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Mark Hatmaker's No Holds Barred Fighting series: a review

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment Discussion' started by Matt Thornton, Dec 31, 2005.

  1. Matt Thornton

    Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

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    Anyone who looks around at MMA books has, at one point or another, come across the name Mark Hatmaker. He gets some pretty controversial reviews, and I've had lots of different opinions about him, so I'll try to share my current one on him and his material.

    Mark Hatmaker offers several instructional videos as well, and also offers a book on boxing. However, he is widely known for his "No Holds Barred Fighting" series of books.

    Currently, there are 4 books in the NHBF series (links to their site on Amazon):

    -The Ultimate Guide to Submission Wrestling
    -Killer Submissions
    -Savage Strikes
    -Takedowns

    Looking at the book as a series, what you'll notice is that Hatmaker almost entirely avoids including any martial art teaching from Asia. The NHBF series, as well as the rest of his material, are based on "Western Empiricism," that is, European and early American fighting styles.

    This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. In my opinion, I think Hatmaker's material can be really good if it's used as a supplement, or at least in conjunction with another school of thought. However, if Hatmaker began opening up a chain of schools, I would not make it my primary school.

    So, for example, I would buy these books in combination with material on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Thai Boxing and/or Kickboxing.

    Now a review of each book, for those of you who want to know.

    THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SUBMISSION WRESTLING
    The first book in the series, I got this one about 2 years ago. It was the first exposure I had to real submissions. This book covers the extreme basics: grips, terminology, stances, positioning, basic submissions, and some escapes. The book's not bad. Very, very basic; if you've trained in sub grappling, you really won't learn anything from this book. He shows a couple of lower-percentage submissions from catch wrestling, but the rest of the submissions he shows can be found in lots of grappling styles. If you're a total beginner and are looking at this book, I wouldn't steer you away from it, but if you want my opinion, you might be better off with the Kazushi Sakuraba instructional DVD. Hatmaker's style sometimes resembles Sakuraba's.

    Rating: 3 out of 5
    Price: $10.36 on Amazon, $12.95 in your local bookstore


    KILLER SUBMISSIONS
    In this book, Hatmaker starts to get more into submissions. This book, I'd probably rate higher than the first book. The best part about this book is that Mark teaches all of the moves in a "Submission Chain" format. So instead of showing a collection of various submissions, he gives you 8 chains of submissions. You try to hit the first move, if that doesn't succeed, you move to the next move, and so on. It's a good approach to learning submissions, and I agree with Mark in saying that you will be more likely to memorize the moves this way. For the most part, the submissions in this book are good. There are maybe 3 or 4 I would be skeptical of getting someone to tap from, but other than that, all good material. I especially like the Sakuraba chain and the "Refined Sleeper Choke," which is an improvement upon the basic RNC. I have been working on replacing my RNC with this move; it's much more effective and efficient.

    Rating: 4 out of 5
    Price: Same as the first book


    SAVAGE STRIKES
    This book is where it becomes really apparent that Hatmaker favors western empiricism over martial arts from Asia. Read this book with an open mind; when I first bought it, I developed a really negative opinion about Mark Hatmaker. I really didn't like this book when I got it, and still today, I don't like it very much at all. Hatmaker shares his opinion on why you should take a southpaw lead if you're a right hander, and it's not such a bad idea, but I'm not doing it. He also has a pretty good section on how the laws of physics and motion come into the striking game, and how to use them to increase striking power. The book has some good parts to it, but the rest, I really don't like. I don't like Hatmaker's supposedly solid stance. It looks way too stiff and rigid. The striking is all based on western bare knuckle boxing, and is really old-school. He covers a LOT with elbows and forearm strikes. And he goes over lots of shots that you wouldn't be able to use in any competition, unless you found some underground bloodsport. The defense he shows for punches is a little bit ridiculous, blocking hooks with his hands. It's strange, too, because Mark knows a good deal about boxing. I'm not sure what he was thinking when he wrote some of this book.

    This is going to be my worst review of his. I would not recommend this book unless you want to spend 10-13 dollars to learn a couple of useful moves. ESPECIALLY I would not buy this book if you're looking to improve your boxing or Thai boxing. You would get your ass handed to you in a pure striking match using this stuff.

    Rating: 1 out of 5
    Price: Same as the first book

    TAKEDOWNS
    Ahh, now here's where Mark starts to redeem himself from the striking book. I just picked up this book a couple of days ago. It's a really good book. It covers takedowns from a "shot," that is, takedowns involving leg attacks. (He says he's going to cover all clinch work in a separate book). He offers you two ways to take single and double leg takedowns: the modern way, and "old school leg dives."

