A lot can happen to a guy when he loses a fight. He can become discouraged, he can quit, or he can set out to improve himself. When martial arts competitor Scott Sonnon refused to tap out in his fight with a Russian Sambo champion, the Russian broke his arm. By refusing to submit, he saved Team USA two points. It cost him a broken bone but it taught him a valuable lesson that would alter the course of his life. The lesson was simple: you must be more prepared than your opponents.

For the next ten years, this former football player turned his attention to doing just that. He not only studied philosophy and sports psychology at the university level for eight years, he competed and coached around the world until he became known as America's leading proponent of Russian martial arts. In fact, Sonnon became the first non-Russian student allowed to train at the Russian Federation of Martial Arts in St. Petersburg. He took what he learned, blended it with his eclectic background, and was soon inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year.

These days his clients include Ultimate Fighting champions, professional and Olympic athletes, actors, and law enforcement officers. Basically, he's trained and consulted with everyone from tennis players to counter-terrorism units. Whether your battlefield is the playing court, the mean streets, or the soil of enemy countries, Scott Sonnon has something to teach you.

T-mag sat down to talk with Coach Sonnon recently about a variety of topics.

Testosterone: Tell us about yourself, coach.

T-mag: What type of athletes do you normally train?

T-mag: You've also worked with non-athletes like military and law enforcement too, correct?

T-mag: Do you think athletes and tactical communities focus too much on size? Is being "too big" a problem for a SWAT team member or a soldier?

T-mag: I know you're getting more into training the average gym crowd these days, so tell me, what is the typical bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast missing in his program?

T-mag: Give us an example of what you mean by creativity.

SS:

T-mag: Let's get specific, Scott. What one thing does the average gym rat and weightlifter need?

T-mag: Last time I wrestled with TC, he bit half my ear off and scratched like a girl, but maybe we'll try it again. Now, one of your big contributions is something called "circular strength." What is that and how did you come to develop it?

SS:

T-mag: Okay, so how do we train for circular strength?

SS:

T-mag: Clubbells look a bit like those old Indian clubs people trained with in the 1800's.

T-mag: To be honest, Scott, I'm almost scared to talk too much about clubbells because so many people will go buck ass wild and start saying they're superior to regular weight training – which inevitably leads to them being a short term fad instead of another tool for the fitness toolbox. I see that trend with kettlebells. So, do you use any type of traditional resistance training to go along with the clubbell work?

SS:

T-mag: Good analogy! That puts many of these "alternative" training tools and methodologies into perspective. Now, your "training hierarchy pyramid" is interesting. Tell us more about that.

SS:

T-mag: What do you mean by mental and emotional skills? You're not going to go all "new age" on us, are you?

SS:

T-mag: That's interesting. Can you give us a real world example of one of these skills, maybe something we can apply in the gym or in an athletic event?

SS:

T-mag: How do you teach your athletes to use auto-suggestion in a positive manner?

SS:

T-mag: Very cool stuff. Tell us about your concept of "performance breathing."

SS:

T-mag: What do you mean by compressing and expanding the body?

T-mag: Yeah, I can see how complex it could become. Now, you write about something called "fear-reactivity." Let's talk about that.

T-mag: Sure.

SS:

T-mag: Can you give us a real world example of "hiding fear" from our bodies?

SS:

T-mag: Man, this is getting deep! Fascinating stuff, though. When you talk about "aggro raging," that sounds a lot like what some guys go through before they perform a max lift to psych themselves up. Is that self-defeating?

T-mag: Very interesting. You also mentioned the word "flow." Is this similar to Csikszentmihalyi's theory of optimal experience?

SS:

T-mag: Coach, you've written several articles on self-defense for the average person. What's the most important thing a person needs to know about any self-defense situation where they may be attacked?

T-mag: These days, it seems the enemy is not an army but a lone assailant or small group of wackos. People used to learn self-defense to prevent muggings, now they want to learn how to disarm a terrorist or a nutcase going "postal" in a public place. I've always thought that a sort of primeval alertness is the most important factor – you know, not walking around like someone's pet sheep. What do you think?

T-mag: Let's talk more about the training of MMA fighters. I've heard from some of these guys that many who enter this sport focus too much on weight training and not enough of other aspects and end up getting their well-built asses whipped. Do you see that with newcomers?

T-mag: What approach do you take when conditioning a fighter? There's always a big debate about performing cardio. What do you think?

SS:

T-mag: Let's end with something for the T-mag core audience – people who train with weights to look good naked. What can a typical bodybuilder get out of your teachings?

SS:

T-mag: Thanks for talking with us, Scott.