Sambo is a Russian martial art and combat sport. The word "SAMBO" is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as "self-defense without weapons".
Sambo is relatively modern since its development began in the early 1920s by the Soviet Red Army to improve their hand-to-hand combat abilities. Intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts, Sambo has roots in Japanese Judo, international styles of wrestling, plus traditional folk styles of wrestling such as: Armenian Kokh, Georgian Chidaoba, Romanian Trinta, Tatar Korsa, Uzbek Kurash, Mongolian Khapsagay and Azerbaijani Gulesh.
The pioneers of Sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the political purges of 1937 after accusations of being a Japanese spy. Oshchepkov spent much of his life living in Japan and training judo under its founder Kano Jigoro.
The two men independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as Sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov's judo-based system, then called "Freestyle Wrestling", Spiridonov's style was softer and less strength dependent. This was in large part due to Spiridonov's injuries sustained during World War I.