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No Holds Barred Fighting

No Holds Barred Fighting

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by Mark Hatmaker, Doug Werner

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This instructional guide explains the origins of submission wrestling, the underlying fighting skill associated with such events as the Ultimate Fighting Championships and the King of the Cage. It explores its various offshoots and influences and features hundreds of photos to demonstrate techniques and training exercises. Rules and regulations regarding


This instructional guide explains the origins of submission wrestling, the underlying fighting skill associated with such events as the Ultimate Fighting Championships and the King of the Cage. It explores its various offshoots and influences and features hundreds of photos to demonstrate techniques and training exercises. Rules and regulations regarding associated competitions, workout programs, and match etiquette are thoroughly discussed, and resources for further research are included. Full of self-defensive skills and tips that improve physical fitness, confidence, and mental toughness, this book starts the novice on the path to proper training and provides fundamental information for all skill levels.

Product Details

Tracks Publishing
Publication date:
No Holds Barred Fighting series Series
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.61(d)

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No Holds Barred Fighting

The Ultimate Guide to Submission Wrestling

By Mark Hatmaker, Doug Werner

Tracks Publishing

Copyright © 2002 Doug Werner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-884654-17-6



Reducing risk

Submission wrestling and no holds barred (NHB) fighting are combat sports. With that said, it is fairly obvious that there is the potential for injury. But following the basic protocols set forth below you will reduce your chances of injury to practically nil.

1. Train for fun, improvement and exercise — not to prove something. The nature of combat sports is mano a mano, but save that for competition. When training and drilling aim for self-improvement, not ego props.

2. Observe the protocol of the tap. The beauty of working for submission holds over striking is that there is a definite, unquestionable end to a bout akin to the knockout, yet no one has to get hurt. When caught in a hold that has sunk to its last millimeter, tap. Tap your partner, tap the mat, tap whatever is in your reach. This signifies to your partner Good move. You got me. Let's start again. A tap is a sort of physical crying of Uncle. Why not just yell Uncle? Because if the technique is a choke, you won't be able to yell anything. Learn to tap with your hands, your feet, your nose, whatever is available to keep yourself intact so that you can train another day. On the flip side, if your partner signals the tap, respect it and let him go.

3. Use controlled speed when working into concession holds. You can fly into your setups but use control on those last few inches that are in tap territory. The difference between an intact training partner who can roll again and a seriously injured human being is very small. Respect these critical inches. Sometimes by slowing into tap territory your opponent may grease out of the move. That's fine. That's feedback. Perhaps your setup and/or retention technique were a little light. Or sure, you could have caught him in real time, but now you have the opportunity to keep rolling and find new situations in which to grow. Remember, roll not for ego's sake but for cultivation's sake.

4. Evaluate the level of the match and wear the appropriate safety gear. All NHB matches require cup, mouthpiece, and grappling gloves. Submission wrestling does not require any of these, although the mouthpiece, groin protector and perhaps ear guards are good ideas.


Working terms

Gladiator's glossary

Submission wrestling and no holds barred (NHB) fighting, like all sports, have their own terminology. This glossary is a list of terms and expressions used in the instructional text accompanying the sequential photographs. If we get important terms understood now, it will make your learning process quicker. These are cursory explanations of the positions for terminology's sake. Complete details of the positions will be given in their appropriate sections.

Arm Positions

Base — A position of stability. Theoretically, any position that allows you to keep your hips and chest in alignment leading to maximum balance, stability and mobility.

Breakdown — Any technique or movement that breaks your opponent's base and flattens him to the mat.

Bridge — the arching onto the top of the head or upper shoulders to elevate your hips off the mat.

Elevators — Elevators refer to your insteps when placed under your opponent's thighs or knees for control or stability.

Escape — Any technique that allows you to free yourself from an inferior position or a potential concession hold.

Ground and pound — A striking strategy utilized on the ground that bypasses the concession hold or uses strikes to set up the concession hold. Usually implemented from a pin position.

Hip heist — A very useful movement for escaping positions or facilitating a scramble. The hips are lifted off the mat and then moved as far from the opponent as possible.

Take a big step with the outside foot (here the right foot), arch hard into your opponent giving him your weight, kick your other leg over the top of the step-out leg and turn into him while whipping the turn-side elbow down to assist in the turn.

Hooks — Hooks refer to your feet when you are on your opponent's back (back ride) and have your heels dug into your opponent's hips for stability or control.

Level change — Any movement that keeps the principles of good base in mind and allows you to drop your hips lower than your opponent's on the vertical axis.

Lift — Any reference made to lifting your opponent whether completely off the mat or merely a portion of his body. All lifts are executed with your legs, not your back. This is done by getting your hips underneath your opponent's hips when lifting him entirely or getting your hips underneath the portion of the anatomy you wish to lift.

Penetration — Any step or forward movement that utilizes level change and good base to maneuver yourself under your opponent's base, therefore upsetting it.

