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News and updates

Apr
11

 

peds

We have heard over the years of pro MMA fighters accused of using or being caught using PEDs.

As with all sports that start having higher and higher pay incomes, the usage of performance enhancing drugs (PED) become increasingly common. In MMA they have become more and more predominant, and some pro fighters have failed in the testing of these drugs.

Using these drugs are to give an edge over your opponent, but can come with several health risks. Some are willing to gamble with these risks to get to the top.

I will be looking at  most commonly seen PEDs. These are:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Androstenedione
  • Human growth hormone
  • Erythropoeietin
  • Diuretics
  • Stimulants

 

Anabolic steroids

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The main use for anabolic-androgen steroids, or roids is to increase ones muscle mass and strength. Testosterone is the main anabolic steroid hormone produced by one’s own body.

Testosterone has two main effects on one’s body:

  • The anabolic effect : promoting muscle building;
  • The androgenic effect: creating male traits, such as facial hair and a deeper voice.

A more alluring part of steroids for fighters is that they may aid them in recovering from a grueling workout more quickly by reducing the muscle damage that occurs during the training. This permits fighters to train harder and more frequently without overtraining, a real big benefit in the sport of MMA.

Anabolic steroids have recognized medical uses, but improving athletic performance is not considered one of them. Athletes frequently use anabolic steroids that are synthetic modifications of testosterone. They are illegally manufactured to be virtually undetectable by present drug testing. Considering that these drugs are made explicitly for athletes, with no medical use, this poses further health risks as they are not liable to any government safety standards, potentially being impure or mislabeled.

Several athletes take steroids at much higher doses than what is usually prescribed for medical reasons. Due to the fact that there is no real official research on the effects of high dosages of steroids, most of what is known about high dosage effects comes from observing actual users.

Physical side effects may arise with the use of anabolic steroids.

In men, these may arise:

  • Gynecomastia (enlarging breast) aka bitch tits(!)
  • Balding
  • Shrunken testicles
  • Infertility ( good thing for some!)
  • Prostate gland enlargement

In women, these may arise:

  • A deeper voice
  • An enlarged clitoris(!)
  • Increased body hair(!)
  • Balding
  • Infrequent or absent periods

Both men and women steroid users may develop:

  • Serious acne
  • Increased possibility of tendinitis and tendon ruptures
  • Liver disease
  • Increase in LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol)
  • Decrease in HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart and circulatory complications
  • Increase in aggressive behavior
  • Psychiatric disorders (e.g. depression)
  • Drug dependency
  • Infections or contractible diseases like HIV or hepatitis thru steroids being injected
  • Teenagers may experience inhibited growth and development

 

 

 

Human growth hormone (HGH)

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Human growth hormone, also known as gonadotropin, is a hormone that has an anabolic effect. Athletes take it to enhance muscle mass and performance. Nonetheless, there is no irrefutable evidence that HGH improve one’s athletic performance.

The side effects of using HGH are potential:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fluid retention
  • Vision problems
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Harmed glucose regulation
  • Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)
  • Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

 

Erythropoietin

Erythropoietin _EPO_ Powder_ InjectionErythro_1

Erythropoietin is a type of hormone used to treat anemia in those suffering severe kidney disease. What this hormone does it helps increase the creation of red blood cells and hemoglobin. This then causes a reaction in improved flow of oxygen to the muscles. The synthetic version of erythropoietin is Epoetin, commonly used to boost the endurance of athletes.

Improper use of this drug can boost the risk of thrombotic (blood clotting) circumstances, such as stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism (artery blockage in the lungs).

 

Diuretics

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Diuretics are drugs that shift one’s body’s natural balance of fluids and electrolytes (salts) and can potentially lead to dehydration. For MMA fighters they are used to help in competing in a lower weight division, by decreasing one’s water weight. Diuretics may aid to pass drug tests by diluting (“masking”) one’s urine.

 

 

These drugs have quite detrimental side effects:

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Low potassium levels
  • Rash
  • Gout
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Coordination and balance deficiency
  • Death (!!)

 

Stimulants

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Stimulant drugs are used by athletes to enhance endurance, reduce fatigue, suppress appetite, increase alertness and raise aggressiveness.

The most common stimulant drugs are caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine hydrochloride (found in cold medicines) and amphetamine.

The easily accessible energy drinks usually contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants (e.g. guarana, taurine). More dangerous and highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine are stimulants and have been used by athletes.

Like all drugs, there are side effects:

  • Nervousness and irritability that may decrease concentration skills
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Tolerance, making athletes needing higher dosages to get the effect.
  • Addiction

More serious side effects are:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Fast weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Mild hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Heart attacks

 

Most MMA events test for these drugs. Having lived in Japan , it was common knowledge that the Japanese MMA events, even now, do not test for these substances. Cost would be a reason, but the mentality is that it’s the fighters choice to take these drugs, knowing fully the health risks associated with them. This being said, these types of drugs are not as easy to purchase as in other parts of the world. Several Japanese fighters I know myself are not even big consumers of athletic supplements either.

 

Many people look at the short-term benefits of these drugs. This is especially in athletes who are looking for the win, and become the champion. The long-term health risks of these drugs should be thought out carefully. One may become champion, but in the end suffer bad health, causing suffering to oneself and those around you, and even death, the ultimate suffering.

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Oct
25

index

 

There have been reported deaths of athletes dying from extreme weight cutting in MMA recently. Not just deaths, but also athletes in dire condition at the weight-ins.

