British SAMBO Federation
This was originally published on 19th July, 2013 and has been archived
ADAM LINDOP’S INTERVIEW WITH Knucklepit It’s hard to turn on the TV these days without seeing the Russian Mafia and other former Soviet “Bad Boys” on the screen. Russia is the ‘flavour of the month’ – and it has been for some time.
In Blues Brothers 2000, the Russian Bratva (Brotherhood) were the ones collecting protection money from Willie’s Joint; Person of Interest’s Mafia boss Elias is challenged by the Russian Mob; Arrow’s Oliver Queen is a Bratva captain; KGB agent Phillip Jennings frequently displays his Sambo skills in The Americans; and ex-con Lucas Hood is under constant threat from Mr Rabbit and his Ukrainian gangsters in Banshee.
In the martial arts world there has been a lot of interest in Sambo due to the success of Fedor Emelianenko, Oleg Taktarov. Yuri Ivlev, and Sambo coaches Vladislav Koulikov and Stephen Koepfer. Wrestling (bor’ba) Sambo and Combat (boevoe) Sambo are spreading like wildfire across the globe. The 2012 World Sambo Championships in Minsk, Belarussia attracted competitors from over 50 countries, including United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Venezuela, and entries from Australia. Knucklepit was fortunate to catch up with Adam Lindop between throws and leg locks for a chat.
Adam, what is your position at the United Kingdom Sambo Association?
I am one of the founders and the only surviving one, so to speak, so I pretty much run the show. We are a small group but have intentions to grow. It’s about promoting Sambo and proving to people that we have something to offer as a system. Do you classify ‘Sambo’ as a martial art or as a self-defence system? (I know some Sambo people don’t like it being called a “martial art”).
I classify it as both. Sambo’s founders originally intended it to be both a military unarmed combat system for the Soviet armed forces but also to be used as a self-defence system for the civilian population. People just see the grappling in Sambo; rarely do they see the knife defences etc. that are present, so Sambo satisfies both of those criteria.
How did you originally get into Sambo?
I came across an article on it in a magazine years ago and really wanted to try it…Then I was fortunate enough to meet my first Sambo coach and things went from there. For how long did you train under George Kaisidis?
I trained under George when he was first in the UK after meeting him at a traditional Ju Jitsu class, I resumed my studies under him when he returned to the UK to live …We however parted ways amicably a few years ago as he was more interested in MMA, which although is also a love of mine, I wanted to study Classical Sambo with the Khurtka etc. not just Sambo for MMA which is part of it but not all of it. I then started training under Vadim Kolganov from Scotland. Vadim does regular seminars at Team Mushin and is an amazing coach.
He was actually in the Sambo episode of Human Weapon and has experience in all areas of Sambo including self defence, as he spent some time teaching the Russian police. Vadim has introduced me to many great people and I consider him not just my coach but also look on him as an elder brother. What is your current “rank/grading” in Sambo?
I have no rank per’se. The ranking system isn’t really used that much in this country – one of the reasons I love Sambo so much is its none obsession with grades and belts etc… If you have a red Khurtka on you wear a red belt…if you have a black Khurtka (Sambo jacket) on you wear a black belt, it means nothing to me. What matters to me is Sambo itself and the people within it.
Was Sambo the first fighting system you took up?
No, Traditional Ju Jitsu was my first system. I tried many systems after that before studying Muay Thai under Colin Herron at Team Kaobon and No-Gi BJJ under Jason Tan and Paul Rimmer of Next Generation BJJ when they were teaching at Fighters and Fitness which was the original Team Kaobon. I then moved on from there. I have studied Combatives under Simon Squires and Dennis Martain as well as Escrima and, of course, Sambo. Do you and your students compete in Sambo competition? Some of my students competed last year in the national championships in Dumfries.
