Review of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's Instructional DVD Series (August 29, 2009)

When asked who is the best brazilian jiu jitsu player in MMA today, I think the first name on most people’s minds would be Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira. Able to submit his opponents almost at will, Nogueira’s submissions skills inside the cage are on a level far above any other competitor’s. True, guys like Demian Maia and Dustin Hazelett are showing some impressive skills of their own, but Nogueira is on a level entirely his own. Given that, it should come as no surprise that Nogueira has released a three-DVD series focusing on some of the most important aspects of effectively using BJJ in MMA.

Thanks to the very generous people at Victory Belt, I received a copy of Nogueira’s instructional DVDs to review.

If I were forced to pick one word to describe the three DVDs, it would probably be voluminous. Two of three DVDs feature almost two hours worth of techniques, and the third DVD features over two hours of techniques. This running time does not include the time dedicated to extras on each of the DVDs, a couple of which are almost worth the price of the DVDs themselves.

As I did with my review of Machida's DVD set, I will give you a general overview and my thoughts on the DVDs.

Let me be clear – these are DVDs meant for MMA practitioners. Sure, the techniques featured in the DVDs would largely be helpful to anyone looking to improve his or her BJJ game, but the context in which Nogueira offers the instruction is using the techniques in MMA. Both he and his sparring partner (his twin brother, Antonio “Lil Nog” Nogueira) wear MMA gloves throughout the entirety of the instruction and many of the helpful hints Nogueira offers are meant to be useful strictly for MMA because many of them are based on how to effectively use position to set up good striking.

Not to mention, just take a look at the titles: Half, Inside Hooks, & Downed Guards for MMA, Guard for MMA, and Passing Guard for MMA. Additionally, the cover of each DVD has Mixed Martial Arts: The Ultimate Instructional Set at the top of each DVD. For future reference, the total set (but not these three DVDs) also includes instruction from Anderson Silva, via Boxing for MMA featuring Silva, a DVD that I will review separately.

Although sold separately, and not as a set, the DVDs are meant to be viewed as a series and in a particular order, each building on the skills and techniques in the last. Although it is not necessary to watch one before watching the other, the progression between the three is logical and natural.

It makes sense that Nogueira would make an instructional set like this – having fought a number of top fighters all across the world, and having effectively used jiu jitsu on many of them, his useful and efficient instruction draws not only on his massive knowledge of jiu jitsu, but the realistic application of it that he has been able to use throughout his MMA career.

Now, on to the DVDs.

The DVDs are narrated by Brian Rule (also a producer on the project), but the instruction is given by Nogueira himself, in English. I did not see an option to access any other languages via subtitles or other spoken languages but this did not bother me as I was not looking for instruction in any other language.

Each DVD has both instruction and bonus materials. Within the instruction sections are technique after technique, all flowing in a logical and natural progression.

The techniques on each DVD are divided into five main sections based on position. Within each of the five sections are techniques that flow from that position. Watching the DVD, one can “play all” and watch all of the techniques and sections in a row, or simply access the techniques menu to view the techniques individually.

The thing I found most helpful (and very innovative) on each of the DVDs was what Victory Belt dubbed the “Revolutionary DVD menu design”, which features the replays of individual techniques from different angles. I know you are probably saying to yourself, “That doesn’t sound too special,” but it is not just the replays or angles that made it so useful to me – it’s the “revolutionary menu design”, which replays whatever technique and angle you pick over and over and over until you stop the DVD or return to the prior menu.

Whenever I have worked on a technique (on a DVD) with which I am not already familiar, I never enjoyed having to constantly pause working with my sparring partner to hit a button on the DVD player or remote to go back to the beginning of the technique in case we wanted to watch it again. This new menu design takes care of that problem. It will literally replay the same technique over and over until you choose to stop it, and this is from whatever view/angle (you have three to choose from with each technique) you choose. I know that any of familiar with techniques in any combat sport or martial art understands the importance of repetition. It develops muscle memory and makes you more familiar and instinctual with your own movements. While you are on your way to physically mastering these techniques, this unique option allows you the opportunity to simultaneously visually master them by being able to familiarize yourself with the different angles at your own pace without having to stop to move the DVD back during your training.

There is no verbal instruction from Nogueira while watching this option – his commentary comes only during the actual “instruction” phase of each technique. However, I did not find that to be much of a problem because during the instruction phase, Nogueira goes over the techniques slowly and methodically to make sure the viewers understand as many of the nuances of each position as possible. Then, in watching the replays, Nogueira demonstrates the technique at a slightly faster speed. Just as with many BJJ and other martial art classes, you have the technical instruction and then you work the application of the technical instruction. Again, a logical progression.

