Company: World Grappling Federation
Tape Name: Oleg Taktarov Series - Tape One - Throws to finishing holds
Tape Cost: $ 24.99 ( All five tapes of series $ 99.95 ) + s/h $4 per tape, $12 max. per order
Length of Tape/Time: 46 min.
Number of Moves/Techniques: Nine
Return Policy: Unknown
Experiences in dealing with this company: Unknown
The Instructor: Oleg Taktarov
Company's Address: P.O. BOX 366 ,Lakeside, CA 92040
Company's Phone Number: ( 619 ) 938-0611
Web Page:
E-Mail: ?

Primary Grading Criteria:

1. Production/Tape Quality: 10
2. Instructors demonstrated skill level: 9
3. Comprehension Score/Immediate Understanding: 9
4. Degree to which this will make someone a better Martial Artist: 9
5. Score on delivery vs. hype: 9
6. Degree to which we'd recommend this product: 9
7. Wasted Time (The higher the number, the less "fluff"/repetition): 9
8. Playback Score/Watching it over-and-over again: 8
9. Would I purchase more of this company's products: 9
10. Overall grade based on cost vs. value: 9

Grand Total: 90 %

1. 80%-100% = 90%
2. Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent = Fair
3. 0-5 stars = 2.5 stars

Secondary Grading Criteria:

1. Beginners benefit: Fair
2. Intermediate benefit: Fair
3. Advanced benefit: Fair
4. Time to benefit: The more you practice, the better you get. In this case, certain modifications are needed( see review)
5. The need to buy additional tapes to understand this one: None

Written Summary:

This review is a difficult one, for a number of reasons. Firstly, a short note on " Zen and the art of Video-reviewing". For those visitors of this website who may not be aware of it, this reviewer was challenged to a fight last week on the basis of a negative review he recently did . The instructor whose videos had been reviewed decided that an intelligent, mature and appropriate response to a negative review was to beat up on the reviewer. Maybe the fact that the reviewer lives in South Africa made the issuing of such a challenge a lot easier. Anyway, no problem, it's all water under the bridge, but maybe a short clarification of video reviewing would be in order. To spell it out, so that even the most moronic of would-be challengers can understand it : THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN OBJECTIVE REVIEW !!! A review should inform the reader as to the content of the video, obviously, but if that is all it does, it is not a review, but rather just a table of contents. Often enough, the video producers give a fairly decent description of what is on the video, content -wise. In this case, Mr. Taktarov is teaching throws going into finishing holds. The only thing they don't say, is how many techniques and which one's. Personally, I find the number not that important, since I would prefer a video with five superb, life-saving techniques to one with thirty non-functional ones. As to which techniques, one instructor's "flying mare" is another's "shoulder throw" or "ippon seionage". So the real crux of the matter is , whether the reviewer would recommend this tape and his reasons for doing or not doing so.

A basic assumption is that the reviewer has a sufficiently deep understanding of the subject -matter of the tape. This is why an early MAVR review of an Erle Montaigue internal arts video was reviewed as "non- applicable, since the reviewer did not feel qualified to review it". You can only have an opinion about something you understand or believe you understand . Quickly now, what is your opinion of the current state of the Morrocan economy? Yup, myself also, I don't have one, since I have no knowledge of the field. The only point that could of course be argued is that someone may disagree with the reviewer's belief that he is sufficiently qualified in the field to review material pertinent to it. It is for instance ridiculous to expect the reviewer to have an ability level close to or equal to that of the instructor on the tapes under review. Who would be qualified to review the Mario Sperry or Mark Kerr series, for instance? Finally, a lot of supposedly objective things are not so. For instance, the often quoted :"the camera never lies". Leaving aside the fact that a lot of things can be done technically these days (remember Forrest Gump's meetings with all kinds of famous figures, all cut together technically), there is the basic fact that the photographer decides where and when he points his camera and takes his photos. To give a slightly ridiculous, but pertinent example, it would be possible for a travel journalist to go to Yugoslavia at this moment, point his camera at unspoilt mountain and see-side scenery and come back to write an article about the scenic beauty of Yugoslavia . The camera would not be lying, but such an article would not in any way reflect the true situation in Yugoslavia at this moment!

To summarise and show how this is relevant to this (and other) review (s). MAVR reviewers only review videos in areas in which they feel themselves to be qualified through fairly long and intensive hands-on study. Based on their knowledge they may criticise or may make certain recommendations. This is nothing personal. In this case, for instance , I have never met Mr. Taktarov, nor am I ever likely to meet him. As a matter of fact, Mr. Taktarov comes across on his videos as one of the most likeable instructors I have ever seen. The kind of guy you would love to go fishing with for the weekend or having a beer or ten at the local bar. Also, having seen him in countless NHB matches and recently, for instance, at the 98 Abu Dhabbi grappling championships, this is one of the toughest guys on the planet and one who is scared of nothing and nobody. Which makes him even more likeable. Which makes it incredibly difficult to say some really negative things in this review. The point being, that that is exactely what the reviewer must do, if he believes that there are flaws in this video.