Yan Shi gained a gold in his weight category in Sport Sambo; Chris Bentley won a silver in his weight category in Sport Sambo; and I gained a bronze in the Combat Sambo category in my weight category. Matthew Pickering, one of my students, just won a silver at the British open so I’m over the moon that he’s worked damn hard for it and he deserves it. Due to an ankle injury I may not be competing this year but I need to see how it goes. How is your ankle injury coming along?
I’m recovering but it’s still swollen and I can’t weight-bear to the stage where I can grapple without running the risk of serious injury so I need to just keep moving along and do what I can where I can.
What weight do you compete at?
I fight at my walk-around weight which is 81 Kilograms although I may drop weight for my next competition. You achieved a bronze medal in the National Sambo Championships in the combat Sambo category at Dumfries.
Was that in 2013?
No it was 2012 Can you tell readers a little about your experience at the event, please, Adam?
The lads in Scotland made us all very welcome and I made some great friends including the current president of the British Sambo Federation, Robin Hyslop, Jack Tinning and many others. I also had the chance to meet and train with Reilly Bodycomb who is from New York Combat Sambo and a student of Stephen Koepfner the guy who devised the Freestyle Sambo rules, so I was very lucky. Do you instruct in both combat (boevoe) Sambo as well as bor’ba (sport) Sambo?
We do Sport Sambo and Combat Sambo. Do you or any of your students compete in the World Sambo Championships?
The British squad for the world championships used to be chosen at a one-day trial but they have started using a points system, so basically the more you compete and the better you do the better your chances of getting into the squad which is definitely a good thing.
As this system is fairly new in the UK, no one here has yet had a chance to compete in the worlds, though before this system was introduced one of my students, Yan Shi, had an invite to compete in the worlds but he was unable to go for personal reasons. Will any of you be competing at the British Grappling Championships?
That remains to be seen purely on an availability front and on a financial front also. We have several guys who although are good grapplers and definitely show potential are out of work and so traveling costs etc. are a big thing for them, but we are currently looking for sponsors to help with this. I don’t want fighters to miss opportunities through a lack of funding. Sambo, wrestling and judo are widely taught in Russian schools and the Russian Railway is currently investing heavily in kids’ Sambo development across Russia to improve their fitness and to keep the kids off the streets.
Would you like to see a similar backing of martial arts /self defence in the UK? Definitely. I think the distillation of discipline that wrestling systems give is great. Wrestling and martial arts in general give children an outlet for their boundless energy and channels it. It also prepares them for life in general; martial arts are a way of life and that’s a common saying among Samboists: “Sambo is life”. The basics …train, fight, learn…that’s Sambo and that’s life.
A lot of judo and wrestling practitioners drift across to Sambo because they can adapt so easily; do many of your students have judo or wrestling backgrounds?
We have had Judo players train with us and we have two Iranian wrestlers coming to try Sambo soon. The beauty of Sambo is that wrestlers and judo players can easily begin competing straight away. The wide variety of techniques in Sambo and the rules set means that each can fight to their own strengths and we won’t discriminate.
A judo player can use tai otoshi or drop-shoulder and a wrestler can double-leg or suplex. They are all legal techniques as long as they aren’t throwing against a joint – it’s all good. There’s none of this “it’s not our way” rubbish… even Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players have nothing to lose. We are an inclusive system not an exclusive system.
Do bor’ba Sambo competitors have trouble adjusting to combat Sambo?
That depends. Every Sambo club is different. Here we use chokes and strangles when we train Sport Sambo to ensure that fighters are used to them for Combat Sambo and general grappling competition. The main stumbling block is getting used to striking and being struck. Some people compete in both Sport and Combat Sambo but most just compete in one or the other…in Combat Sambo strikes are used as an entry usually rather than an end to themselves. Most street fights occur while participants are wearing some type of upper-body clothing.
Does wearing a kurtka (Sambo jacket) make competition more street applicable than wrestling and other no-gi competitions?
