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Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts [Paperback]

Matthew Polly

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Book Description

Oct. 2 2012
An aging amateur takes his shot at glory in the world of mixed martial arts.
 
As a younger man, Matthew Polly traveled to the Shaolin Temple in China and spent two years training with the monks who had invented the ancient art of kung fu. Fifteen years later, his weakness for Chinese takeout and Jack Daniel’s had taken its toll. Firmly into middle age and far removed from his past athletic triumphs, Polly decided to risk it all one last time. Out of shape and over the hill, he jumped headlong into the world of MMA.
 
In Tapped Out, Polly chronicles his grueling yet redeeming two-year journey through an often misunderstood sport. From Thailand to Russia, Manhattan to Las Vegas, Polly studied with the best trainers, concluding with a six-month fight camp at Randy Couture’s legendary gym. He explores the history of fighting sports and joins a fascinating subculture of men who roll around on sweaty mats with one another in appreciation of the purity of contained combat. And in the end, Polly straps on the gloves, gets into the cage, and squares off with a fighter fifteen years younger.
 
An honest and humorous look at a hard-core sport, Tapped Out is a fascinating look into the fastest growing sport in America and what it takes to be an MMA fighter.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; Reprint edition (Oct. 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159240619X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592406197
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #799,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

 “Hypnotic…Tapped Out manages to humanize a sport once demonized as “human cockfighting” by deconstructing the stereotype of the martial-arts tough guy.”
--The New York Times

“You have to give credit to the author for making a huge investment in proper training, the opportunity cost that he could have spent on more lucrative gigs, as well as the emotional pain Polly endured on the road to glory.”
--TheSweetScience.com

“He’s a fighter. Not just a writer.”
--New Hampshire NPR

“The Best MMA Book of 2012.”
—The Bleacher Report

 “A vivid, breezy read.”
Sports Illustrated

“Polly’s self-deprecation in the painful learning process stands out as much as the witty prose. His delivery is Plimpton-esque.”
—ESPN.com

“It is safe to say that if George Plimpton, the fellow who embodied participatory sports writing by pitching to Major League Baseball all-stars, playing quarterback for the Detroit Lions, and otherwise humiliating himself, were still alive, he’d cringe at Polly’s endeavor.”
The Boston Globe

“Polly takes his training seriously, but as a writer, he never takes himself too seriously, which is one reason why his book works as well as it does.”
—Bill Littlefield, NPR’s "It’s Only a Game"

“A gregarious and charming protagonist, Polly comes across as self-deprecating, yet his enthusiasm and passion for martial arts are unmistakable. Readers familiar with MMA will be gratified to hear how affable their heroes are and will recognize themselves in the author’s shoes. Those who previously lacked knowledge of this modern craze will respect both Polly, for undertaking this odyssey, and the fighters whose grueling training regimens he followed.”
Publishers Weekly

“Polly is hilarious as a narrator. He gets beaten, tossed, choked, and twisted like a dishrag on every page, yet maintains a humble sense of humor that is both charming and unique. Tapped Out is so in-your-face good you’ll check your jaw for bruises.”
—CultureMob.com

“Polly’s memoir of a middle-aged, thoroughly out-of-shape couch potato’s quest to become a UFC-style cage warrior is one of the funniest yet most insightful books that I’ve come across in quite a while.”
—SecondAct.com

Tapped Out is a knockout for MMA fans, who will laugh at the intimate portraits Polly sketches of some of the sport’s most famous personalities. But it also works for those not familiar with the sport. It may even inspire you to start training. I say buy it and read it. You won’t be disappointed.”
—OpposingViews.com

“In between throwing up on the subway following training sessions and getting yelled at by Xtreme Couture coaches for his terrible diet, Polly actually learned a great deal about this sport and its denizens, and the book is a must-read for any MMA fan.”
—Ben Fowlkes, MMAFighting.com

Tapped Out has a big heart that will make you enjoy its quirks as much as its virtues. It’s a delight to read and has a much greater mass appeal than most of its contemporaries. This book is a must-read for the MMA fan and a probably-should-read for everyone else.”
—TheFightNerd.com

“Matt Polly’s Tapped Out succeeds where all other MMA-related books fail: it tells a fight story for both the male and female reader.”
—MMAConvert.com

“Polly earned my respect. He’s got a ton of heart. He did the work and played the part.”
—Randy Couture, former UFC heavyweight champion
 

About the Author

Matthew Polly is an award-winning travel writer for Slate. A Princeton University graduate and Rhodes Scholar, Polly has also written for Esquire, Playboy, and The Nation. He lives in New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tapped Out Succeeds Where Others Fail Nov. 17 2011
By jim genia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Matt Polly's "Tapped Out" succeeds where all other mixed martial arts-related books fail: it tells a fight story for both the male and female reader.

