A unique form of martial art woven deeply into the fabric of the Russian military influences cinematic choreography and is an integral part of real-life warfare strategy. We’re talking about Sambo. 

The name is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which translates to “self-defense without weapons.” Sambo was born in early 20th century Russia, where the military adopted it to train soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, enhancing their resilience and effectiveness on the battlefield.

Though lesser known than its counterparts like judo or karate, this Russian martial art has left an indelible mark on the military and its tactics. This article delves deep into Sambo’s evolution within the Russian army, tactical advantages, and enduring legacy. 

The Birth of Sambo

MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko won a Sambo match in 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s the early 1920s in Russia. The newly formed Soviet Union was on a mission to establish its military prowess, and at the core of this ambition was developing a combat system that was effective, adaptable, and easy to learn. Enter Sambo.