Yes – to a degree, but I think the main thing that makes Sambo more street-applicable than some systems is its rule set, and the techniques within it. Many techniques in Sambo are done without holding the Khurtka, for instance a double leg, or even one of my favourite techniques – BrosokCherezGrud, which means throw over the chest.
The ability to throw using the khurtka is definitely an advantage, not restricting grips as much as some systems is another, but having the ability to throw, with or without cloth, without having to change the way you train techniques is the biggest in my opinion.
And as Combat Sambo allows head butts and groin strikes it is more street-ready than most systems that claim to be. In Sambo there is a lot of belt holding which can easily be adapted to grabbing a trouser belt or jean waistband on the street; however in most MMA events belts are not worn.
Do you think this is another aspect of Sambo that makes it more street realistic?
I think that being more flexible on permitted grips etc. makes Sambo more street-applicable, of course, having said that freestyle wrestling does not have cloth holding and no one can argue that freestyle is not street applicable.
For me it’s more about the rule set to be honest…I can grab pretty much how I wish in Sambo and there is no RELIANCE on the cloth – that’s the thing. Some styles rely too much on grabbing cloth…fight a Sambo player and you’re fighting someone who’s just as happy using a body lock or a 2-on-1 grip as they are gripping cloth. We will happily attack your legs, your arms OR your jacket.
Do you like the way bor’ba Sambo permits leg locks, which are illegal in judo, and allows more freedom for takedowns whereas judo has stringent time restrictions in this area?
Without a doubt; leg locks are just as intricate a game as arm locks or shimewaza. Most people just see it as “oh his leg is there, I’ll grab it and yank on it!” But there’s a system to it all. The fact that I can throw virtually any way as long as it’s not against a joint is a definite advantage. Flexibility is Sambo’s strongest point.
Would you like to see bor’ba Sambo adopt the American freestyle Sambo rules where chokeholds are permitted?
I think it stands well on its own two feet to be honest. Freestyle Sambo rules were created to help get people from outside the Sambo community interested in it and show them what we have to offer. FIAS has adopted Freestyle Sambo rules as another version of the Sambo rule set so I don’t need it to be adopted – it already has been, but as a separate rule set which I think is the best way to go. Here we teach chokes and strangles as a matter of course in the Sambo classes as they are permitted in Combat Sambo competition. Many people don’t know that Sambo allowed choke and strangleholds prior to World War 2. Sambo should be and is about being an all-round fighter not someone who is one dimensional. Combat Sambo allows kicks, punches and chokeholds as well as all the throws and leg locks that can be used in bor’baSambo.
Would you suggest combat Sambo for anyone wishing to take up a more no-holds-barred style of fighting?
Combat Sambo actually allows punches, kicks, elbows, knees and headbutts, though the last is strictly controlled as the use of the head is only permitted as a strike to where the headguard covers. Allowing throws, takedowns, arm and shoulder locks, leg locks and chokes and strangles actually makes a very well-rounded system that is both hard-hitting and very aggressive. Passivity will get you penalized and trying to stall will lose you points and possibly the match, so yes, I think that Combat Sambo is an excellent system for those wishing to participate in NHB fighting.
Adam, is there anything you would like to add?
I’d like to thank you for letting me have the opportunity to do this interview about a system which, at the end of the day, I love. Also, I’d like to thank Vadim, my coach, for his excellent instruction and friendship, Darrin Richardson of the Russian all-round fighting system, Andrew Moshanov, and of course, Georgie Georgiev for their unwavering friendship and the chance to learn from all of them in one way or another…Russian Martial Arts is and always will be a brotherhood. Also I would like all your readers to remember…Тотктонеупал – несможетподняться – Who did not fall cannot rise.
Do you have sponsors you would like to mention?
We are currently looking for sponsors for the team and for the gym as a whole, so if anyone wants to help give a group of budding young fighters a chance, they are more than welcome to contact me and discuss it.
For more on Adam Lindop, UK Sambo and Mushin Martial Arts: http://www.mushinmartialarts.org.uk/wb/