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Big Guy Jiu-jitsu – A Word for the Heavyweights


Brazilian jiu-jitsu caught the attention of the world when 175lbs. Royce Gracie defeated larger, stronger opponents in the earliest days of the UFC. Jiu-jitsu has always been synonymous with a smaller person being able to defeat the bigger man.

But not all of us are small. In every academy there are a few above average sized specimens. Being a bigger student has its own set of considerations in bjj class.

Here are 3 important points for the BIG guy in bjj:

1) Always ask yourself if you are getting sloppy with technique and covering flaws with strength.

Muscle can make up for flawed technique. You must be critical of your own techniques and ask yourself if you are using optimal leverage (after all…that is what jiu-jitsu is all about!). Your technique might work fine on a smaller, weaker opponent, but fails against a larger or same sized opponent.

For example, my arm bar from the guard needed to be adjusted for a bigger opponent. When I placed my feet in the hips of a smaller opponent and pushed – THEY moved! However, I could NOT move a larger opponent and had to move MY OWN hips to create the angle around their arm.

But will it be effective against someone who is bigger and stronger than you are?
That is the litmus test for your technique.

2) Train the bottom

As a bigger bjj player, you will most often find yourself in the top position passing the guard of those squirm little guys.

Bear in mind that as martial artists, that we must endeavour to develop a complete jiu-jitsu. Which includes proficiency from the guard position.

read also: Bluebelt – Advice on Developing your Guard

The same advice goes for strong wrestlers. When push comes to shove, you can usually obtain the top position. If you follow this natural inclination, you will spend very little training time on the bottom.

You must force yourself to start training from bottom position and deliberately play guard. Larger guys seldom have the degree of mobility on the bottom that the lighter guys have, but they should look to develop a basic guard game with a few solid sweeps, and submissions

We have witnessed grapples with a strong top game but helpless when swept to their backs.
Don’t be that “dead bug” on your back!

3) It is OK use your size and weight!

We all equipped with certain inherited physical attributes: long / short legs; lean and ;lanky build or short and stocky. We must develop a game that best utilizes our set of physical attributes.

For bigger guys that means using your weight and applying pressure to your opponent.

But many in the bjj culture frown on this as though it is a lesser expression of jiu-jitsu. After being crushed and submitted, as they re tie their belt a training opponent may say “How much do you weigh?” or “Boy, you are strong” in a back-handed way of insinuating that the reason for the tap was not technique but merely size advantage.

Big guys are technical also!

Truth is, the bigger opponent MUST use pressure and weight distribution to stop the movements of a faster, difficult to control opponent.

Would you tell a smaller bjj fighter NOT to use his speed and “squirminess” advantage?

Of course not!

Applying ones bodyweight and being heavy is an important skill in bjj – not just for the big guys.

read also: 5 Tips on how to create pressure and be heavy on your opponent.

Are you a big guy and how have you approached your own jiu-jitsu?

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ

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