Lancerlot hosts Va. Freestyle Sambo Open Championships
by Debbie Adams
Article originally appeared in the Vinton Messenger on Thursday, July 10, 2014
The Lancerlot Sports Complex will play host to another unique sports tournament on July 19. This time it’s the Virginia Freestyle Sambo Open Championships, sponsored by the Modern Gladiator Fight Team and Grappling Sports , LLC, which are located at the Lancerlot facility.
Sambo is a form of self-defense first developed in the Soviet Union in the early 1900s. The Russians studied fighting styles from around the world and blended them into one. “Sambo” is an acronym for a Russian term that means “self-defense without weapons.”
Coach John Miller, who has organized the tournament along with American Sambo Association (ASA) President Stephen Koepfer, prefers to call it “wrestling with a jacket on,” and says its main base is judo. The jacket he refers to is worn by the competitors and is called a Kurtka. It resembles both a judo jacket and a Russian military tunic – with epaulets and a belt.
Miller runs Grappling Sports and the Modern Gladiator Fight Training Academy. He says he became interested in the fairly new sport of Sambo because it is similar to judo, but with fewer rules and limitations, and “it’s more fun.” In fact, Sambo is still evolving as a sport.
The Modern Gladiator Fight Training website says that every practitioner of the sport practices a system of Sambo unique unto themselves, and that the ASA promotes bridge-building across the martial arts.
Miller is a 1992 graduate of Cave Spring High School and went on to study at Radford University, first in computer science, and then for another in exercise and sports science.
He spent 10 years in computer programming, but now teaches at Parkway Christian Academy.
His background at Radford enabled him to work with renowned martial arts instructor Dr. Jerry Beasley, and to work as assistant director and instructor for Karate College in Radford, voted by Black Belt magazine as the No 1 martial arts training camp in the nation. He has also studied with expert Combat Sambo instructor Carlos Cummings.
Miller says he hopes that the Sambo tournament will introduce the sport to more people and get them interested in Sambo or at least in getting out of the house and getting active.
“It’s not about fighting, it’s about fellowship,” said Miller.
He says too many people today are caught up in the virtual reality of videos and the Internet when what they need is the reality of connecting with other people and doing something real and healthy like martial arts.
Miller says it is not necessary to be in prime physical shape or at the peak of fitness to take up Sambo.
“It’s good for all ages,” said Miller. “We currently have students from ages 9 to 71. All you need is an interest in being better today than yesterday. It doesn’t even have to be competitive. What we do through our Sambo and grappling classes is to change lives and build character.”
The Freestyle Sambo tournament is partnered with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to promote awareness of the disease and to contribute funds for research. Miller’s sister has been afflicted with the illness since she was in her early 30s.
The cost of registering for the tournament is $45 through July 18, and $55 to sign up the day of the event. Weigh-ins will begin at 8 a.m. on July 19. Final division bracketing will be determined after weigh-ins are complete.
Spectators are welcome at the tournament, but donations to the Parkinson’s Foundation are requested.
There are two age divisions: men and women ages 18-35, and the senior division ages 36+. The weight divisions for women will be determined by tournament registration. Men’s weight divisions range from 114 pounds to 250+. Weight classes for each division are limited to eight participants.
The tournament will take place in the downstairs basketball court area of the Lancerlot on open Sambo mats which measure 84 feet by 18 feet.
The length of the matches varies by age and ranking.
Each match begins with participants standing. The goal is to get the opponent to the ground and then to get them to submit. There are several ways to win, including throwing, pinning or outscoring your opponent in technical points. Referees judge the matches and are required to stop them if they feel any fighter is in danger of serious injury.
Some actions are not permitted, such as neck cranks, direct pressure tot he nose, heel hooks or twisting knee locks, any type of striking, eye gouging, pressure to the windpipe, pulling ears, pulling hair, finger manipulations, biting, scratching, pinching, use of Vaseline on the body, throws onto the head, or throws against any joint.
Competitors are required to wear groin protection, a mouthpiece, and a Kurtka jacket. Kurtkas will be available for loan at the Lancerlot at the tournament.
The tournament is sanctioned by the American Sambo Association and will be preceded by an ASA Referee Course presented by Koepger on the night of July 18.
In preparation for the championships, Miller will be hosting a free Sambo seminar from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 12.
Miller’s Modern Gladiator Fight Academy at the Lancerlot offers training in Mixed Martial Arts, Sambo, CACC Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing. He says his students range from professional fighters to businessmen, “but on the mat everyone quickly becomes part of the same family. Training with us has the potential to change a person’s life. Every student is important and we are fully committed to providing extraordinary instruction, with an emphasis on safety, technical proficiency and a focus on developing a constructive and positive attitude.”
Miller says most of his students are teenagers or older as “you need someone your own size to match up with.”
He teaches classes at the Lancerlot on Monday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings. Classes are held on the second level of the Lancerlot beside the track.
Miller is married with four children. His oldest daughter is interested in martial arts; the others have not yet developed their father’s passion for the sport.
Registration information is available from John Miller at 540-354-9356 or online at coach@GrapplingSports.com.