Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's Mastering Mixed Martial Arts: The Guard
So while doing the review of Jiu-Jitsu University, I ended up grabbing Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's "Mastering Mixed Martial Arts: The Guard". Here is a review.
This book is a little bit smaller than Victory Belt's previous entries, but none the less filled with great material. When I mean smaller, I don't really mean no. of pages but the actual dimensions of the book itself.
The book is set up in different sections with each section having it's own sub-section. Below is a listing:
- Closed Guard Posture Control
- Sitting-up Guard Posture Control
- Open Guard Posture Control
Double Arm Controls
- Double Wrist Control/Closed Guard
- Double Arm Control/Open Guard
Inside Hooks Guard
- Half Guard Basics
- Underhook Control
- Single Hook Control
- Cross-face and Hip Block Control
- Half Guard Troubleshooting
Briefly, I'll provide a quick breakdown of each section:
The Posture Control section deals with keeping your opponent's posture broken while in guard both in the closed and open guard as well as the appreciate hand/arm controls you will be using to accomplish this. The Inside Hooks Guard is essentially the Butterfly Guard and how Big Nog uses it for MMA. The Half Guard is, of course, the Half Guard and ways to get the underhook to either sweep or take the back. I say this because he only shows one submission from the Half Guard (two if you count the Ten-Finger Guillotine which he technically does from the opponents back but could be used from Half Guard).
The book has an Introduction that gives some information about Big Nog's background and how he got to where he is today. There is also a section on the MMA Guard as it relates to this book and the important aspects of it that should be learned. Each section and techniques have their own introductions as well.
Instead of a point-by-point of each chapter, I will go with what I liked and disliked about the book and reference those particular things. Please note that I am looking at this book from a Grappling standpoint. The MMA standpoint I use is that of a better than average knowledgeable fan of the sport, as well as someone who absorbs and dissects MMA in every way possible. I do not do MMA myself, I considering a decent enough grappler with poor to average striking skills. Now on to the meat of things.
What I Like:
- As a fan of Eddie Bravo's material on the Rubber Guard and his views on posture, I can say that I found this book very complimentary to those. Is there Rubber Guard material in this book? No. If not, why do you think that? Because! Simply put, I remember Eddie Bravo talking about the Rubber Guard and how it's not 100%. It is an increase in percentages over the normal guards used in MMA but it is not full-proof. If you can't break your opponent's posture (and he notes how there are people at his school who he trains with that can do just that) then you other guards better be on point. This is where I think this book shines. It gives you other options in the event that you can't get into your Rubber Guard. It is also a good way to work on breaking posture if you don't have the flexibility to perform the Rubber Guard base movement(s). Another reason is that this gives you other options when your opponent is just to big to pull the Rubber Guard on. You know the type; big guy, big arms, big shoulders, big chest, etc.
- Sitting-Up Guard Posture Control. I really like this section. Mainly because I preach something similar to new students who come to class and have problems with certain movements/techniques. Basically, I tell them, "If you can bring the person to you, bring yourself to the person." Also, "If you can't move the person away from you, move yourself away from the person." In this chapter, if you can't break the person's posture down to avoid damage and put you in a better position to submit them, then bring yourself to them as a means to avoid damage and open up some other submission and sweeping options. Some of the submission options include the Guillotine, Triangle, and Kimura. One sweeping option would be his choice to use a failed Kimura to transition to the Back. Is it a sweep or a transition; honestly, it's probably just semantics.
- Logical grouping. This is always a plus in my book because so many times, people get this wrong. One minute, you have a technique from the bottom, the next, you have a technique from the top, the next, you are doing a sweep, and the next, you are defending against a punch. Anyone who has read any of the Kid Peligro Gracie books has seen this many of time. No disrespect Kid or his Gracie co-authors, but group that stuff together logically! It's one of the reasons this aspect of a book, which should be basic and standard in all books of this type, gets so much praise. It is because there are still authors and publishers not getting this part right. Victory Belt seems to be one of the few publishers out there that get it!
- There are a lot of transitions between moves. He shows you a lot of options you can take if you fail to get one move, sweep, transition, etc and how it will flow into the next. It's good to have this in a book so you are not getting lost in a sea of infinite techniques with little substance.
