SAMBO is a kind of martial arts based on a set of effective defensive and offensive techniques selected from various types of martial arts and the national wrestling styles of many nations around the world.

Sambo in the Game program


  • SAMBO is the only sport where Russian is recognised as an official language of international communication.
  • The word “SAMBO” is an acronym formed from the Russian phrase “self-defense without weapons”.
  • On July 20, 2021, at the 138th International Olympic Committee session, the International SAMBO Federation was granted permanent recognition by the IOC.


Throughout its existence, SAMBO has been developing in two areas of focus: as a large-scale sport and as a means to train personnel with special operations forces and law enforcement agencies. In 1923 in Moscow, in the Dynamo athletic club, Viktor Spiridonov started to develop an applied discipline for self-defense. At Dynamo, people studied various martial arts and the national wrestling styles of peoples across the world. This area of focus was not for the public, and was intended to help train special forces units. Vasili Oshchepkov, a graduate of the Kodokan Judo Institute who held a second dan, started to develop the sport of SAMBO. At that time, he taught judo as a discipline at the Moscow Institute of Physical Education. Nonetheless, he gradually deviated from judo doctrine to search for more effective moves, improve self-defense techniques, and form the fundamentals of a new fighting sport. 

Over time, Spiridonov’s self-defense system merged with Oshchepkov’s. Anatoly Kharlampiev (one of Oshchepkov’s students) and Evgeny Chumakov made a significant contribution to the development and spread of this self-defense system without weapons. November 16, 1938, is considered to be the birthday of SAMBO. That was the day when the All-Union Committee on Physical Education and Sport issued a directive that recognised SAMBO as a sport that was “extremely valuable in terms of the variety of its techniques and defensive value”. The decision was made to organise a system for training athletes in all republics of the USSR, establishing the All-Union SAMBO Section, which later became the SAMBO Federation. In 1939, the first national championship in the new sport was held. In the 1950s, international competitions originated.

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