This has happened in other combat sports, even at the amateur level. Wrestling(real wrestling folks), has been a major victim of this, with even reported deaths of young athletes that died from weight cutting regimes.

What  is weight cutting? It is using different methods for a competitor to drop to a lower weight class. The athlete would go down to a lower weight class, then hopefully gaining the weight back  in hours before their match to gain a size advantage. The theory is that the more weight a fighter dropped dehydration , the more they could regain after weighing in and hold a size advantage over his opponent. An athlete that has more muscle has an advantage over those that are not willing to cut the extra water weight. But, athletes and coaches never considered the process a health risk.

Sometimes the effort to qualify for the weight class could be often be more challenging than the actual competition itself! I’ve seen myself fighters spend more time worrying about their weight rather than the technical training.

The methods of weight cutting include hours of spent on exercise bikes, in saunas and plastic suits; taking laxatives, diuretic, even induced vomiting and repeated spitting to force any trace liquids from the body. Some weird techniques include that an athlete would stand on his head to redistribute the weight in his body and shave a few ounces/grams at the scale(!).

This cutting phase would cause muscle cramps, insomnia, irritability and feelings of illness.

These weight-ins are done the day before, so athletes tried to drop as much weight as possible to make weight. Athletes have been too exhausted or cramped to move on their own, they had to be carried or helped to the scales. Recent videos of this on some pro-MMA events have surfaced. But this has been going on, even at the amateur level for years.

One of my former Muay Thai teammates(in the early 90s) cut  too much weight to put himself into a lower weigh class. The weigh-in was the same day as the event, so he had little time to recover his strength. When he entered into the ring, he looked feeble.  I told the other teammates watching :”Man, he’s gonna lose.”  They all looked at me in disbelief on why I would say such a thing. I replied:”Geez, he barely made it thru the ropes!!”

The most extreme result of this weight cutting has been death. Recently there has been a pro MMA fighter that died from his weight cut. Myself, I knew that this was not the first time this has happened in a combat sport weight cutting. In 1997, there were 3 NCAA wrestlers that died within a 5 week period. These deaths caused a major wake up for the NCAA.

How did these deaths happen? The extreme loss of fluid from the bloodstream weakens the cardiovascular functions and reduces endurance. If the water is not restored, blood flow to the skin and muscles will start to shut down to preserve the remaining fluid. Without he ability to sweat, the body begins to overheat. With no oxygen , the muscle start to perish. This can trigger a potential life-threatening condition called Rhabdomyolysis, in which the staved muscle fibers break down and flood the bloodstream with proteins, clogging up the kidneys, causing kidney failure and stressing the electrical processes that support the heart , resulting in cardiorespiratory failure.

Weight cutting seems to be part of the sport, a kind of rite of passage for its participants. I myself have gone thru these weight cutting cycles, but never to the extremes that some others put themselves thru. I was fortunate to have had excellent and compassionate coaches(apart from the Muay Thai trainer) who never pushed or forced us to cut weight so drastically. Cutting some weight is fine, but where it puts one’s life in danger, I don’t think so.

Having had such terrible travesties that happened in the NCAA, they cleaned up their act by banning plastic sauna suits and saunas themselves in training areas. Increasing the amount of weight classes, and weigh-ins are made the day of the competitions rather than the day before. This eliminates the time necessary to recover from excessive weight cutting.

Criticizing the practice of weight cutting, something so intertwined with combat sports’ “proud” tradition, is like criticizing the sport itself.

Majority of amateur MMA or grappling competitions have the weigh-ins the day of. I think it is the smart way to go. Doing it the day before, tempt athletes to cut more weight. I believe a big key player responsible to over see the athletes weight cutting are  the coaches. A competent coach should track their fighters’ weight and body fat percentage (if possible) throughout the year, to make sure the athlete does not drop weight to quickly and stays closer to their fighting weight yearly.

By a fighter being close to their fighting weight, it will be an easier, and less grueling task to make the fight weight. The fighter can concentrate on technical and strategical training, rather than being possessed on how much they weight. Furthermore, one would be able to keep more muscle mass and stay stronger with this method. Doing drastic weight cutting, one starts to lose muscle too.

Extreme weight cutting makes it less attractive for young athletes to join those combat sports that still practice it. After the NCAA introduced the new rules on weight cutting, there was an increase of participants in wrestling. One has to remember that even if an athlete survives there are potential long-term effects on the body. These effects can range from damages to the metabolic system, brain, kidney and vision problems. Is it worth it to go to those extremes?

Jul
24

During my stay in Japan, I had the grand opportunity to teach a Combat Sambo seminar at my friend, Katsuomi Inagaki’s dojo: Pancrase Osaka.

DSC_0265

Ps Lab Osaka

The seminar covered knife defense. Due to the fact that it was not a very long (less than 2 hrs), I was not able to teach several techniques, rather a few, but cover them in depth.We were using small plastic water bottles as the knives, because there weren’t any training knives available.

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As always, I cover the basic strategies for knife defense. Such as, due the most to make sure that one doesn’t have to go bare-handed vs. a knife wielding opponent. The concept of running away is great, but in certain situations, running is not a first or realistic option. Analyzing your environment quickly is vital. Before employing barehanded techniques, use anything around you as a blockade (eg.table), shield (eg.bag/briefcase), or as a weapon (eg.chair). Should an escape route become available, use it!

There is also a misconception that a knife wielding person just wants your money. There are violent knife attacks that can happen out of the blue. Also, even if you do give them your money, the assailant might still attack you!

