The legendary film “Invincible” by Y. Boretsky was the basis for a series of films and articles about sambo by the Japanese researcher Yoneyama Takafumi

July 20 2021

More than one generation of sambo wrestlers grew up on the film “Invincible” directed by Yury Boretsky. The legendary story tells the story of former Red Army soldier Andrei Khromov, who became obsessed with the idea of creating a new kind of combat — self-defence without weapons. The film’s protagonist goes to Central Asia to learn the local martial arts and to improve his skills. He repeatedly finds himself in difficult situations, from which he emerges with honour. Director Yuri Boretsky based the plot of this film on the image of Anatoly Kharlampiev, the founder of sambo wrestling.

The film itself, the story of its creation and the prototype of the protagonist were the basis of a project by the Japanese sambo wrestler Yoneyama Takafumi, which he created in tandem with the director’s grandson Ilya Boretsky. we asked Ilya to share the details of this Russian-Japanese project and his memories of his grandfather’s work.

— Yoneyama Takafumi approached me in the spring of this year with a request to contribute to a series of articles about my grandfather and his film “Invincible”. At the time he was gathering information for his PhD thesis, which was based on researching the history of sambo and my grandfather’s work in that context. He told us that he had already defended his master’s thesis on the development of sambo at the University of Tsukuba, Japan.

In gathering material, we realised that this could be a much more interesting project than a PhD thesis research paper. Together we developed scripts for two films. The first will be about the making of the film “Invincible”, and the second will be about my grandfather and his work. In addition to the films there will be a series of articles in Russian and Japanese based on Yoneyama’s master’s thesis, in which he will talk about the value and role of sambo in Japan.

— What impression did the film Invincible make on you and at what age did you watch it for the first time?

— I watched the film for the first time when I was 4 years old. According to my mum, after watching the film there was no stopping me: I was always playing horse chases and trying to resemble Khromov. My mother says that she particularly remembers how I pronounced the last name of the main character. At that time I had a problem with pronouncing the letter R, and I could not pronounce the surname correctly. But the excitement and the spirit of heroism did not kill me.

I saw the film at the age of 10, with a friend of mine. We were under the impression of this film for a long time. Then I periodically re-watched it. It was my grandfather’s favourite movie.

— What did the director of the film himself, your grandfather, think of the film?

— I remember my grandfather’s opinion of the film. He liked the sambo philosophy. He used to say that sambo is not about attacking, but about defending your own boundaries, that’s what he taught me all the time.

His love for Central Asia and his understanding of its ethnic characteristics were key factors in recruiting my grandfather to film Invincible. He had many things brought from there in his office. As I was told, my grandfather managed to make the whole crew fall in love with the region. He could talk for hours about sambo and after working on this film he became seriously interested in this martial art.

All recollections and interesting facts about the making of the film will be included into our series of Russian-Japanese articles and video projects. We will be sure to introduce you to the results of this collaboration as soon as our work together is completed.