By: Grandmaster Michael Galperin, Six Dan Combat SAMBO,
From time to time, my students, instructors and even teachers of other martial arts ask me what I see as the role of rigorous physical conditioning in martial arts, particularly Combat SAMBO. At first glance, this would seem to be an obvious question. To be proficient at Combat SAMBO, like any martial art or athletic endeavor, requires a great deal of discipline and dedication, and surely physical conditioning is a necessary component of the classical study of Combat SAMBO. This is true; however, there's more to the story than this simple answer.
Students are sometimes uncertain when they attend one of my classes and see that our focus is not on "getting a good work out and breaking a sweat". In my schools, we focus on 8-10 techniques per 90 minute class and, of the 90 minutes, about 20-30 minutes is spent on the "warm up". To some this appears to be too little emphasis on conditioning. If that warm up were all the student were expected to do, I'd have to agree. Perhaps a little explanation would help.
My explanation begins with a simple acknowledgment of the scarcity of time – my students are typically people with busy lives who are trying to include the serious study of Combat SAMBO into their hectic work and personal schedules. I have to balance the need to cover the proper amount of material in limited amount of time while at the same time helping students reach their own individual fitness and Combat SAMBO proficiency goals.
I instruct my students in keeping with the teaching traditions handed down by my teachers, including Ivan Vasilievich Vasilyev – one of the founders of the Russian Combat SAMBO system. My classes focus on the techniques and the time-honored and tested manner of teaching them. In short, I use the traditional teaching methods to impart the maximum knowledge of Combat SAMBO in the least amount of time. In this way, my students can learn more about Combat SAMBO, and their ability to develop within this system is thereby enhanced.
All of that said, of course, physical conditioning is critically important to being a martial artist, and we try to introduce new and innovative exercises at each class that our students can take home and incorporate into their own conditioning programs. It's important for students to incorporate variety into their physical conditioning – it keeps things from getting boring, maximizes the effectiveness of the training itself by avoiding training plateaus and minimizes repetitive stress injuries, particularly to joints and connective tissues. However, as one of my students observed, "I don't need sensei to show me how to get in shape. I need sensei to teach me Combat SAMBO."
This strikes me as the right concept. The student's obligation is to come to class, take notes, and practice the techniques in his or her non-class time. In addition, the student must condition his or her body in order to be as good a fighter as he or she can be. My obligation is to impart the right knowledge of the art – in the most efficient way possible – to advance the proper instruction and learning Combat SAMBO.
Q: Grandmaster Galperin
from your extensive experience instructing Martial Arts, what
qualities make the most successful students?
A: A person of good moral character, who is
dedicated and focused, generally is able to grow within his
Martial Art to his fullest potential. I have seen some
students who are very enthusiastic when they begin the study
of COMBAT SAMBO. For some people they come because it is a fun
activity. When their training becomes more like work for them,
they lose interest, because they had the wrong objective as
their focus. I mention people of good moral character, because
I have seen some individuals who study the Martial Arts for
wrong reasons. They may be bullies at heart and come to learn
tricks they can use to intimidate others. From my experience
these individuals last no longer than 10 classes. They lack
the proper motivation that keeps practitioners focused when
the training intensifies. They were never interested in self
development, which is a major benefit of COMBAT SAMBO training
and of other legitimate Martial Arts training.
Q: You mention self
development, we hear this term referred to often in terms of
life skills both personal and professional. What do you mean
by self development in the study of COMBAT
A: The person who
just wants to study a Martial Art to be a black belt has the
wrong objective. COMBAT SAMBO is a Martial Art that develops
self defense skills in the individual, which help him or her
confront any situation they may encounter. I feel the study of
Martial Arts is a lifelong activity that returns more to to
the practitioner than they often realize. In the course of
their study individuals achieve personal success as they
master techniques. They improve their skills through practice.
They receive physical, mental and emotional benefits while
gaining increased self confidence.
As students advance
they learn to share their knowledge by assisting others in the
Martial Art. When students become instructors they improve
their teaching skills as well as learn more themselves about
the techniques. Instructors must answer questions from
students, that makes them think and learn more deeply about
the specific application. Students learn to interact with one
another while practicing techniques. In our schools we insist
that participants rotate their partners, so they can
experience applying the technique against individuals of
different size and capabilities. Tall people, short people,
men, women, boys, girls, thin, heavy individuals all have
successfully developed their talents in COMBAT SAMBO.
Q: Why are self defense
skills important today? There are various tools on the market
that can enable an individual to disable an assailant, such as
tazers, pepper spray, firearms, etc.
These devices were developed to give you an advantage over an
opponent, as I might add were traditional Martial Arts
weapons. I would maintain that there is no perfect device that
you could utilize successfully in all situations. We live in a
dangerous world. It is more difficult to travel today, even
within our own country, much less internationally. Most
personal defense devices would not be allowed as a carry on in
an aircraft. I also see searches are being conducted on
subways, trains and other modes of mass transportation.
Besides being more limited today in being able to carry
external devices, any device can fail, especially if it is
mechanical. If an individual relied solely on some personal
defense device that fails to function, what will they do to
Also any of these devices used by
either trained or untrained individuals can be turned against
that person, if they are disarmed during a confrontation. In
COMBAT SAMBO we train to defend against weapons, disarming and
controlling the assailant. I have trained individuals in
various military and law enforcement units, who have access to
many personal devices, offensive and defensive. These
individuals were anxious to learn how to disarm and disable
opponents with their bare hands. They know from personal front
line experience, that they cannot always rely on equipment to
save their lives. The daily news is filled with stories of
robbery, car jackings, rape, terrorist attacks, gang activity.
A life threatening situation can occur at any time or
place. People are attacked in their own homes, at work, at
school. COMBAT SAMBO training helps prepare you mentally and
physically to react to threatening situations without relying
on weapons as your primary means of defense. Most people fail
to act in a dangerous situation because they become paralyzed
by fear. Proper self defense training gives you confidence and
helps overcome that paralyzing fear.
Q: You mention military and law
enforcement applications, is that where most of your students
A: COMBAT SAMBO students come
from very diverse backgrounds. We have students who are
professionals, like doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women,
social workers. There are students, policemen, housewives,
warehouse workers, government employees, etc.
Q: What philosophy would you
like to spread through your schools and students?
A: I would like to teach as many responsible
individuals as possible the skills to survive. I wish my
students to become teachers who will continue to assist other
students in developing their skills. No student of COMBAT
SAMBO is less important than any other student. I personally
try to spend time with every student, helping them in their
personal journey within Martial Arts. We are on this path
together and everyone has had help to get where he is today. I
wish to continue this spirit.
Q: What do you say to
individuals who indicate they have no time to spare to study
A: Part of everyone's self
development is learning to manage their time. We are all faced
with the same challenge of making the best use of the time we
have for work obligations, family activities, personal
development, recreational activities and various other demands
on our time. Like any other worthwhile endeavor, training in
the Martial Arts requires commitment and self discipline. You
must make the conscious choice between conflicting activities
that occur at the same time. When you commit yourself to the
practice of a Martial Art you must follow through and
participate as much as possible. The practice of COMBAT SAMBO
is not all work and no play. We enjoy the activities and the
company of other individuals interested in the same pursuit.
Learning is an enjoyable experience. It is continuously
reinforced by successfully executing techniques. You learn
constantly, picking up fine details that you may have missed
previously. This is exciting and stimulating for students. It
is gratifying for me to see students express their enthusiasm
when they are successful, because I understand that they
realize they are growing as individuals.