Combat SAMBO and
Mixed Martial Arts.
“Part” vs. “Whole”
in martial arts.

Combat SAMBO statement of superiority and uniqueness is based on the phrase attributed to Anatoly Kharlampiev “How part can be better than whole?” referring to all other martial and fighting arts (at the time it was specifically targeted at karate as it got grass-root traction in the former Soviet Union).

While you can read introduction into history of SAMBO and the role of Anatoly Kharlampiev on other pages of this site, here I want to address the substance of this statement: are synthetic martial arts superior to specialized systems?

As human society developed into its modern, highly structured, form from early pre-historic associations, the main scheme off all changes was specialization. In this process early fighting arts broke-up into individual martial art styles we know now. One of the key criteria for creation of those individual styles was emphasis on particular physical skill set – first is division to striking and grappling arts (based on primary technical set: karate has throws, but its core is striking; Aikido has strikes, but its core is throws and arm locks).

Development of specialized martial art styles created conditions for technical refinement within each art’s technical domain: boxing gloved hand strikes developed to the level it was impossible to imagine before introduction of Marquess of Queensberry rules, refining of standing arm-locks in Aikido superior to other styles as it is the primary techniques of the art, the low-body holds in Olympic Freestyle wrestling unsurpassed by any other styles as it refined in numerous highly competitive fights (constitute more then 60% of all techniques used in Freestyle bouts).

Synthetic martial art styles can be of two types:

  • Eclectic – that “collect” techniques without integrating them
  • Creative – that define new style based on techniques of existing styles in new combinations that uncover their new advantages

Kharlampiev’s phrase defines Combat SAMBO as an eclectic style because creative style not including “parts” of others, but presenting an original development in its core.

Does SAMBO indeed eclectic style? No, SAMBO is a style of Judo (even Kharlampiev denied this) and nor Judo, nor SAMBO is eclectic.

Dr. Kano’s Judo is a synthetic martial art as it has been created on bases on several contemporary schools (of late 18th century), but it’s not eclectic.

Is modern Combat SAMBO eclectic style? Depends who represents it.

Is synthetic martial art style better or more complete that its parts?

This is open for debates… When you meet someone who is claming to have black belts in Judo, Karate, Kendo, BJJ, Krav-Maga, and Aikido at the same time do you asking yourself if he really knows any one of those arts, or he just been on the “belt hunting”, as study of each of those arts is a life-long journey and each of those arts has different physical and mental requirements?

As Judo has been created as synthetic martial art (on top of its predecessors) it’s not seen as such anymore, as it developed into complete balanced self-contained system and technical elements originated from old traditional jujutsu schools now seen as integral part of Judo. Nowadays Judo lives beside the systems that contributed to its creation and each system has its own “right of passage” in the wilder world of Martial Arts.  

This is path of any creative synthetic system.

On the other side of the spectrum are eclectic martial arts. The best visible modern example is Mixed Martial Arts (witch stating its eclectic nature even in its name – “Mixed”).

Is MMA, as a combat system and system of training, better then Judo, karate, boxing, or Krav-Maga? I don’t see evidence of such as continues success in MMA competitions belongs to masters of individual specialized styles (primarily Judo styles such BJJ and SAMBO, or Freestyle wrestling of different schools).



Home Combat SAMBO History of SAMBO