In the situation where we are stuck defending barehanded, one’s stance should be very tight, arms close-in, like you’re stuck in the ring corner. Having your hands out too far can get one’s hands/fingers cut up.

I explained that there are 5 general defense zones: straight, high-right side,low-right side,high-left side and low left side. These zones deal with which area the knife is coming from, rather than the issue of it being a slashing or stabbing attack and what knife grip is used in the attack.

The main objective is when engaged in a knife defense situation, is to be constantly aware of where the knife is and to disarm the assailant when able to. Simply striking an opponent can help in making distraction, but doesn’t mean you’ll disarm the opponent. Depending on the situation, disarming the knife would be the best option, in my opinion.

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We covered simple disarming techniques when the opponent was in a controlled position. All the defense, takedowns, disarming techniques  that I teach are very similar to basic grappling techniques, so one doesn’t forget them easily should one do grappling arts. For example, a knife disarming technique resembles a heel hook technique.

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After going over the techniques I made them try out in a “sparring” drill. Basically using 30% force to try and defend against a knife attack. Just like basic combat sparring, this will help people grasp the concept of the techniques in a more realistic manner, with pressure and stress, rather than plainly go over the moves without any resistance. Because it is simulating a knife attack, stress levels can rise, so a supervised training is highly recommend!

We ended up with a Q&A session. I explained that most knife attacks are to the body, as it is a larger target, just like gun attacks, that’s why there are body vest for protection.

I was very impressed with the number of participants from the Ps Lab Osaka gym. There were even three pro-fighters whom participated. They were very open-minded about the techniques, because many don’t do this type of training in a MMA gym.

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Great times!!

Hopefully I’ll be invited back to teach another seminar on another topic!

May
29

0620

 

I will be giving a Combat Sambo seminar June 20 at the P’sLab in Osaka, Japan.

Will be covering knife defense techniques.

For more info: http://pancrase-osaka.com/

 

Dec
22

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Katsuomi Inagaki was with Pancrase from the start.He participated in Pancrase’s first event in 1993. He is owner and head instructor of Inagaki-gumi P’s Lab Osaka.

This past summer, during my stay in Japan, I had the opportunity to meet up with Inagaki-san. I’ve been to the P’s Lab Osaka twice in the past two years. I consider him a great coach and a personal friend of mine. During that meeting I interviewed him.

When did you start training martial arts? What martial art did  you start with?  

I started martial arts at the age of 12 years old. I started with learning Judo.

What motivated you to begin training?

While I was in primary school, watching pro-wrestling, boxing ,and other martial arts on TV, I got interested fighting sports. At my middle school, I entered the Judo club.

When and why did you think of becoming a pro fighter?

When I was 15,at my school’s career consulting, I was asked what kind work would you like to do in the future, I replied I wanted to be a pro-wrestler, I want to work in pro-wrestling.

What was the experience of your first pro fight?

I felt a strong blood-thirsty feeling from my opponent ,I thought it was kill or be killed.

In Mixed Martial Arts, one could get injured whilst potential deadly attacks are allowed. There is always a probability that one could kill or one could be killed.
I believed that I had to be prepared to fight with those possibilities.

What were your good experiences with Pancrase? Do you believe there are some things that could improve?

Despite the general common knowledge everyone had about Pro Wrestling, in order to make an ideal Pro Wrestling , both Suzuki-san and Funaki-san, using their youth, knowledge and energy launched Pancrase, causing a boom. In order to launch Pancrase, we conducted as a group of people with passion and talent and shared both joys and sorrows.
I truly believe it was a good experience.

From bare hands to gloves, from ring to cage, established a ranking system etc… Pancrase is always improving to get better. So personally I don’t believe there are things that need improvements.

When and why did you finish your pro career?

By objectively looking at my body’s  condition (both elbows operated on, a ruptured Achilles tendon etc..) and my sense of fighting, I didn’t think I would become champion. So in 2003 I retired.

When you were a pro fighter, and now seeing pro-fighters from the outside, have you personally noticed a mental change in certain points or doubts?

In my pro days, rather than looking at the minus points of an unstable and dangerous occupation, I was more fulfilled that I was making a living in a job I liked.

Now that I am beside my pro-fighters, I again feel the difficulty of living off job that one loves, such as pro-fighting. The pay is unstable, serious injuries happen, there is a possibility of death, it is not a job that will last a lifetime.

Besides the aspect of the income, and   the point of being worried and concerned, for those fighters with family I believe it is a very harsh job.

Furthermore, while I’m watching my fighters compete, rather than the win or loss, I started to want them coming back safe. In martial arts there is potential for injuries and attacks that could kill are allowed. One could get a serious injury, one could even die, is this type of dangerous competition necessary? I’ve become to start thinking of these things.

What are your challenges as an instructor?

Myself I can only teach techniques that I have used but cannot teach techniques that I haven’t used. While there are new techniques that come out, I don’t have enough knowledge to teach my active students. In order to deeply teach a technique, one must refine it thru sparring or competitions. I leave the pursuit of new skills up to my active athletes. Things such as creating an environment where good practice can be done, preparing for a competition, proper attitude during practice, general way of thinking etc, I pass down what I personally felt thru my own experiences. In my experience so far, what are challenges are things that I can only do myself and to find things that are needed.

If a student wanted to go pro, what kind of advice would you give him?

