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Why I Sometimes Wish I Was a Smaller BJJ Practitioner
Throughout the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are stories of smaller, weaker people overcoming insurmountable odds against larger, stronger opponents. Helio Gracie weighed in at around 140 lbs and is famous for taking on opponents who were much larger. The story goes that because of his slight stature, Helio had to adjust and reinvent the ground techniques of Kodokan Judo into the foundations of what we know as BJJ. In the early 1990's, his son Royce opened up the doors for countless martial artists to begin studying BJJ after watching him dominate multiple, much larger opponents all in the same evening in the early Ultimate Fighting Championships.
The entire sales pitch of BJJ rests on the notion that the smaller, weaker opponent can prevail. But what if you're like me, someone who has been over 230 lbs his entire jiu jitsu life. Is your jiu jitsu automatically better because of a size advantage? Do I dominate everyone on the mats? I can assure you that I do not. I'm lucky to train directly under a Coach who weighs in at a whopping 127 lbs on a heavy day. He is one of the most detailed instructors I've ever had on the mats. This is because he must have flawless technique. He cannot cheat and rely on strength and size. His timing must be impeccable and his execution seamless. Here are a few lessons that I have taken from him that will help you no matter what your size.
Perfect Your Escapes Like a Smaller Player
It is easy early on in your jiu jitsu journey to focus the majority of your time on submissions and attacks. These are the flashy, sexy moves that allow you to defeat your training partners and build your legacy inside your academy. But if you spend too much of your time focused on these finishing moves, you will find yourself in a world of despair should an opponent put you in a position like side control or mount. Those fancy attacks will do you no good if you are flat on your back with all of your partner's weight on your chest.
Mount is one of the most deadly places to find oneself, especially against a larger opponent. To learn more about some essential mount escapes, check out this in-depth post from BJJ Fanatics here.
One of the best examples of jiu jitsu's effectiveness for smaller athletes facing larger was the 2015 match between Gabi Garcia and MacKenzie Dern, one of many battles the two have had over the years.
Perfect Your Sweeps Like a Smaller Player
In simplest terms, a sweep is the process of debasing your opponent and reversing positions on them. The smaller athlete typically has a much more nimble game. They are able to capitalize on their speed and ability to exploit space that a bigger, stronger opponent may inadvertently create during a roll or match. In the video below, Bruno Malfacine, one of the most successful BJJ athletes with 8 world titles shows how he utilizes leverage and angles to effectively sweep much larger opponents, himself clocking in at a whopping 130 lbs.
For an in depth look at how half guard can be used to negate size advantages, you can check out a great BJJ Fanatics post here.
As a much larger jiu jitsu practitioner there have been many times when I've allowed myself to rely on my size advantage. Though momentarily beneficial, in the long run, this can create bad habits that can and have come back to haunt me when I've faced stronger, or even larger opponents. This is why I find myself studying the BJJ game of smaller players and my Coach and working to stop wishing I was a smaller practitioner and start rolling like one.
No matter what size jiu jitsu player you are, it would pay to check out Matheus Gonzaga's Lightweight Guard series here.