BJJ FOR SMALLER GUYS
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become a powerhouse of scary athletes like Gordon Ryan, Andre Galvao, Felipe Pena, and Kaynan Duarte. These formidable pioneers of grappling have proven to the world that being jacked goes hand in hand with being dominant. Then there are the little guys like Marcelo Garcia, Lachlan Giles, Mikey Musumeci, and Mica Galvao, these guys are showing the world that pound for pound they can mix it with the world's best. Master Helio Gracie designed Jiu Jitsu to help the smaller, and weaker athletes to defeat the larger, and stronger opponents. Unfortunately for society the bigger, and stronger athletes now have learnt Jiu Jitsu, which means no matter the size of an athlete, strength and conditioning will always have to play a part.
What this article covers:
- The Advantage of Being Small
- The Disadvantage of Being Small
- Game Styles that Suit a Smaller Athlete
- The Most Famous Small BJJ Athletes
There are advantages, and disadvantages to being the smaller guy on the mats. No matter what size a student is, it's the technical aspects that make them a world class level athlete. Students will always need a certain level of strength, but as long as they train consistently, and work hard to execute their game plan they will always come out on top. It is the smaller guys inside an academy that usually surprise, as they often have greater energy levels for bjj against bigger opponents. Smaller athletes have a lower centre of gravity, which means they have a greater ability of keeping their balance during a fight. Smaller athletes usually become little nuggets, which can make them extremely hard to defeat.
THE ADVANTAGE OF BEING SMALL
The smaller athlete has numerous advantages over the larger athlete. Having a lower centre of gravity can make a smaller opponent much harder to take down to the mat, and this is largely due to their ability to stay more balanced. It may also be harder to grab hold of them in the first place, as they can be extremely evasive. Smaller athletes will always try to use speed, and dexterity to avoid the bigger, and more stronger opponents from neutralising them. Having a set of smaller arms, and legs means there is less of a leverage system, which can make it considerably tough for the bigger opponent to submit them with an arm lock, or a leg lock. Smaller feet, also makes it extremely tough for leg submissions like heel hooks, or toe holds.
Smaller athletes are usually faster than a bigger athlete, and this is always extremley annoying for a bigger opponent. Speed, and agility can be a powerful weapon in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match, and it may be the only way to get a jump on a heavyweight athlete. Another important aspect is that smaller athletes will often find it easier to escape out of small gaps. This also means that because their limbs are smaller, they have less work to do in trying to escape their hips in search of good guard retention. Smaller athletes can be quite used to competing against larger athletes, as they will commonly find out what is bjj open mat, as this platform of training will allow them to practise their Jiu Jitsu game style against the heavier, and stronger opponents, on a regular basis.
THE DISADVANTAGE OF BEING SMALL
There are some disadvantages to being small, and athletes will find this out during many of their heated battles inside of their academy, and on the competition mats. Just like the disadvantages of competing in jiu jitsu with long hair, competing as a smaller athlete has its own unique set of challenges. Competing against the heavier, and stronger opponents means the smaller athlete can always be out muscled. This can be quite concerning for the little guy, as they are in more danger from chokes that could have higher pounds of pressure. A bigger opponent is capable of using more pressure in control positions, without using more energy, in comparison to a smaller athlete who is having to use a higher amount of energy just to deal with a heavy guys pressure. Being stifled, and stuck under an opponent can be extremely disheartening for the little guy, as they may work extremely hard just to get back to their guard, only to be passed again with ease. Sometimes a smaller athlete can have a defeated mindset when they look up, and see a giant they are about to face in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition, and this is a huge disadvantage to the athlete. Becoming successful at the competition level, athletes need to be in control of their nerves, and their adrenaline levels. Embracing the moment is how the smaller athlete can overcome the adversity of a bigger, and stronger opponent.
GAME STYLES THAT SUIT A SMALLER ATHLETE
Utilising a game style that works against the bigger opponents can be extremely hard. The biggest problem that smaller athletes will face is that their usual game style just won't work on the bigger opponents. The heavier grappler will always have the weight advantage, and the strength advantage, meaning no matter what position a smaller athlete is in, they are always in danger of a quick explosion from a larger athlete. This can significantly minimise a meaningful attack for a smaller athlete, so they must go in with a game plan, and execute it to perfection. Using the slow and controlled game plan will not work against the heavy guy, as they are strong enough to out muscle, and pick up their opponents, and throw them to the mat. Smaller athletes must be faster than their opponents, and will need to utilise their strengths by staying steps ahead of the larger grappler. Smaller athletes must avoid getting stuck underneath them at all costs, as this can be the end of the match if they do so.
A fast transitional game is what the smaller grappler needs to use, they must not let the big guy get settled enough to gain a dominant control position. Moving through the positions faster will help keep the little guy ahead of the game, and will ultimately lead to the big guy giving up a submission. Going for the choke on a stronger opponent might not be the best option, as strength in a bigger athletes neck can be too much to handle for the lighter grappler. Using leverage to gain submission is a better game plan, and this is because a bigger opponent will usually have longer levers, making arm locks, and leg locks the right choice. Nowadays the lighter grapplers will utilise the leg entanglement game, which has become synonymous with No Gi grappling. Shooting in for a 50/50 guard, or using the single leg ex, and various other leg entanglement entries can minimise a smaller grapplers risk of being stuck under a larger grappler. The leg lock game has grown in leaps and bounds, as the accuracy, and the ferocity of submissions like the heel hook, the toe hold, and the knee bar can now be executed to neutralise a bigger, and stronger opponent.
