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Review: Malachy Friedman’s ‘Sh*t Your Instructor Never Showed You’

The bearded wizard is back with a brand new set of essential items in a detail-packed instructional for all levels.

Malachy Friedman
Malachy Friedman working through armbar sequences
Malachy Friedman/Black Label Martial Arts

Any grappler will find themself in a familiar situation: we learn essential elements that make a particular technique work and teach it with minor tweaks and a few variations. But sometimes we all run into the same problem in attempting to solve the puzzle of a defending opponent in real time.

So we often end up with instructionals to assist with the problem solving that is required to improve on the mat. That means we’ve got another entry from one of the most detail-oriented trainers of whose content I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. Malachy Friedman is back, having set himself up at Black Label Martial Arts in South Carolina after a long, long time training multiple MMA veterans.

Yes, you’ve seen his work before. In fact, you’ve seen it more than once.

I do need to mention two things off the bat, and they have to do with the user experience. First of all, the method of distribution is unusual. While not available for DVD, this instructional is accessible online by creating an account over at Friedman’s site. That’s easy and not unusual at all. But unlike other sites or instructionals, this isn’t downloadable as one big happy package. Each individual lesson, one by one, needs to be downloaded on its own.

Normally, this sort of thing would be made one big file or perhaps segmented into two or three files. But there’s 50+ lessons here, and they take a while to download. Each clip is less than five minutes, and it’s a bit confusing as to why it’s set up this way. There’s no app that allows for these videos to be accessed, either - that might have taken a bit of the sting out of it. At least if you have Quicktime, you can open all of them and merge them into one window with tabs like a web browser.

This isn’t a dealbreaker, though. Once you get your downloads ready, the content is simply amazing. Friedman breaks down common situations and positions, offers very reasonable explanations as to how things happen to get there, then helps the viewer work their way to a favorable position or a devastating finish. It’s not even terribly unconventional, but rather a series of smaller adjustments most people don’t think about. No matter your size, athletic level or strength, you’ll be able to pull all of this off without a hitch. Friedman believes in the technique and will effortlessly have you believing in it as well. It’s not a hard sell, because it’s just effective and sensible from top to bottom.

Friedman demonstrating a walkaround triangle choke escape.
Malachy Friedman/Black Label Martial Arts

There’s some content focused on the gi, although most of this applies to practitioners with or without the gi. It’s a nice thing to have since more and more instructional focus largely on no-gi and MMA elements of grappling. I can’t stress this enough, the actual content here is fantastic. Friedman not only walks you through his thought process, but demonstrates how things can branch out to something else. He’s great at showing you what you don’t know.

The video quality is, as usual with Friedman’s work, perfect. Nothing too out of the usual, the setups are basic with a few angles that make for great replays and reviews of each lesson. The fidelity is great, and the location is just his gym, which makes for a great background with the color scheme. There’s no waste in this department at all.

Sooooo... about that audio...

Friedman’s got the usual mic setup and sounds perfectly fine and clear. It helps greatly that he’s a very concise instructor and that he speaks clearly and issues efficient statements. The problem comes when the bumper music kicks in for some of the videos. It is loud, and also completely out of sync with everything else. It’s loud coming in, then loud again fading out with some lessons. So all the things that matter sound, well... perfect. It’s also very jarring to have this blasting through your speakers — or even worse, headphones — every time every clip begins or ends. I’ve seen this happen with other instructionals, but not to this degree. It’s not a knock on the quality of the product, but it does make for an uncomfortable viewing experience. Fortunately, this only happens in a few clips and not across the board.

Don’t let any of that deter you, though. The product itself is more than solid.

So the verdict on whether or not you should spring for it? Absolutely. I’d recommend this without hesitation due to the focus on technique and the emphasis on the right kind of minutae. Audio problems and unorthodox access aside, there’s so much to pick at and go back to because of the amount of common situations that get worked on. The versatility of the content being useful for gi, no-gi, as well as MMA make this very much worth your time and money. Especially considering how much care and attention Friedman puts into each lesson, letting you know exactly what can go wrong in any given situation.

Go ahead and check out his site at MalachyFriedman.com for all his content, create an account and you’ll be able to purchase your content.