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Self-defense without weapons

Representatives of more than 72 countries, 50 athletes and at least 3,000 guests participated in the Sambo World Championship.

The Sambo World Championship took place in Yerevan from November 10 to 12, attracting participants from over 72 countries. The event featured 500 athletes and welcomed at least 3,000 guests. The Armenian national teams demonstrated strong performances, securing a total of 10 medals—5 silver and 5 bronze. Davit Grigoryan, Boris Shatveryan, Avetik Poghosyan, Aram Aghajanyan, and Vahram Grigoryan secured silver medals, while Vahagn Chalyan, Arman Avanesyan, Sargis Vardanyan, Varsik Grigoryan and Vachik Vardanyan earned bronze medals.

In general, Armenians have achieved notable success in this sport; headlines such as "Armenian sambo player becomes world champion" frequently appear in the global press. In fact, the secret is evident: sambo is essentially a rebranded version of the ancient Armenian martial art, kokh. This is how Armenian sambo is known. Testimonies about kokh can be found in the memoirs of numerous travelers who passed through Armenia.

Kokh is one of the oldest martial arts in the world, and Armenians have depicted it in stone inscriptions. Specifically, in the Holy Cross Church of Lake Van, there are sculptures featuring images of kokh, dating back to the 10th century. Furthermore, these sculptures represent the oldest known depictions of this subject. Considering that the Turks arrived in Anatolia in the 11th century and Armenians had been present there since time immemorial, the sculptures portray the Armenian lifestyle.

Kokh sport has two types: Lori and Shirak. In Lori's kokh, wrestlers wore special outfits and could grab the opponent's clothes during grounding or pushing tricks. In Shirak's kokh, wrestlers competed only in special pants, and they were allowed to grab only the opponent's legs.

Kokh was a vibrant part of community celebrations. Weddings, in particular, featured kokh matches involving the relatives of the bride and groom—a quick and entertaining way to identify the strongest guys in the community. Matches began only after dancing to national music. The goal was simple: to warm up the muscles. The beginning of the fight was quite impressive; athletes raised their hands and started fighting only after hitting each other's palms.

The mentioned fights were characterized by a humane phenomenon, by the way. It goes against kokh's rules to humiliate a competitor, especially since the competition typically had a public nature. Humiliating another man from the community in front of the entire public would not bring honor to the winner either. Gentlemanly manners were upheld even in ages when the term "gentleman" wasn't even known. According to kokh's principles, lifting an opponent above the shoulders and spinning was sufficient to claim victory.

According to another historical record (Armenians value well-documented claims), as far back as 281AD, the Armenian king Tiridates III reportedly participated in the Olympic Games as a wrestler and emerged as the champion. However, determining the extent to which the competition was uncorrupted and the referee unbiased is challenging; thus, one must rely on the credibility of the written source.

In 1963, a Soviet stamp was issued depicting the Armenian kokh. However, the Armenian national wrestling sport, kokh, did not enjoy mass popularity during the Soviet period. Based on "kokh," Russian Sambo was created in the mid-20th century . "Sambo" is literally translated into Russian as "self-defense without weapons" - "самозащита без оружия." In 1967, the first international competitions took place. In 1972, the European Championship was held in Riga, and in 1973, the World Championship took place in Tehran.

In 2001, the National Kokh Wrestling Federation (NKWF) was established, and it was only in 2017 that the organization held several tournaments throughout Armenia.

13 November 2023