Are martial artists “hooligans?”

QUESTION: I am a blue belt in Shotokan karate. I was in Russia this past summer and I wanted to see if there were any martial arts dojos. People told me that martial arts were looked down upon and only taught underground. Is this true?
ANSWER: I had a similar experience. My wife went to Russia for several weeks to teach high school English. I asked if I could teach karate to the physical education students. When I got to the school, they kept putting me off with one excuse after another. Finally, one of the teachers leveled with me and told me that I would never be allowed to teach karate because it was considered to be “hooliganism” associated with criminals.

There is a Russian martial art called Sambo which roughly translates to “self-defense without weapons.” There are two forms of Sambo. Regular Sambo is a recognized wrestling form without martial arts punches and kicks. There is also Combat Sambo which is “anything goes” and is associated with the Spetsnaz, the Russian Special Forces.

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