Fly through the air, land on your back with foe on your chest: This is sambo

October 08, 1990|By Robert A. Erlandson

Chuck Hart and Butch Jansen, clutching at one another's short jackets, appeared locked in a ritual dance as they grappled for advantage.

Almost faster than the eye could follow, Butch tugged Chuck forward and spun. Chuck flipped over his hip into the air and crashed helplessly on his back, with Butch -- who had somersaulted -- perched on his chest.

"That's sambo -- total victory," said Butch, who is more formally Officer Onas W. Jansen of the Baltimore County Police Department.

His conquest of Chuck -- Officer Chauncey W. Hart -- demonstrated why Officer Jansen was selected recently for the U.S. team that will compete in December in Moscow in the World Sambo Wrestling Championships.

Sambo -- an acronym for sam-obrona bes orusyia, a Russian phrase meaning "self-defense without arms" -- was invented in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Pronounced "sombo," it is a fast-moving "catch-as-catch-can" combination of freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling and judo, said Officer Jansen, who has been with the police for nine years.

There are sport and military versions of sambo. Taught in the armed forces as hand-to-hand combat, it includes moves to maim and kill. The Marine Corps has been teaching a course in how to counter sambo since 1979.

The sport version, which is included in a U.S.-Soviet athletic agreement, features combatants wearing short, colored Soviet-made jackets called kurtkas, shorts and gym shoes. The rules require competitors to stay in constant motion, with no back-pedaling.

"You have to keep moving ahead," said Officer Jansen, 29, of Dundalk, who was a state wrestling champ and an all-American at Archbishop Curley High School in freestyle and Greco-Roman.

He has wrestled throughout the United States and internationally and was a candidate for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted that year's Moscow Games. He won a silver medal at the consolation games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and won more medals in Europe on the Junior World Greco-Roman wrestling team.

"I've always wanted to wrestle in the Soviet Union. Wrestling is their national sport, and to be in world championships in the country where it originated is the big kahuna," said Officer Jansen, a brown belt in judo.

Officer Jansen, who continued wrestling after school, got into sambo in 1980 after seeing a demonstration at the Naval Academy by Hachiro Oishi, a world champion in the three recognized wrestling disciplines.

He began studying with Mr. Oishi and soon mastered the new style of wrestling.

Joe Neely of Covington, Ky., president of the U.S. Sambo Association, said male and female teams from 15 to 25 countries will compete in Moscow. There will be bouts in 40 weight classes in four age groups, from teen-agers to those over 20.

Mr. Neely said the association hoped to have sambo wrestling made an Olympic sport, perhaps for the games 10 years from now.

Officer Jansen has a good chance to capture a medal in Moscow, he added. The selection committee carefully reviewed the records of all potential team members before choosing, he said.

"Butch is world-class," he said. "We don't pick slouches to represent the country. He's a quiet, nice guy who does his job."

Officer Jansen's goal is to lose 20 of his 169 pounds. He has been tapped for the class that tops out at 149.5 pounds, and the maximum for the next class is 163 pounds.

"If I don't cut it down, I can't go," he said.

"We're going to get it off him," vowed Officer Hart, who is acting as trainer for the stringent regimen of exercise, practice and diet.

Both men work at the North Point Precinct. Officer Hart is a community police officer in Turners Station and hopes to join the K-9 Corps, while Officer Jansen patrols the Dundalk area and strives for a position on the SWAT team. Both are married and have no children.

Officer Hart wrestled at Parkville High School, but he hadn't been on a mat for nine years until he started sambo with Officer Jansen in January at the precinct.

"There's a 30-pound difference, but I can hold my own now," said Officer Hart, 27, of Parkville. "Butch is my hero. I knew him from his reputation in high school. He's a role model for young people. He's a good teacher, too."

So good a teacher, in fact, that in July when the two officers went to Canada as the only Maryland entrants in the 1990 Law Enforcement Olympics in Edmonton, Alberta, Chuck won a bronze medal in his first international competition and was forced out of the silver-medal round only by illness.

Officer Jansen, who won a silver medal in the 1988 games in Sydney, Australia, returned from Canada with another silver, in judo, and a gold medal in freestyle wrestling. Their exploits won them commendation letters from Maj. Walter T. Coryell, their area commander.

On their T-shirts is the motto: "Pain is temporary, pride is forever."

The biennial Law Enforcement Olympics in Canada attracted more than 4,000 competitors from 25 countries. They competed in the same athletic events as in the regular Olympic Games, plus specialty events based on law-enforcement work, such as SWAT team maneuvers and K-9 activities. The 1992 games will be held in Washington.

At the Police Academy, where they train, the two men said that besides promoting healthful activity, they were showing "the human side" of police officers.

"We're the same as everyone else, with the same wants and needs but a different job," said Officer Jansen.

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