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In 2006 the American Sambo Association launched the annual Pioneers of American Sambo award to be given at the annual North American Freestyle Sambo Championships. This award is intended to recognize individuals who have made great strides towards supporting Sambo in the United States. In 2006 three awards were given to mirror our first three years of existence as an Association. Subsequently, we will give one award annually.

Nominations for this annual award are based on any one

(or combination) of the following possible criteria:

Competition history;

Promotion of Sambo in the US;

Literature contributions;

Popularization of Sambo in the US;

Character attributes that represent the best of our sport;

Notable achievements in US Sambo;

Any other honorable contributions you may feel appropriate.

*Winners need not be members of the American Sambo Association.



Popularization of Sambo in the US

All American Sambists owe a debt of gratitude to Boris Timoshin. He is a living legend in the US Sambo community as the very first known Soviet trained Sambo coach to immigrate and teach in the United States, back in 1968. After many decades away from the sport he again trained for the St. Petersburg Sambo Championships (Veteran's Division) where in March of 2011 he took home a silver medal from the event after grappling people 20 years his junior. To learn more about Boris and why he is the 2011 recipient of this award, watch this short film:

2010 - Dr. RON TRIPP

Notable Achievements in US Sambo

Ron Tripp (born April 1953) Battle Creek, Michigan, is a World Sambo and Judo champion and the current general secretary of USA Judo. He is also a member of the board of directors of the United States Olympic Committee.

His name is well-known in the MMA world, especially among jujutsu and submission grappling enthusiasts, as he is the only person to hold an official victory in competition over veteran Brazilian fighter Rickson Gracie. Tripp was awarded Distinguished Master of Sport (Sambo) in 1996. He was promoted to 6th dan by USA Judo in November 2006.

A native of Lake Orion, Michigan, and graduate of Hillsdale College and Palmer College of Chiropractic, the 6 foot, 205 pound Tripp excelled in both the sports of Judo and Sambo. Trained by Pat Burris, 2 time Judo Olympian and Olympic Judo Coach, Tripp's fight career in judo lasted from 1982 to 1995. He is also a Doctor of Chiropractic. Tripp trained in Japan for six years, and during that time trained under Sensei Takagi at NichiDai University, home of MMA star Makoto Takimoto and 2 Time All Japan Judo Champion Jun Konno. In 2006 he founded C3Fights, a professional MMA company, and still personally trains C3Fighters at the USA Stars Training Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as well as Joe "Daddy" Stevenson and Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard of the UFC.

Some Career Highlights:

1970-1994: Competed in over 2,000 Judo, Sambo, and Wrestling matches.

1982-1994: Reportedly compiled a tournament record of over 900 wins.

1990: Submitted by Rigan Machado in 39 seconds, Sambo Pan Am finals

1993: Defeated Rickson Gracie in sambo by Uchimata (Total Victory) in 47 seconds.

1994: At 41, defeated 24 year old Andrew Bourdeau to win the World Heavyweight Championship of Sambo in Montreal, Canada.

Awards and titles include:

1994 World Sambo Champion

1988, 1989, 1990 silver medalist at the World Sambo Championships

1989 World Judo Team Belgrade

Distinguished Master of Sports (Sambo)

Olympic Festival Judo Champion Open Division

8-time Olympic Festival Medal winner

Mifune Cup Team Bronze Medalist Open Division

12-time Judo and Sambo National Champion and Pan American Champion

President of USA Judo 2000-2008

Member of U.S. Olympic Committee 2000-2004

Co-Founder and President of C3Fights

2009 - James "Chico" Hernandez

Notable Achievements in US Sambo

Born April 14, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois, James "Chico" Hernandez has been competing in wrestling, sambo, and grappling since 1968. Chico was the first (and only) sambist ever to be featured on the box of Wheaties. Being selected to be on the Wheaties box as an "Everyday Champion" is considered by many to be akin to "America's Hall of Fame". Over 15 Million boxes with Chico's image were sold.

James "Chico" Hernandez was the second and last sambist to appear in Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd" in October 1997 (the first was Greg Gibson in 1981). At the time, Sport Illustrated readership numbered near 23 million per week, not including web viewers. However, at the time of Chico's listing, Sports Illustrated had teamed up with CNN, making Chico the first known Sambist covered on CNN.

Hernandez was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and is the oldest known active competitive sambist in the USA today. He has been named to five different halls of fame and has been featured in numerous magazines including Ultimate Grappling Magazine, Black Belt Magazine, Inside Ku-Fu, Army Reserves Magazine, Combat Warrior Magazine, WIN Magazine, Amateur Wrestling News, Wrestling USA "National Honor Roll of Champions" and Discover Maine Magazine.

