SAMBO founding legend

I would truly prefer to leave this page blank and, from the pure Judo perspective, SAMBO "founding legend” bears no relevance, however…

This is direct quotation from “The History of Sombo” by Dr. Brett Jacques and Scott Anderson dated of November 6, 1998:

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."

Well, this publication is really dated and western martial artist should be excused for not knowing Russian sources and “nutty-gritty” details of Russian history. Especially, since in Russian much more outrages claims have been published. Other similar versions can be found that vary on “colorful” details, but similarly distinct from the factual story (this particular version even made it to Wikipedia as of August 24, 2009). The prime difference with most common official Russian version SAMBO “urban legend” is that we see many names named (much more in the full version of the article) when in Russian all will be focused on the only one name of Anatoly Kharlampiev.

According to the canonical Russian version, all “SAMBO creation” was done by “Father of SAMBO” Anatoly Kharlampiev who is from his teens on advice of his father (was always politically safe) and N. I. Podovoyskiy (not always safe and therefore at times has been omitted) for long years has been traveling the territories of the Soviet Russia collecting “folk” wrestling techniques and creating SAMBO single-handed in 1938.

This version is discredited, but has been published and re-published many times and still in some political use in inner-SAMBO influence fights (with minimal alterations to confront growing widespread knowledge of confirmed conflicting facts; such that Kharlampiev was a student in Oshchepkov’s Judo class, used Oshchepkov’s personal archive to write his first book, never publicly substantiated his “travel” record, etc).

This quoted article contains numerical errors versus ether Russian “official” version or confirmed facts (and Russian realities of the early 20th century).

For example, Spiridonov never did and never was credited with traveling as “a ‘combatives investigator’ for Dinamo” to “Mongolia, China, and India to observe their native fighting styles”. So, this is pure un-sourced imagination or rumors re-factoring of the article authors. Mongolia and China was operational aria of Oshchepkov as foreign intelligence officer in Red Army in early 1920th before he moved to full-time teaching Judo, however he’s not known to stay in India for any substantial time.

Also, Klim Voroshilov had his entire career in the Red Army and never held any position within NKVD or any of its predecessors or successors. Therefore, he had nothing to do with creation of “Dinamo” on Felix Dzerzhinsky 's order.

Spiridinov and Oshchepkov never collaborated. They where stanch opponents of each other and belonged to the different and competing power structures: Spiridinov – to the state security services ( GPU, OGPU, NKVD ); Oshchepkov – to the Red Army. Nor they collaborated with “team of other experts” because it wasn’t any: almost all active players in the history of SAMBO where students of ether one of them (rarely - both). Nor it was any “grant” since both where state salaried employees.

Yes, it was number of original and translated publications on close quarter combat and self-defense targeted primarily to police forces and to lesser extend to army, but it was mostly “single book” efforts and no sustainable school, other then Spiridinov’s and Oshchepkov’s, has been developed. Some of this books (by Ivan Lebedev, Nil Oznobishin, Ivan Solonevich, “pirated” translation from German of Erich Ran) where of good quality for their time and been recently re-published as historical artifacts, but they aren’t in the mainstream of Judo development (other then, now outdated, Ran’s “Invisible Weapon (Jiu-Jitsu)”) and therefore outside of my scope.

For the real history of SAMBO, its place in the world of martial arts, and roles of Victor Spiridinov, Vasili Oshchepkov, Anatoly Kharlampiev in raise of SAMBO look this page witch contains a brief outlook (if you will get interested, it has links to start you on the “investigative” path, however it’s beneficial to know Russian for it, since most of the materials has been never translated to any other language; using Google Translate should be done with cushion in regarding to details, but can help you to get general understanding of a text’s subject).


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