By jumping head-first into the icy waters of competition, Polly undertakes a journey of transformation, leaving behind a hard-drinking, leisurely everyman to become a capable mixed martial arts fighter. There is, of course, the expected blood, sweat and tears of training, as well as an exploration of the physical and mental rigors of climbing into the ring and beating someone silly. But throughout the narrative there's also the author's newly-wed wife, a presence that colors Polly's odyssey with a perspective heretofore unseen in mixed martial arts books.

From a visit to Russia and a tournament featuring the legendary fighter Fedor Emelianenko, to the grueling workouts of ace jiu-jitsu and kickboxing coaches John Danaher and Kru Phil Nurse, to the nigh-sadistic tutelage of trainer Joey Varner in Las Vegas, Polly's passage into the realm of sanctioned unarmed combat is both illuminating and compelling, a George Plimpton-esque case study on what it means to be a man in a sport populated by fistic giants - and thanks to his wife, "Em", Tapped Out is also a treatise on what it means to be a husband in that world.

Like Polly's "American Shaolin" before it, Tapped Out has all of the author's usual wit and ease of prose. But unlike his two-year stint at that Shaolin Kung Fu temple in China detailed in Polly's first book, this tale involves mixed martial arts, a bout in a Las Vegas hotel ballroom, and a wife waiting at home to kick his butt. And that sets it apart from every other MMA star bio or historical text out there.

Buy it. Read it. Love it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who knew that violence could be fun? Nov. 18 2011
By Helen Crow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Like fellow author Bill Bryson, like the best kind of teacher, Matthew Polly has a gift for explaining his subject with so much empathy for his readers that even the most unlikely martial arts fan (that would be me) gets caught up in his enthusiasm for violent one-on-one fighting. He builds perspective for his readers with whimsy and with rich details. He taps into such a broad range of interests and experiences for context that, as you read, it is impossible not to find yourself nodding along with various points, pausing for thought at others, deeply engaged in this book. You learn. That's satisfying. And, it's fun. This author's down-to-earth writing style adds to his readers' comfort. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) turns out to be a fascinating topic. Who knew? :) As this book draws you in, I predict you will find that you care (a lot) about MMA, or at least about learning about MMA, even if you (like me) couldn't stomach actually watching a fight in this lifetime. Most of all, you become a fan of Matthew Polly.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tapped Out Taps In Nov. 20 2011
By Gene Ching - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Matt Polly does for MMA what A.J. Jacobs did for the Bible in his NYT bestseller, The Year of Living Biblically. Once again, Matt immerses himself in his subject, putting his body on the line for an authentic experience of America's fastest growing sport. if you enjoyed American Shaolin, you'll like this too. Matt's wit and self-effacing honesty are still very present. In fact, in many ways, his 2nd work banks on the same formula - open with a fight, make a self-examining list, present character studies of exponents, encapsulate the history and explain some of the major techniques. At first, it struck me as too formulaic, but even though this is still about martial arts, it's the opposite side of the spectrum. It's the yang to American Shaolin's yin.

Tapped Out is a good crash course on the history of the sport, from a very UFC angle. It's enjoyable for those not familiar with MMA as it explains a lot of history and introduces many of the big players. It's entertaining for those into MMA because Matt scores some good interviews and offers an unflinching insider perspective. Of course, I'm biased, but it's a quick read, so I don't think you'll be disappointed, especially if you liked American Shaolin.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matt Polly could win with one arm! Nov. 17 2011
By Daniel Stern - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An extremely enjoyable, entertaining, and educational read! As a pacificist reader, I found TAPPED OUT to be an ideal introduction to the erupting sport of MMA. Polly strikes a remarkable balance between entertaining memoir, informative description of martial arts, and an anthrologist's view of an intriguing subculture. He travels the world meeting the biggest names in the sport, from Fedor "the Last Emperoro" Emelianenko in St. Petersburg to the Brazilian Gracie's to Randy Couture in Las Vegas. He surpasses the typical journalist interview by training with these incredible athletes. Indeed, the book culminates with Polly fighting in an amateur tournament in Vegas against a man 15 years his junior -- though Polly has Randy Couture cornering him, which would be a bit like an amateur boxer being cornered by Mike Tyson. Polly tells the colorful history of MMA, including such classic tales as Royce Gracie's preference for a broken arm over surrendering ("Honestly, I thought I could still win with one arm."). Equally interesting are the people that Polly trains with and under, from Manhattanite professionals (a lawyer and a McKinsey consultant) to a former Columbia philosophy Ph.D. student turned jiu-jitsu coach.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal Nov. 17 2011
By Shayna Gunn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For someone who knew nothing about MMA and had no interest in learning, I found Polly's book to be extremely engaging, even for a female reader. I was so inspired by his story, that I immediately went out and signed up for a boxing class. This is a great read for any MMA fan or just those looking to develop a new hobby. Highly recommended!!
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