April 27, 2009

Book Review - "Mastering Sambo for MMA"

I chose to make my first leg lock book review the latest production of Scott Sonnon's, "Mastering Sambo for Mixed Martial Arts," because of a lot of hype that I had read over the ensuing months until its release. I later discovered a lot of the hype was written under pseudonyms by Sonnon and his students, but none the less this topic intrigued me because of a severe lack of leg attack books on the market. Sonnon had been all over the Internet talking about how he has "revolutionized" grappling and Sambo, yet he was rather quiet about the "revolution" until the release of this book with the DVD set of the same title. I have yet to see the DVDs. He is also a Bellingham, WA. native, so here is a little for the home crowd.

I am not going to lie; Mr. Sonnon and I have had our fair share of exchanges on the internet mostly because I simply inquired about his self purported championship career in MMA and San Shou competition. So I am going to try to be as objective as possible in my review of this text, and not allow any bias to interfere.

Right off the bat we need to discuss the misrepresentation of the title of this book, as there is little to do with Sambo other than Sonnon's background is based in its teachings, and their is nothing, NOTHING, about MMA across its 160 pages! In fact many of the positions Sonnon advocates leave you very vulnerable to strikes and kicks to the head (a major concern with attacking legs in MMA competition). Yet throughout these pages there is no mention of anything MMA. To the best of my knowledge Sonnon has never fought an MMA fight. He claims to have coached several "champions" but "champions" of "what" was never very clear.

Sonnon covers some Sambo leg positions that he calls the "saddle," speaks of his contributions and accomplishments in Sambo, and gives a general history (some of which I have heard is quite inaccurate) of Sambo. Other than that there is nothing that makes this book uniquely "Sambo-ish." It is a book on leg locks that could be from any style or system, and there is nothing in my opinion that makes it a Sambo specific text. Sonnon has tried to create a brand that is style specific, but I have seen the majority of what he has "created" in BJJ and submission wrestling. That being said I am no Sambo expert, so perhaps I speak ignorantly.

In all honesty this book could have been a very detailed lengthy article. I find Sonnon very redundant and wordy. Anyone who has seen any of his prior productions knows that he really, really likes to talk! And that is coming from me, someone who has been accused once or twice of over explaining a technique. Sonnon incessantly praises himself to the point that one really has to wonder what kind of megalomaniacal issues he is dealing with.

He is very critical of fast wrestling and fast wrestlers in that they are often sloppy with their control, and this point I think is quite valid and astute of Sonnon. Leg locks are notorious for being low percentage submissions in both MMA and grappling competition. Their are many factors we can argue with this issue, but many fighters lack a fundamental control of their opponents legs, WHILE protecting their own legs! Majority of leg attacks require your legs towards you opponents head and vice versa, hence the risk of a counter leg attack is higher! "Sonnon's saddle" is not the only way to accomplish control, but it certainly is one way.

Which leads us to the technical aspects of the book. Overall the control positions, attacks, and submissions are very good in this book. In fact many of the aspects of Sonnon's submissions are solid! I have been trying to employ some of his techniques and strategy into my rolling, and while I have not nailed anything solid the book has made me think about control and the possibilities of attacks via control, and those aspects certainly have provided me an edge in my grappling. I have been getting a lot of leg taps lately!

The pictures in the book, well.... suck. Both Sonnon and his partner are in basically the same clothes, their is no differentiation between one guy and the next. There are no captions which is popular now days, but the editor needs to ensure the accompanying text is very clear and easy to find and follow. Well, Paladin Press dropped the ball on that one! The pictures are VERY hard to follow with the text. Poorly photographed in B&W it is difficult at first to discern who's leg is doing what.

Overall this book is not worth the money ($25) to neither beginners nor experienced grapplers. As I stated earlier it should have been a lengthy article in a magazine or journal. I do not believe it is worthy of print in book format, and frankly Paladin Press is not known for it's "quality" martial arts books per se'. Personally I cannot stand Sonnon's ego maniacal attitude and this book is dripping with it! Technical wise... there are better out there. It is good stuff, but nothing you could not pick up with your teacher I am sure. Certainly nothing "revolutionary."

JAB

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