Skip to Content

BJJ vs Sambo – What’s the Better Grappling Martial Art?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and traditional sport Sambo are similar in that they both prioritize grappling and submissions. However, BJJ is practiced with a focus on achieving positional superiority and finishing with joint locks and chokes in Gi or No Gi attire, Sambo emphasizes a faster-paced combination of throws, joint locks, leg locks, and strangles, with athletes wearing a Kurtka, shorts, and Sambo shoes.


This post will give you a quick overview of BJJ vs. Sambo. (We will be focusing on traditional sport Sambo vs BJJ – and not Combat Sambo)

Both styles are incredibly effective combat systems with strengths, weaknesses and key differences.

BJJ and Sambo have numerous parallels and distinctions. It is true that both martial systems emphasize grappling and submissions, but they approach ground combat differently and emphasize different skills.

Related: Which Martial Art Should I Learn First?

AspectBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)Sambo
OriginBrazilSoviet Union
FocusGround fighting with an emphasis on dominant positions, joint locks, and chokes.Combines ground fighting with an emphasis on pins and joint locks, and (also includes striking in Combat Sambo)
Self-DefenseOriginally based on traditional groundwork (similar to Judo after a takedown).Combat Sambo focuses more on self-defense, incorporating strikes and a more versatile approach.
StrikingTypically does not include striking.Traditional Sambo doesn’t include striking (Combat Sambo includes striking)
TakedownsA BJJ fighter may need to learn wrestling for takedowns.Sambo includes takedowns as part of its core curriculum.
Ground GrapplingThe core of BJJ is ground grappling.Sambo also teaches ground grappling, but with different emphases.
Sport VariantsPrimarily one sport form, with some schools teaching self-defense applications.Sport Sambo and Combat Sambo are two distinct sport forms, with Combat Sambo including more comprehensive fighting elements.
UniformGi (kimono) is worn or rash guards for No Gi trainingKurtka (jacket), shorts, and wrestling shoes are worn.
Global RecognitionHighly recognized due to its use in MMA and international competitions.Less recognized globally than BJJ, but gaining popularity.

Sambo vs BJJ

What are the goals in each fighting discipline:

Further, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Sambo are two of the most popular martial arts disciplines, though there are more to select from. Both methods have a lot to offer in fitness and self-defense, but they differ significantly in several ways.

Taking an opponent to the ground and submitting them with joint locks or choke holds are the main goals of the grappling-based martial art known as BJJ.

Both BJJ and Sambo are very similar that majority of differences come from the ruleset of each fighting style.

How to win a BJJ match:How to win a Sambo match:
by points (based on takedowns, sweeps, position)by landing a perfect throw where opponent lands on their back (“total victory”)
by submissionby being pinned (even from inside you guard)
by disqualification of opponent (illegal moves)by disadvantage of being going out of bound while defending
by disqualification of opponent (for not being active/going out of bounds/illegal moves)

Conversely, the Russian fighting discipline of Sambo focuses on takedowns and throws with some submissions.


It should be noted that there is a difference between Sambo and Combat Sambo:

  • Sambo: grappling based (no strikes) and can win by points, submission, or “perfect throw”
  • Combat Sambo: includes strikes* can win by points, submission, or tko/ko

Here is a clip of combat Sambo in action with a young Khabib Nurmagomedov. As you can see, combat Sambo more closely resembles mixed martial arts since there is striking, grappling, and submissions.

One of the only major differences is that in combat Sambo competitors are required to wear a jacket (known as“Sambovka”) which resmembles gi found in other martial arts such as jiu jitsu and judo.

Brazilian jiu jitsu is a foundational martial art for MMA. However, combat Sambo is the culmination of many martial arts and more closely resembles MMA.


Although Sambo emphasizes stand-up techniques and takedowns more than ground fighting, it does incorporate some ground fighting.

With the rise of several Sambo martial artists such as Fedor Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov in the world of mixed martial arts, many have been wondering how Sambo compares against Brazilian Jiu jitsu – a martial art that has shown to be effective time and time again in MMA (along with Muay Thai and wrestling, of course).

What is martial art best for you, then? BJJ might be a fantastic option if you want a challenging workout and you want to grapple. But Sambo might be better if you’re more interested in competition with a more refined focus on takedowns.

A good Sambo gym with legitimate instruction is hard to find in the West. So if you do find one and are interested in competition go for it!

Ultimately, the best way to choose is to try both styles and discover which one you prefer. What do you think?

Sambo Martial Art Explained

Sambo martial art explained – what is a Sambo fighter?

Sambo is a martial art form that uses a variety of different techniques but has very strong ties to judo and folk style of American wrestling.

Just like jiu jitsu it does have a variety of submissions – however, one key thing to note that in Sambo chokes or submissions via strangulation is not allowed (chokes are allowed in bjj/judo).

It should be noted that Sambo has a larger focus on throws and pins and less on submissions.

Where Did Sambo Come From?

In the early 20th century its is believed that Sambo originally came in the form of Soviet Union government funded combatives for military and police.

While it has a very strong, visible influence from judo and likely a variety of local Russian wrestling styles, the shape of the modern martial art was heavily influenced by being shaped as a military combatives system.

