Stratford Sombo, General
Stratford Sombo is part of Stratford Karate which is a martial arts school run through the auspices of Fairfax County Recreation. Stratford Sombo is recognized as a bona fide sombo school by the Association of
American Martial Arts (AAMA) and the American Sombo Academy (ASA). Belt testing and certification is through the ASA. In the near future, the school hopes to be recognized as a sombo school by the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
The goal of Stratford Sombo is to teach sombo. As an ASA school, the curriculum is concerned only partially with sport sombo or sport combat sombo, and thus, sport sombo only makes up about a third of the overall class time. The remainder of the training is devoted to defensive sombo or combat sombo. Although competition is encouraged, it is not required for testing at any level.
Director of Stratford Sombo:
Mr. D'Urso is the Director of Stratford Sombo. He is the only member of Stratford Sombo with a contract with Fairfax County. This means that only he can deal with the County for class dates and times. No use of the Washington Irving facility can be set up without going through him.
The Stratford Sombo Belt System:
The sombo developed in Russia did not have a belt system originally. When competition sombo was attempting to draw judoka into its ranks, a sombo belt system was developed for sport sombo.
There is a confusion that sombo awarded up to eleven degrees of black belt. In fact, the system had eleven belts from beginner to most senior world champion. That covers a whole range in skills. The "black" belt was awarded for winning a national championship, and all subsequent belts were awarded for achievements in competition. The black belt is half way up the belt ladder. The final belts in the series were bronze (for third place in a world tournament), silver (for a second place finish in a world tournament), gold (for a first place finish in a world tournament), and gold with an organizational or national ensign to indicate the most senior gold belt.
This belt system was discontinued in 1987, but at the same time new belt systems were being introduced in the US for combat and defensive sombo systems. The belt system for TKD was adopted for our organization with the exception that there are ten belts below black belt and only six black belt ranks. The highest belt, Senior Technical Instructor, may only be held by one person at a time.
The black belt system has two tracks to follow: practitioner or instructor.
Note: Unlike other martial arts systems, an instructor is also an evaluator. Evaluators are those who can award sombo belts in the ASA system. A First Degree instructor is officially an Assistant Instructor because he or she cannot promote a student to black belt. The rule of thumb is that an instructor/evaluator can promote to one rank below his or her own rank. The assistant instructor can promote up to black belt candidate. The Second Degree instructor can promote to first degree black belt, etc. Whenever possible, black belt tests will have at least three instructors on hand to make up the evaluation board. Smaller schools (like ours) are waivered to use less.
- First degree = Assistant Instructor
- Second degree = Instructor
- Third degree = Chief Instructor
- Fourth degree = Master Instructor
- Fifth degree = Technical Instructor
- Sixth degree = Special Technical Instructor
Stratford Sombo Philosophy:
VS Ochschepkov was one of the founders of sombo, but early in his life, he earned his second degree black belt in judo from judo's founder, Jigaro Kano. Kano developed judo in an effort to codify a martial arts system that could maximize effort expended to even the odds for a smaller fighter to beat a larger opponent.
Kano said that the smaller fighter needed three virtues to be able to beat the larger foe:
Not everyone has time to spend hours in the gym or dojo daily. That is not the point. The three tenets are to the best of the practitioner's ability and/or availability. The intent of Stratford Sombo classes is not to provide conditioning-physical education, yes, but not conditioning.
The purpose of the classes is to provide the technical training and drilling to take care of the first tenet. Some conditioning may be derived from this effort, but it is not a substitute for the student's personal conditioning program.
Sombo is an art that teaches potentially crippling submission techniques. Stratford Sombo is not about teaching how to endure or defy pain. Submissions will be applied under total control, and the pressure will be released immediately upon uke tapping or indicating submission. If uke does not indicate or cannot indicate submission, the tori is expected to use good judgement and to release the submission before uke is injured. Physical abuse or other punishment will not be tolerated.
Many more modern versions of Kano's tenets are found in other Stratford rules to live by:
- To be trained to the best of his or her ability and availability-to keep that fighting edge
- To be in the best possible physical condition.
- To be able to endure pain and/or damage until the opportunity to win presents itself.
- THE MORE YOU SWEAT IN PEACE, THE LESS YOU BLEED IN WAR: as Kano said, the prior preparation is the best guarantee that your stuff will work when you need it. With luck, the only defensive techniques that you will ever need will be your falling techniques-perhaps on winter's ice.
- WHAT YOU DO IN PRACTICE, YOU WILL DO IN A FIGHT-ONLY NOT AS WELL: it takes three weeks to change a habit or a mislearned technique. We have all class to practice good technique; we have no time for bad technique because it sets back you and whoever you are training with that session.
- SELF-DEFENSE CAN BE A TIE: you may have to defend yourself in a fight, but in a mugging or other encounter, it may not be a fight. The most points may not win. The sport concept of winning may lead you to carrying a "fight" to the wrong conclusion. Discretion is the better or bitter part of valor (depending on your viewpoint). One hard punch from a stronger opponent may negate all your fancy footwork. A mugger may be looking for quick pickings from an easy mark. A victim that takes too much time and makes too much commotion may not be worth the muggers time. There are times when moral victories count, but every situation is different.
- IF I MOVE FIRST, HE LOSES; IF HE MOVES FIRST, HE LOSES: at first glance, this may sound cocky, but it is good philosophy. If your opponent never gets to use his or her best moves, then you increase your chances of winning. World Class moves are useless, if the fighter never gets a chance to move. See the mugger from above, he is not likely to drop into a stance and challenge you. His attack is going to be sneaky. You have to be aware of this and your surroundings. That is why combat sombo is not so quick to go to the ground to grapple. Because one person attacks you does not mean that there is not a second attacker too.
- IF YOU FIGHT TO NOT LOSE, YOU ARE FIGHTING NOT TO WIN: when you fight to not lose (as opposed to defending yourself), you will not take the opportunities to win because you don't want to risk losing. That is bad in a sport situation because it gives the edge to your opponent. In self-defense, fighting to stop and only stop your opponent may be the best strategy because you only have to negate attacks until the attacker decides to leave. In a fight-sport or live-the other fighter is not likely to quit until there is a winner. Each situation is different and requires alert and competent judgement.
- IT IS A GOOD IDEA UNTIL IT BECOMES A BAD IDEA: a fighter who relies on strength may keep a strong grip because the use of his strength is comforting. He may keep this grip while his opponent moves him into a position where maintaining his grip is actually hurting his balance. The stronger fighter loses because he cannot give up the comfort and security in maintaining his grip. He is undone by his strength. A technique is only good while it is working. The second that it no longer works, the practitioner must switch to the next technique in the series. The ability to do this takes three things:
- The technical training to execute the techniques
- The experience with the techniques to know when the technique is or is not working
- The situational awareness to know what is going on in the fight and around the fight.
- A FAIR FIGHT IS BAD LUCK OR BAD TRAINING: sport rules are set up to have a level playing field, and referees are there to ensure that level and safe playing field is maintained. The object of the fighter is to figure out how to win. The object of the coach/instructor is to give the fighter the skills or tactics to beat his opponent. For example, a smooth technician may fall apart if a seemingly inept opponent keeps stepping oh his feet. It disrupts his fighting patterns and may allow him to be caught off balance by a lesser skilled opponent. In truth, an even match would always end in a draw, and tournaments have very few draws that stand (depends on the rules).