Bloody Elbow Book Review: Frank Shamrock's Mixed Martial Arts for Dummies


It's been a long time since Victory Belt put out a new training manual and it's a couple more weeks before I get my copies of their next tomes, I thought I'd do a review of Frank Shamrock's Mixed Martial Arts for Dummies.

If you're famililar with Wiley's "for Dummies" series, you pretty much know what to expect: an accurate, not particularly in-depth, easy to scan and digest introduction to the topic at hand.

This book is no exception. Frank Shamrock and co-author Mary Van Note walk the reader through a basic primer on the sport with sections on Stand-Up Fighting, Grappling, and Becoming a Well-Rounded Fighter. There's also an introductory chapter and a chapter called "The Part of Tens" that is basically a series of top 10 lists like "10 Ways to Prepare for a Fight" and "10 Ways to Get Yourself Hurt".

Even though I knew what to expect going in, I still couldn't help being a little bit disappointed. Somehow my brain new to expect a light and easy primer on MMA but my heart wanted an in-depth account of Frank Shamrock's tactical ideas and strategic concepts and how he has applied them in his storied career.

Nevertheless, Frank's approach IS accurately documented here, and in some depth. There are about 130 pages of techniques, including color photos of Frank demonstrating each move and breaking it down step by step in the text. They cover all three phases of the game -- stand-up, clinch and grappling -- but I couldn't help wanting another 130 pages of Frank's insight and technical thinking.

There are some nuggets in here, even for the serious student of the game, but they're tantalizingly brief. Shamrock talks about grips a little bit and when to use what he calls the "long grip" and when to use the "strong grip" -- a grip I hadn't seen before that involves placing the bottom hand thumb between the index and middle finger of the top hand -- plus the standard figure four grip. I couldn't help feeling like Frank has another five or ten grips he uses and a good 20 pages worth of thoughts on when to apply each.

Similarly, he has a whole section on what he calls "The Five Animals of MMA." Three of them are positions: the turtle (basically a butterfly guard), the dog (on hands and knees), and the cat (the classic jiu jitsu defensive position adopted by a downed fighter against a standing opponent). Two of them are manuevers: the monkey (similar to a granby roll) and the snake (escaping out the side while in guard). This is a very interesting and original metaphorical structure and I'd love to read about 50 pages on it instead of 15.

His take on the eight grappling "Positions of Power" is very interesting at well. He (very) briefly discusses the head and arm hold" (aka the scarf-hold), side mount, the head wrestle (aka north-south), the mount, leg hold (downed opponent's ankles gripped in your armpits), rear mount, rear side mount and rear head wrestle (north-south with opponent belly down). Unfortunately he doesn't discuss achieving these positions, transitioning from one to another, or attacking from these positions.

Similarly his striking section is fundamentally sound, but incomplete. There's a discussion of basic strikes and even a little bit on combinations, but there is only the briefest discussion of footwork. Again, he's got a fascinating metaphor -- using the clock as a guide for footwork, ie. imagine you are standing on a clock. Keep your opponent at 12 o'clock, move to 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock to strike. Frustratingly, this is about all the discussion we get in the book.

The submission and escape sections are also nice, as you'd expect, since those are the skills Frank most famously applied in his great fights. But they are also just brief sketches that just scream for elaboration. I want to see set ups and combinations of submission attacks, not just the holds themselves. I'd also love to hear from Frank about some of the epic submission battles from his Pancrase days.

But beggars can't be choosers and that isn't the kind of book Wiley puts out. Mixed Martial Arts for Dummies delivers on its premise and then some. Comparing quite favorably to Rich Franklin's Complete Idiot's Guide to Ultimate Fighting as the best introductory MMA technique book on the market.

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