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Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martia l Arts Hardcover – November 17, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 the author of the national bestseller American Shaolin. A Princeton University graduate and Rhodes Scholar, his work has appeared in Esquire, Slate, and The Nation. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (November 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592405991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592405992
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,857,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Helen Crow on November 18, 2011
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.
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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.
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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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a huge fan of the sport and a big fan of Polly's first work I was really pleased to see this novel was a great read as well.

His style is impetuous, his defense is impregnable...oh wait, wrong guy.

His writing style is endearing and really draws you into the story. You find yourself rooting for him but his ability to be self-effacing keeps you from feeling he's an egomaniac.

I look forward to his next book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perhaps every MMA or UFC fan has secretly wondered what it would be like to walk into the Octagon, strap on 4-oz. gloves and hear "Big" John McCarthy say to them, "Let's get it on!"

Author Matthew Polly takes this Walter Mitty fantasy to literal levels in his newest book, TAPPED OUT. Polly is no stranger to participatory sports journalism in the George Plimpton vein. His earlier book, AMERICAN SHAOLIN, chronicled his apprenticeship in Chinese martial arts while living and studying at Shaolin Temples.

Here, Polly undertakes to transform himself from a 240-lb. schlub into a ripped and buff mixed martial artist, and to do so in his late 30's. A tall order!

To get ready, he plans to assemble various pieces of his MMA arsenal - grappling, jiu-jitsu and striking. He offers an insider's perspective on some of the Mecca's of MMA training. He begins with Renzo Gracie's jiu-jitsu academy in New York City. Je comes under the tutelage of BJJ guru John Danaher. When Polly notices that Renzo never seems to be around, he asks one of the instructors about it, inquiring as to what exactly Renzo does at the gym. The answer, "He collects the money."

After working on some semblance of a ground game, Polly then gravitates to the domain of Phil Nurse, the eminent Muay Thai coach to learn the rudiments of striking and kicking. With every bruised rib and sore leg, the reader empathizes with Polly's gritty attempts to transform himself into a fighter.

From New York City, Polly then ventures to the Capital of MMA, Las Vegas, where he signs on to train at Xtreme Couture, the lair of the legendary Randy Couture. Here, Polly plans to "put it all together" in order to get ready for one amateur MMA fight organized in Sin City by an outfit called Tuff-E- Nuff.
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