A robust tracking control scheme based on variable structure systems (VSS) theory is presented to cope with the uncertainties and parameter variations in mechatronic arm dynamics. A modification of VSS is used to remove its restrictions with regard to chattering and required control efforts. By blending VSS with a self-organizing controller (SOC), a sliding mode self-organizing controller (SLIMSOC) scheme has been developed. In this scheme, both control actions and performance evaluation are executed using the distance from the desired sliding surface and rate of approach to it. Comparisons are drawn and it is shown that the inherent robustness properties of variable structure systems are retained while the undesirable chatter motion of the sliding mode is eliminated. The results are illustrated by applications of SLIMSOC on a direct drive SCARA type of robot.