Sonnon’s (Mastering Sambo for Mixed Martial Arts, 2008, etc.) autobiography-cum-self-help-guide is a tale of perseverance.
The author’s path to becoming one of the most influential martial artists of the early 21st century was by no means smooth or direct. As a child, he suffered from osteochondrosis and obesity. This, along with his severe dyslexia, affected both his coordination and learning abilities. His disabilities, misinterpreted as disruptive classroom behavior, led to him being institutionalized in a childhood psychiatric hospital. In class, he found that, unlike the other children, he could write using both hands and considered this to be his secret superpower. He dedicated the rest of his life to unearthing other hidden abilities—a way of using a perceived disability as a genetic advantage. Through study and sweat, Sonnon began to discover that his dyslexia gave him a significant edge in physical training, specifically the ability to move spontaneously. Contrary to the belief of his teachers that he should not set his expectations too high, Sonnon gained entry into university to further his interest in philosophy and martial arts. From here, he discovered the Russian martial art of Sambo, the discipline in which he would excel, becoming a five-time world champion. Sonnon is seldom slow to crow about these achievements. His time spent studying in Russia provides one of the most engaging sections of the autobiography—testament to the author’s single-mindedness in choosing to embrace Russian culture at a time when anti-Soviet tension ran high in America. In the 1990s, during his trips to Russia, he developed Thygeson’s disease, a rare eye condition that left his vision barely functional. The author’s remarkable willfulness and love of the writing drove him to continue his research while in pain. The writing is prone to prolix; quotations from other inspirational thinkers interrupt the flow, yet this book will offer hope to many struggling to face life’s challenges head-on.
Self-assured to the point of being egotistical, this is nevertheless an inspirational memoir.