of American Sambo Award. Is also a champion wrestler and judo competitor.
- James Chico Hernandez, First sambo champion to be featured on a box of Wheaties Energy Crunch. He won the 2000 FIAS World Cup silver medal, FIAS Pan American silver medal,10 time USA AAU Sambo Champion, three-time British FIAS silver medalist, and bronze medal winner at the 2010 FIAS Championships of Scotland. 2009 American Sambo Association's Pioneer of American Sambo Award winner and he is the first sambo wrestler to appear in CNN/SI "Faces In the Crowd".
- Scott Sonnon, Honourable Master of Sports in Sambo from the AASF, was nominated for (but did not win) the American Sambo Association's Pioneer of American Sambo Award, World University Sambo Games Silver Medalist (not an official University games event), USA Grand National and Pan-American Sambo Champion, and USA National Sambo Team Coach.
- Zurab Bekochvili, World Sambo Champion, Russian/U.S. Sambo & Judo Champion & a leading sambo authority in Florida, USA under American Sambo Federation. Zurab Bekochvili holds a notable victory in a 1993 sport sambo match against Scott Sonnon
- Archil Chokheli, two times world Sambo Champion (1997 & 2000) and European champion, trained the Georgian national team in 2012 but was killed in an anti terror operation while serving as officer of a special operations unit.
- Igor Yakimov, World Judo Champion, as well a World Sport Sambo Champion and a medallist at the Combat Sambo World Championships
- Irina Rodina, Russian Women's Sport Sambo Champion, judo olympian, and mixed martial artist
- David Rudman, USSR, champion of the first International Sambo Tournament, at 70 kg, and first World Champion in the weight category up to 68 kg.
- Yury Rybak, Belarusian sport sambo champion, and World Judo silver medalist
- Andrei Kazusionak, Belarusian sport sambo champion, European Judo champion, and Olympian
- Blagoi Ivanov, Won the over 100 kg combat sambo gold medal at the 2008 World Sambo Championships, at 22 years of age he notably defeated Fedor Emelianeko, 4 time World Combat Sambo Champion.
- Sergej Grecicho, two-time Lithuanian combat sambo champion, mixed martial artist
- Rumen Dimitrov, World Combat Sambo Champion, and mixed martial artist from Bulgaria
- Rosen Dimitrov, World Combat Sambo Champion, and mixed martial artist from Bulgaria
- Genrikh Shults, 6-times Soviet Sport Sambo Champion (85 kg), the first captain of the USSR national Judo team, European Judo champion (80 kg)
- Marko Kosev, 5 time World Combat Sambo Champion from Bulgaria.
- Johnson Jajoute, Currently trains out of MPR Endurance also recognized as the USA Sambo National Training Center. Combat Sambo Finish 5th 2 times at the World Championships in 2016 and 2018, World Cup (Kharlampiev) 2016 bronze medalists, President's Cup bronze medalist in 2016 and 2 time silver medalist in 2017 and 2018, Pan American Championships 2 time gold medalist in 2016,2017 and bronze medalist in 2018. Sport Sambo silver medalist at US National Championships 2018, Beach Sambo Pan American silver medalist 2018. He's also a pro boxer and MMA fighter.
Other notable sambo fighters
- Khabib Nurmagomedov is a Russian mixed martial artist. He is the current champion in the UFC Lightweight division. He is a former sambo world champion.
- Dennis Siver is a Russian-German mixed martial artist. He competes in the UFC Featherweight division.
- Gokor Chivichyan is an Armenian judo, wrestling and sambo instructor, who resides and teaches in the USA.
- Victor Koga was a Russian-Japanese judoka and sambo instructor, known for introducing the art in Japan.
- Hiroshi Hase, Japanese Olympic wrestler-turned-pro wrestler who learned sambo in an expedition to the Soviet Union in 1989.
- Takayuki Iizuka, Japanese pro wrestler who learned sambo in an expedition to the Soviet Union in 1989.
- Dean Lister, an American mma fighter (UFC) and 2x ADCC champion has a background in sambo.
- Alexey Oleinik, Ukrainian mixed martial artist, and combat sambo competitor.
- Ibragim Magomedov, a Russian mixed martial artist.
- Victor Nemkov, Russian World Cup champion, and emerging mixed martial artist .
- Oleg Taktarov, UFC 6 Champion, UFC '95 Ultimate Ultimate Tournament finalist, and actor.
- Megumi Fujii, a former MMA-fighter. She is known as the "Princess of Sambo."
- Sergei Kharitonov, a former PRIDE Fighting Championship competitor.
- Satoko Shinashi, an accomplished Japanese mixed martial arts competitor often called the "Queen of MMA".
- Oleg Prudius, a Ukrainian professional wrestler best known for performing on WWE's RAW Brand as Vladimir Kozlov, has experience in sambo among other martial arts.
- Professional wrestler Dave Taylor was a sambo champion in England and is a third-generation practitioner of the sport.
- Jalali Damirov, Azerbaijanian Sambo Grandmaster. 3 times European Sambo Champion, 10 time's Azerbaijan Sambo Champion, International sambo championship 2nd. place.
- Manish Yadav (sambo wrestler) from India won bronze medal in 1st South Asian Sambo Championship in Nepal (2011). He won Gold in Indian Senior National Sambo Championship in 2012 and won bronze in 26th Dutch open sambo wrestling in 2017 in125kg category. He has represented India in world sambo championship at Casablanca (Morocco) 2015 and Sofia (Bulgaria) 2016 and two Asian champion ship both were held in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) 2012 and 2014.
- David Reid, A martial arts fighter, competing in multiple martial arts Judo, German ju-jutsu, different forms of Jujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. He has represented Great Britain in Ju-Jutsu, Kūdō and Sambo. (Ju-Jutsu full contact) Ju-Jutsu World Championship Bronze medallist 2011 (Jacarilla, Spain) & Gold Medallist 2012 (Torrevieja, Spain) and Sambo British Masters Championship 2018 (Folkstone, United Kingdom) Bronze medallist and World Masters Championship 2018 (Casablanca, Morocco) Bronze medallist.
Although sambo is a Russian acronym, exponents of the sport in the English-speaking world have faced problems concerning the linguistically unrelated racist term. Sambo representatives have opted to use the alternative spelling Sombo to avoid offense. In Swedish, "sambo" is the term for an unmarried couple living together on permanent basis. To avoid confusion, FIAS also references the sport with its acronym spelling: SAMBO.
- Schneiderman, R. M. (June 19, 2010). "Once-Secret Martial Art Rises in Ring's Bright Lights". the New York Times.
- "Once-secret KGB martial art fights for recognition". The Independent. April 25, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
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