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Welcome to our Sombo page.

SOMBO was developed to augment Russia's military's hand-to-hand combat system. One of these founders, Vasili Oshchepkov, taught judo and karate to elite Red Army forces at the Central Red Army House. He had earned his nidan (second degree black belt) from judo's founder, Jigaro Kano, and used some of the Osensei's philosophy in formulating the early development of the new Russian art.

However, SOMBO has it origins in native Russian and other regional styles of grappling and combat wrestling such as Tuvin kuresh, Yakuts khapsagay, Chuvash akatuy, Georgian chidaoba, Moldavian trinte, Azeri kokh, and Uzbek kurash to name a few.
The foreign influences included Dutch Self-Defense (a European version of Javanese Pentjak Silat), various styles of Catch-as Catch-Can wrestling, savate, muay thai, wu shu, jujitsu, and other martial arts of the day plus the classical Olympic sports of boxing, Greco-Roman and free-style wrestling. SOMBO even derived lunging and parrying techniques from fencing. Fencing was included in this list because SOMBO's founders recognized that swordsmanship and unarmed combat have been linked throughout the ages. The samurai of feudal Japan needed their jujitsu when they found themselves swordless on the battlefield. Fencing concepts such as the lunge had already been incorporated into savate to increase the art's striking distances.

SOMBO's early development stemmed from the efforts of Oshchepkov and another Russian, Victor Spiridonov, to integrate the techniques of judo into native wrestling styles. Both men hoped that the Soviet wrestling styles could be improved by an infusion of the newfangled techniques distilled from jujitsu by Kano into his new style of jacket wrestling.

In 1918, V. Lenin created Vseobuch (Bceobshchee voennoye obuchienie or General Military Training) under the leadership of N.I. Podovoyskiy to train the Red Army. The task of developing and organizing Russian military hand-to-hand combat training fell to K. Voroshilov, who in turn, created the NKVD physical training center, "Dinamo.” Spiridonov was a combat veteran of World War I, and one of the first wrestling and self-defense instructors hired for Dinamo. His background included Greco-Roman wrestling, American Catch-as-Catch-Can wrestling, Pankration, and many Slavic wrestling styles. As a "combatives investigator” for Dinamo, he traveled to Mongolia, China, and India to observe their native fighting styles. In 1923, Oshchepkov and Spiridinov collaborated 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 all of the world's fighting systems into one comprehensive style that could adapt to any threat.

Oshchepkov had observed Kano's distillation of Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu jujitsu and Kito Ryu jujitsu into judo, and he had developed the insight required to evaluate and integrate combative techniques into a new system. Their development team was supplemented by Anatoly Kharlampiev 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 SOMBO. Here, Oshchepkov and Spiridonov's improvements in Russian wrestling slipped into the military's hand-to-hand-combat system.

Kharlampiev is often called the father of SOMBO. This may be largely semantics since only he had the longevity and political connections to remain with the art while the new system was called "SAM” or "SAMOZ” or "SAMBA” and finally "SAMBO/SOMBO.” Spiridonov was the first to actually begin referring to the new system as one of the "S” variations cited above. He eventually developed a softer, more "aikido-like” system 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 an injury that he suffered that greatly restricted his ability to practice SOMBO or wrestling. Refined versions of SAMOZ are still used today or fused with specific SOMBO applications to meet the needs of Russian commandos today.

Each technique for SOMBO was carefully dissected and considered for its merits, and if found acceptable in unarmed combat, refined to reach SOMBO's ultimate goal: stop an armed or unarmed adversary in the least time possible. Thus, the best techniques of jujitsu and its softer cousin, judo, entered the SOMBO repertoire. When the techniques were perfected, they were woven into SOMBO applications for personal self-defense, police, crowd control, border guards, secret police, dignitary protection, psychiatric hospital staff, military, and commandos.

These applications were often further subdivided. SOMBO devoted particular time to developing teamwork in the police and internal security applications. It was crucial that officers and agents not work against each other while arresting dangerous fugitives or spies. SOMBO designed and rehearsed rescue tactics for comrades being attacked by armed or unarmed assailants. It was important that the rescuer act quickly, but not worsen the situation with his efforts. Here again, teamwork enhanced tactics. If the victim were also trained in the rescue tactics, he could aid his rescuer in effecting his escape.

Many applications had specific situational or occupational techniques. For example, there is a series of techniques to be used by bureaucrats and other officials who might be attacked while working at their desks. Particular emphasis was paid to using the environment (i.e. using the desk, the chair, or even a pen) as both weapon and shield.

Ironically, the military applications developed defensive techniques against weapons that quickly became offensive techniques with the same weapons when they were stripped away from their attackers. A partial inventory of this weapon training includes bayonet fencing, clubs, knives, handguns, and unconventional weapons such as entrenching tools, hats, jackets, and chairs.

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