There were three men particularly responsible for creating Sambo:

1.Viktor Spiridonov – Wrestler and martial arts master had a rich background in Japanese jujutsu and grappling during World War I

2.Vasili Oshchepkov – was working with the Red Army and helped develop a new hand-to-hand fighting system. Oshchepkov studied judo in his youth and trained at Jigoro Kano’s (the founder of judo) academy in Japan.

Tensions between Japan and the Soviet Union were high and Joseph Stalin (then leader of the Soviety Union in 1937) wanted to cut as many ties with Japan as possible and suspected Oshchepkov of being a spy for Japan which left an overall political disdain on the sport.

3.Anatoly Kharlampiyev, a student Oshchepkov’s, used his political savvyness and  worked to rewrite rewriting Sambo’s history by emphasizing the fighting style’s Russian roots in Spiridonov’s teachings.

The USSR State Sport Committee declared Sambo the Martial Art of the Motherland in 1938, making it the nation’s official combat sport.


Many Sambo fighters are on the hunt for the perfect throw followed by a submsion:

a perfect throw can win a competition match immediately (much like judo) if the opponent lands on his back*

Submissions/Techniques allowed in Sambo:Submission/Techniques not allowed in Sambo:
joint locks (ie. arm bars)guard pulling
Knee bars,any form of strangles
calf slicers/crushersyou cannot submit standing opponent
heel hooks*
ankle locks
all leg grab takedowns are legal (single/double leg)
*heel hooks and other twisting leg locks may or may not be allowed based on competition rules

This gives you a general idea of this martial arts form’s focus. As the title denotes, Sambo emphasizes using your body and physical movement to defend yourself in combat rather than weaponry.

Throws, joint locks, and strangles (although not allowed in Sambo competition) are a few techniques used in Sambo martial arts.

All these moves are designed to render an opponent helpless and can be used by a weaker individual on a stronger, bigger opponent

In addition, the tactics can also be used to escape from an attacker who has you in the hold and disable an opponent.

Sambo martial art is an excellent option for those wanting to learn a practical and efficacious self-defense and who have the drive for competition.

This versatile fighting style can be employed against larger adversaries, as the techniques are explicitly tailored to a takedown and control, such individuals.

With its focus on usable self-defense, Sambo martial arts is ideal for anyone who desires to gain skills in protecting themselves and learn a competitive martial art.

Sambo Training

If you were to walk into any legitimate Sambo training room you will see a strong focus on takedowns, pinning and submissions.

It is important to note that Sambo is highly competition based. It is a sport much like wrestling or judo that emphasizes frequent competition.

The martial technique of Sambo training has its roots in Russia. Combining techniques from several martial arts styles, including Judo, Jujitsu, and wrestling, is a compelling type of self-defense.

Sambo instruction teaches trainees a variety of takedowns, throws, and joint locks to submit an opponent successfully. Sambo training has many more advantages besides being a great technique to defend oneself.

For instance, it can improve coordination, flexibility, and strength.

Additionally, it can aid in fostering confidence and discipline. In the end, Sambo training is a great technique to encourage physical and mental wellness.

So if you’re looking for a martial art that has a strong foundation in competition Sambo may be for you.

What’s the Best Grappling Martial Art?

What’s the best grappling martial art?

In all honesty, it would be hard to pick among bjj, sambo, judo, and wrestling.

It can be challenging to select the best martial art for you because there are so many different styles that emphasize grappling.

Every martial art has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s crucial to do your study and select the one that best meets your requirements.

  • Judo can be a suitable choice if you’re looking for a martial art that has a focus on throws and takedowns.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also a grappling martial that includes throws and takedowns as well as a strong focuses on submissions.

On top of that, BJJ is an incredibly effective martial art, as it has been shown many times in MMA competitions. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu should be your go-to choice if you’re trying to decide which martial art focuses on grappling techniques and would like to become acquainted with common grappling concepts.

What’s the Hardest Martial Art?

To answer the question, what are the most challenging martial arts? Let’s take a look.

Both BJJ and Sambo are challenging martial arts that require dedicated learning.

From what we can see, BJJ might be the more technical of the two since it focuses on grappling and ground fighting skills with a huge technical focus on submissions.

This also means it can be harder to pick up at first, but with time and practice, you will learn the necessary patience and precision.

BJJ, while difficult to master initially, can be an incredibly effective martial art.

Sambo is more often seen as the aggressive one of the two because it emphasizes taking down opponents quickly and efficiently using a plethora of throws. While it does include submissions, it limits them and does not allow chokes or submissions from the guard position like in bjj.

It is tough to say which martial art is more complicated. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Sambo require discipline and expertise to master. Ultimately, it comes down to what you prefer and which style best meets your needs.

Final Words on BJJ vs Sambo

BJJ and Sambo have numerous parallels and distinctions. While both martial systems emphasize grappling and submissions, they take different approaches to ground combat with different technical emphasis.

Sambo practitioners frequently concentrate on throws and takedowns, whereas BJJ practitioners prioritize submission moves. Both forms are suitable for self-defense, but Sambo may have the advantage because of its emphasis on takedowns and throws.

The critical point is that bjj teaches you a full martial art with even focus among takedowns, control, and submissions.

This scenario is beneficial for self-defense since everyone can get tackled to the ground for several reasons.

Sambo is excellent if you want to mix if you prefer competition and a strong focus on takedowns.

The martial art you enjoy and are most at ease with is ultimately the ideal one for you. Examine both approaches to choose which you prefer.