Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen is one of the most entertaining characters in the fight game. The original shit-talker made a name for himself in the UFC, as much with his quick wit as he did with fighting. Even then, he was predominantly a grappler, using high-level wrestling to earn himself a 31-16 record. On top of his impressive grappling skills, Chael has one of the quickest minds in the game as well. He is not just great at taunting opponents, but also an outstanding martial arts teacher. While not something previously associated with Sonnen, this came to light during his time as a coach on the 17 seasons of the Ultimate Fighter. Now, all his teaching skills are available for everyone, in the form of a grappling exclusive Chael Sonnen DVD. Ladies and gentlemen, the “Gangster Grappling” DVD set is out and about!
Lately, BJJ instructional DVDs have become the number one learning tool outside of regular Jiu-JItsu classes. Understandably, everyone that has the means to record and release a DVD (or a bunch of them) did. The trouble is that there are now so many instructionals available that there’s no way to go through them all. This sheer number of them also brings quality in question. In terms of quality, I mean the quality of teaching, quality of the DVD curriculum, production quality and value for your money. Not many DVD instructionals can really stand up to those standards. The ‘Gangster grappling” Chael Sonnen DVD is one that not only fulfills them all but surpasses most of them as well! We got our hands on it and tried to contain our excitement long enough to put together a complete, chapter-by-chapter review.
The Gangster Grappler
First, a few words on the man himself, Chael Sonnen. The “American Gangster” is one of the most charismatic and intriguing characters in the world of grappling and MMA. Born in 1977 in West Linn, Oregon, Sonnen got involved with wrestling in high school. When he got to university the All-American took wrestling up a notch becoming a fearsome grappler. His style of choice was Greco-Roman wrestling, which became an unshakable foundation for all his future fighting exploits.
Sonnen actually considered professional wrestling before opting for MMA. At the age of 19, Sonnen made his MMA debut in Vancouver, coming out of it with a victory. From there on, he managed to fight himself to a UFC contract in the fairly early days of UFC 55. After 3 fights he was released, switching to World Extreme Cage fighting before getting back to the UFC. Some legendary fights soon followed, most notably a submission win over Demian Maia and, later, Brian Stann, as well as THAT first fight with Anderson Silva.
AS his UFC career took off, Sonnen ended up coaching against Jon Jones in the Ultimate Fighter 17, where his team won, but he eventually lost to Jones. He also appeared on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 show, coaching against Wanderlei Silva. Their fight never materialized, though, and Sonnen retired from professional MMA. After a short while, he made comeback, this time under the Bellator banner. Here, he managed to beat contemporaries like Wanderlei Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. He also beat BJJ legend Leo Vieira in the 2017 edition of ADCC.
Just recently, Sonnen was promoted to a BJJ black belt by Fabiano Scherner. With his focus on grappling recently, the “Gangster Grappling” Chael Sonnen DVD comes at a perfect time!
In the summer of 2016, Sonnen started “Submission Underground” a submission-only event featuring huge names of both the grappling, and MMA world. The first ever event featured the likes of Benson Henderson, Jake Shields, Vinny Magalhaes, Kenny Florian, Felipe Costa, Ricco Rodriguez, Fabiano Sherner, and others. The event uses EBI-style rules with one main difference – all the matches take place in an MMA cage instead of an open-edge mat. No wonder the first-ever event was completely sold out.
Future installments saw many famous MMA and BJJ names like Jon Jones, Miesha Tate, Craig Jones, Garry Tonon, Jeff Glover, Chad Mendes and plenty of others. Chael himself acts as a commentator during the events, bringing all his understanding of grappling to the mix. After 6 events, though, Chael decided to change the format, introducing tag team grappling in an 8-men brown belt tournament, plus the mandatory big name super fights. The rules featured 8-minute bouts with the winner declared either by the most submissions or by crowd ovations. It was a fun experience by all means and an overall success.
Given all of Sonnen’s grappling exploits of late, it’s understandable that he also ventured into the grappling instructional scene. The inaugural Chael Sonnen DVD is everything you can expect from the “American Gangster”, and then some. A life-long wrestler, UFC veteran and a legitimate BJJ black belt’s bread and butter moves can only help you improve your grappling game, especially if you like to roll No-Gi.
Wrestling For BJJ
As expected, wrestling principles feature a lot in the “Gangster Grappling” Chael Sonnen DVD. His Greco-Roman skills, coupled with his knowledge as a black belt really do provide him with an extremely efficient grappling style. As a side note, Chael’s BJJ exploits are actually mostly in the Gi, giving him a broad perspective over grappling. After all, Fabiano Scherner is a Gracie Barra instructor, emphasizing Gi Jiu-Jitsu.
The reason wrestlers are so effective in BJJ and MMA is due to mostly three things. The first one is how efficient and versatile wrestlers are on their feet. There’s no doubt that people with solid wrestling power through their opponents with ease at BJJ tournaments, regardless of belt level. On top of that, wrestlers have an immense base and vast experience at controlling top positions. When a wrestler has you in a pin, you’ll struggle to regain movement for sure. However, even if you get some space back, sweeping a wrestler is next to impossible, courtesy of their base and posture. Finally, there’s’ the mindset. Wrestlers are not only relentless but also view grappling from a very different perspective from Jiu-Jitsu athletes.