The income is unstable, one might get a serious injury, or one might even die. However, dealing with pro-fighting seriously there is excitement, tension, gratitude, happiness, frustration, worries, finding solutions, various emotions, and the people involved , these thing will make life more colorful. One has to truly decide and prepare by oneself.

Compared to when you where pro, what is the current situation of MMA in Japan, and what has changed?

From the time I was a pro-fighter from the 1990s to early 2000s, the was a rise in interest and the number of people interested the results and content of the fighting sports increased. It was an era where the promotion of holding pro-fighting sports was on a rise. There was a high enthusiasm by those interested in seeing who was the top and what were the best fighting styles. Top fighters were able to get higher fight-money. There was a dream.
There are fewer people who are interested now, the scales of the venues have shrunk, and only a handful of fighters who live solely off their fight money.

Pancrase changed from ring to cage, what is your viewpoint on this?

There is no real advantage or disadvantage in the change due to the fight breaks due to fighters coming out of the ropes. Due to the fact the cage is suitable for mixed martial arts; I think it is a good change.

What is your favorite/best technique?

The Face Lock. I like the sense of securing the control of the direction of the face.

 

 

Jul
25

Russian-Sambo-Combat-Sambo

Sambo is an acronym for the Russian phrase “Self-Defence Without Weapons” (SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya).Doing the research to write about the history about Sambo was not an easy task.Going thru several different text, it seemed they all had different versions of dates and lack of information. Some dates did not make sense. Finally comparing these texts I was able to find some common grounds and questions I had.

 

The history of Sambo can go back before the Russian Revolution, back to the days of Imperial Russia. During Imperial Russia, there  was a Japanese Navy admiral, Hirose Takeo who was sent to Russia for studies while staying at the military attache in St. Petersburg. He was said to have taught at the Russian military officer school Judo/ self-defense.

 

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Hirose Takeo

H.Takeo trained Judo at the Kodokan and earned his 4th Dan. During his era, while training at the Kodokan, there still was influence from the Tenjin Shiunyo Ryu  style of Japanese Ju-Jutsu, therefore practitioners also learned self-defense applications. Due to his high skills in Judo/Ju-Jutsu, it is assumed that he taught the Russian officers and effective self-defense system.H.Takeo returned to Japan in 1902. He later died in 1904 a national hero during the Russo-Japanese War(1904-1905).

There is an other obscure person not mentioned often in the history of Sambo. This person was Ivan Vladimirovich Lebedev. I. Lebedev trained mainly in French Wrestling(what they called Greco-Roman Wrestling back then) and weightlifting. He was one of the few experts those days in Russia.

 

lebedev

Ivan Lebedev

He developed the police self-defense system based on French Wrestling ,Judo/Ju-Jutsu. In his manual “Self-Defense and arrest” (1915) he selected 50 techniques of various hold escapes, strikes, knife and revolver defenses and escorting and arresting techniques. His other combat manual was “French Wrestling”(1915), demonstrating Greco-Roman Wrestling techniques.

Thru out many Sambo historical documents, three people are named as founders of Sambo V.Oshchepkov, V.Spiridonov and A.Kharlampiev. Of the three V.Oshchepkov could be said as the real founder of Sambo.

Vasily   Oshchepkov was born in 1893  on the Sakhalin Island, which is located north of Japan. His parents died when he was 11 yrs old, and then was orphaned off. This was the period of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, and Japan occupied the southern part( and where he lived) of the Sakhalin Island.

 

oshcehpkov

Vasily Oshchepkov

When the Russo-Japanese War was over, Oshchepkov ,in 1908, was sent to Japan to attend the Russian Orthodox seminary mission located in Tokyo. While in Tokyo, he received training to become a interpreter and also trained Judo ta the Kodokan. In 1913, he earned his Nidan(2nd degree black belt). From 1918 to 1926 he was an agent gathering intelligence for the Red Army about Japan. He was first posted in Vladivosktok in 1918, then in 1921 Northern Sakhalin Island. From 1925-26 he was posted in Japan.

Upon return to Vladivostok in 1926, worked as an interpreter and Judo instructor. Along with the collaboration with a Boxing and Savate specialist P.Azanchevsky, Oshchepkov was able to add the punches of boxing and kicks of Savate into the self-defense system he was creating.

Oshchepkov began promoting his system of self-defense for the need of  hand-to-hand combat training for the Red Army. He started giving instruction thru out the sport clubs of Siberia and importantly in the Novosibirsk branch of the Dynamo sport society for  military students.

The military specialists were interested in his training methods, and in 1929 was transferred to Moscow to teach hand-to-hand combat to the CDKA(Sport Club of the Central House of the Red Army). In 1931, he took part in writing a manual for the Red Army implementing hand-to-hand techniques including bayonet fighting, fighting with trench shovel, defending unarmed vs armed opponents.

To make his Judo system spread nationwide Oshchepkov needed to train more instructors. In 1931, was working for the State Central Institute of Physical Culture as head instructor of his Judo system. There Oshchepkov was able to work along other teachers of Greco-Roman Wrestling, Boxing and Fencing and this was added to his combat system.

Oshchepkov, between 1931-33 was teaching Judo military police officers at the Central Higher School of Militia. He looked at ,thru interviews, real conflicts the officers had with criminals to better adapt his combat system for the police.

Another person, who is said to be involved in the development of Sambo is Victor Spiridonov.Born in 1883, he was a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War and WWI. In 1923 he began to work  in the new sports society “Dynamo” , used by special agents and military officers. He started to develop his own system of self-defense.

