Tuesday, June 02, 2015


Sambo: Flat Out

Sambo: Flat Out
Dr Andrey Moshanov

I was recently reading an article by the celebrated anthropologist Wade Davis. In it he stated, “Cultural survival is not about preservation. Change itself does not destroy a culture. Indeed a culture survives when it has enough confidence in its past and enough say in its future to maintain its spirit and essence through all the changes it will inevitably undergo.”

There is recognition throughout the sport of Sambo that the martial arts space is crowded with competing disciplines trying to win participants, audiences and sponsors. In order to stay relevant and grow our sport, it is important to continually evolve our offering to ensure that all stakeholders have their needs met.

This year has seen the introduction of a number of changes to the rules of Sambo in an effort to keep the action fast paced and reward decisive technical efforts from fighters. It is believed that by encouraging shorter and faster fights, audiences will be more richly rewarded and TV audiences will get more action for their time investment.

Traditionally, a Sambo fight could be concluded, before the allocated five minutes has elapsed, in one of three ways. The most accomplished method would be to throw an opponent onto his back whilst remaining standing, demonstrating total technical dominance over your rival. The second method would be to force a submission either by an arm-lock or leg-lock. Finally, a victory could be gained by the accrual of 12 points, achieved through various throwing and pinning manoeuvres. Hence, a fight could be ultimately won by either a moment of technical brilliance or by a sustained effort of strong fighting spirit and getting the better of your rival consistently over five minutes.

In reality, the majority of fights under this system would “go the distance” on the clock and it is this fact that has spurred the changes. The new rules now proclaim victory for the first fighter who can amass 8 points in a contest. The hope is that this will shorten fights and fewer contests will last the full five minutes.

However, there is some concern that this may be an oversimplification of the decision making process that dictates how fights are played out. It is inevitable that as the risk / reward ratio gets altered, fighters will change their strategies. At the moment, it is possible to make an attack, suffer a counter manoeuvre that puts you on your back (4 points) which leads immediately into being pinned down (4 points). Under the traditional rules, a fighter would still have a chance to turn the fight around (having conceded 8 points, or even as many as 11) and gain victory with a submission, a standing throw or grind his way back into the points via grappling moves.

Under the new scoring system, the aforementioned throw-and-pin combination, that would previously put the fighter on the back foot, will now see him defeated. Inevitably this means that an all-out attack becomes a more risky endeavour. The risk of exposing oneself with too much aggression could immediately see the fight ended in your opponent’s favour. Sambo has always been a sport that embodies the fighting spirit and whilst all the current changes are trying to encapsulate and encourage this, it remains to be seen whether or not they are successful in their aims.

These changes have come at an exciting time for the sport. The 1st European Games has been organised by the European Olympic Committees and is being held in Baku from 12th June – 28th June 2015. The games will feature the best Sambo fighters in Europe and puts the sport firmly in the spotlight in front of 49 National Olympic Committees.

On 26th September 2015, the British President’s Cup, International Sambo Tournament, is being staged at Event City in Manchester. Last year’s event in London was deemed a huge success with 1,000 spectators attending over the course of the day and some of the best Sambo fighting seen on British soil in recent years. The Great Britain team fought like lions and were roared on by a home crowd to reach the finals before finally falling to the dominant Russian team. All attendees commented on the great spirit of hospitality and friendly rivalry that imbued the event and it seems sure to go from strength to strength.

This year’s event will see a similar format of 8 Nations sending their best fighters to compete for the glorious trophy, but the organisers have added a supplementary attraction where Combat Sambo will be run as a stand alone invitational event for 8 top fighters who will go toe-to-toe for a substantial cash prize and the President’s Cup Combat Sambo Belt. More information can be found at www.presidentscup.co.uk

With an increasing presence on the Olympic scene, strong growth in participation and interest, and new sponsors on the scene, there has never been a more exciting time to be involved with the sport of Sambo. Competitors, sponsors, viewers and sport officials are all hugely excited about the recent developments within the sport and are determined to capitalise on these opportunities.

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