Guard for MMA

From Victory Belt:

In Guard for MMA, Rodrigo reveals for the first time his entire guard system, presenting his patented posture controls as well as all the explosive sweeps, effortless transitions, brutal submissions that they produce. Unlike most DVDs, Guard for MMA is not a collection of random moves – the techniques flow together with purpose, allowing you to capitalize on all your opponent’s defensive reactions. More than twenty years in the making, this DVD will drastically improve the ground game of any fighter who studies it.

The bonus feature in this DVD is a 40-minute interview with Nogueira, featuring sections on his childhood, life in general, and training. Perhaps the segment I found most interesting was Nogueira talking about being run over by a truck when he was a child. Just hearing the amount of injury he sustained, and survived, makes me respect him even more. And after having heard how he survived all of that, it’s no surprise to me that he can take as much punishment as he can in the cage.

Passing Guard for MMA

From Victory Belt:

In Passing Guard for MMA, Rodrigo presents for the first time his own proven methods for destroying your opponents’ closed guard, open guard, downed guard, inside hooks guard, and half guard. Dozens of detailed techniques shot from multiple angle convey how to control, attack, and pass guards like never before.

The bonus feature on this DVD is a section on grappling drills and conditioning exercises featuring 28 different things to do. As one would expect, this section emphasizes warm-up, physical fitness in general, and technique interwoven with both. These drills and exercises could easily make up a whole workout themselves. Many of the drills and exercises are ones that anyone who has attended a BJJ or MMA class has likely done, but I still caught a few new ones. All of the drills and exercises, even though demonstrated for only a short amount of time, really emphasized the amount of control that Nogueira has over his own body and it is not at all hard to tell that he truly does practice what he preaches.

Half, Inside Hooks, & Downed Guards for MMA

From Victory Belt:

In Half, Inside Hooks, & Downed Guards for MMA, Rodrigo unveils proven systems for each of these respective guard positions, teaching the dozens of unstoppable sweeps, crafty escapes, and bone-breaking submissions that they yield.

The bonus feature on this DVD was easily my favorite of all of them, and as I mentioned in the beginning of this review, this feature is one that, alone, is worth the price of the DVD. It is a 30-minute jiu jitsu sparring session (a very intense sparring session) between the Nogueira brothers. Now, you should not expect to see any flying armbars or anything like that, but I know many of you can imagine the skill displayed in this session between two men who have trained together their entire lives and really know BJJ. It was definitely very entertaining to watch, but it was also very easy to pick out many of the various techniques that Nogueira showed throughout the DVDs, and the ease with which he could put them into action.

At the beginning, I mentioned that if I had to pick one word to describe this series, it would be voluminous. If I had to pick a second word, it would be “practical”. Not that all of Nogueira’s moves would help you win in a street fight (although I'm sure many of them wouldn't hurt), but practical in the sense that these moves really do appear to be useful for MMA - as I am not a fighter, I cannot say that I have tried them in the cage myself - but as I said earlier, Nogueira really stresses the MMA applications. Numerous times throughout all three DVDs, you will hear Nogueira talking about “staying busy”, which generally means landing strikes to the body or head of your opponent. In fact, many of the positions that Nogueira teaches are ones which will, if done properly, put you in a great position to work some solid ground and pound and avoid being swept or reversed.

I think my favorite technique that Nogueira demonstrated on the DVDs was the underpass to Anaconda choke on Passing Guard for MMA. Although I generally favor a good kimura or triangle in training, the ease with which Nogueira was able to make this transition made me wonder why every fighter does not try to pull this off at least once in every fight.

Overall, I was very pleased with the DVDs. Although no overly complicated, it took me a few minutes to get used to the style of navigation within the menus. However, once I had successfully cycled through the menus a couple of times, it was no problem. The production value was high, the narration was good, and the instruction was obviously top-notch.

Thank you again to Victory Belt for the opportunity to review this great DVD series.

Each DVD sells for approximately $35, which I think is a fair price based on the large number of techniques one can find on any of the DVDs.

You can purchase Guard for MMA here, Passing Guard for MMA here, and Half, Inside Hooks & Downed Guard for MMA here.

Additionally, Victory Belt has released a wealth of excellent materials recently, in both DVD and book form, and my reviews on all of them are forthcoming.

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