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Victor Spiridonov

 

He based his system  mainly on Ju-Jutsu and other Western combat arts (ex. Greco-Roman wrestling , Boxing). As he never traveled to Japan, it is said that he didn’t learn Ju-Jitsu from any real instructor, rather from books along with testing out other techniques on his own. His system was officially adopted by the Soviet security forces within the Dynamo. He first used the word Ju-Jutsu in his system, then finally used Sambo as an abbreviation for “self-defense without weapons”. He wrote 3 books, his first 1927. Spridonov kept his system confidential to internal security officers.

Oshchepkov attempted to get better relationship with the Central Council Division of Self-Defense without Weapons,headed by Spiridonov  in the Dynamo. Oshchepkov and Spiridonov’s students met for unofficial matches. Unlike Spiridonov’s pupils,  Oshchepkov’s students competed in many more open competitions, and defeated easily Spiridonov’s students. Not wanting to acknowledge the flaws of his system, Spiridonov stopped all contact with Oshchepkov. He claimed his system was “secret” and kept to internal security officers , and stopped doing external demonstrations. Perhaps of jealousy, Spiridonov was able to eject Oshchepkov from all Dynamo contacts and the Central Higher School of Militia.

Oshchepkov’s subdivided his system into “Judo Combat Division”(combat) and “Judo Freestyle Wrestling”(sport) and was taught at the State Central Institute of Physical Culture. The basis of his system was the Kodokan Judo  techniques, but because of contact with students in Moscow from different nationalities, he included techniques from thees ethnic wrestling systems. These systems included: Georgian Chidaoba, Armenian Koh, Azerbaijani Gulesh, Kazakh Kures, Uzbeki Kurash, Turkmeni Goresh, and Tajik Gushtingiri.With the wide participation of ethnic wrestling styles at Sambo competitions, it cultivated the techniques of Sambo.

Oshchepkov’s “Judo Combat Division” was a system especially designed for the use of the military. This included such techniques of fighting unarmed vs an unarmed opponent and/or armed opponent in close distances. It also included fighting at close quarters ,armed vs armed opponent. The striking techniques were taken from Japanese traditional Ju-Jutsu ,Boxing, Chinese Wushu and Savate.

In 1933, Oshchepkov published the first competition rules for his Judo system. The Sambo uniform came to light. A jacket of special design,shorts and soft leather shoes were introduced.

In 1937, a dark shadow came upon the development of Sambo. Japan invaded China and the Soviet Union sent weapons and advisors to China. The diplomatic relationship between Japan and USSR deteriorated. Judo programs were removed from all institutes. Becuse of Oshchepkov’s past history of living in Japan, he was charged for spying for Japan and arrested. He died some days later in prison at the age of 44.

Although a repression on Oschepkov’s system, the Soviet state did not want to disestablish an invaluable combat sport and self-defense system. In 1938, Oshchepkov’s former students took over the reign and held a conference. There they decided that the creation of the Soviet Freestyle Wrestling system was proclaimed. To protect themselves from the possibility of Stalin’s demented purges,and be politically correct, they  declared that the Soviet Freestyle Wrestling was based on ethnic wrestling styles of the Soviet Union, and not that of Japanese Judo.

Oshchepkov’s students, headed by Anatoly Kharlampiev continued in honing the Soviet Red Army’s hand-to-hand combat system. They published manuals for the military, which were used in World War Two. Any further development was put on hold during the war.

 

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Anatoly Kharlampiev

After the war, Kharlampiev in 1945 was assigned to the Defense Sport Department. There he was chief instructor of hand-to-hand combat for the NKVD(People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs).   Spiridonov died in 1943 at the age of 60.

In 1946, the All-USSR Committee of Physical Culture and Sports officially recognized “Sambo Free Wrestling”. Competitions resume in 1947 and in 1948 Sambo wrestling  acquired its current name.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the division of sport and combat Sambo was made. Combat Sambo was restricted to the military, internal security forces and law enforcement. The rest of the population trained in Sport Sambo.

During this period,Kharlampiev had a big role in the transmission of sport and combat Sambo. Several manuals were published by him. Kharlampiev was portrayed as the “creator” of Sambo thru press articles and even films, by traveling thru out the Soviet Union learning techniques from ethnic wrestling systems. This was a Soviet propaganda plan to distance the truth that Sambo’s fundamentals that came from Japanese Judo/Ju-Jutsu. Kharlampiev never proclaimed in his manuals  that he was the creator, but never denounced it either.

In the 1960s Sambo started getting international attention. Sambo wrestlers entered international Judo competitions. In 1962 USSR won medals at the European Judo Championships and at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In 1966 ,FILA (International Federation of Amateur Wrestling) accepted Sambo as a third style of international wrestling. International Sambo competitions started. These were all Sport Sambo competitions.

In 1984, the creation of FIAS(International Amateur Sambo Federation) , separating from FILA. In 2001, the first World Combat Sambo Championships started.

 

 

 

References:

 

Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, Thomas A. Green & Joseph R. Svinth, 2010.

 

Commando Sambo : Giho.Japan Commando Sambo Federation.1992.

 

 

 

 

 

Jan
06

pancralogo

Many people have asked me why I chose to affiliate with Pancrase.I have even asked that question to myself.

