SAMBO and MMA Tie The Knot: A Marrige Of Skill

My first encounter with leg locks was with my Cousin Kelly. He had seen a technique sample clip from one of the original UFC productions where Ken Shamrock taught how to hit a toe hold and heel lock off of a broken guard. We drilled and worked leg lock quick draws for hours.

Later I would see more locks, different variations, set ups, entries and chain techniques while working with Coach Brandon Kiser. This I would supplement by soaking up everything I could from material released by Sensei Erik Paulson via his seminars, DVD’s and online instruction.

Over the years, what I’ve come to realize is that the more skilled, the larger, and the stronger my partners and opponents, the more the course of a roll or fight would bring me towards a leg lock.

It would be the only opening or set of joints that I could manage to isolate and control with relative safety against my stronger, highly skilled counter parts.

Needless to say, I fell in love with Leg Locks and have become an avid student of their many uses and subtle intricacies.

Inevitably, any thorough study of Leg Locks will eventually find it’s way to Russia’s Sambo. As far as Leg Locks go, few individuals can say they specialize on a subject as in depth as Sambo Practitioners.

It would be an understatement to say that Sambo has a complex history. But what would you expect from an art that has grown from such a large country with so much cultural diversity. Sambo is a relatively modern art, it’s formative years comprised of the first part of the 20th century. However, you could say that the seeds that would finally germinate and begin to bear fruit as a nationally recognized sport, had been present since the birth of Mother Russia herself.

In those early times pre-dating it’s forefathers, Sambo finds it’s ancestry in the form of numerous tribal, folk and indigenous wrestling styles ranging from Mongolian Wrestling to Tartar Koras and seemingly everything between, on the boarders, and from the center of Eastern Europe.

The formation of a comprehensive empty handed combatives curriculum for the Red Army would be the impetus for what could be considered the conception of early Sambo. Two men (who’s names I have seen numerous spellings for) are consistently credited with the early development of the Russian art, Vasili Oschepkov and Victor Spiridonov. Each had a different area of expertise and each had their own ideas about how Sambo should be developed and propagated (either as a system for military combat or as a national sport).

According to sources on Wikipedia

Oschepkov (a second degree black belt in Judo) would eventually be executed under orders of Stalin for his refusal to deny education and ties with Judo’s founder Jigaro Kano.

Despite the effort to expunge the influence of souces outside of mainland Russia, the similarities between many of the throwing techniques of Sambo and Judo are too compelling to ignore.

It’s important to look at the translation of SAMBO to really understand what’s under the hood of this high octane martial art.

“SAMBO” is actually an acronym for a series of Russian words that can be intrepreted as “Self Defense Without A Weapon”.

As such it’s open ended and pragmatic scope does much to explain the art’s ecclectic appoach and the numerous variations that have arisen over time. During correspondance with Reilly Bodycomb, he has mentioned that

“Sambo is not taught as a collection of techniques but rather as a series of principles which will allow a faster development of combat skills.”

I can relate to this on a personal level as I gave a name to my own gym “Mushin Self Defense” with the same intentions. I didn’t want to limit an individual or myself to any one method. I wanted to empower my students with and “ends justify the means” mentality and in so doing, lay a foundation from which the most efficient technique for the individual could be employed to that end.

SAMBO’s principle of “use what works”, works well for those of us who enjoy the freedom to experiment and modify systems and tools to suit our own needs.

Another interesting fact concerning SAMBO is that unlike it’s contemporaries,

it does not have a formal structure or ranking system.

This has, in my opinion, enabled it to spread rapidly. Less encumbered by oranizational politics, it has been able to gain a foothold in countries around the world in a very short period of time (within 2 to 3 generations of its original inception as a national sport at the hands of Anatoly Kharlampiev in 1938).

To bring this breif history full circle and back to the original discusssion, the bottom line is winning. Surviving an un armed altercation and giving an individual the best chances for victory. And there is no better way to do this than Sambo’s library of Leg Locking techniques.

Time and again, leg attacks have bailed me out of otherwise unsalvageable situations.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Reilly Bodycomb for contributing his time and expertise so that I and the followers of can continue to expand our understanding of these wonderful equalizers of the MMA world.

If you enjoyed this series of instructional videos, you might also enjoy Reilly’s DVD’s which are available for purchase. Not only is the content unique and well presented, but the price is unbeatable.

Sambo Leglocks for Nogi Grappling 2 DVD Set by Reilly Bodycomb
Sambo Leglocks for Nogi Grappling 2 DVD Set by Reilly Bodycomb

Sambo Leg Locks for No-Gi Grappling DVD Vol 1 with Reilly Bodycomb
Sambo Leg Locks for No-Gi Grappling DVD Vol 1 with Reilly Bodycomb

Sambo Leg Locks for No-Gi Grappling DVD Vol 2 with Reilly Bodycomb
Sambo Leg Locks for No-Gi Grappling DVD Vol 2 with Reilly Bodycomb

$29.95 USD$19.95 USD$10.00 USD

Reilly Bodycomb: Sambo Grappler

A special thanks to who agreed to share Reilly with us here at DamageControlMMA.

17 replies
  1. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    A much deserved CONGRATULATIONS goes out to coach Stephen Koepfer (Reilly Bodycomb’s Instructor) who was recently awarded Russia’s prestegious Master of Sport Award.

    You might be seeing him in a future program featured on the Travel Channel.

  2. Stephen Koepfer
    Stephen Koepfer says:

    Dr Sick,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I will try to visit more often 🙂 Too many websites, too little time. BTW, the Travel Channel show aired last year. But, you can see it on Netflix, iTunes, etc. “Dhani Tackles the Globe: Russia”. New season is coming out soon, so they may re-run ti too. I am working on another Television project, but I will wait till it seems more definite before I discuss.

  3. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    I am having the time of my life meeting cool cats who share the love for the Martial Arts. It’s an honor that you’d visit our humble piece of cyberspace. I’ll have to check out the Dhani Show. Best of luck with the new project. Keep your eyes out for “Muay Thai In America”. It’s going to be a great documentary coming out this year.

    I hope all is well with you and your school. Keep in touch and if ever there is something that I or Coach Kiser can do for you, you know where to find us.

  4. Pro Coach
    Pro Coach says:

    SAMBO’s principle of “use what works”……….. well, it not sambo principle……

    It is basic pedagogical (teaching) principle and fudamaptals for any sport and any teaching in USSR, and it is used in sambo, in boxing in any sport…

    As well it is common logics.

    People try to speculate on any matters if they gain benefit from.
    Sport in west (specially combatitive) always lucking of education….. it is professional statement based on real coaching in every where east and west, south and north…

  5. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    I just went over to the link Coach Koepfer posted above and watched the interview. It is well worth the time. It is an excellent complement to this brief overview of the art of Sambo. Coach Koepfer, is responsible for training Reilly Bodycomb who demonstrates the Sambo Leg Knot in the videos featured in this article.

    Always look back to the roots and the lineage of technique when possible fellas. Some don’t believe in giving credit where credit is due. I’m not one of them. In fact, the further back I can look, the better I feel I understand what I am learning.

    Thank you Coach Koepfer for all you’ve done for us, and for the Martial Arts community. I’d love to get a chance to see some of your material if you’re interested in sharing.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the techniques were practically identical to those shown, Reilly three years ago in our article Sambo and MMA Tie the Knot: A Marriage of Skill. I wanted to say “Huh, the White Lotus Kick?… You must be a student of Master Bodycomb, […]

  2. […] We got to train together, and it was like a scene from an old Kung-Fu Classic. He started working on a few techniques that I immediately recognized from another friend of the Damage Control MMA project, Reilly Bodycomb. In fact, the techniques were practically identical to those shown, Reilly three years ago in our article Sambo and MMA Tie the Knot: A Marriage of Skill. […]

  3. Just published an article on Sambo Leg Locks here:

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