Mastering the Saddle

"I just received the Saddle DVD, but I have not been able to study it beyond the first DVD. It looks like it will be one of the best DVD's in my library. While I have not seen enough of it to give a full review I can say that one of the most promising and positive things is Scott's attitude and understanding of what the martial arts community really wants. He says at one point that "classical" Sambo people may not like some of the things he recommends, but he is using RMAX Sambo for the benefit of people like me who train in MMA/BJJ, and primarily want to do better at rolling with others in class AND to apply things to self defense on the street.Based on what I have seen so far I highly recommend this DVD." - Mark Forest

"One of the good things about being a reviewer is that you get to see a lot of things before they become "the next big thing". This is definitely the case with RMAX's Mastering The Saddle DVD set, taught by Coach Scott Sonnon.

Leg attacks have always suffered from a positional vulnerability; you stood a very good chance of losing your position if you screwed up the leg lock you were going for. This wasn't such a big deal if you were fighting traditional SAMBO, you would be back on your feet in sixty seconds. In submission wrestling however, you stood the risk of having your guard passed, and in MMA there was always that chance that your opponent was going to stand up, pass guard and proceed to remove your teeth for you.

Coach Sonnon, rather than be precious about what is traditional SAMBO and what isn't, has changed his style from a fast wrestling game to a positional game, far closer to what BJJ is to the upper body. He did this by adding in a positional base to launch leg attacks, which he has named "The Saddle". It sounds like just one position, but The Saddle expands into a series of different positions all based around controlling your opponents hips and upper leg, preventing them from either passing or wriggling away.

The "Full Saddle" is essentially an extremely deep leg triangle, at first look seems simple enough. Of course, guard looked simple enough he first time I saw it too.

Coach Sonnon starts off the DVD set by introducing The Saddle as a concept, and two different ways of applying it to your game. He tells the viewer that it can be used as a bolt on leg attack game, or if you are prepared to take the long road, a complete lower body fighting system that blends with an upper body game. The first DVD also includes the core positions and submissions, and it's actually my favorite DVD of the series.

The following five DVD's cover every conceivable entry, sweep (yes, you can sweep from The Saddle), counter and re-counter from the Saddle and its sister positions. Despite the plethora of moves, Sonnon's focus is on teaching concepts that can be applied to anyone's game. The concepts he describes will start to affect other areas of your game, not just your lower body attacks.

I've said in previous reviews the Coach Sonnon seems determined to pack as much as he can into his DVD sets and this one is no exception. Despite the relatively high pace of teaching, the instruction is crystal clear and the sound and camera work complement the material. I get the feeling that this could easily have been released as two separate sets, but it works better as a whole system. Sonnon's teaching style also makes the DVD's easy to watch multiple times.

If there is a downside to the set it's that there is so much information there it's almost overwhelming when you first look at it. I highly recommend watching the first DVD, getting a good handle on what's being taught and then moving on to the next from there. I tried to watch the whole set in one go and my brain just about exploded.

If you can, watch the set with a training partner, because you will find yourself searching for someone to try these things out on. My girlfriend has been very understanding so far.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a seminar taught by Coach Sonnon, during an interview he gave me afterwards, he said that there will be a bit of a gap while The Saddle and lower half positional fighting catches on, and now is the time for open minded fighters and coaches to exploit that blind spot in their opponents.

I can't rate this set under the normal rating system we use, I don't have enough thumbs. This is the DVD set of 2007 for me, it's totally changed the way I have viewed the submission game in MMA and it's now a permanent part of my game.

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