I have a long history with Pancrase. This dates back to me the living in Asia in 1992. My first exposure to Pancrase was while I was living in Taipei, Taiwan. One day at a Japanese bookstore in Taipei, named Kinukuniya, I purchased a Japanese language martial arts magazine (Kakutogi -Tsushin). Flipping thru the magazine, I saw info and results about Pancrase events. Also on TV, I was able to see UWF, which was Pro-Wrestling group trying to make the matches look real. The UWF was a founding seed for Pancrase. It fascinated me to see these matches, going from striking to ground fighting.But,after watching a couple of times, I figured out that the matches were fixed, just like Pro-Wrestling.

While working in Taipei, I was getting exposed to Japanese culture too, and started learning the language. My eventual plan was to move to Japan, to learn the language and culture, but also to be able to get training in the art of MMA, which I was exposed thru the magazine and TV. My training in Taipei included mainly Sanda (Chinese Kickboxing), Judo, Wrestling, Boxing, Aikido and Qigong.

After almost 2 years in living in Taipei, I moved to Japan. There I was studying the language (at Ryukoku university), and desperately trying to find out more about Pancrase. While training in Sambo (combat/sport), Shoot boxing (kickboxing with throws) and Judo, I was trying to find out how to train with Pancrase. I found out that, unlike now, there were no Pancrase gyms throughout Japan.There was only one gym, located in Yokohama , and that was for the pros only.
Asking around (no Google back then!) and reading more to get info, I found out there was an entry test to get in as a potential Pancrase fighter. I mailed Pancrase (didn’t have an email address either then!!) to find out when and how to take this test. I received info back from them, and decided to take that test! I was still at school that time, but was ready to not finish graduating from my program and enter Pancrase. This meant that I would have enter the Pancrase world and leave all behind.

I had an idea what the test would be, and prepared for it, but not enough. I took off to Yokohama. The dojo was located a distance from the nearest station. I arrived, gave my name and they gave me a number bib. The famous Funaki and Suzuki where there to overlook and judge the testing. The test was harder than I thought! An old injury (about a year back, suffered in Taipei) crept up again. It was my left big toe that was injured. During the test, we had to do a duck walk at an incline for 20M. Halfway, my toe was bothering me. I stood up for a second, was asked by a supervisor if I quit, I answered my toe was hurting. Next thing I knew, he yelled out my number and was disqualified. I was like:”holy smokes, this is like joining the Special Forces!”

Disappointed, I stood around watching others finishing, or never finishing. I left not depressed, but rather gathering the information of this experience and vowed that I’d be back!

On   return to my   university , Ryukoko University, I consulted with a trainer  who supervises the weight room and  was a certified trainer for the sports teams at the university. I asked him to put together a training program to help me pass the Pancrase entry test. Not forgetting what I did, I gave him the test skills, and he constructed a special program for me. I trained for it, and applied for the entry test again. This time with confidence.

This would be my last chance, because there was a cut-off age of 25. We started and it was the same menu as before. Pain went thru me, but I finished it. Unfortunately, I did not get picked. One other foreigner, a Brazilian, was crying after he did not get selected. I asked the manager why the fellow was crying. He answered:”He put all effort into the test, but didn’t make it, so that’s why he’s crying.” I replied: “I didn’t get selected either, but I’m not crying.” He didn’t reply, just silence.
I took my gear and walked back to the train station. Even though I wasn’t I wasn’t selected, I was very proud that I was able to finish the test.

On the way back, I chatted with another participant and we talked how hard it was. We laughed when we got to the station and saw stairs and an escalator. The choice was easy.. the escalator!!! Even walking downstairs, my legs were about to buckle!

I got back to my studies at school and my training. I didn’t talk much about it with my classmates or training partners, just to my closest friends.

I received a phone call from a Pancrase manager asking me if I’ll do the test again. I said that I was too old (!) according to their rules. He said to come at a Pancrase competition in Kobe, and we’ll talk. I told him I don’t have the means to purchase a ticket, but I’ll meet him at the gates. He said that I can watch as a guest. Those were the days when money wasn’t an issue in Japan!

I got on the train and went to talk to the manager and watch the fights. He told me that even though I was over the age limit (by one year) he said I’d be able to do the test again. I was very happy, and told myself this was my last chance! But again I asked about the visa issue, and was told if you pass the test there would be an answer.

I returned and started training and preparing for that test. That final test( for me) was November 23rd,1996. I was mentally there for it. I did my best and finished the entry test. At the end, we all lined up and were told that only 2 passed. I thought as before I wouldn’t be picked. They read out the bib numbers. I had to look down at mine, to realize I was picked! I went up in front and shook hands with Minoru Suzuki and Matsukatsu Funaki, then had a photo taken of myself, the other passing candidate , Suzuki-san and Funaki-san.

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Passed the test!

While previously taking the test, I asked the Pancrase manager what will happen when I pass the test, in concerns of my visa. Would they get me a working visa or what? I was told that when I pass the test, they’ll figure something out.

Having passed the test, the real issue was now:”so what happens now?” I was told by the manager to start preparing my things to move into the dojo. Back then, it was like a Sumo stable, where the new fighters lived in the dojo and did the chores. He still didn’t have an answer about the visa, but would call me with an answer soon. I received a call, and was told that I could get a “cultural visa”, which is meant for someone to learn a Japanese culture activity. I told them that this type of visa is a short-term one and wouldn’t guarantee a longer stay if needed. I was only in Japan for less than a year and a half by this time, and honestly wanted to stay longer. Should I have turned pro, would they let me stay in Japan under a working visa? He told me that after the visa expires I could train at the Lion’s Den in the USA. I explained to him that I’m a Canadian citizen and would still need a visa to train long-term there.