Sprinkling in wrestling experiences, strategies, principles, and moves to a solid BJJ game allows Chael to present you with a very effective grappling style. Furthermore, Chael was never a catch wrestler, meaning no one-off wacky submissions in this Chael Sonnen DVD. Everything is methodical, meticulous and proven to work. All in all, it is a highlight of wrestling moves for BJJ integrated with some of the most effective Jiu-Jitsu techniques. The perfect blend.
Chael Sonnen DVD Review – Gangster Grappling
Finally, we get to the good part – the “Gangster Grappling” Chael Sonnen DVD set. What you get with it is a four-volume set of premiere grade grappling instructions. As expected, the instructional is a No-Gi one, giving its applicability in both BJJ dimensions. The production is flawless, as is Chael’s presentation of the moves and techniques. The “American Gangster’s” teaching abilities are up there with the best of them. He can break a move down to it’s finest details, allowing you to understand both how it works, and why it works.
On the subject of contents, there are 10-12 chapters per volume, each lasting quite a bit, given Chael’s teaching style. The first DVD is all about submissions, mostly offensive but with a few defensive/counterattacking concepts as well. Volumes 2 and 3 focus on wrestlers’ bread and butter – the top game. Top positional controls, guard passing, submission attacks, and sweep prevention are all there. Finally, a Chael Sonnen DVD wouldn’t be complete without a look at takedown strategies. All in all, a complete product that ‘ll give you a real edge over everyone you meet rolling and competing.
After the usual introduction, Chael kicks this DVD off from the 50/50 position. This is not the 50/50 guard we’re used to, but rather the wrestling over/under position. From there, Sonnen demonstrates how to enter into a bunch of attacking sequences, depending on your opponent’s reactions.
In typical Chael Sonnen fashion, chokes make up a big part of the DVD set in general. In the first volume, it is all about front headlock strangles, particularly D’arces and guillotines. As I’ve stated on many occasions before, I’m a real fan of the D’arce choke. Any instructional on the subject instantly catches my attention. I can definitely confirm that Chael’s take on the D’arce is going to help you clear up a few kinks with it. The leg adjustment is a huge one, significantly increasing the trapping power of the position. In terms of guillotine chokes, wrestlers always have a thing or two to add to what we already like doing. Chael is no different, offering cool guillotine finishing tips. Attack-wise, there’s also a great high-percentage sequence starting from the chest lock and ending with a rear-naked choke.
A very important aspect of this volume is the defensive aspects. Guillotine defenses are going to help you deter a lot of attacks by cutting them down in their root. There are also key details to dismantling and escaping the front headlock, thus taking away a very offensive weapon from your opponents.
The whole point of this Chael Sonnen DVD is to teach you how to use wrestling techniques to dominate Jiu-Jitsu matches. The second volume clearly demonstrates this form the opening sequence, which is the hip Lift AKA Metzger, again from the 50/50 position. This is a really efficient takedown that’s perfect for BJJ as it is not something people expect. The DVD continues with takedown options in the form of trips.
The submissions portion of this second part starts with a Kimura setup from a pressure pass. A really cool move is the reverse head and arm choke, which ties into the Kimura attack, as it’s a great followup to a missed Kimura. There are also a few Americanas in there, as well as a new take on the can opener. Once again, most moves are shown as sequences, instead of one-off techniques with no context.
Finally, there are a few passes in this volume that is a great way to spice up your top game. Chael demonstrates a half guard pass, pressure passing, and some key mount details. A counter to the standard underhook from bottom half via a backstep concludes this volume.
Part 3 starts off with a real bang – leg locks. Despite training at Gracie Barra Chaelis no stranger to high-level leg locks. His take on the straight ankle lock and the outside heel hook from the “game over” position are more than useful. Plus, the whole sequence starts with opening your opponent’s closed guard. More guard passing follows, with the double under paving the way for Chael’s philosophy of setting up attacks while you’re passing.
The second portion of DVD number 3 switches focuses on takedowns, albeit this time form a defensive point of view. Once again, you won’t get just simple moves to stop someone’s takedowns, but rather complete multi-step systems that take every possible scenario into account. The real gem of this volume is in the defense to counter moves, like a guillotine that prevents an initial takedown attempt. This Chael Sonnen DVD will teach you not only to escape situations like this but to turn them to your advantage.
The volume ends in the same manner as it started, with a great chain that starts from the Collar tie position.
As we reach the final part of the Gangster Grappling Chael Sonnen DVD, things come to the ground. Here. it is all about surviving from the turtle. Actually, it is more like thriving from there rather than just surviving. Multiple escape concepts, complete chains as well as reversals all feature here.
Submissions also pop up in this final volume of Chael’s inaugural grappling instructional. What you get are heel hooks and armbars both with unexpected and really effective setups. On top of it all, there’s a drill that helps you work on a major philosophy of Sonnen called attack re-attack. It is going to turn you into a real submission machine without having to change your style.
There is also a great way to defend and counter the double underhooks when standing. Clearing ties is also a subject Sonnen explores, offering you ways out of one of wrestling’s favorite attacking positions.