What Weapons are used in Sambo?

Sambo is a Russian martial art that got its start in the 1920s and 30s when Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov worked together to develop a hand-to-hand combat system for the Russian military.

This system was developed by integrating the techniques of catch wrestling, judo, and a few other styles into what would come to be called Sambo, but if it’s an empty-handed system, are weapons used in training? If so, what weapons are used in Sambo?

Sambo is generally an unarmed discipline, but combat sambo – which is meant for military use – does incorporate training with rifles, pistols, knives, and other weapons.

An example of a sambo weapon disarm:

Combat Sambo - Knife disarming

The Birth of Sambo

Samozashchita bez oruzhiya literally translates as ‘self-defense without weapons’ and the style has an interesting history behind it.

Vasili Oshchepkov was trained in judo at the Kodokan Judo Institute under the tutelage of Jigoro Kano was the first Russian to get the rank of 2nd Dan.

Viktor Spiridonov was a World War I veteran and an accomplished wrestler. He was also a physical education instructor working with the Dynamo Sports Club. He traveled across the Soviet Union and was an accomplished wrestler who wrote several books on the topic of self-defense.

While Oshchepkov was primarily trained in judo, he was also exposed to other Japanese martial arts like karate which influenced his work.

Spiridonov had sustained serious injuries during World War I and couldn’t do a lot of strength-based techniques, so he focused on putting something together that was a bit softer – more along the lines of Aikido.

Now, while they’re credited as being the founders of Sambo, Oshchepkov and Spiridonov worked independently of each-other. Their students later got together and started combining things.

two sambo fighters
photo above, from Flickr, courtesy of Sergiu Alistar via the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Types of Sambo

There are many variations of Sambo in existence, but the two main types are:

  • Sport Sambo
  • Combat Sambo

Sport Sambo is exactly what it sounds like, a sport with an emphasis on ground fighting; grappling, throwing, submissions, and a variety of joint locks.

It bears a striking resemblance to old-school judo. The focus is largely on takedowns and submissions, with most if not all leg locks being allowed in competition.

Combat Sambo is built more for military use and resembles MMA. With combat sambo, you get all the bells and whistles; takedowns, submissions, locks, striking, etc. and you get weapon work – disarms and fighting with various weapons.

Weapons in Sambo

Generally, Sambo does not use weapons as the primary focal point of the art is to defend yourself without a weapon.

With that said, it’s highly unlikely that a soldier on the battlefield is going to be unarmed so it’s important for them to know how to fight with and without their weapons.

Combat sambo, as I said before, includes weapons training as part of the curriculum and you learn to fight/work with all the different weapons typically used by the military. These include:

  • Rifles
  • Pistols
  • Knives
  • Sticks/Improvised weapons

The idea is that you can still use your firearm to protect yourself even when you’ve run out of ammunition; use usually lethal weapons in a non-lethal way.

So What Wapons Do Sambo Practitioners Use?

So, let’s recap:

  • Sambo is usually unarmed.
  • Combat Sambo is meant for military use and incorporates weapon work.
  • Weapons are the usual military issue, rifles, pistols, knives, and so on.

Sambo is one of those styles which flies under the radar quite a bit because when you think of grappling you think of wrestling, judo or BJJ.

With that said, there is quite a following surrounding the art which just keeps growing. It’s definitely a cool style to watch, and I hope that it continues to grow and develop.

I hope you guys and gals enjoyed the article and found it informative. As always, I’d like to say thanks very much for reading and I’ll see you for the next one. Until then, take care and stay safe!

1 thought on “What Weapons are used in Sambo?”

  1. Sambo, like judo and other martial arts takes a long time to learn and it takes highly concentrated training and effort to learn in a short time, to be able to use it against an opponent. Any training in unarmed or, for that matter, armed self-defense takes constant practice under the tutelage of a ‘qualified’ instructor. It’s not something you can just watch or read and then be able to do it. Pleased to see an article on this as I’ve had personal experience with Sambo.

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