I called the Lion’s Den, and talked with Jason Delucia, as at that time Ken Shamrock was no longer affiliated with the Lion’s Den, about my situation. Mr. Delucia was very understanding, and told me that I could train there, and could try to get a part-time job nearby to pay for essentials. I thanked him for his advice, but told him that being a Canadian citizen, I would still need a working permit to live and work in the USA.

Having made up my decision, I contacted the Pancrase manager to tell him that I would have to decline in going to move to their dojo, due to the fact that I would not be able to stay longer in Japan as I intentionally wanted to. My choices were train in the Pancrase dojo and might become pro, but potentially have to leave Japan earlier than wanted, or deny the entry and continue my personal live experience in Japan.

It was a very hard decision for me to make for me, but finally I worked it out. I continued my martial arts training concentrating more in the art of Combat Sambo. I was fascinated to train in it, making me get closer to my Slavic heritage. The unarmed self-defense aspect, along with its leglocks intrigued me. With that training I continued on and in the end started my own Combat Sambo gym upon my return to Canada.
In 2007 for some reason, perhaps nostalgia, I began to look into re-joining Pancrase by means of affiliating with them. I contacted Pancrase to look into affiliating with them. They researched on me and replied back that I can have a meeting with them in Tokyo. Fortunately I was going to Japan that year in a family visit and was able to have that meeting.

I met the Pancrase staff, the previous manage was no longer with them (perhaps fortunately), and the meeting went very well. They asked me why I wanted to affiliate with Pancrase. I replied explaining my previous history with Pancrase. Also, because I speak Japanese and lived in Japan for several years, therefore having a better understanding of its culture, they were more welcoming to make me an affiliate of Pancrase. We signed a document and they brought me under their wing.

Becoming a Pancrase affiliate, I began to start amateur MMA and grappling events, using the rules from Pancrase. I also wanted to educate people that Pancrase no longer uses the open palm strikes to the head, as many still think that they use those rules!

To keep my connection with the Pancrase organization, every time I travel back to Japan, to visit my relatives (in-laws) I make it an effort to go and train at a Pancrase gym, which they name Ps Lab. I have been to the Yokohama Ps Lab and more recently the Osaka Ps Lab (Inagaki Gumi) to train.

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Inagaki Gumi- Osaka

These training sessions help me keep level up and learn new techniques and training methods, bringing them back to teach and use at my gym Club Kozak.

Sep
01

On my recent visit this year to Japan I had a nice opportunity to train with my Pancrase “family”. This time I trained at the Pancrase gym, located in Osaka city, named Inagaki Gumi (Ps Lab Osaka).

Ps Lab Osaka

Ps Lab Osaka


This gym is owned by Katsuomi Inagaki, a former pro-MMA fighter who was a participant at the first Pancrase event “Yes, We are Hybrid Wrestlers 1”. He is one of the founding fighters of Pancrase.
Katsuomi Inagaki-san

Katsuomi Inagaki-san


It was going down memory lane as the train I took passed thru Kyoto, where I lived and went to school, on its way to Osaka.
This time around I participated in a striking class. The trainer was Kenji Takeshige , a very humble, and welcoming person.
The training consisted of a warm-up, shadow boxing, then technical work with a partner. It ended with sparring. Every time I go and train at the Pancrase gyms, many people are very eager to spar with me. That means no break time! It’s not that they want to “test” me out, but it’s more out of curiosity and to spar with someone completely new.
Inagaki Gumi Dojo

Inagaki Gumi Dojo


After the training I chatted with Takeshige –san about how things are going and the situation of MMA in Japan now. I was pleased to know that the Pancrase events held in Osaka are still done in the ring. Kansai is awesome!!
Kenji Takeshige

Kenji Takeshige


As for the situation of MMA in Japan presently, thru discussions and my own observation, it seems to be in a recession. There’s not much public interest. Back when I used to live in Japan, in the 90s I could find tons of books and magazines. Magazines on MMA where even available in convenient stores. Three years ago when I went to Japan, I could find some MMA books in bookstores. This year, all I saw was mainly traditional martial arts and yes even Systema!! When I went to visit Nagoya, another city I used to live, I went to check out Koubudo (www.koubudo.co.jp/), a martial arts store. I was surprised to see the books & DVD section shrink. It was the same stock as before, as it seems no one is making new MMA DVDs or books. With the exception of Systema DVDs(!), which I never noticed before. Why has this happened? A lackluster economy in Japan perhaps.
As always, after finishing training with the Pancrase guys, I had Japanese curry at my favourite spot, Coco Ichibanya! Of course with a cold one!(Kirin lager)
Katsu Kare! Japanese curry with pork cutlet.

Katsu Kare! Japanese curry with pork cutlet.


On the topic of beer, I’m still wondering why in Japan they write the ingredients and and even have nutrition fact label, but not here in Canada. Would we to scared to find out what they really put in those beers?
Kirin Lager. Great stuff!!

Kirin Lager. Great stuff!!


