BJJ AGAINST BIGGER OPPONENT
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become the premier brand of Martial Arts, as many world class competitors are showcasing their expertise. Competing in BJJ is becoming mainstream, with the influx of students stepping onto the tatami mats worldwide. Nowadays with the scale of international grappling, and its televised nature, fans around the world can tune in to watch many of the superstars of the sport compete. The top of the mountain is the absolute division in the world championships, which is an open weight division, meaning competitors of any weight class can compete to become the world's best grappler. This is the same at the ADCC level, as the world's most talented, and dedicated grapplers will all compete to be crowned the number one.
What this article covers:
- Training Against Bigger Athletes
- How to Compete Against Bigger Opponents
- The Need for Strength Against the Big Guy
- What Submissions Work on Bigger and Stronger Opponents
- Can You Sweep or Takedown a Big Guy
The hardest grapplers to compete against are the big guys like Gordon Ryan, Andre Galvao, Roger Gracie, and Marcus Almeida. Competing as a smaller athlete, and facing off against bigger, and stronger athletes can be extremely difficult, and dangerous. Smaller athletes must understand what is bjj open mat, so they can attempt to harness their skills against the bigger athletes in an open mat format. Being the small guy, and competing against a bigger, and stronger athlete, they must utilise their technical systems, and do it with speed, agility, and strategy. Smaller athletes need to take control of their opponents from the beginning, and not let the big guys pressure them with dominant positioning.
TRAINING AGAINST BIGGER ATHLETES
Training sessions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are designed so athletes can master their technical systems, at same time as testing their physical conditioning. Rolling with a larger, and stronger athlete is a good time to battle test the bjj for smaller guys, because if a technique can work on a stronger guy then it is going to work against anyone. Putting in the work against a larger grappler in training will ultimately lead to a more comprehensive competition process. Athletes should proceed with caution even in training, as they can wind up injured and give a competitor to win by walkover if they don't take care of their bodies while training against stronger partners. In training it is important not to be egotistical, and tap more often rather than being stubborn, as this can lead to a series of problems.
A bigger, and stronger opponent is going to be able to win more often against a smaller grappler, as this is the nature of the beast. Small athletes should use this time, and training to enhance their abilities to defend, and escape from positions, and submissions. They should also work extensively on stifling a guard pass, and working out how to unbalance a larger opponent. All of these processes put together will help small athletes develop a game style that can work against a bigger, and stronger adversary. Going for the choke against a larger grappler isn't always the best method, as they usually have extremely thick necks, and bigger stronger arms, meaning they can defend chokes easier. Going for the limbs is a much better use of a smaller grappler's time, as they can use leverage from the longer levers of the bigger athlete to neutralise them with arm locks, and leg locks.
HOW TO COMPETE AGAINST BIGGER OPPONENTS
Competing against heavier or stronger athletes can be extremely tricky, and needs to be taken with finesse. Smaller athletes will need to utilise a more extensive range of tricks to be able to neutralise, and defeat their opponent. First and foremost a smaller grappler will have to be constantly on the move, as they cannot allow a stronger opponent to take the dominant grips in the stand up battle. This can end in disaster, as a bigger opponent could easily take down a smaller opponent, rendering the smaller athlete in a terrible position. Smaller athletes need to use good footwork, and constantly be ready to break grips, as this can be frustrating for a bigger opponent. Using their speed, and agility, the smaller athletes should be able to arm drag, or get around to the back of their opponent in an attempt to gain their control.
The other option is to pull guard, but make sure they are quick to utilise dominant grips from the outset. These days the smaller grappler will shoot in for leg entanglements, by using inverts, or 50/50 guard entries, and this can be a good way to put a bigger opponent on the back foot from the beginning of a match. Smaller athletes need to make sure that they stay tight, and don't allow the stronger opponent to out muscle them. If a smaller athlete just leaves their arms out, then the stronger, or bigger opponent is being given an easy control, or submission. The small guy needs to use strategy, and try and bait the bigger guy into using more of his energy from the start. If the smaller athlete can weather the storm early in the match, they just might have enough endurance to gain control back, and set themselves up for a win.
THE NEED FOR STRENGTH AGAINST THE BIG GUY
Bigger athletes will always be stronger than a smaller athlete, and this can pose a problem when it comes to competing against them. Smaller athletes will still be incredibly strong, as all Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners build up core strength, and a significant grip strength throughout their careers. The bigger guy will always have more weight, which can translate into more pressure onto a little guy. This can cause problems for the small athlete, as they will be fighting against pressure, and using more energy, while their opponent is calm and relaxed. Sometimes it may be considerably hard for the small guy to even utilise their framework, and this is why it is necessary that all smaller athletes get as strong as they possibly can. Just training in BJJ will increase a student's strength ten fold, and it is even more crucial that they do extra strength and conditioning work, so they can at least hold off a bigger, and stronger opponent.
