Sambo (Russian: са́мбо, IPA: [ˈsambə]; САМозащита Без Оружия) is a Soviet 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. It was intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts.
The pioneers of sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the Great Purge after being accused of being a Japanese spy. Oshchepkov spent several years living in Japan and training in judo under its founder Jigoro Kano.