O.K., on to the video in question. As the title suggests, Mr. Taktarov teaches some of his favorite throws, each throw continuing into a finishing hold. There are nine such combinations shown. Some of the names given to these techniques are (as far as this reviewer could make them out) : the" bullthrow and armlock","back - sweeping throw to scarf hold", the " roll with choke ", the " tackle with kneebar " , " double-sleeve hip throw and armlock ", "scissor throw and ankle-lock", the "feint, footsweep and armlock", the "kneeing shoulder throw and reverse neck crank" and , lastly , the "cross-hold throw with arm-lock". So that tells you what's on it , but may still leave you puzzled. Mr. Taktarov has a nice, relaxed, off-the-cuff teaching style, which can however, potentially, leave the beginner a little lost as to some of the finer details. He has a great sense of humor, as for instance when he shows how to find just the right position for putting your weight on your training partner by listening to the kind of sounds he makes. The more pained he sounds, the better your positioning. Works for me !

Now to why the reviewer has a problem with this video (and other videos by Mr. Taktarov) : Before the arrival of the Gracies and Brazilian Jiu Jutsu, a whole bunch of grappling techniques were taught which now, with the general refinement of understanding as to grappling techniques and principles, can be seen as being not that workable. This reviewer, in an article in a well known American martial arts magazine last year, listed as his first and foremost "martial arts truth" that "any technique will work, as long as the level of ability between the two individuals differs sufficiently". In other words, yes, you can throw that "flying, reverse, spinning triple hook kick" and knock your opponent out, as long as your opponent is an eighty year old grandmother on crutches. Against a good streetfighter or grappler, such a technique may get you killed. It follows that there are NO completely useless techniques, just that it all depends on the quality of the opposition. This is where, in the opinion of this reviewer, Mr. Taktarov fails, both in his videos and in his NHB matches. What surprises this reviewer, is that no-one has pointed these rather obvious basic flaws out to Mr. Taktarov, or that, alternatively, they have been pointed out to him and he has chosen to ignore the advice.

What it boils down to is basics: There are basic principles as to the utilization of space and weight, as to controlling an opponent when on the offense or creating space so as to move to a better position when on the defence. Mr. Taktarov seems completely unfamiliar with these basic concepts and their application and thus many of his techniques, whether on this video or in the NHB arena, leave open gaps one could drive a four-wheel drive through.

Since most readers of this review do not have the video itself, let me give an example which may be more appropriate: In the April 99 Black Belt magazine, Mr. Taktarov shows a few of his favourite techniques. On page 68 he shows a technique he calls the "banana split". He forces the opponent to the ground. In photo three, Mr. Taktarov is standing upright, pressing down on the opponent's back. The opponent is on his hands and knees, his hands covering the back of his head/neck area. In the next photo Mr. Taktarov dives down and grabs the foot and initiates a turnover into the leg-lock submission. There are two problems here. Firstly, only a very inexperienced opponent , after a relatively low-impact sweep, will stay in the hands and knees position for more than a split second, certainly for less time than it would take to get from the fully standing position of Mr. Taktarov to a back-control position. There would however still be those that would argue that this is due to the circumstances of a magazine article photo-shoot. What is not due to any photo-shoot, and typical of Mr. Taktarov's approach to grappling is that he goes for the leg-lock without having or maintaining control of his opponent. There is just far too much space for the opponent to move, to turn, to spin, to use his hips and the major muscles of his body to escape. What he should have done after the sweep or throw, is to take the back of the opponent and to control him. Then, various submission possibilities would present themselves and he could choose one.

That's the whole thing. Mr. Taktarov thinks in terms of applying specific single techniques. This may or may not work, depending on the momentary circumstances, the level of ability of the opponent etc. There seems to be no specific strategy involved beyond rolling around with the opponent and seeing what might present itself. BJJ has a specific sequential strategy : Position first, once you have a superior position and have a certain measure of control, then and only then, does one start looking for an opening for a finishing hold. No, I am not saying that the BJJ way is the only way to go, but I am saying that the technique-focused rather than grappling-principle focused method of Mr. Taktarov is exactly what makes his performance in the NHB arena such a chance thing. By virtue of his toughness and his experience he sometimes lasts long enough to be able to apply one of his techniques and to win.

Since he is so damned likeable one would love to be able to convince him of the validity of these criticisms. With his already mentioned toughness, vast experience and large technical repetoire, if Mr. Taktarov changed his grappling strategy significantly and started to obey basic grappling principles, there is no saying where he could get to. What is certain, is that he would win a lot more. As to the video, should one buy it or not? Well, IMO, not as a beginner. It might create some bad habits and there are better basic videos out there, such as those of Mr. Lala and those of Mr. Harris. For the more advanced grappler, there are lots of interesting ideas and possibilities here that one could explore and play with. With a little modification, some of these techniques could be useful, as long as they are fitted into a correct grappling strategy.

Since Mr. Taktarov is so likeable and since Mr. Le Bell keeps on going on about Mr. Taktarov's liking for vodka, maybe the beginner should just buy the tape and keep it on his shelf until he is no longer a beginner and watch it then !?


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