- Posture Control. I like this. I've even heard Joe Rogan refer to this in a fight he was announcing. I'm sure everyone will hear it more often. Event at a Matt Thornton seminar last August, he preached posture. It all basically means the same. Make sure you are in the best possible posture to increase your chances of success while ensuring your opponent is in the worse possible posture to defend/attack with what they want to do. In this book's case, it is about keeping their posture low to you in order to avoid damage from strikes or to bring your posture up close to theirs to do the same. You are either going to literally attached to your opponent, or far away from them. This allows you to avoid damage as it is that mid-range of distance where most damage is performed.
- Downed Guard Section. I really liked this section as well it deals with the situation where you are "downed" and your opponent is standing up. Whether you were rocked and knocked down, whether your opponent stood up from your guard, however it happened, it looks into the options you have.
- The Guard. The fact that this book is all about the Guard in MMA is a plus. It allows the book to be a little more focused then other MMA oriented books. This also helps allows this book to be a better resource for those looking for direction in improving their MMA Guard.
- You don't need to do MMA to use these moves. Many of these techniques are bread and butter and can/should be used outside the context of MMA. Plan and simple, this is just good stuff.
There is more, but those are the main points, now on to what I disliked:
- Some of the sections are pretty small with only a few techniques.
- There was only two techniques for sweeping/transitioning from the Sitting-Up Guard. It would have been nice to have seen a few more.
- There is a section in the Half Guard portion of the book regarding troubleshooting. I like sections like this. Eddie Bravo had the same section in his books as well. The problem I have here, is this is the only troubleshooting section in the whole book. If you are going to have it, have it for each portion of the book and not just one. It would go a long way and if the trend continues, it will become a standard that is sorely needed in instructional books.
- The Downed Guard Section could have used some more techniques. There are only sweeps in this section. There are many submissions available, primarily leg locks. This would have made this section more complete in my opinion. Frank Mir showed us the damage you can do from this position if push comes to shove. Whether this was left out due to Big Nog's personal preference or from the BJJ standpoint that getting the sweep and better position would be more advantageous then going for a leglock is a question for him. I personally, would have liked to have seen those options there.
In summary, I found more to like out of this book then dislike. I actually like the smaller dimensions of the book as it makes it a bit more compact for carrying to class. The pictures are good with 2-3 angles in each. There are some sections where they show a close-up angle of some grips. I enjoyed the introduction detailing his youth, his tragedies, and his triumphs. The writing is clear with the details you need to get started. I do wish some chapters had a bit more techniques and well as different variations of techniques as some only show submissions and some only show sweeps. I also wish that the troubleshooting section wasn't just regulated to the Half Guard section of the book. I wish this section would become a staple of all books for each section of instructionals such as these. Overall, I can definitely recommend this book to the MMA types out there as well as the grapplers in general as you will find good stuff to add to your game as well as get some additional insight into Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira himself. Four out of five stars.
Reviewing this book was a bit difficult for me. I was going to do the review shortly after Big Nog's fight with Frank Mir. This created some questions after watching the fight. For those who aren't in the know, Big Nog was pretty much dominated and for the first time, stopped in this fight. It made me wonder about the material presented. I've also heard other guys at the gym say the same thing regarding his book considering his performance. It wasn't his best performance. I'm sure people may have thought the same regarding BJ Penn's book considering his previous performances against GSP and Hughes. The thing is, these are legitimate questions. You would be mad if you purchased a car and it turned out to be a lemon. If you are going to spend money on something, you want to know you are getting/have gotten a good product for your money. This is something any consumer does. When buying an instructional book, you are buying it based on the skills and accomplishments of the instructor. Seeing them lose a match can have an impact on how you view the material. It would be like buying a camera and then finding a review where the camera didn't perform as well against other camera's in its class, even though is has more then held its own in previous reviews.
What I decided to do is look at the big picture. This is what I had to do. Number one, was to look at Big Nogs accomplishments in MMA. They are, without a doubt, far greater than most, if not all, the other heavyweights and MMA practitioners out there. Two, as of this writing, he has a record of 31-5-1 on Sherdog. Of those wins, 20 of them are by submission. Of his 5 losses, only 1 (his most recent) was via stoppage, the rest by decision. This shows that his guard, submissions, sweeps, and BJJ in general are all very dangerous. He captured titles in Rings, Pride, and the UFC. Finally, for those who still can't get his last performance out of your mind, think of it this way. Frank Mir beat Nog by out-striking him. Not once did he play the Jiu-Jitsu game with him. When provided the opportunity to play Jiu-Jitsu with Nog, he elected to stand the fight back up.
Is there no better endorsement of Big Nog's guard and, in some ways, his book, then Frank Mir himself...
I hope this review helps.