In Part 2 of this article, judo legend Hayward Nishioka describes his early impressions of sambo, and the author — Black Belt's Japan correspondent — compares the techniques of the Russian art with those of the Japanese art.

What is this style of sambo that, in such a short time, has produced so many outstanding wrestlers? American judo man Hayward Nishioka, a 1965 U.S. national judo champion, has had experience with sambo-men-turned-judo-players in international competition. He has great respect for their prowess, as he pointed out in an article in Black Belt’s March 1966 issue. The first thing that impressed him was their overall physical stamina. “Tremendous,” he says. Next were their throws. “They use a lot of techniques which appear strange to a judo man,” Hayward Nishioka says. “They use techniques that, if you explained them to the Kodokan, you would be told they were impossible. Yet the Russians try these techniques and make them work. It’s really surprising.” Hayward Nishioka described one technique used by the late Parnaoz Chikviladze, a brilliant Russian judo man, at the world tournament held in Rio de Janeiro in 1965: “He used a throw that I’ve never seen. I don’t think it’s ever been used before in a major tournament. And he pulled it off against a top judo man, not a second-stringer. It’s a little difficult to explain even now. “While facing his opponent, he went forward, ducked and went between the [legs] with his arm. Then he lifted his opponent and threw him for ippon. Boy, that judoka was surprised.” Sambo Surprises The Russians have been coming up with surprises in sambo ever since Anatoly A. Harlampief began developing the art. Wrestling is immensely popular throughout the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, especially in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Although substyles differ, there are two general styles: those that specialize in standing throws and those in which mat techniques take precedence. The Soviets take a casual approach to wrestling costumes. In some places, the wrestlers fight bare-chested and clad only in trunks. In others, more elaborate garb is worn, which can consist of a judo-like jacket, black tights and shoes. This latter outfit is the standard uniform for sambo. When he set out to develop a Soviet wrestling system, Anatoly A. Harlampief scoured the various republics, doing extensive research on techniques in each area. Eventually, he drew up a set of rules and regulations based on his research and submitted it to the National Sports Committee, which officially recognized the new sport. It was promptly dubbed “sambo,” which is a Russian acronym meaning “self-defense without arms” (sam for “defense”; b for bez, or “without”; and o for “arms”). The first individual contests took place in Leningrad in 1939, and a team contest followed 10 years later. Judo Connection Although Anatoly A. Harlampief and other Soviet sports officials deny any direct judo influence, Japan’s foremost sambo authority, Hiroshi Michiaki, points out that judo was being taught in Russia half a century ago, long before sambo was born. A Russian named A. Oshichenikov visited Japan in 1911 and spent the next six years studying judo. After returning home in 1917 as a second dan, the Russian began teaching the Japanese martial art to the secret police and Red Army. Another Russian, V. Speredonov, started teaching judo in Moscow in 1923 after studying in Japan. Moreover, these two Soviet instructors assisted Anatoly A. Harlampief in drawing up the original sambo program in the 1930s. It seems likely that the influence of the two judo men was felt in creating the original program. Among the many similarities between sambo and judo is the costume. The sambo jacket and belt are almost exact copies of judo wear. Also, Russian terms for ippon and matta appear to be direct translations from the Japanese words. Technique Comparison Another thing often pointed out is that a number of sambo throws seem to be carbon copies of judo techniques. It’s in this sphere that many Japanese martial artists tend to become confused. There are so many similarities, and so many differences, that it’s difficult to keep the two separated. For instance, in one sambo throw, the aggressor rolls backward, putting his feet against his opponent’s midsection before flipping him onto his back. Tomoenage? Perhaps. The technique is close enough to suggest that it might have been borrowed from the Japanese art. There’s also a thigh throw resembling ouchi gari. In a hip throw similar to tai otoshi, the aggressor uses his right leg as a brace and twists his opponent over the extended leg and onto the mat. And a trip throw in sambo is similar to tsuri-komi-ashi. In mat work, too, there are many similarities. Both sports allow elbow pressure holds and use pretty much the same tactics in pinning an opponent. Some Japanese sambo enthusiasts even go so far as to claim that the Russian sport is made up of 75-percent judo and 25-percent amateur wrestling techniques, although that percentage for judo seems rather high. The 20-second time limit for pinning an opponent is the same in both sports, match limits of eight to 10 minutes are the general rule, and certain standing principles are nearly the same, such as keeping the proper distance between the legs. Moreover, collar and sleeve grips are used in both arts. (To be continued.) Resources: Read Part 1 of this article here.

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Bruce Lee's "10,000 Kicks" Challenge – Complete 10,000 Kicks in 10 Days and Feed The Children

Bruce Lee's secret to self-mastery is hidden in the following quote, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." Discipline, dedication and perfect repetition over time are the keys to mastery. To get results like Bruce Lee we need to train like Bruce Lee.

Keep Reading Show less

If there's a martial artist in your life who's hard to shop for, look no further than this list of the best holiday gifts from the world's leading magazine of martial arts.

The holidays are right around the corner and there's no better time to shop for the ninjas in your family! Black Belt Magazine doesn't just provide the history and current events of the martial arts world, we can equip you with all the best products too. From beautiful belt displays, to stylish gloves, to collector's edition books, keep reading to check out this list of the top five gifts to kick under the tree this year.

Keep Reading Show less

Intellectualization is defined as a defense mechanism that entails using reasoning to avoid unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress — wherein thinking is used to avoid feeling. It involves removing oneself emotionally from a stressful event.

Increasingly, I notice the trend in combatives and other self-defense "systems" to intellectualize — actually, to over-intellectualize. The definition of intellectualization that appears above perfectly captures the meaning as it applies to fighting.In an effort to avoid the pain, consequence, damage and stress of fighting — whether in training or for real — instructors use constructed language to describe the impossible (what's expected in the moment) and use pseudoscience to justify what they're professing.Those of you who have read this column for any length of time have heard me say over and over that if you want to learn to fly, at some point, you have to actually take off and land. The same is true of fighting: If you want to learn to fight well, you have to spend a significant amount of time actually fighting. There is no replacement for this.

Keep Reading Show less

On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee passed away in Hong Kong. On July 20, 2020, in honor of his life and his profound effect on my life, I watched director Bao Nguyen's Be Water, an ESPN "30 for 30" film that covers his life, career and martial arts philosophy.

What separates Be Water from other Bruce Lee documentaries is the lack of narration. Instead, Nguyen provides insights via rarely seen videos and home movies; diary entries; letters to friends; and interviews with Lee's students, a former girlfriend, his daughter Shannon Lee, his brother Robert Lee and his widow Linda Lee Caldwell.

Keep Reading Show less
Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter