A version of judo originally developed in the Soviet Union and now competed in internationally. The wrestlers wear a special costume which consists of a judo-style jacket, shorts, wrestling shoes, and a wraparound belt.

Opponents wear different colored belts as a means of identification. A wrestler can win the match outright by making a perfect throw from a standing position so that his opponent lands on his back or by securing a painful submission hold which forces the opponent to give up. Failing this, the wrestler can win by scoring more points than his opponent during the 6-minute match. The bout is supervised by a referee on the mat and a judge and mat chairman off the mat.

The referee has primary responsibility for conducting the bout, allocating points, issuing warnings and cautions, and preventing illegal holds. Sambo is conducted with the same weight classes as the other forms of international wrestling.

The word ‘sambo’ means "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.

Spiridonov and Oshchepkov independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov's system, called "Free wrestling" in Russia (known in the West as Catch-as-catch-can wrestling or simply Catch wrestling), Spiridonov's style was softer and less brutal. It was also less strength-dependent, which in large part was due to injuries Spiridonov sustained during World War I.

Anatoly Kharlampiev, a student of Vasili Oshchepkov, is also considered a founder of sambo. In 1938, it was recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee. Similar to wrestling, a sambo practitioner normally wears either a red or a blue competition outfit. The kurtka (куртка) or sambovka (самбовка) as it is called, looks similar to a Judo gi top and belt, but has wrestling style shorts and shoes which match the uniform's color. The sambo uniform does not reflect rank or competitive rating.

Sport rules require an athlete to have both red and blue sets to visually distinguish competitors on the mat.

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