Sunderland sambo wrestler Barry Gibson ready for international martial arts competition + VIDEO

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SUNDERLAND scrapper Barry Gibson admits he remains on a steep learning curve as he prepares for his second international competition in the obscure art of sambo wrestling.

Gibson is no stranger to the martial arts arena after spending almost 30 years practising judo before eventually becoming a third dan.

But after first sampling the Russian sport of sambo wrestling a decade ago, the 37-year-old’s interest in the discipline increased last year when he won the Scottish Championships, despite relying on judo holds.

Gibson, who runs the Grapplefit gym in Carley Hill, was subsequently selected as the heavyweight entrant for the British team in last year’s World Championships in Lithuania.

A first-round loss followed, but Gibson was not deterred and has brushed up on the various submission holds which separate sambo from judo in preparation for the European Championships, which get underway in Moscow in May 17.

Gibson told the Echo: “I won the Scottish Championships, which was my first venture into the sport and I got picked for Team GB.

“Unfortunately, I lost my first round fight there. I was well beaten and ended up not competing again, but it was a massive eye opener.

“I have to get to grips with the leg locks, but it’s a bit like a boxer becoming a kick-boxer. You’re alright with the punches at first, but struggle with the kicks.

“Sambo uses the majority of the same rules as judo, but with the submission holds, it is a bit more like MMA.

“It’s growing in popularity all the time, though, and there are hopes that it could be one of the test events in the 2016 Olympics.”

Gibson hopes his forays into sambo will spread the sport’s message after already making initial plans to launch a training class at Grapplefit.

He has already incorporated elements of sambo into his work as a strength conditioning coach for the likes of MMA fighters Andrew Fisher, Phil De Fries and Ross Pearson, along with Seaham Rugby Club.

“There is no sambo club in the North East,” added Gibson. “It will be the first of its kind when it is up and running.

“GB sambo is still really young and I’m hoping to build a bigger pool of talent.

“I have to go to Milton Keynes for squad sessions and you have to travel around quite a bit because it is such a small group of fighters in the country.

“It’s great for existing athletes if they want to add an extra element to their game, though.

“Wrestling is the oldest sport there is and in terms of fitness, it can be hugely beneficial.”