Thursday, 6 June 2013

F.I.A.S. History of Sambo from 1985

The past year have been a disruptive year for F.I.A.S. (Federation International Amateur Sambo)  a pinnacle point was last March when Senior Members of the F.I.A.S. Council were suspended,. Their suspension and the reason for their suspension has yet to be explained and as such legal proceedings are being taken by the suspended members. I cannot understand why we have reached this point, which only brings International Sambo into disrepute no matter who is right or wrong.

So I have decided to look to the past as sometimes History can help the future. In 1985 Fernando Compte brought together many countries interested in Sambo and on May 16th 1985 in Bilbao Spain F.I.A.S. was formed. 25 countries took part in this momentous event you will see these countries list below. What was important was the Cosmopolitan F.I.A.S. Council and its Council members compared that with todays FIAS Council which is dominated by Ex Eastern Block Countries. F.I.A.S. today is a much larger organisation with highly well organised events but one has to ask the question do the administration of F.I.A.S. have the passion for Sambo of  those original members or is it just another Sport Business.  It seems all the International Sports Organisation are moving down the path of their sports just becoming a vehicle to make money and gain power. They seem to have lost the passion for their Sport  being  involved just for the love of the sport?

You will notice that the British Representative was Burt Jacobs he was the President of the British Wrestling Association. Like many of the new members they originally were associated with their countries National Wrestling Associations. The following year Burt Jacobs and the BWA asked me to form a separate independent Sambo organisation for Great Britain. The reason they asked me was I was Chairman of the Sombo Wrestling Sub Committee of BWA and had organised the very successful British Team at the 1985 World Games. So in 1986 the British Sombo Federation was formed which is now one of he longest serving member of F.I.A.S. I was to become FIAS Treasures in 1989 serving on the FIAS Council and for a while I held the title of European President unlike today it was more of an Honorary position, the BSF went on support FIAS Championships winning many International medals, it also held the 1989 European Championships and 1992 World Championships in Herne Bay Kent and the BSF have held over 20 British Opens

So why the name change? In the English language the name Sambo is a derogatory name for Black people, it originated in the USA and was to do with the slave trade. Many suggested we changed because of the PC brigade this was  not completely true. In the early days of Sambo came under the umbrella of F.I.L.A.  (International Amateur Wrestling Association) so in GB the BWA were in charge and they decided rather then use the word Sambo they would use the word Cambo, in the Cyrillic alphabet the sound of an S is shown as a C. It was Josh Henson from the USA who came up with the idea of the use of the word Sombo for use by the English speaking countries and this was accepted by F.I.A.S. Strangely enough only the USA an GB use the word Sombo, Commonwealth countries use the word Sambo they seem to have forgotten the link to slavery, yet we have been advised that if we changed the name back we would lose our Sports Council (Governing body for Sport in UK) recognition. Although we receive no financial help for UKSport it is still prestigious to be recognised as your Government Recognised body plus many have been brought up with name.

Since those early days  Sambo has changed there has been many changes in the demography of F.I.A.S before the collapse of the Soviet Union many of the Eastern Block Countries were not separate members of FIAS including Russia. Many of the original countries have had several different organisations representing them, looking back to 1986 when the BSF was formed it seems the only Countries with the same original organisations are Great Britain, Japan, Morocco, Bulgaria, Mongolia. The World of Sambo has seen many changes at one time there were three organisation claiming to be the World body and in 1993 with the collapse of communism, the new independent countries tried to take over F.I.A.S. which led to a split with one representing the West and the other the East, this would last for nearly 10 years and was the superb negotiating skills of ex FIAS President David Rudman who united all the different factions and made F.I.A.S. once again a united World Wide Body. Ironically the new F.I.A.S. regime have suspended David from the Council for the rather strange conviction of bringing Sambo into disrepute as of yet no one has told me exactly what that means or what he has done.

So why have I wrote this article it seems there are some in F.I.A.S. who want to change the history of Sambo, there some who want break up organisations of long standing because they no longer conform. This cannot happen to the British Sombo Federation unlike some countries we are a constituted amateur organisation recognised by the British Government and more importantly we conform to all F.I.A.S. membership requirements. The question is how many other F.I.A.S. Countries can claim the same and will F.I.A.S keep the same membership requirement?

On a final point is Sambo originally a Russian Combat System or is it a product of the old USSR? if it is the latter all the old Soviet Republics can claim to be founders? 

Martin Clarke
F.I.A.S. Grand Master
F.I.A.S. Service Gold medal
FIAS Special award for service to International Sambo

For more information on Sambo visit: Contact Martin Clarke at

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