Hernandez was recently honored with the "The Civic Hospitality Achievement Award" during the 2010 FIAS Scottish Sambo Championships by the Dumfries and Galloway Council. He was also honored by the Scottish Sombo Federation with the Scottish Sambo Federation Appreciation Award for "Fighting Spirit" and his Contributions to Scottish Sambo.

During Hernandez' long competative career he has stepped on the sambo, wrestling, judo and grappling mat many times. His resume is far too extensive to list in its entirety. However, here are some of his sambo accomplishments:

1997 AAU Grand National Sambo Championships - Bakersfield, California (3rd Place Masters)

1999 AAU Sambo Nationals - Virginia (1st Place Masters, 3rd Place All-Around, 5th place Open)

2000 FIAS West World Sambo Championships - Dayton, Ohio (1st place Masters, 3rd Place Seniors)

2000 FIAS West World Cup of Sambo - Nice, France (2nd Place Seniors)

2000 XXVI AAU/USSA Sambo Nationals - Florida (1st place Seniors, Masters, Open)

2000 FIAS West Pan American Sambo Championships -Florida (1st Place Masters and Open, 2nd Place Seniors)

2001 FIAS West World Cup of Sambo - Nice, France (5th Place Seniors)

2002 FIAS West World Cup of Sambo - Nice, France

2004 FIAS British Sambo Championships - Kent, UK (2nd place Veteran's, 4th place Open)

2005 FIAS British SAMBO Championships - Kent, UK (2nd Place Veteran's, 5th Place Open)

2007 FIAS British SAMBO Championships - Kent, UK (2nd place Seniors and Veteran's)

2010 FIAS Scottish SAMBO Championships - Dumfries, Scotland (3rd place Open and Veteran's)

Between 1987 and 2003, Chico has achieved AAU All American status as a wrestler 31 times. He has won Gold at the NAGA Nationals 4 times. To this day, at the age of 56, Chico still steps on the sambo, judo, and grappling mat regularly.

2008 - DAYN DeROSE

Notable Achievements in US Sambo

Dayn was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1955. He began martial arts training in Judo, at the age of 10, under Sensei Mamoru Shimamoto. He began Karate training in 1973 under Teruhiku Uto, and Jujitsu under Alexander Vongries, in 1978. In 1984, he began to compete in Russian Sambo tournaments, at the national and Pan - American level, where he eventually earned an Honorable Master of Sport. His Sambo mentor was Alexander Kheyfets, a former Russian Champion. Dayn was a founding member of both the American Amateur Sambo Federation and the American Sambo Academy in the early 1990’s. In addition, Dayn is an active member of the American Sambo Association. He has been a fixture in the US Sambo scene for over 20 years participating in nearly all events, regardless of political affiliation. He has trained many Sambo and Combat Sambo notables. In addition to his club in New Jersey, Dayn teaches a course in Sambo at Drew University. There are few more passionate about Sambo than Dayn as he has published, taught, organized, and actively promoted Sambo since starting in the sport over 20 years ago.

Dayn began fencing in High school, by training informally with the Newark Academy fencing team. He later received personal training from Dr. John Tobey, a former University of Pennsylvania Saber Team captain, while fencing for the Columbia High School fencing program, headed by Lawrence Lubkin. Dayn continued fencing at Clark University, coached by former Olympic Bronze medalist Henrietta Bayer, and her assistant Francois, a native born and trained Hungarian saber fencer.

Dayn became coach for the Millburn High school boy's and girl's fencing teams, while in Graduate school, in 1984. Eventually, Dayn was responsible for coaching freshman, junior varsity, and varsity boy's and girl's teams (at the cost of all days off and much of his sleep). Millburn captured its first state Epee championship in 1989 and produced a number of national level fencers in the under 20 age division, notably 1996 Olympian and Pan - Am champion Tamir Bloom.

In 1995 Dayn became Head Fencing Coach at Drew University, and a member of the U.S. Fencing Coach's Association. He taught Judo and Karate for Sensei Mamoru Shimamoto, at his school in South Orange, New Jersey, for almost 20 years. He is now Chief instructor at South Mountain Martial Arts, in Madison New Jersey, which holds classes in Judo, Karate, Sambo and Jujitsu. He is ranked to teaching levels of Black Belt in Judo, Jujitsu, Karate, and the equivalent in Sambo.


