The Best Piece of Training Advice I Ever Got

Very early in my love affair with brazilian jiu-jitsu I attended a seminar by a world level black belt.
That instructor was a smaller man and one of the lightest men in the room but demonstrated very smooth and flowing bjj technique.

As bjj was in its infancy in North America at that time, most of our heads were swimming with the confusion between such exotic techniques as the Americana (ude garami) and the Kimura. “My right hand goes where?”

But the single piece of wisdom he said that has stayed with me this many years later was: “When you perform your techniques, always do it as if your opponent was larger and stronger than you are.”
read also:4 Tips for Smaller BJJ Students

Straight out of the philosophy of Grandmaster Helio Gracie, himself a smaller stature man who battled significantly larger opponents during his fights in Brazil. The philosophy imparted in that quote was – above all – to utilize leverage and correct technique to correctly execute your moves.

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Archimedes


The idea of using correct leverage, body mechanics and the strongest parts of your body (ex. hips and legs) against the weakest parts of your opponents body is really what bjj is all about! How else is a smaller, weaker opponent supposed to defend against and defeat a larger opponent?

Muscle against muscle is inevitably going to end with the smaller person losing. You simply can not win that way! Now as applied to your learning of bjj, asking yourself that question each time you learn a new technique will help you to learn the most efficient way of performing it. Every technique you make part of your bjj must pass this test if it is worthy to include in your game.

After all, who is training bjj in order to beat smaller, weaker opponents?
170 lbs. Royce Gracie defeating heavyweights is what captured the imagination of would be martial artists all over the world and revolutionized. The basic techniques of bjj SHOULD work against larger opponents. If you are having difficulty, it is likely that you have not yet mastered the technique, not that the technique itself doesn’t work.


This is where your black belt professor is invaluable in helping you identify how to efficiently use your leverage to correctly execute your techniques. The next time you roll with a higher level but smaller opponent, pay special attention to how little strength they are using while submitting and sweeping you.

I have had the experience of being “rolled up” by opponents 170lbs. lighter than me and they certainly weren’t doing it by over powering me! With fresh eyes, revisit your favourite techniques and view them through the lenses of “How do I perform this techniques if my opponent is larger and stronger than I am?”

read also:Details! – The Idea of Advanced Basics

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