Welcome Mat Newsletter-Steve Scott

For your enjoyment, Steve gave me the OK to reprint his newsletters that he sends via email to the forum.

Jan. 1, 2005
By Steve Scott

This month's quote: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Theodore Roosevelt (Right on Teddy!)

Good things, I hope, for everyone reading this. It looks to me that USA Judo will have to start 2005 as a re-building year with the news of the closing of the judo program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. I'm simply an observer anymore, but it seems to me that the loss of this program will obviously make judo's governing body make some hard decisions and hopefully, make some good decisions from an organization standpoint. One thing for sure...a generation of good judo men and women have come out of the OTC and are now young coaches. Many juniors I remember from my days at the OTC are now in their thirties and have their own clubs. This generation was exposed to some good coaching and maybe, just maybe, these young coaches will help in getting judo in the United States out of the doldrums.

Big John has his own website up and running. It's www.JohnSaylor-SJA.com and I recommend it highly. My large friend's jujitsu organization, the Shingitai Jujitsu Association, is on a comeback and I'm a strong supporter. If you're interested in serious jujitsu, see John.

Most of you have already received my advertisement about my upcoming book. Here's my unabashed sales pitch as well. By the way, I'm going the self-publishing route on this to make sure it comes out the way I want it. Later, I most likely will try to get a publisher, but for now I have some definite beliefs on how it should look and read, so it's worth the investment to self-publish. I sincerly believe this is a good book and will add some new insight and thought (as well as practical things to do on the mat) to the world of coaching judo, jujitsu and sambo. My eclectic approach is certainly reflected in this book and you will enjoy it. Also, if you know of anyone who would enjoy this book, please send them this newsletter and tell them about the book. The number of books purchased pre-publication date pretty much dictates how many will eventually get printed. I need your support and hope you buy this book. But honestly, I really know you'll like it and enjoy reading it.

$24.95 , plus $5.00 shipping/handling...$29.95 Total Discounts on orders of 5 or more books.
Approximately 130 pages, about 50 photos, Soft Cover, 8 1/2 x 11 in size.
Check or Money Order payable to Steve Scott.
8000 Jefferson, Kansas City, MO 64114

This is a limited run of books to be printed. The planned publication date is Spring, 2005 and the book in in the final stages of edit, graphic design and layout. To assure yourself a copy, please order now. They will be mailed out when published in the Spring. This will be a professionally produced book and not some home-made text. Much of the material in this book is new, although I have expanded on some of what I have written in the past. Also, I included what may be the most comprehensive glossary of Japanese terms used in judo and jujitsu on the market. I know lots of coaches who want accurate translations of the Japanese phrases we use and this pretty much fills that need.

I've wanted to write an article on sambo for some time and thought this issue would be a good time to do it. I love the sport and had a great time doing it and coaching it. While this isn't a complete story of sambo, I think you'll enjoy it and if you've heard of sambo but never really known what it is, this article should give you some good insight on it.
In it's 70-odd years of existence, the Soviet empire left much misery on the people of Russia, Ukraine, and all the other Soviet "republics" and vassal states. I've talked to a number of people who lived under the Soviet regime, and while some were communists, most were simply athletes or coaches who had to endure under the hard heel of the Soviet masters. A Soviet athlete once told me there were three ways to escape the dreariness of living in the Soviet Union. They were: 1-You became a politician. 2-You became an athlete. 3-You became a performer such as a musician or dancer. These three groups could get a larger apartment than the average citizen and if they lived in most any place other than Moscow, they could live in Moscow. They could get a better quality of food and basic necessities of life. They could actually get a car and have enough money to buy gasoline to put in it. Basically, the best way to get out of the Soviet system...or at least the best way to deal with it...was to be one of the three things mentioned. Being an international-level wrestler or judo player would make you and your family better off and this was the only way to see anything of the outside world. I mention this because the Soviet Union developed some of the most accomplished athletes the world has ever seen. When Soviet athletes appeared on the international scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s, they changed the way sport was done, any sport. Their training methods were the best in the world. The Soviet Union was, among other things, a sports machine that cranked out world-class athletes every year...seemingly getting better every year until the wall came crumbling down...both literally and figuratively.


One of the things the Soviets did that was positive was develop sambo. Most judo and jujitsu people know a smattering about sambo (also spelled sombo) here in the United States. I'll present some history about this unique style of combat here and maybe give you some insight into the wild world of sambo.
Sambo is the Russian acronym which means "self-defense without weapons" (SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya) and was developed as a result of the Soviet government's effort to have a system of practical, personal combat for its soldiers. It's easy to say that sambo is "Russian judo" or "Russian jujitsu" and while that description gives a general picture of what it is, it's like calling judo "Japanese wrestling."