Pin — Any dominant position (dominant usually defined as top position) that allows you to literally stabilize your opponent into a static position (one with little movement).

Post — Any limb or body part (hand, foot, knee, elbow or head) that can be placed on the mat for stability and/or drive.

Reversal — Essentially an evolved escape. Any escaping movement that allows you to move from a position of threat to a dominant position or concession hold of your own.

Ride — Similar to a pin in that there is dominant position, but here the opponent is moving a bit more freely and the top man is riding the opponent until a pin or concession hold can be applied.

Scramble — Any flurry of movement in a wrestling match that lacks a well-defined position or technique. These short flurries sometimes occur when two competitors are each seeking dominant position.

Setup — Any move or chain of moves meant to bait or open your opponent's body for a particular line of attack.

Sit-out — Sitting on either your left or right flank with your legs at a 90 degree angle. If you sit on your right hip, it is a right sit-out and on your left hip, a left sit-out.

Stacking — The act of rolling your opponent's hips over his neck and compressing him in this position. This compressed position takes the spine out of alignment and greatly reduces his power.

Turns — Any movement that changes your opponent's contact with the mat. For example, turning him from his back to belly-down or vice versa.



Coming to grips

All wrestlers, grapplers and NHB fighters have got to use their hands. Whether for controlling, retaining or striking, the hands are a firm link in the overall picture. Several choice ways to grip your opponent and a few ways to never grip your opponent follow. Since you can also grip with your legs, we will cover the proper form for leg grips as well.

Indian grip, finger hook or fat man grip

Merely lock your fingers into a hook position and hook them together.

Palm-to-palm grip

The hands are gripped palm-to-palm. This is a very strong grip position. Notice that the thumbs are not separated from the rest of the fingers, creating in essence a stronger version of the finger hook grip. By not separating your thumbs you also prevent them from being attacked easily in small joint manipulations (finger locks).

3-finger grip

A variant of the palm-to-palm for use when grip strength or endurance is at a premium. Your thumb locks around the middle, ring and little fingers of the opposite hand. This grip is strong and easy to maintain because you have reduced the gripping "handle" or "barrel" circumference.

Butterfly grip

Using five fingers (the thumbs are not separated) grip your wrists. Place inner wrists together and hook. This is a very tight grip for body locking around an opponent's torso.

Interlaced fingers

One of the wrong ways to grip for 3 reasons:

1. During a scramble you can end up dislocating your own fingers.

2. With the fingers separated from one another, they have less stability and are more open to being attacked in small joint manipulations (finger locks).

3. Your opponent can apply a squeeze lock (as shown) to your interlaced fingers and cause a great deal of discomfort and in some cases submit you.

Wrist bar

Very common in body lock positions, but don't do it. Here you five-finger grip your own wrist in what is essentially a single butterfly grip. The problem is that the non-gripping hand is an exposed handle for peel-offs (as shown), straight arm lock setups and/or folded wrist locks.

T-wrap or Figure-4 grip

This grip is used to secure a limb in preparation for particular submissions. Grip the attacked limb in one hand, encircle the same limb in the crook of the elbow of your non-gripping hand and then grip your own wrist. To secure the limb, squeeze your elbows tight to your body.


This is another limb securing grip used in armbar and/or knee-bar setups. Instead of clasping the attacked limb with the hands and allowing only the biceps to work at finishing the move, secure the limb in the crooks of both arms and then grab your own shoulders or triceps to lock the limb down. This is a very strong grip that allows for little wiggle room.

Leg scissors

This is a leg grip that can be used to secure a limb or as a submission in and of itself. Here the limb needing to be stabilized is placed directly between the knees (stay away from the soft meaty inner thighs). The legs are straight and the ankles are crossed at the insteps with the toes facing in opposite directions to tighten.

It is optimum to cross the top leg over the bottom leg and point top toes skyward. To put additional oomph into the leg scissors, arch your back and straighten your legs hard.

Figure-4 leg hold

The ankle of one leg is placed behind the knee of the other leg. It is important to use the ankle behind the knee and not the instep. By placing the instep behind the knee you are using a flexible joint that could give your opponent some wiggle room not afforded by placing solid bone behind your knee.

Also, during an extreme scramble, with your instep behind your knee, there is the potential for submitting yourself with an ankle lock due to poor placement. To maximize this hold, use your hamstrings to tighten both ankles toward your butt.


4 Stance / footwork

The key to being a good submission wrestler or NHB fighter is good base. Whether on your feet or on the ground you want to be firmly in control of your balance and optimally you want to control your opponent's balance. Before we hit the ground, let's make sure that we can stand up. This is making sure you can walk before you crawl.

Keep this in mind about good standing base:

1. An often quoted statistic is that 90% of fights end in a clinch and/or on the ground.

2. Almost 100% of fights begin standing up.

3. In competition, the fighter who scores the takedown wins 90% of the time.

By looking at the numbers, we realize that we need to play the odds and make sure that we are strong on our feet to reduce the risk of being taken down and increase our own chances of scoring the takedown.

