Wikipedia lists Sambo as an acronym for SAMooborona Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as “self-defense without weapons”…. Intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts, Sambo has roots in Japanese judo, international styles of wrestling, plus traditional folk styles of wrestling.
In an effort to educate those of us unfamiliar with the combat system, Russian author Mikhail Didenko is offering fans an insiders view of Combat Sambo, one of the three styles practiced around the world which also includes Sport and Freestyle. Didenko’s widely popular work can be found HERE on sale for $12.47, ‘The mental and physical aspects of a street self-defense.’
Combat Sambo was developed by the Red Army following World War I and today most commonly resembles modern mixed martial arts. Combat Sambo includes chokes and joint locks which are illegal in Sport Sambo.
Another point of view on the development of the differing styles is that Sambo wrestling was given to the common people because martial arts was considered to be a secret at the time. Authorities didn’t want the people to be strong. Combat Sambo differs in the areas of mental, technique, and tactical senses. They have one name, but they are different.
The first article in this series includes an interview with Valery Volostnykh – a well-known Russian Combat Sambo coach and expert. He was the student of Anatoly Kharlampiev who was considered to be the founder of the sambo system.
Follow Didenko on his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/groups/158349617650304/ and be sure to check back for future Combat Sambo articles which will include further interviews and videos from other other Combat Sambo masters.
We live in the 21-st century, and use powerful computers just for entertainment. Still self-defense is not an obsolete word. Sometimes we need to protect ourselves like our far ancestors did thousands years ago. Sooner or later we realize the necessity of fighting skills. But what martial art is more reasonable to choose? And if we are going to protect our life on a street, not on a ring, would a sport martial art hit the target? Do we need sparring? Do we need mental training?
These and other ‘spicy’ questions are answered by the famous Russian combat sambo master and coach – Valery Volostnykh, a teacher of the MMA fighter Alexei Oleinik. The combat sambo closely connected to the mysterious Russian Martial Art, it was developed by the Soviet secret services, it gave the world Emelyanenko brothers. So these guys have some words to say.
Q. Nowadays a lot of martial artists, especially punchers, have ‘wrestlerphobia’ – they are cautious towards wrestlers concerning a street fight, because a wrestler can do a double-leg takedown for example. If we take a person who is interested in self-defense only, not in sports, should he learn some throws just to know what wrestling is?
A. You have to attend a wrestling group for some period of time, where you’ll feel a real resistance of your sparring-partner in a bout to understand what it is.
Q. So is a puncher better attending a wrestling group for some period of time?
A. In combat sambo we have wrestling already so we don’t have to go to other groups. Also you need to experience sparrings.
Q. What if a person is a puncher only? And he is not a combat sambo fighter. What recommendations could you give him?
A. Anyway it’s advisable to get some practical knowledge of wrestling. Just to know what to do when a wrestler ducks and grasps your legs – and that’s it, you can do nothing. And a puncher wouldn’t even know what to do. He learned to hit a ‘target’ that is his sparring-partner’s chin. And what about a partner’s face as a target when it’s close to your solar plexus? You can see all that in the cage fights. Although there are a lot of universal fighters now. And back in the days a puncher did not know what to do when he didn’t succeed in hitting his opponent. It’s not easy because in striking martial arts a referee always breaks opponents thus giving them an opportunity to ‘reload’ and ‘shoot’ again. So they are jumping on a ring and finding the target all the time. Then such a fighter who got used to that targeting comes into the cage and there’s no such a possibility at all there. If you didn’t strike down your opponent in the very beginning, then he wouldn’t give you a second chance. And what will you do? Of course, one should have wrestling skills of some level. Not to be disoriented, know how to act when at a close distance.
Q. Still should one go easy on wrestling because he cannot come up to somebody who is a many years wrestling practitioner anyway?
A. We are talking about universality. At least one should know something about a defense against a chokehold, a submission hold. Otherwise you will be choked and your arms and legs will be broken off like you are a chicken. And when you are trained it’s not that easy to fight with you. It’s advisable to learn wrestling basics and to get a practical experience. There is all of that in combat sambo. And you can examine your skills in competitions – can you quit your trainings or should train some more.
Q. So is it more reasonable to learn combat sambo where you have that all instead of learning boxing and then freestyle wrestling which can cause a mess in your head and in your moves?
A. All other conditions being equal, yes; but people are different and the given mix is also can be good for somebody. A person might learn boxing and freestyle wrestling and he would be alright. But freestyle wrestlers don’t wrestle in clothes and we think that you should know how to wrestle with jackets (kurtkas) and without as well. All participants of street conflicts usually wear clothes – a street is not a beach, or a sauna. According to the climate conditions we don’t wear waistcloths. And military people of all countries of the world also wear regular clothes. Criminals wear clothes as well.