Sambo is also spelled "sombo" which is the spelling first used, to my knowledge, in the early 1980s here in the United States. The "o" spelling was used to have Americans use the "ah" sound rather than the "aa" sound in the name. The phonetic spelling helped and most Americans now pronounce the name of the sport correctly. I remember back in the the 1970s when I became involved in sambo, most people pronounced it wrong. In fact, one time in 1978 I sent in the paperwork for a sanction to the AAU for a sambo tournament here in Kansas City and the secretrary at the office called me and asked what exactly sambo was. I explained to her that it was a style of wrestling and an AAU sport. She told me she had heard of it, but..get this...thought it was "wrestling for black people." I couldn't help it, I laughed and told her that it was wrestling for anybody crazy enough to try it. Not long after that, the AAU began using the "sombo" spelling which helped a lot. The "sambo" spelling is more accurate and the spelling I prefer. Actually, sambo was not officially called "sambo" until after World War II, in 1946. It was originally called "freestyle wrestling" officially but the same sambo was also often used by the soldiers who practiced it. It was Anatoli Kharlempiev who popularized the name "sambo" for this system of self-defense.
It was the Soviet leader Lenin who decreed that the Soviet military needed a hand-to-hand combat method. In the early 1920s, Vasili Oshchepkov and others started work on developing such a system. Oshchepkov had lived in Japan as a young man and earned a nidan in judo from the Kodokan in 1917, making him one of the first non-Japanese to earn a black belt in judo. He studied under Jigoro Kano directly, it is written. Oshchepkov and others traveled the Soviet Union in an effort to catagorize the various ethnic wrestling and fighting sports and incorporate them into a workable system of hand-to-hand combat. This is where Kharlampiev comes into the picture. He became involved in the project along with several others. By the 1930s, sambo was being practiced by Soviet troops and sambo clubs were springing up in various cities. By 1939, sambo was being contested on the national level in the Soviet Union and organized as a sport. However, in 1937, sambo's founder, Oschepkov, was arrested and shot by Stalin's thugs as a "Japanese spy" due to his ties to judo, but mostly to his public statements that sambo was fashioned after judo and not entirely a Soviet invention. So much for the "people's paradise."


What Oschepkov did, was to evaluate what he learned at the Kodokan, combine it with what he and his team of assistants discovered in the various Soviet republic wrestling styles (each region pretty much had their own local folk style of grappling, fighting or wrestling and Oschepkov toured the country to study them) and formulate the beginnings of sambo.
On Nov. 16, 1938, the Soviet Union officially recognized sambo as a sport. As said earlier, individual championships were first held in 1939 and a team championship was added in 1949.
In 1962, Soviet sambo men wearing judo suits entered the European Judo Championships in Essen, West Germany and won 5 medals and 3rd place as a team. This was the world's first look at this strange form of grappling from the Sovet Union and it forever changed how the sport of judo was played. The sambo men didn't train to perfect a technique, as was the accepted Japanese (and world) view of judo. Instead, these sambo men trained to become proficient with techniques in a variety of situations. They molded the judo to work for them and had no qualms about changing a technique to make it work for their own body type or weight class. And while the judo men favored throwing, the sambo men worked hard to secure submissions. These early sambo men made everyone in judo look up and realize that juji gatame was (and contineus to be) a viable and effective skill. This reliance on forcing an opponent to submit comes in large part from the Soviet "siege mentality" that everyone is against them. They figured that if an opponent was tapping and yelling in pain, there left no doubt in anyone's mind who won the match and no foreign referee could rob them of a victory. If you haven't done sambo, there are no chokes, but just about any other submission technique is allowed. However, the rules through the years have changed a bit and now, only knee and ankle joints, and straight armlocks (such as juji gatame) are allowed as submissions. Scoring for throws and takedowns is a combination of freestyle wrestling and judo rules where points are awarded. However, like in judo, you can win by "total victory" in sambo by a throw (as well as a submission). It's rare to see a "total victory" in sambo as the thrower must remain standing and balanced after the throw is completed. Pretty much, when somebosy clocks somebody else in sambo, it's just like judo where you blast the guy and go to the mat with him. Sambo doesn't allow for a "total victory" for pins, and instead awards up to 4 points per match for hold-downs similar to judo.
Really, a lot of people have confused sambo a bit with other styles of grappling, and after doing the sport for a long time, I can tell you it's mostly a throwing and submission sport. When I actively trained athletes for sambo, we worked hard on throws and armlocks and leglocks. You take a hold-down when you can force it or it comes along, but sambo is pretty much an aggressive throwing and submission game.
In 1983, Lynn Roethke, the American women who won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics in judo, and who was very good at sambo and a 1983 Pan American Games Champion and 3rd in the World Sambo Championships, said about sambo: "It's everything you wanted to do in judo, but weren't allowed to do." And you know, Lynn was pretty much right on the money.
Sambo dates of interest...
1973-First World Sambo Championships for men in Tehran, Iran
1983-First World Sambo Championships for women in Madrid, Spain
1983-First and only time sambo appeared in the Pan American Games (in Caracas, Venezuela)
1977-First U.S. National Sambo Championships for men, Arizona
1980-First U.S. National Sambo Championships for women, Kansas City, Missouri
1982-First U.S. National Sambo Championships for juniors, Kansas City, Missouri
Sambo trivia...
First American to place at a World Sambo Championship-David Pruzenski, 3rd, 1973, Tehran, Iran
First American man to win a World Sambo Championship-Greg Gibson, 1981, Paris, France
Fisrt American women to win a World Sambo Championship-Becky Scott, 1983, Madrid, Spain
Sambo now has at least 2 international federations and at least 2 national organizations here in the United States. Too bad such a small sport has so many organizations. When sambo wasn't picked as an Olympic demonstration sport in 1980 when Moscow hosted the Olymoic Games, it was pretty much the first punch in the eventual knockout that hurt the sport internationally. Sambo hung in there several more years as a fairly popular activity in the western world, but when it was obvious that it would never become an Olympic sport, sambo lost much of its popularity and was mostly practiced in the Soviet-bloc countries. When the Soviet Union crumbled, sambo also suffered and dropped in popularity even in the old Soviet countries.

Sambo altered how we look at judo, and grappling in general. It changed the sport of judo...and even more, changed the west's perception of how judo should be practiced. It's a viable sport in, and of, itself, but it did much to alter judo's history as well.

Okay...that's enough typing for this issue! I don't need carpal tunnel problems to add to the rest of the abuse I've dished out on this old body through the years. Have a good year and keep training.