There is a difference between muscular strength, and skeletal strength, as the muscles will traditionally burn out, as lactic acid will build up in the muscles. Skeletal strength is where an athlete can push, and use the frames of their bones to hold off an attacker. Smaller athletes are going to use more energy in most cases from the start, so they need to build up some significant strength in their muscles to be capable of submitting a bigger opponent, and that's if they find themself in a position to do so. Smaller athletes are already under the pump just with the weight difference, and length difference of a bigger opponent. If they are well behind in strength capabilities then they are facing an uphill battle they just will not win. Doing strength exercises like kettlebell training, or weight training can be extremely beneficial for a smaller athlete.
DOES TECHNIQUE REALLY BEAT STRENGTH
One of the very first lessons a student will learn in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is that technique will always beat strength. Although this is true to an extent, an athlete that uses too much strength, and forgets about the correct technical procedure will lose the battle. Athletes that use a good technical proficiency are always going to stay steps ahead of their opponent. The term technique beats strength isn't as true as it may seem, as when you add a different variable into the equation, then technique will struggle against strength. The meaning of this is when an extremely strong athlete learns to do the correct technical procedure, then they can easily outmaneuver a smaller athlete that is using technique. So this basically should say technique does beat strength, unless the strong is super technical. In this case, athletes need to get strong, and combine their strength with their technical proficiency to almost produce a super technical ability. These kinds of concepts are taught heavily throughout the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community, with many famous grapplers like Andre Galvao from Atos BJJ, John Danaher from the Danaher Death Squad, and Chris Haueter, a member of the dirty dozen bjj from the Base Camp training centre.
UTILISING AN ATHLETES ABILITIES
All athletes have different abilities like the stronger, and bigger athlete will always be able to out muscle an opponent. The smaller athlete has their own set of abilities which usually consist of speed, agility, flexibility, and dexterity. Being the small opponent in a fight they need to use their strength in order to win the battle. If they were to take down a bigger opponent, and try and control them with heavy pressure, in most cases they will probably get swept, and end up underneath them. Maximising their abilities is what a smaller grappler needs to do, and this means being constantly on the move from one control position to the next, as this can stifle a bigger opponent's ability to escape. For example once a smaller athlete passes the guard, and goes into side control they can quickly transition into knee ride, before moving around to north south, or to the mount. These types of movements will help the smaller athlete stay steps ahead of the bigger, and stronger athlete, which in turn will help them maximise their output, and possibly win them the fight.
WHAT SUBMISSIONS WORK ON BIGGER AND STRONGER OPPONENTS
Not all athletes can be power houses like a Brock Lesnar, or an undertaker bjj, and execute death defying throws. Some athletes are too small, and not strong enough to be capable of using big movements. Helio Gracie himself had this problem early on, as he too was unable to utilise Judo throws on his bigger, and stronger older brothers, this forced him to develop more of a little man's game. For smaller athletes competing against the bigger guys, they should stay away from choke holds, though in saying that it doesn't mean they are not capable of choking out a big athlete. In most cases they will burn through too much muscle power, and their opponent will escape anyway. There are easier ways to submit bigger, and stronger opponents, and this is through using the leverage system. Arm bars, kimuras, americanas, omoplatas, knee bars, heel hooks, toe holds, and wrist locks are just a few submissions that smaller athletes can use to get the tap against the big guys.
CAN YOU SWEEP OR TAKEDOWN A BIG GUY
The takedown battle is more about balance, then it is about strength, so when a small athlete attempts to take down the big guy it can definitely be possible. Smaller athletes have a lower centre of gravity, meaning they naturally have a better balance than taller, and bigger athletes. Small guys can also get lower to the ground, meaning it is easier for them to shoot in for a double leg, single leg, or ankle pick takedown. It may be difficult to use Judo throws on the bigger, and stronger guys, because they generally have a better base. The smaller athlete uses their speed, and their agility, which enables them to arm drag their opponent, and circle around the back, which can make it easier to take them down. One of the oldest sayings is the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and this is definitely true. The bigger, and heavier athlete will be forced into a harder impact if they are taken to the mat. Smaller athletes are wise to try and take the bigger guy down, not only for the force of impact, but because once the fight hits the mat, they will have a faster speed of transition, which can allow them to gain significant positional control.
The sweeping game is something entirely different, as a smaller athlete may struggle to move a heavier grappler. Executing a sweep against a big guy takes a lot of years of practise, as they need to unbalance them, or force them to post in awkward positions. Quite often the bigger guy can use his muscle power to stifle many of the sweeping attacks, making it extremely hard for a smaller athlete. This is where building up grip strength is super important for a smaller athlete, because if they can use strong hands to initiate grips on their opponents arms, then this will help them to set up more technical sweeps. Because a bigger, and stronger athlete has such a good base, and they are extremely hard to move, there is a better option than actually trying to sweep them. Instead of trying to move a bigger opponent, a smaller athlete should move themself by changing angles, and either securing an underhook, and moving to the back of their opponent, or using a technical stand up in order to out hustle them, and take the top position. Every pathway a smaller athlete chooses, they need to be technical, and use speed to out move, and out strategise the bigger, and stronger opponents.
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