Sambo Vs. Wrestling ( Differences and Which Is Better For You )

Sambo Vs. Wrestling

Sambo and wrestling are both competitive grappling sports. There is a lot of overlap between the two because Sambo was heavily influenced by catch wrestling and judo. To the naked eye, Sambo and wrestling might look the same.

The biggest difference between sambo and wrestling is that sambo has submissions and a different rule set than wrestling. In addition, sambo athletes and wrestlers wear different uniforms which causes some major differences as well. 

Like in judo, sambo athletes might use the uniform when taking their opponents to the ground. They can use the sleeves, collars, and lapels to grip their opponents for throws and for holding their opponents.

In wrestling, you are not allowed to grab onto any part of your opponent’s uniform. In fact, one of the reasons wrestling singlets are so tight is to prevent you from grabbing them. So as you can see something as simple as a uniform can cause big differences between wrestling and sambo. 

What Is Sambo?

Sambo is a grappling martial art that dates back to the 1920’s Russia. Much of what we know about Russian Sambo as a martial art can be traced back to two key founders.

Victor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. While these two men worked independently, their two similar styles eventually merged to form what we know today as modern sambo.

It combines the stylings of Catch Wrestling, Jujitsu, Judo, and a variety of others to create a form of self-defense. Sambo is a well-rounded grappling art that combines throws, takedowns, pins, and submissions.

Since Sambo is practiced in a jacket top, it contains throws similar to what you would find in judo. But it also has takedowns found in wrestling that are not practiced in judo today.

What Is Wrestling?

Wrestling is a grappling art that encompasses many different styles found across the globe. The most common known today include folkstyle, Greco-Roman, and Freestyle wrestling.

Folkstyle and freestyle wrestling were greatly influenced by Catch wrestling. However, unlike catch wrestling these other styles do not contain submissions.

Though there are differences in the rulesets, all three of these major styles contain a point system and pins. Since wrestlers wear singlets there are no throws or takedowns using clothing like you would find in judo or sambo.

There are also no submissions in the major wrestling styles today. But there are takedowns and pins. Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are both Olympic sports.

Folkstyle on the other hand is mostly found in American middle schools, high schools, and Universities.

Differences In Rules Between Sambo and Wrestling

There are some big differences between sambo and wrestling when it comes to rules. That said, there are also many similarities as well, which is why many people confuse the two.

A few similar things are that they are both performed on similar mats and have a points system that rewards takedowns. However, many throws from Sambo would resemble that of judo rather than wrestling.

Sambo Vs. Wrestling Takedowns

Takedowns are rewarded differently in wrestling than in sambo. In sambo, you can end the match with a single throw like in judo.

After all, sambo is heavily influenced by judo. So there are both similarities and differences between judo and sambo as well.  

In Sambo, if you throw your opponent onto their backs and remain standing you win the match. In freestyle wrestling, you can be awarded more points for certain takedowns but you will not automatically win the match by scoring a high point takedown. 

Sambo Has Submissions 

Another big difference between sambo and wrestling is that you can win via submission in sambo. There are no submissions in freestyle, Greco-Roman, or folkstyle wrestling.

The only exception is in catch wrestling. Catch wrestling does have submissions but it is not as well known as the other styles of wrestling. 

Interestingly, catch wrestling is a grandfather art to freestyle wrestling, folkstyle wrestling, and sambo. That said, sambo is the only one of the three that still has submissions.

 Freestyle and folkstyle wrestling dropped the submissions from catch wrestling to make it more accepted by the general public. In addition, some submissions in catch wrestling are not allowed in sambo.

Sambo Vs Wrestling Uniforms

A sambo uniform is much different than a wrestling uniform. In sambo, you wear shorts and a jacket similar to the top of a judogi. Basically, in Sambo you wear a judo top but shorts on the bottom instead of judo pants.

Wrestlers on the other hand typically wear a very tight-fitting wrestling singlet. Something as small as a uniform can make some major changes to the ruleset and techniques.

Many of the throws in Sambo rely on the jacket to execute the throw. So you will see many of the same throws in Sambo that you would in judo. 

In wrestling, you are not allowed to grip the clothing of your opponent. So all takedowns must be done without relying on using your opponent’s clothing. 

Sambo Vs Catch Wrestling

Catch wrestling is one of the major influences of sambo. Vasili Oshchepkov, one of the founders of sambo was very involved in learning both catch wrestling and judo. So naturally many techniques from catch wrestling found their way into sambo. 

One of the more recognizable things you can find from catch wrestling are armlocks and leglocks. But the rules between the two sports or styles have their differences. Like the other wrestling styles mentioned, catch wrestlers do not wear a heavy jack like in sambo and judo. 

The rules between the two are very different as well. Catch wrestling rules are pretty simple to follow. You win by either submitting your opponent or by pinning your opponent’s shoulders to the mat.

So one of the similarities in the rules is the ability to submit your opponent through submission or pin. However, you cannot win in Catch wrestling just with a throw.

You do not win in catch wrestling through points or by throwing your opponent to their back. You have to submit or pin them.

There are takedowns in catch wrestling but the goal is to take them down to submit or pin them. 

Sambo Vs Wrestling In MMA

People often debate whether Sambo vs. Wrestling is the best base for MMA. After all, many of the top fighters of all time come from sambo or wrestling backgrounds. There is no clear-cut answer but what I can say is that they can both be a great base for MMA. 

One thing that must be stated is that there is a style of sambo called combat sambo. Like MMA it contains both grappling and striking techniques and is already pretty similar to MMA. In addition, sambo contains submissions and wrestling does not.

So if someone who only did combat sambo fought someone who only did wrestling in MMA, then I would have to give the advantage to the sambo fighter. 

That said, if a wrestler simply had a base in wrestling and then went and learned submissions and striking from other styles then it might be a whole other story. Both wrestling and Sambo are great bases for MMA.

We certainly know from experience that people with wrestling backgrounds have dominated MMA in recent years. On the other hand, many of the greatest MMA fighters came from a Sambo background as well.

There Are More Wrestlers In MMA

That said, more wrestlers are going into MMA than sambo athletes. On top of that, these wrestlers are not just jumping into MMA. They are learning submissions and striking from other martial arts styles before jumping into the octagon. That said, we do that wrestling is very effective in MMA

At the same time, this is not to say that sambo has not shown its effectiveness in MMA either. Two of the greatest fighters of all time come from a Sambo background.

That would include both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Fedor Emelianenko. There are other examples as well, but these two are enough to prove the point that sambo is effective in MMA. 

So realistically both sambo and wrestling are great for MMA. Whatever style you choose you will need to learn how to be well-rounded in all aspects of MMA. Long gone are the days when someone who only knows one martial art style could dominate in the octagon. 

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