What is Russian Martial Arts?Russian Martial Arts

The two main martial arts exported from Russia are Sambo and Systema.  

Sambo is a grappling martial art similar to Judo but allowing leg and ankle locks.  It is divided into sport and self-defense/combat styles.  

Systema focuses on control of 6 body levers (elbows, neck, knees, waist, ankles, and shoulders) through pressure point, striking and weapon applications.  It de-emphasizes set moves in favour of spontaneous, free flowing drills and sparring.

History of Russian Martial Arts

Russian Martial Arts have a rich history and many influences from both within the culture and from without.

Systema can trace its inventive, free-flowing effectiveness back to a Russian history in which military threats came from many different sources.  Both in repelling and sometimes absorbing these threats, a flexible mindset developed which at the same time had to remain strong and effective to survive.  

Sambo (an acronym from the Russian “self-defense without weapons”), grew out of the former Soviet Union’s desire to make a super-martial art drawing the best from the world’s different fighting styles.  

In forming this state-sponsored Mixed Martial Art, Sambo drew from many styles, including:  judo, fencing, savate, jujitsu, greco-roman wrestling and the many styles of wrestling then within the Soviet Union (Armenian Koch, Georgian Chidaoba, Moldovan Trinta, Uzbek Kurash, Mongolian Khapsagay, Yakuts Khapsagai and Azerbaijani Gulesh, to name a few).

Sambo then divided into sport Sambo, with competitions and rankings from regional up to international levels, and military Sambo which adapted techniques especially for armed and unarmed combat.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, teachers of both Sambo and Systema began to emigrate across the globe teaching and spreading their knowledge of these unique Russian Martial Arts.

Philosophy of Russian Martial Arts

While both combat Sambo and Systema are characterized by quick, decisive reactions and devastating control of an attacker, they also have a strong moral code. Emphasis is placed on using one’s skill only for the good of the community as a whole.

Systema resists teaching set forms in favour of promoting a freedom of thought that can result in a freedom of movement to most effectively repel any attack. Similar theories promoting free sparring over set forms in training and thinking ‘outside the box’ can be found in Judo and Jeet Kune Do.

Russian Martial Arts as Self-Defense

Sport Sambo, similar to Jujitsu, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, is very effective in close range situations with its throws and various joint locks.

Systema is specifically designed to allow the student to effectively get out of any dangerous armed or unarmed situation.  

Russian Martial Arts for Kids

Sport Sambo’s throws and grappling can be taught to children when proper falling techniques are taught first.  Systema classes are offered for kids.

Russian Martial Arts for Adults

Whether it’s a good workout in a sporting atmosphere or developing effective, no-nonsense self-defense strategies and techniques, Russian Martial Arts offer adult students many avenues for strengthening the mind, body and spirit.

Russian Martial Arts Associations & Resources:

Canadian Combat Sambo Federation

American Sambo Association


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