There are fights with jackets and without in combat sambo. We experience all combinations. Also we take part in different MMA competitions with different rules and gear. That’s how the universality appears I was talking about.
Wrestling in jackets is more close to the hand-to-hand combat part of combat sambo and submission holds differ a little bit when you wrestle in a jacket. It also helps when throwing. And it looks spectacular. When your opponent in a bout has no jacket on him and he is sweaty, your hold can go loose. When you are a universal fighter you fear nothing. Fedor Emelyanenko can fight in both situations, and strikes, throws, holds – everything is on a high level. This is our role model: a universal fighter.
Q. What recommendation would you give to a person who never wrestled and is not going to, concerning the ground fighting? Any hand-to-hand combat solutions against a wrestler?
A. Basics of the hand-to-hand combat part are submission holds and chokeholds. Partially they are needed there for broadening of your outlook, at least to know how to defend yourself against them. Sport combat is not necessary to learn for this situation, the hand-to-hand combat part is the main thing to learn. If we are talking about a usual self-defense, a person just shouldn’t let this happen. It is unlikely you encounter a world champion, who is an experienced ground fighter on a street. Why would you bring it to the ground? Your actions should be based upon the applied training – if your opponent reached out his hand to do a hold, you need to get out of the attack line instantly and go on. It’s not like you will be impossible to be fallen, but that would be much more difficult to do. One of the structural principles of the system is maintenance of balance. Our center of gravity shouldn’t go beyond the area of the base of support. It’s not advisable even to take an unnecessary step. Low stance is possible in sport combat; you can stride, you can slightly waltz in, you can rely on something. When in hand-to-hand combat you should move only up and down. No half-formed intentions despite who an aggressor is. By getting out of the attack line we anticipate the further actions of an opponent – he’s just reached out his hand, and I’ve got out already, and now I am alongside of him. What for to wait for an opponent would grab you and start beating you? You need to cut it off at once.
Q. Are there any techniques for the ground fighting in the hand-to-hand combat part of the combat sambo?
A. Yes, they are. A person might fall or slip. He should know how to escape blows. For example somebody’s trying to kick me – I am rotating like a log, grasping his foot, and the opponent rolls over me. It’s necessary to know all such techniques, but of course you shouldn’t aim for falling and to be hit from all sides.
Q. A frequent situation on a street: two men were fighting and then they fell down in a clinch. What to do in such a case?
A. In this situation it’s better to have some wrestling skills. At least skills of defense in the ground fighting, to minimize the potential damage. That’s why we try not to separate the hand-to-hand combat part and sport combat one of combat sambo. On some level at least. I start my courses with teaching the hand-to-hand combat part – knife and stick fighting elements, so that my students would understand there’s one principle for any situation, it doesn’t matter if an opponent has a knife in his hand, or a stick, or maybe it’s just his fist. It’s all the same: a knife, a stick, a gun, and bare hands. Then it’s easier for them to learn, because they don’t need to remember what particular action he should take in a particular situation. And we get out of the attack line in the same way in any situation.
Q. What qualities, physical and personal, a person should have to win in a street fight?
A. You’ve got to go through the applied psychological training, so not to be frightened, but to anticipate the further actions of aggressors. It’s perfect when an opponent only takes his knife out and you act instantly, wait for nothing. No thinking, let alone the fear indeed. That’s what we should train. And the rational techniques of our combat system.
Q. Should one develop physical strength preparing for self-defense, or muscles would make you less flexible, thus making your punches slower?
A. We need to develop everything – but wisely. At first students learn the hand-to-hand combat part, the principles, and only after that they are taught sports elements. We do not put stress on weights lifting, but it’s possible. My method differs from many masters’ approach, when they stretch their students out, to a split, talking them that later they would be taught some secret ‘super techniques’. I consider that a master should teach hand-to-hand combat techniques since the very beginning, because your student can be attacked tomorrow. So he should get some knowledge how to defend himself at least in a week’s time. And later he can go to the national team (if he trains as a professional and meets the requirements). So the sport combat part is a second priority, not the first one. I came to this conclusion on the basis of many years coach experience.
What’s the use of the cross split if in a week’s time a person can be put to death or seriously hurt? And he would stretch out all that week. Or learn ground fighting. We must give a student what he needs and at once. Also we shouldn’t forget the pedagogics.
A coach should know all the training methods in the world: special forces training (if a coach is engaged) and high performance sports as well. A sportsman doesn’t need to know all of that. He can even not have enough time, especially if he’s a student of some university. But a coach must know that, know how to show that, and how to teach. This is the difference between a sportsman and a coach.