Sambo vs BJJ: Which is the Superior Combat Martial Art?

Sambo vs BJJ: Which is the Superior Combat Martial Art?

For years, BJJ has been the most widely utilized and effective martial art within the sport of MMA. Although, there is another form of grappling that is challenging BJJ as the most effective martial art in MMA. And that form of grappling is the sambo martial art!  

Many fighters from eastern Europe and Russian states that specialize in Sambo have been dominant in the UFC and Bellator. It leave’s folks to ask the question, which is the superior combat martial art – is it Russian Combat Sambo or is it Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?  

Sambo vs BJJ

Let’s take a look at how BJJ and Sambo match up with one another. We’ll detail everything about each martial art and see which is the superior combat martial art. 

Origins of BJJ

We’ve gone over the origins of BJJ many times before in other articles, so here is a quick history lesson. BJJ was developed in Brazil during the early 1900s.  

Students of Judo creator Jigoro Kano arrived in Brazil to teach the art of Judo. Particularly Mitsuyo Maeda, Geo Omor, and Soshihiro Satake.  

Students of these Judo masters included Carlos Gracie, Helio Gracie, and Luiz Franca, who would create the art of BJJ. It was derived from Judo with a more focus on ground fighting rather than throws.  

Jiu Jitsu has come a long way in just a short period becoming one of the most practiced martial arts in the world. 

Origins of Sambo

Like BJJ, Sambo was also derived from Judo. Vasili Oshechepkov was a martial artist from the USSR that traveled to Japan to learn Judo directly from Jigoro Kano. Going on to earn a 2nd degree black belt under Master Kano.  

Oshechepkov took back what he learned in Japan and with the help of others began developing a new martial art. What he helped create would become known as the art of Sambo.  

But just what is Sambo and what does it mean? The Russian word Sambo directly translates to “self defense without weapons” and the correct official spelling is “Sombo.” This grappling art is a mix of Judo and catch wrestling and is the national martial art of Russia.  

It was developed in the early 1920s around the same time as BJJ in Brazil. Today Sambo is a globally recognized form of amateur wrestling and practiced by many top MMA fighters. This includes Fedor Emilianenko and the reigning undefeated UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.  

Origins of Sambo

Similarities Between Sambo vs BJJ

There are two noticeable similarities between Sambo vs BJJ. Those are that both were created based off of Judo and are submission grappling martial arts.  

The goal of both martial arts is to get your opponent to the ground and submit them. They just have different philosophies and methods to go about doing this. 

Difference between Sambo vs BJJ

While both are forms of grappling, they have some very distinct differences between the other. BJJ is known as arte suave(the gentle art) that is flowing, while Sambo’s philosophy is a bit more forceful and brutal.  

With Sambo having a base in amateur wrestling a bit more brute force is imposed in this combat art. BJJ on the other hand stresses the use of technique and less strength to control to beat an opponent.  

Both also have philosophical differences in the techniques taught. BJJ is geared more towards strangulations, while Sambo wrestling is geared more towards limb locks. Particularly various types of leg locks that are generally frowned upon in BJJ.  

There is also another form of Sambo called “Combat Sambo” that is basically MMA with a different rule set. This is vastly different from BJJ, where striking is not typically allowed.

Rules Difference - Sambo vs BJJ

These two combat martial arts differ between the rule sets of their respective competitions. BJJ competitions have their own special rule sets, while Sambo is more similar to Judo competitions with a few big differences.  

In both, you can win by points or submissions, but both only allow certain types of submissions. Choke holds and limb locks in BJJ, while Sambo only allows limb locks and no chokes are allowed in Sambo wrestling.   

You can also win a Sambo match by performing a perfect throw much like in Judo. 

Sambo vs BJJ

BJJ Rules Explained

In BJJ, the goal is to get to a dominant position and submit your opponent. The other method of winning a match is to rack up as many points as you can in the allotted time of the match.  

Here is the point system of a BJJ match: 

  • Takedown/Throw: 2 Points 
  • Sweep: 2 Points 
  • Passing The Guard: 3 Points 
  • Knee Mount: 2 Points 
  • Mount/Back Mount: 4 Points  

A sanctioned IBJJF match can last between 4-10 minutes depending on age, belt level, and gender. At the end of a match if there’s no submission, the competitor with the most points wins the match. If the match ends in a tie, then the match is decided by the referee. 

Sambo Rules Explained

Sambo competitions also have a point system, but they are much different than BJJ. In Sambo, the goal is also to win by submission, but only attacking the limbs are allowed and no strangulations.   

The other goal in Sambo is to throw an opponent with perfect technique, which automatically grants the competitor the win. You can also win by points like in BJJ, but the scoring system is different. You also win the match once you get a 12 point lead over your opponent.  

Here is the point system of Sambo: 

  • Perfect Throw(without falling down: Automatic Win 
  • Pins: 4 points for holding an opponent for over 20 seconds and 2 points for under 20 seconds 
  • Throws: 1-4 points depending how the opponent falls and if they’re on their knees. 4 points for landing on their back/2 points on their side/1 point for when the opponent lands on their chest, head, stomach, or shoulder  

A sanctioned Sambo match lasts between 3-5 minutes depending on age, gender, and experience level.  

Differences Between Uniforms

Another vast difference between the two martial arts is with their uniforms. The uniform in BJJ is a Kimono/Gi or rashguard and shorts in No-Gi competitions.  

The uniform for a Sambo wrestling competition includes a Gi top, shorts, and wrestling shoes. Combat Sambo also requires this uniform along with MMA/Sambo gloves, headgear, shin guards, and mouthpiece. 

Benefits of Cross Training BJJ and Sambo

If you are looking to become a complete grappler, you really should consider practicing both of these disciplines. Training both of these grappling arts will elevate your abilities to another level.  

With BJJ, you can learn various strangulation's that aren’t allowed in Sambo competition. Then on the other side of things, you can learn Sambo’s effective leg lock systems that many BJJ academies don’t teach. 

These styles of grappling have different philosophies, but the techniques do mesh well with one another. Especially if you are a student of MMA looking to advance your game. 

Final Thoughts

After matching up both grappling styles, which one is the superior combat martial art? Honestly a match between the two can go either way depending on the skills of the grapplers.  

A BJJ expert would have a clear advantage knowing strangulation's and being comfortable fighting off their back. On the other hand, a Sambo expert’s knowledge of leglocks and wrestling could prove to be a big problem. It can go either way!  

In MMA, this is a battle we commonly get to see play out and the outcome is always different. At the end of the day both are proven effective forms of grappling and have fantastic techniques worth learning.