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Russian Martial Arts

There are a number of martial arts styles and schools of Russian origin.

Traditional Russian fist fighting has existed since the 1st millennium A.D. It was outlawed in the Russian Empire in 1832, however it has seen a resurgence after the break-up of the Soviet Union. During the Soviet era the government wanted to create both military hand-to-hand combat systems and combat sports. The new styles included Russian fist fighting, Systema, Retuinskih's System ROSS and Sambo.

During the 1980s and after the fall of Communism the interest to the folk martial arts re-awoke. Through ethnographic study, many new styles based on the folk styles appeared. The two most famous new styles of that era are the Russian All-Round Fighting, which is based both on the old folk styles, old Cossack saber fencing and on the Soviet era styles, and Buza which is based on the old local village fights and dances.

Russian fist fighting

Russian fist fighting (Russian - Кулачный бой Kulachniy boy "fist fighting, pugilism) is the traditional bare-knuckle boxing of Russia.


The earliest accounts concerning the sport date to the 13th century. Supposedly,[by whom?] fist fighting was practiced even prior to theChristianization of Kievan Rus', at celebrations dedicated to Perun.[dubious – discuss]

Metropolite Kiril, in 1274, created another one of many personally-instituted rules, declaring expulsion from Christianity for any of those who fist-fight and do not sing a prayer or hymn at the burial of someone who died during a fist fight.[unreliable source?] The government itself never supported, but also never opposed fist fighting.

Russian boyars used the sport as mass entertainment, and acquired the best fighters for competitions.

The fights most often took place in holiday times and in crowded places. In winter it took place on ice. First the young children fought, then every pair was more grown up than the previous, the last were the most notable fist fighters.

In two orders released in 1684 and 1686 fist fighting was forbidden, but the sport continued to live.

All regions had their heroes at the sport, but the region with the most famous ones historically is Tula.

There are documents saying Peter the Great liked to organize fist fights "in order to show the ability of the Russian people".

In 1751, a mass fist fight took place on a street in Saint Petersburg, about which the Empress Elizabeth of Russia found out. After that the Empress forbade the organization of fist fights on the territory of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

During the reign of Catherine the Great, the popularity of fist fighting was growing again, and it is said that count Orlov was a good fist fighter himself and even invited notable fist fighters to compare powers.

In 1832, Nicholas I of Russia completely forbade fist fights as "harmful fun".

Sambo (Russian Martial Arts)

Sambo (Russian: са́мбо, IPA: [ˈsambə]; САМозащита Без Оружия) is a Russian martial art and combat sport. The word "SAMBO" is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as "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. Intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts, Sambo has roots in Japanese Judo, international styles of wrestling, plus traditional folk styles of wrestling such as: Armenian Kokh, Georgian Chidaoba, Romanian Trîntǎ, Tatar Köräş, Uzbek Kurash, Mongolian Khapsagay and Azerbaijani Gulesh. The pioneers of Sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the political purges of 1937 after accusations of being a Japanese spy. Oshchepkov spent much of his life living in Japan and training judo under its founder Kano Jigoro. The two men independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as Sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov's judo-based system, then called "Freestyle Wrestling," Spiridonov's style was softer and less strength dependent. This was in large part due to Spiridonov's injuries sustained during World War I. Anatoly Kharlampiev, a student of Vasili Oshchepkov, is often considered the founder of Sport Sambo. In 1938, it was recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee.


Systema (Система, literally meaning The System) is a Russian martial art. Training includes, but is not limited to: hand-to-hand combat, grappling, knife fighting, and fire-arms training. Training involves drills and sparring without set kata. It focuses mainly on controlling the six body levers (elbows, neck, knees, waist, ankles, and shoulders) through pressure point application, striking, and weapon applications. It is still relatively unknown, but Systema or relatives to it are being taught by several practitioners inside and outside of Russia. Systema is often advertised as being a martial art employed by some Russian Spetsnaz units.

Retuinskih's System ROSS

"ROSS" redirects here. For other uses, see Ross (disambiguation).

Retuinskih System ROSS (Russian: РОСС, short for Росси́йская Оте́чественная Систе́ма Самозащи́ты; English transliteration: Rossiyskaya Otechestvennaya Sistema Samozashchity; translated as Russian Native System of Self-Defense) is a martial system trademarked by Russian Cossacks General Alexander Retuinskih related to Systema. ROSS is its official name given by the All-Russian Federation of Russian Martial Arts (RFRMA). It is conceived more as a methodology of performance enhancement for combat, applicable to any martial art, rather than a closed system.

General Retuinskih's experience includes being a USSR Boxing and Combat Sambo champion, and a Sambo and Judo Master of Sports champion, as well as being the partner to Alexey Kadochnikov in Kadochnikov's Systema until their separation in 1991.

In 1991, Alexander Retuinskih patented Rossijskaya Otechestvennaya Systema Samozashchity or in acronym, R.O.S.S., "Russian Native System of Self-defense." ... The ROSS educational system was patented as "Know-How" (registered with the State enterprise "Informpatent" Committee of the Russian Federation by patent and trademark of April 4, 1991).

Russian Martial Art R.O.S.S. gained its first appearance and proliferation due to the efforts of USA National Sambo Team Coach and Champion Scott Sonnon, most notably in the 1999 Special "Russian Martial Arts" Edition issue of World of Martial Arts Magazine 

In 2007, Alexander Retuinskih was voted one of the "100 Most Influential People in Russia".


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