Like the majority of MMA gyms in Japan, the Ps Lab Osaka was not that big, almost the size of Club Kozak. There were wrestling mats, a boxing ring , punching bags, a stationary bike and a small weight set. Simple. That’s all that is needed. No oxygen masks, battle ropes, sleds or any other high-tech gadgets. Just hard work. I’m still confused on why people want the new trendy things, when all we need are the basics to train hard.
During the rest of my stay in Japan, I stayed in shape by running stairs at a local park. It is a total of 120 steps. I worked up my way to running it for 10 reps, a real Japanese Pro-Wrestling workout! Stairs are a great workout, because one gets a great workout in a short time.
The Stairs

The Stairs


Another time I was able to maintain my fitness level on the family holiday, was when we went swimming in the ocean.. After a great swim, I noticed my knees with “sting marks”. Didn’t feel a thing, but must have been small jellyfish. Although a great workout, be aware what can be in the waters!!!
Jellyfish stings

Jellyfish stings

May
12

Many people, especially in the grappling world, will say that most real fights (even 90%) will go to the ground. I’m not sure if there are ‘real’ stats on this, or is this just a mythical number.
Fights that end on the ground are because people are untrained and get easily taken down, or people training in certain martial arts where they naturally react to go to the ground because most of their techniques are based on ground fighting.

A main important part is that you don’t want drilled into your mindset that you’re going to be taken to the ground. My belief, the ground is the very last place you want to be in the vast majority of real fights. Staying on your feet, one is able to analyze the situation, and have a better ability to escape from the situation. Should one look to ground fighting for all responses to a situation, one will automatically program oneself to naturally go to the ground. The circumstances of the fight dictate the strategy one will use to deal with it.

Assault by multiple attackers

Assault by multiple attackers


One must not forget, the vast majority of confrontations start standing. A one on one confrontation, going to the ground might be an option; but if faced with multiple attackers going to the ground would be a very dangerous option. Even if one on one, if the assailant had a hidden knife, ground fighting would be not a smart option.
Knife in a ground fight

Knife in a ground fight

There would be certain situations where ground fighting would be a natural option. Example would be on ice/snow (slipping), bed(house break-in) were ground fighting may be ones only choice.

Even though there are negatives in ground fighting in a real fight, ground fighting training is an extremely important skill for absolute confidence. Should one be forced to the ground, panic will not set in, because one possess these tools.
Having these skills will aid in getting out of bad positions (ex.mount), able to get up to standing position faster, and have the submissions to control or injure someone if necessary.

Starting sparring from the knees

Starting sparring from the knees


One has to realize the difference between “grappling” and “ground fighting”. In grappling, there are both stand-up and ground fighting techniques. Grappling styles that put a good effort to practice and use stand-up techniques (i.e. take-downs, throws)truly aid in a real fight. Training stand-up techniques help when locked up in a clinch, or when faced against several assailants. Should one start sparring from the ground the majority of the time, or go to the ground immediately in sparring, that could potentially cause a natural instinct to do that in a confrontation.

Nov
13

Krav Maga is another popular martial art that people often come and ask me if it has any similarities with Combat Sambo.
Krav Maga meaning “combat contact”, in Hebrew, is a combat system that is said to used by the Israeli military. It has become very popular and is taught around the world with different Krav Maga organizations.

Krav Maga-Isreali military system

Krav Maga-Isreali military system

Both Combat Sambo and Krav Maga are systems used by the military and police, the former used by ex-USSR republics and the latter by Israel.
Within Combat Sambo there are generally 3 ‘types’ within this system. Sport Combat Sambo (ie.MMA with a jacket), street Combat Sambo (reality self-defense suited for civilians) and military Combat Sambo.
Generally in the majority of Combat Sambo gyms (like Club Kozak) teach the sport and self-defense versions. The military version has added techniques of weapons fighting eg. Knife, bayonet etc… These are considered more “lethal” and not really suited for the general public, in my view. That is where the marketing comes in.
It is of course a great sales point, to attract practitioners by mentioning “this combat system is used by so & so country’s military forces!” People seem to be attracted to these combat systems that are military based. They assume that it will completely useful for the streets. Unarmed hand to hand combat is the last thing a soldier will resort too. More time is spent on armed training (ie. Guns) as in an armed conflict, it is killed or be killed. In a civilian life, this “kill or be killed” can have tremendous legalities if not deemed absolutely necessary in certain self-defense situations.

Most Krav Maga schools (some do though) don’t do freestyle sparring, rather they go thru set drills of certain situations. Combat Sambo, is heavily based on freestyle sparring. Not using sparring holds back the real development of progress in the martial arts and even in self-defense. One has to use real pressure training to get better. This has been discussed in this article. Furthermore, just doing set drills, one can become in auto-pilot mode, and never learn to adapt.

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Krav Maga knife defense

Krav Maga, unlike Combat Sambo, uses a belt system , resembling the Japanese colored belt ranking system. This seems strange, as this is to be a military system . Using belts is a great selling point for new students as people want a set goal. Using a belt system has its pros and cons,it all depends on one’s point of view.

Belt system

Belt system

Since Krav Maga is a considered purely a self-defense system it doesn’t work much on ground grappling techniques. Many reality based fighting systems state that going to the ground or ground fighting will get you killed in a real fight. This is also the philosophy of Combat Sambo which is in a real self-defense situation, one does not want to stay on the ground to long.However, if one’s training consists of more ground fighting techniques, escapes from the bottom and getting the top position will become easier to perform, especially if involved in a street self-defense situation.
Just like many other reality based combat systems, Krav Maga does not train with a jacket(gi/kurtka) , but rather with a t-shirt. As most people would say that we don’t wear a gi/kurtka on the street,but as my article mentions, training with a jacket is more practical for realistic street self-defense training, especially in a cold climate country (such as Canada).

As I have never trained in Krav Maga, I cannot give a personal opinion on it. This article was to give some differences that I have gotten from talking with those who trained in the style of Krav Maga or from personal analysis. Like everything in life, the only way to get the best view on something is to try it out, and experience it.