The smaller athlete must take the initiative from the outset of a match, this means to inflict their will before a bigger opponent takes control. If they choose to play guard then they should take grips instantly, and use good leg controls like a knee shield, a spider guard, a 50/50 guard, or a lasso guard, before their opponent can settle into a dominant position. Taking the back is the best option for a smaller athlete, because a bigger opponent will find it harder to escape than any other position, besides maybe a leg lock itself. Bigger athletes will traditionally tire out quicker than a smaller athlete, so it is vital to put them through the paces, and force them to use more of their energy at the start of a match. This is a good strategy, because if a bigger opponent tires out quick, then if they do manage to wrestle back control they may lack the muscle power to finish off a smaller athlete.
THE MOST FAMOUS SMALL BJJ ATHLETES
There have been many smaller athletes that have become world class level throughout the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Becoming successful on the world stage of grappling as a lighter athlete has its own set of challenges, and these athletes need to be commended. Seriously formidable opponents like Marcus Almeida, Roger Gracie, Gordon Ryan, and Andre Galvao will always have a definitive advantage going into an open weight division competitive match. But when the little guys step up to the mats, and conquer these prestigious levels it is truly amazing to watch. Quite often athletes will be between twenty, and forty kilograms lighter then some of their opponents, and can still manage to gain the considerable advantage, and win the fight.
Marcelo Garcia is one athlete that springs to mind, as he has conquered the highest levels of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on numerous occasions. The smiling assassin, or otherwise known as the human backpack, has built a legacy of defeating bigger, and stronger opponents his whole career. Watching Marcelo choke out giants with his guillotines, and his rear naked chokes have been a privilege, and an honour for many fans, and members of the BJJ fraternity. Marcelo Garcia has become one of the premier coaches in the world, as many high level athletes will strive their whole careers to get to his academy for a roll with one of the most formidable athletes of all time. Pound for pound, Marcelo Garcia is quite possibly the best grappler in the world, and his credentials show just how sensational is Jiu Jitsu game style has been for decades.
Chris Haueter is one of the members of the dirty dozen bjj group, and has been extremely influential throughout his impressive career. Chris was an avid competitor for many years, as the 76 kilogram fighter would regularly take on larger athletes. Chris has become a pioneer of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with his conceptually based coaching approach that many students across the globe will flock to. The former world champion is also a former US Marine, and is the founder of the popular Combat Base Jiu Jitsu academy. Along with many of his accomplishments throughout his career, Chris Haueter is more recently known for being one of the referees in the popular BJJ competition Metamoris. This Dirty Dozen member has made a living off teaching smaller guys to defeat larger opponents, which is usually the nature of most fights in a real life combat situation.
Lachlan Giles is another smaller athlete who has made quite a name for himself on the world stage of grappling. Lachlan Giles is a first degree black belt who has paved the way for many Australian grapplers, who have burst onto the scene. Lachlan Giles became the first ever Australian athlete to win a medal in ADCC competition, after winning a bronze medal in the event. His intricate k guard, and leg lock system earned him significant heel hook victories over super heavyweight giants Kaynan Duarte, Patrick Gaudio, and Mahamed Aly. Lachlan Giles is well known for his incredible Melbourne based academy MA1, where he has developed some of Australia's best grapplers like Craig Jones, and Livia Gluchowska. Lachlan Giles also achieved a PhD in physiotherapy, which is something he has used to intricately study the leg lock system, in order to better understand how the joints work. Lachlan has become one of Australia's top grapplers, as he continues to achieve his well earned notoriety throughout the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
There are many other world class athletes that have become international sensations throughout history of Jiu Jitsu. Athlete's like BJ Penn have not only starred on the international scene of grappling, but have showcased their talents inside the Mixed Martial Arts Arena. Other athletes like Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Diego Sanchez, Nate Diaz, and Kenny Florian have also starred on both platforms of BJJ competition, and MMA. There are many modern day athletes like Mica Galvao, Mikey Musumeci, Keenan Cornelius, the Mendes Brothers, the Rotoulo Brothers that are also taking the world by storm with their innovative contributions to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Many of these smaller athletes are paving the way for the little guy all over the world, and showing them that it is not the size of the athlete in the fight, but the size of the fight within the athlete.
There have been many famous celebrities that have become black belts within the art. Of course there are the bigger guys like Ed O'Neill, and WWE's very own undertaker bjj. There have also been some small guys who have been awarded Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts. Celebrities like the late Paul Walker, Scott Caan, Guy Ritchie, and Richard Norton. The fact that celebrities are now entering the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is great for the growth of the sport on a international scale. Famous celebrities always have huge followings on social media platforms, and the fact that not only do they train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but they are now beginning to promote the art around their social media pages, which has seen an increase in BJJ memberships across the globe. This global phenomenon is sweeping the nation, and is now becoming a mainstream combat that all students should be aiming to enter.
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