Saturday, August 22, 2015


British Sombo/Cambo/Sambo History

With the 2nd Presidents Cup soon upon us I thought I would write a small article on the History of Sambo in Great Britain
Martin Clarke World Silver 1986

Originally Sambo was under the supervision of the British Wrestling Association during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. FILA (International Amateur Wrestling Association) formulated a Sambo Sub Committee in which BAWA Chairman Burt Jacobs was a member of; he then introduced Sambo to Great Britain.

The first problem Sambo Wrestlers incurred was the name in the 1970’s Sambo in the English speaking world was considered racist so the BAWA decide to use the Russian Spelling which was Cambo, so in the 1970’s BAWA practised Cambo to appease the PC brigade. Some years later the Americans came up with name Sombo that was used throughout the English-speaking World but as the years went by the correct translation of Sambo was in use. As of today the only country to use the word Sombo is Great Britain, most people do not associate the word Sambo with racism accept for our own Sports Council. The British Sombo Federation were advised some years ago that if we used the term Sambo for our organisation we would lose our Governing Body status, we have asked again to change the name to its correct spelling and am awaiting a reply.

My own involvement started about 1973/74 as a very competitive Judoka I wanted to try other styles of grappling at the time there was only two other styles in GB Cambo and Olympic Free style and I tried both winning a few medals. In 1977 I decide to try for the 1980 Olympic Games so all my energies went into training in Judo as part of he BJA Olympic Squad

Although I had reasonable success in the BJA winning 2 National trials and an All England my bid for the Moscow Olympics was not successful, I made a return in 1983 after a competitive layoff of 3 years to take a place in the 1983 National Squad but my heart was no longer in competitive Judo but I did make a come back in 2001 to win the World Masters.  I needed a different challenge so I managed a spot with the British Jiu Jitsu team in the 1984 World Championships in Canada were I won a silver. On the return flight I read an article in the Daily Telegraph how the World Games was to be held in London in 1985 and one of the sports was Sombo.

On my return I contacted Burt Jacobs of the BAWA asked if I could take part in the trials for the British Team. I was shocked to be told that GB was not entering team as no one was running Sombo in GB he invited me to the Wrestling Academy in Salford and then asked me to reboot Sombo and select a Team for the World Games which I did. Sadly I received no help from previous Sombo organisers who had lost interest in the sport in fact the only person from the 1970’s to be involved in Sombo since that decade apart from myself was Matt Clempner. The British Team had considerable success at the World Games 4 Bronze, 1 Silver (yours truly) 1 gold. At the end of 1985 myself Trevor Roberts and Tony represented BAWA at the World Championships in San Sebastian Spain where I was place 5th

With the popularity of Sambo/Sombo on the increase FILA decide to let Sambo Players under the guidance of Fernando Compte to form an independent International Sambo organisation and FIAS (Federation International Amateur Sambo) was born in May 1985 and I have been part of that since its inception. With the separate Federation Burt Jacobs BAWA told me that Sombo could no longer be associated with the BAWA so he advised me to form a New British Sombo organisation, which I did.

I was lucky that I already had an Martial Arts Organisation in GB which I headed the International Budo Federation and at the British Sombo Federation inaugural meeting in 1986 it was senior members of that organisation who took up the various positions on the new executive Committee. The were Martin Clarke President/Chairman, Brenda Jones Secretary, Alan Kontozi Treasurer, Dave Boulding, Valerie Clarke Committee. This was a complete new beginning for Sombo in GB and a learning curve for all of us as there was none of the old guard involved. Some years later in 1995 the Sports Council of GB recognised us as the Governing body for the Sport of Sombo and the BSF would becoming integral part of FIAS with two Presidents Cups held in GB and Myself being awarded a FIAS Gold medal to celebrate 75 years of Sambo just 10 medals were given throughout the World and I was the only one outside e the Easter Block to be awarded one, although I have won 3 World Sambo Silvers this medal was the pinnacle of my career. Who would have believed when I read that newspaper article on the Plane in 1984 I would be where I am now
2010 a lot heaver and bigger then 1986 

Sambo is now divided into two sections Sport Sambo and Combat Sambo and it development in the last 5 years has been phenomenal in the 1985 World Championship there was about 18 countries in last years Worlds in Japan there was nearly 100, Sambo is certainly the Grappling Sport of he future

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