    The leg dives look like total crap if you ask me. The epitome of a bad shot. But Mark claims if you grip him in the pit of the knees, you can still defend his sprawl. If you grab too high or too low, expect to get your face mashed into the mat. I haven't tried the "leg dives" yet, so I can't say they don't work, but I'm feeling a little bit skeptical about them. I think there's a reason why wrestlers hit their knee to the mat: it works better than the old school leg dive. If penetration steps didn't work better than leg dives, then why would leg dives be completely replaced by them in wrestling? This is the main problem I have with this book and Mark's other books. While it's good to research styles from places other than Thailand and Brazil, you need to ask yourself, why is some of this older stuff forgotten? Western catch wrestlers and bareknuckle boxers were not these invincible fighting machines. Their styles have given way to faster, more efficient means of fighting. They still have plenty of things to teach us, but it's the fact that Mark almost always advocates the old way of doing something as opposed to the new method.

    Continuing with the review, you can choose to do any of the takedowns with a penetration step. He gives you that option. If anything, though, I'd say the best part of this book is the takedown DEFENSES. It's LOADED with defenses against leg attacks, and some tie-ups. I have never seen this much material on takedown defense before! He shows awesome reversals, sprawls, switches... even submissions off of takedown attempts! I am excited to use this book on the mat.

    If you're going to buy any book from this series, I'd recommend this one. Even if you're a wrestler, you'll learn takedown defenses you haven't seen before.

    Rating: 4.9 out of 5 (.1 taken away for the leg dive approach)
    Price: Same as the first book


    TOTAL RATING OF THE BOOK SET: 3.5 out of 5
    TOTAL PRICE: $41.44 (plus S&H) from Amazon, $51.80 (plus tax) at your local bookstore

    Again, I'd use this as a supplement to your training. Including western empiricism with Thai boxing, BJJ, Sambo, Judo, whatever you do, is definitely not a bad idea. The idea is to be as well rounded as possible, and Mark Hatmaker has done a great job researching and providing us with information on the extensive fighting arts history of Europe and the early U.S.

    At 42 to 52 bucks, the set won't break the bank, although I'd really recommend skipping the strikes book. If you're going to buy from this set, get the submission and takedown books.
     
  2. b0necrusher

    b0necrusher The crusher of bones.

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    Great reviews!
    I personally like Hatmaker, but I MUCH prefer his videos over the books. I have both of the submissions books, and they're good. Like you said, pretty basic. His videos on the subject are MUCH better.
    I saw the striking book at the store and I thumbed through it. I didn't buy it because there was really nothing new in there. On the other hand, his Illegal Boxing set, and other boxing chain drills videos are great!
    Keep in mind, as far as striking goes his stuff is almost all "street" as opposed to competition. He doesn't try to hide that at all. Even in his submission videos he throw tidbits in there about street application, and he seems to prefer to teach that.
    I've got a ton of his videos and I've been pleased with all of them. The books are ok, but the videos are where Hatmaker shines.
     
  3. Matt Thornton

    Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

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    Cool, I haven't seen his videos before. Have you taken a look at "Beyond Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu" or "The Floor Bag Workout?" Those both looked pretty good, but they're not cheap, so I'd want to know they're worth it.
     
  4. fat_wilhelm

    fat_wilhelm Black Belt

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    I actually just started reading "Savage Strikes", and so far, I like it. That said, I've only gotten through the initial sections on theory, physics, stance, etc.

    Nice review. I'm excited to read his others when I'm done now that I know "Strikes" is your least favorite.
     
  5. b0necrusher

    b0necrusher The crusher of bones.

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    Yes, I have both of those. In addition to many others...lol
    They're both great. I'm really happy with every Hatmaker video I've seen.
    They are expensive if you buy them off of the ESP site. But there are other ways...(wink-wink, nudge-nudge).
     
  6. Zankou

    Zankou Muscle and Hate Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    You forgot to cover his best book IMO -- Boxing Mastery. It's awesome! Best boxing book there is. Definitely take a look at it. It's the only boxing book I've ever found to be useful.

    His takedown book is also pretty cool. Other stuff, less good.
     
  7. sir037

    sir037 Forever Noob

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    I've got his Floor Bag Workout and Escape From Impossible Holds. The floor bag workout is awesome. Most of the escape vid is good but a few of the parts left me scratching my head.
     
  8. codysweet02

    codysweet02 Brown Belt

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    I think the savage strikes book is his best one. I didnt read anywhere about blocking hooks with your hands, he teaches the standard hand over the ear technique. He teaches you to block straight punches with your hand but not hooks. Also his theory about fighting southpaw doesnt make the book any less valubale, i dont agree with it either but its only like half a page about it. Alot of his strikes from the clinch i liked and i didnt know. I dont know about the pickoffs part, where you put your elbow in the path of the others punch that didnt sound too practical to me. But i really liked this book and it is my favorite.
     

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