Organizers of last weekend's Sambo European Championships are hoping the sport will feature at future Olympic Games in Rio-de-Janeiro after a record 32 countries took part in Moscow’s event.
Sambo is a Russian martial art, which was initially intended to be a merger between the most effective techniques of all the others. It has its roots in Japanese judo, international styles of wrestling, plus traditional folk styles of wrestling.
Today, there are two main categories – Sport and Combat.
“To win in Sambo you have to throw your opponent to the ground and, depending on how clinical the attempt is, you get points awarded to you,” explains Sambo coach Aleksandr Konakov. “In the case of combat Sambo, there you can also get points for hitting your opponent, for knock-outs and knock-downs.”
Like in traditional boxing and other martial arts, fighters are categorized by their weights, which range from 52 kilograms to over 100 kilos.
The name Sambo may sound somewhat exotic but it really has nothing to do with Latin dancing. It’s an acronym for the Russian words, “samooborona bez oruzhiya”, which literally translates to “self-sefense without weapons” and it was first developed by the Soviet Army in the 1920s in order to improve soldiers’ hand to hand combat.
Russia has dominated the sport since its inception in both the women's and men's competitions.
“Every year, the popularity of both sport sambo and combat sambo is growing and with it there are more and more people and countries getting involved,” says 2012 European champion Tatyana Zenchenko.
Sambo has certainly become internationally renowned and the Federation’s vice-president believes it will one day become an Olympic event.
“Sambo is so popular nowadays that it's surpassed many Olympic events by the number of participants already. We have over 80 federations around the world, more than a lot of the Olympic disciplines. So it's only a matter of time before it is seriously considered as an Olympic event,” says Sergey Eliseev.
That would be the sport's biggest achievement. But while Sambo may not have the accolade of being part of the Olympics, there’s no doubt the growing appeal in the martial arts hybrid is set to continue.