USA Wrestling Sombo wrestling hist...

Sombo wrestling history and basic rules

By Josh Henson | May 01, 2006, 11:09 a.m. (ET)

Self-Defense Jacket Wrestling


Sombo wrestling is a composite style of jacket wrestling originally developed in Russia to serve as a common form of sport wrestling for the fifteen different republics of the former Soviet Union, each of which had one or more of its own distinct styles of folk wrestling, with widely varying rules. It was also taught as a form of hand-to-hand combat by Soviet soldiers for use in unarmed self-defense.

Sombo today is practiced in two forms: Sport Sombo, generally referred to as Sombo wrestling (termed "borba cambo" in Russian) and martial art Sombo, called combat Sombo. The term "SOMBO" (also spelled sambo or cambo in other languages) is an acronym for the Russian phrase meaning Self-defense without weapons (SOM-oborona Bes Oborona). Until the official adoption of the term "SOMBO," the sport had also been referred to as SAM or SAMOS. The correct, official English spelling is SOMBO.

Although the roots of Sombo go back to the ancient origins of the various folk styles of wrestling in the Soviet republics, the birth of modern Sombo is generally considered to be 16 November 1938, the date upon which it was recognized as an official sport by the National Committee of Physical Culture of the USSR.

Sombo was accepted as an international sport and recognized as the third style of international wrestling by FILA, the International Amateur Wrestling Federation at the FILA Congress held during the 1966 FILA Wrestling Championships in Toledo, Ohio U.S.A. The First World Sombo Championships took place in Teheran, Iran in 1972.

In 1975, Sombo was introduced into the U.S. by the Wrestling Committee of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), then the National Governing body (NGB) for wrestling in the United States. In 1983, USA WRESTLNG became the National Governing Body for Sombo and organized national championships in 1982 and 1983. Sombo separated from FILA in 1983 and USA WRESTLING discontinued its Sombo program.

In 1984, the International Amateur Sombo Federation (FIAS) was constituted to govern the sport of Sombo internationally in the place of FILA. In 2005, FILA accepted the return of Sombo and will organize international competition beginning in 2006, including continental championships, World Championships and a world Cup. USA Wrestling will resume organizing national Sombo championships in 2006. From 1984 to 2005, Sombo in the United States was governed primarily by the United States Sombo Association (USSA), which now supports USA WRESTLNG.


A. UNIFORM: A Sombo uniform consists of shoes and both a red jacket (kurtka) with red belt and red shorts or singlet, plus a blue jacket, blue belt and blue shorts or singlet. Each competitor must have one complete red and one complete blue uniform. Jacket, shorts and belt must be matching colors (all red or all blue, not mixed). The jacket (kurtka) should be made of canvas or other heavy material. Sleeves must extend to the wrists and wide enough to allow four fingers held side by side to fit into the end of the sleeve (10cm). The Jacket should be tight fitting and extend no more than eight inches below the belt. The belt must be wrapped snugly around the body and must pass through belt loops on the jacket. Club or national patches may be attached to the left side of the chest area. The jacket must have cuffs or epaulets (braces) sewn onto the shoulder of the jacket, perpendicular to the shoulder and the uppermost point of the arm. A judo jacket is not the same and is unacceptable at official competitions. Shorts should be tight fitting and cover at least one-third of the hip. Wrestling singlets (red or blue) may be used, although strapless trunks are preferred. Shoes should be made of soft leather or other pliable material and should have a soft leather sole with seams inside. Covered sole wrestling shoes without hard edges are acceptable, but soft soled shoes are preferred.

B. DURATION OF THE MATCH: The match is one period of five minutes length for seniors and juniors, four minutes for women schoolboys/girls and cadets, 3 minutes for masters/veterans. Matches will be stopped and athletes returned to the center of the mat for a standing start (there is no ground or parterre position in Sombo) in the following situations: (1) Athletes are out of bounds (One foot touches protection area standing or half of body in submission hold); (2) Time out for injury or adjusting uniforms; (3) No activity by athletes while on the ground; (4) Athlete cautioned for illegal hold; or (5) Total Victory or submission hold is earned.

C. WINNING THE MATCH: A match can be won in one of three ways: (1) by Total Victory (a perfect throw or submission hold), which ends the match immediately, (2) by technical superiority (12 point difference in score), which ends the match immediately, or (3) by point difference at the end of the match if there has been no total victory or technical superiority (the athlete with the most points wins--no minimum point score required). Victory in a match with a tie score is determined by criteria including, sequentially, (1) most activity evaluations, (2) most technical points, (3) highest scoring technique or (4) last point scored.

D. ILLEGAL HOLDS: Holds not permitted in Sombo include (1) bending arms behind the back (hammerlock or chicken wing), (2) submission hold on shoulder, wrist, neck, fingers or toes, (3) Gripping the mat or the opponent below the belt or inside the sleeve, (4) twisting or squeezing the opponent's head, (5) pressure to the face, (5) twisting arms, legs, fingers, toes or ankles, (6) punching or slapping, (7) Driving the opponent's head in the mat, (7) standing or throwing submission holds, (8) gouging, (9) strangling or choke holds.

E. SCORING: Three types of technical moves will score points or result in Total Victory, as set forth below:

1. HOLD DOWN (Immobilization or Predicament): Similar to a judo hold down or a long wrestling near fall. One athlete must hold the back of the other athlete toward the mat in a danger position (less than 90 degrees), with chest, side or back in unbroken contact with the chest of the opponent to score. A hold down is "broken" when (1) Contact between the athletes is broken when space is created between them, or (2) the defending athlete turns over to the stomach or the side with and angle greater than 90 degrees. Only one hold down may only be scored in a match and will earn either 4 points for a twenty second hold down, or 2 points for a ten second hold down, or "A" for activity. Once a four point hold down is scored, an athlete cannot attempt another.

2. SUBMISSION HOLD: A pressure hold (arm or leg lock), applied to the arm or leg of the opponent which makes the opponent surrender or submit by calling our or tapping the mat at least twice (use limited in youth categories). Submission holds cannot be applied in standing position. A Submission hold ends the match by Total Victory.

3. THROW: A throw is scored anytime one athlete takes another to the mat in a single, continuous and uninterrupted action. A Sombo throw is more than a simple wrestling takedown, however. Like a Judo or Greco-Roman wrestling throw, (1) it must start with both athletes on the feet, (2) one athlete must unbalance the other, and (3) the attacker must take the opponent directly to the mat with one action without stopping. A throw must knock the defender off their feet either by lifting or tripping them, not merely dragging them down. A throw is scored based on two factors: (1) How the thrown athlete lands (on the back, side or front/buttocks) and (2) whether the thrower remains standing (the throw scores twice as much if the thrower stays up). A perfect throw results in Total Victory and stops the match if the attacker throws the defender to the back and remains standing. Other throws will score 4 points, 2 points, or 1 point, or with an "activity" note, depending on the impact point of the thrown athlete, as set forth in the chart below.

4. PASSIVITY: Passive wrestling will be consecutively penalized with a verbal caution, one point warning, two point warning, and disqualification