We start our stand-up game with a lesson on the stance. Keep in mind that the stance is not static although we will describe it in a static position. Once you are able to emulate the stance, start moving around with it. Be fluid while maintaining the integrity of the stance principles. Also keep in mind that the stance described has two versions: NHB and submission wrestling. The NHB stance has more concerns since there is the potential of being hit.

NHB stance

To assume this stance, pretend that you are standing on a clock face facing noon. Step your lead foot to 2 o'clock and your other foot to 8 o'clock (throughout this text the right foot will lead. Left foot leads will reverse instructions). Keep your upper body facing noon.

The weight is distributed equally between your feet with the soles of the feet remaining in contact with the floor but feeling the weight more through the balls of the feet. Your knees are bent carrying the body midway between upright and a crouch.

Looking at the stance head-on, we see that the hands are up, fists clenched loosely touching the cheeks and the forearms rest on the ribs parallel to one another. This hand and arm position is fairly good cover for defending strikes. You must resist the temptation to flare the elbows at the bottom of this defensive shell creating an inverted V. This mistake allows for body shots.

You will probably notice the similarity to the boxer's stance with good reason. We must keep in mind the realities of staying covered against strikes, but we must also take into account the "shooting" aspect of the game. This stance is a bit wider and lower than the boxer's stance, which helps create a stronger base.

Submission wrestling stances

Since we don't have to be concerned about the potential for striking, this stance can be a bit more open. Once the stances have been learned the footwork principles are the same for both games. There are actually two broad categories of submission stance, and again the emphasis is on mobility and fluidity and less to a strict adherence to a static form.

Square stance

The feet are parallel and approximately two shoulder widths apart. The weight is equally distributed, the knees are bent to a semi-crouch and the elbows are tucked in with the hands up at waist level. Palms face up to better allow tie-up opportunities against your opponent. The elbows are kept close to the body to protect against tie-up controls, arm drags, wizzers, and other techniques to pull you off your base.

The back and neck are held straight as one solid unit. Lean forward at the hips — don't merely roll your back. Keeping your spine in alignment focuses your strength. On your forward lean be careful not to allow your head to move beyond the vertical plane created by your knees. By overextending your lean you are easily moved with a snapdown.

Stagger stance

Assume the NHB clock position, but enlarge the face of the clock where the feet are now approximately 2-1/2 to 3 shoulder widths apart in both the length and width of the stance. Observe proper back and neck alignment as well as your forward lean making sure your head does not break the vertical knee plane.

The lead elbow is placed on the lead knee with the forearm extended palm up. The rear palm is placed on the rear knee. This is a very stable position with the hands providing reinforcement for the legs and upper body. By keeping the arms in contact with the knees you are better able to defend the legs against shoots by applying an underhook on your opponent's low shot attempts.


Now that you can stand, let's learn to walk. Before addressing specific offensive and defensive steps, let's consider some basics pertinent to all movement on the feet.

1. Always keep your feet in contact with the mat. In all stepping motions utilize a step and drag that allows you to keep at least one foot in contact with the mat at all times.

2. Step and drag in the direction you intend traveling by moving the foot closest to that direction first. In other words, if I want to step forward, I step my forward foot first dragging my trail foot behind it. To the rear, step with the rear foot in that direction and drag the lead foot. To the right, move the right foot first, and to the left, left foot first.

3. When traveling, don't cross your feet or move your feet closer than one shoulder width apart. Doing so compromises your base making you an easier target to shoot in on.

4. Try to maintain the structural integrity of your stance while you move. In the beginning it is very common to lose the upper body position while you move. You are so busy concentrating on your feet that the upper body goes to hell. Work in front of a mirror so that you can catch yourself making any errors.

Back step

This step is used as a preliminary to shooting. In conjunction with a level change, move your rear foot from 8 o'clock to 6 o'clock. This places your foot directly beneath your base. From here take a lunging step forward with your lead foot driving off your back foot. This back step places your driving leg directly beneath your base and allows you to launch your body mass directly at your target rather than at the slight angle an 8 o'clock driver would demand.

Lunge step

Once you've taken your back step it's time to drive forward. This can be done one of two ways. The first is the lunge step. With your lead foot, step deep into your opponent using the drive from your back step foot. You can also lunge step and level change by dropping your lead knee to the mat.


Excerpted from No Holds Barred Fighting by Mark Hatmaker, Doug Werner. Copyright © 2002 Doug Werner. Excerpted by permission of Tracks Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mark Hatmaker has 23 years of experience in the martial arts as well as boxing, wrestling, and Jiujitsu. He has produced several instructional videos, including Escape from Impossible Holds, Brutal Submissions, and Guard Submissions. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Doug Werner is an author of sport and fitness instructional guides, including Boxer's Start-Up and Fighting Fit. He lives in San Diego, California.

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