Popularization of Sambo in the US

Stephen Koepfer is President of the ASA; head coach of New York Combat Sambo; and teaches Combat Sambo for MMA at Miletich New York. He has coached his team to wins in national and international Sport, Freestyle and Combat Sambo, Grappling, and Mixed Martial Arts. Additionally, Stephen is a regular contributor to Ultimate Grappling Magazine, Inside Martial Arts, Fight Fix, and has written for Bodyguard Magazine. In 2003, during a time of major decline and political infighting for Sambo in the US, Alexander Barakov and Stephen Koepfer created the American Sambo Association, which Stephen has presided over since that time. The goal of the ASA was to serve as a political-free guild for Sambo enthusiasts while hoping to mend fissures in the existing Sambo community and promote Sambo to new audiences. In a short number of years the ASA has grown greatly under Stephen’s direction and has experienced the following successes:

-Built working relationships with the USSA, AASF, FIAS, Canadian Combat Sambo Federation

-Built working relationships with non-sambo organizations including the Garden State Games, USKBA, Dixie Showdown, Combat in the Cage Series, Battle at the Boardwalk, Mas Oyama Karate, and Black Mark

-Presented Sambo seminars and training camps in New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Montreal (Canada), Belgrade (Serbia)

-In 2007, assisted in the development of a Combat Sambo training group at Ali Air Force base in Iraq

-Established in tandem with the Canadian Combat Sambo Federation the first North American Combat Sambo Tournament series

-Created a national monthly newsletter with over 800 subscribers

-Began Kurkta and DVD production and sales in 2004

-Regular tournament and fightcard promotion including the North American Freestyle Sambo Championships, the first joint ASA/USSA Unity Classic Tournament (2005), the Battle of Brooklyn, and the ASA Freestyle Sambo league

-In 2006, established the Pioneers of American Sambo Award

-ASA memberships in 12 states and 4 countries outside the US

-Maintains an active and regularly updated website – including free instructional videos, photo galleries, member databases, extensive resource pages, press pages, an on-line forum, updated news, North American rankings, and ASA/non-ASA event listings

-Launched SamboCast radio podcast show (2006)

-Established presence on all the major internet martial arts forums and databases

-Built established relationships with martial art media and organizations outside the scope of the Sambo community including the History Channel, Sherdog, Inside Martial Arts, MMA Today, and Expert Village

-Supervised the creation a new unique Sambo rule set called “Freestyle Sambo” intended to encourage increased tournament participation by non-sambo practitioners

-Made annual charitable donations to several worthy non-profit charities including PBS, International Brain Research Foundation, Kids Kicking Cancer, International Committee for the Children of Chechnya, and Doctors Without Borders


Competition History

This is a name that few people outside the Judo and Sambo circles know. But to those who know him, he is legendary in his athletic achievements. We should all know who this man is! This is man for whom the competition never stops! His resume is VERY long and distinguished. Some of his more recent accomplishments include a Gold medal at the 2006 USA Judo International Masters Championships; a Gold medal at the 2006 World Masters held in Japan; and a Bronze Medal at the 2003 FIAS World Sambo Masters in France.


Character Attributes Best Representing Sambo

Khassan is one of the few Sambo players in the US who knows how to put politics aside. Khassan is the Athlete’s Representative for the USSA and has also been an AASF board member as well. Like few others, Khassan will compete in any Sambo event no matter who hosts it.

Most notable is Khassan’s humanitarian work through the international Committee for the Children of Chechnya, which he founded. After growing up in Chechnya, attending medical school in Russia, training and competing in Sambo since the age of 13, and surviving both Russo-Chechen wars as a trauma physician and surgeon, Khassan came to the US in 2000. The ICCC has done incredible apolitical humanitarian work with Khassan at he helm.

Khassan’s biography, The Oath: Surgeon Under Fire, promotes Sambo like no other text.  His tale of survival is knuckle biting and his constant mention of how Sambo training gave him the strength to face inhuman circumstance is incredible. Khassan lectures around the US and world on book tours and everywhere he goes, Sambo is discussed and promoted.

In October 2006, Khassan was only the second person in 30 years to receive the prestigious Physicians for Human Rights award.  Dr. Baiev is also a past recipient of the Human Rights Watch Award.


Popularization of Sambo in the US

This award is self-explanatory. Were it not for Oleg Taktarov, the general American public outside the relatively small Sambo community would not know what Sambo is. Since his UFC victory, Oleg Taktarov has continued to support Sambo in many ways nationally through seminars, instructionals, and many other endeavors.  Any popularity of Sambo we enjoy today in the mainstream martial art community has followed the road paved by Oleg Taktarov.


Notable Achievements in US Sambo

Greg Gibson, the most versatile of athletes, wrestling success came in three styles and in three decades. In an international career that spanned 29 years, Gibson is the only American wrestler to win world medals in three international styles: Greco-Roman, Freestyle and Sambo.


Some of his many Sambo accolades include:

1st Senior Men 1980 FILA Pan American Championships

1st Senior Men 1981 FILA Pan American Championships

1st Senior Men 1981 FILA Sambo World Cup

3rd Senior Men 1983 FILA Sambo World Cup

2nd Senior Men 1980 FILA Sambo World Cup

(Second World Cup, First US Team presence)

1st Senior Men 1982 FILA World Sambo Championships