I had previously posted on my training at Coach Sonnon’s gym in terms of the personal experience of rolling with his students and with Coach in a private session. In this post, I would like to talk about Rmax Sambo groundfighting in general and its interplay into my experiences of submission wrestling.
I am fortunate to have been involved in Rmax martial arts training for the past few years, because this has allowed me to see firsthand, the Faculty Head Coaching staff’s explorations into the most efficient and practical teaching methods. The training methods appear to evolve between every seminar! I believe that “evolve” is the correct term, because it is neither a senseless addition of method or a random removal of previous tactics, but truly a thoughtful integration of the Faculty’s constant research and work. This is why you will see many students return to the Rmax seminars again and again and state the common refrain “it’s like something new every time!” It is both a retaining of the core principles of Rmax and “something new” because of the consistent striving for excellence.
I had attended the first FlowFighting® seminar last year, the Rmax Sambo leglocks seminar this past January, and Coach Sonnon’s leg lock workshop during our seminar in June. So I have a good familiarity with the basics of Coach Sonnon’s interpretation of Sambo ground fighting methods. What I did not realize, until engaging in a private session with him, was how truly innovative his methods are. My experience of Sambo has been limited to a small repertoire of throws and leg locks shown to me by friends and by Coach Sonnon. So I had simply assumed that Coach Sonnon’s teaching was “straight up Sambo”. We were talking after our session and he had related that what and how we were learning was NOT what was presented previously in Sambo!
Before I go further into this revelation, a brief explanation of “rules of engagement” is necessary. In any sport, there are particular rules and regulations that are necessarily followed in order to have a contest that can be judged and scored in a consistent fashion. Whether it is a combat sport, or other activities such as baseball and football, there are rules to follow.
A corollary to this is that the rules of engagement in a particular sport give rise to specific tactics and strategies in that sport. Or even within different rules of the same sport, such as one difference between college and professional basketball. The shot-clock in the NBA can make for a very different game than in college ball. Such is seen in the various groundfighting strategies of different arts. The game is in the rule-sets.
Folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling do not allow the submissions seen in Brazilian Jiujitsu, Judo, Sambo, and Catch-Wrestling. Thus you see the top game and hard driving style of the person with a heavy wrestling background. You can also see differences within the submission styles; Judo and Sambo rules allow only a limited time on the ground, whereas in BJJ there are no time limitations. In general then, Judo and Sambo grapplers have a faster approach. If they want a submission it needs to be done within the required timeframe, whereas a BJJ stylist is not subject to this rule.
Even further into the rule sets, we see that even though Judo and Sambo share the time limitation on the ground, Sambo stylists do not have to defend against choking techniques. Again, this changes the game even further. Now imagine what changes whether you wear a jacket or not, or if you are allowed to hit your opponent!
The heavy importance of the particular rules of engagement is now very apparent. To be successful in your chosen sport, you have to be aware of these rules and train accordingly. This is why even highly accomplished fighters have difficulty engaging in a new venue. The habits and strategies of their chosen skill set may be incompatible with different rule-sets.
This is why Coach Sonnon had asked me prior to our session, what in particular I was looking for when I wishing to grapple with him. The training would necessarily take a different tack dependent upon the particular rules we were employing. This is why Coach Sonnon stated that his innovations in Sambo are quite distinct from what is traditionally shared. He has brought a well thought-out synthesis of his studies in wrestling, Sambo, and BJJ into his teaching methodology. His application of Sambo is truly a different animal.
I had gone into our session with no expectations and a background that allowed me to digest the experience in a particular way. Specifically, I had wanted to work on submission wrestling without striking, in order to feel the particular “flavor” of rolling with a Sambo adept. I experienced that in spades for sure! But I also was lucky enough to experience the amazing synthesis of Sambo applied to the rule-set of unlimited time on the ground. I thus experienced not only a different game, but also one that I could take back with me immediately into my regular training sessions, as my club works within the BJJ framework of no time restrictions and allowing all submission holds.
For those with groundfighting sport experience, you should expect a very unique experience when learning Rmax Sambo from Coach Sonnon. For those who are just starting out in the martial arts of grappling, expect a wonderful fusion that has resulted from Coach Sonnon’s vast experience and knowledge.
And if this isn’t exciting enough, one of the last things Coach Sonnon said to me was “and it’s still evolving!”
*Notice that I have used the words "game", "sport", and "play" in describing Rmax Sambo, this is because the majority of the methods taught by Coach Sonnon publicly are for the competitive sporting venue. Of course, the skills and attributes developed in training for sport can be readily transferred to self defense. But just as seen above in describing rules of engagement, defending yourself in a violent encounter requires its own particular training emphases *