My Opponent is Too Strong!" – How To Deal with Stronger Opponents

The water doesn’t stop when it hits the rock. It simply redirects and moves around the obstacle.

A student approached me at the end of the rolling and asked me how he could deal with a lesser skilled but much stronger opponent?

A Great question!


And he is lucky because brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed to allow a smaller weaker opponent to defeat a heavier stronger adversary. Grandmaster Helio Gracie was a smaller built man and was famous for fighting much larger and stronger opponents.

Here are 3 pieces of advice on how to deal with a much physically stronger opponent

read also: 4 Tips for Smaller BJJ Students

1) Keep moving

There is a 145lbs. black belt at my academy who is very dangerous to roll with despite him being 50lbs. lighter than me.

Helio-Gracie-11What does he do that makes him so difficult to deal with?

He keeps moving. He makes the last move in a scramble, never allowing the larger opponent to settle their weight or grips on him.

More than once after rolling with him I have thought “If I could just get ahold of him!”

He escapes his hips, he rolls to turtle, he changes sides in passing my guard, never allowing me to set my defence or offence.

Follow his example and move!

I am going to go all “Traditional Martials Arts wisdom” on you here: Like water flowing in a stream, when it encounters a rock it flows around the rock.

The water doesn’t stop when it hits the rock. It simply redirects and moves around the obstacle.

2) Do not contest strength directly

This is a tough one because part of our instinct is to resist force when someone applies it to us.

He pushes you, you push him.

He pulls your sleeve, you pull back.

19When a puppy bites the other end of a sock and you play “tug of war” you see this instinct in action. Your pull triggers him to pull back.

If you do the same, then you are directly contesting strength.

And who will win when two people of different levels of strength go at it?

Of course the stronger one!

When you are locked in any positional battle and catch yourself with muscles straining, catch yourself and remember that it is a losing battle and you will tire faster than the stronger person.

Use leverage, timing, distance, angles, your legs against his arms and shoulders to avoid opposing with strength.

Seek technical solutions to every situation. If you don’t know what it is, ask your black belt instructor.

3) Use “jiu” – the action reaction principle

This principle of “jiu” is the essence of brazilian jiu-jitsu.

read also: Got “Jiu”? What is the “Jiu” in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Raspagem-GB-by-Regis-ChenThe student I mentioned at the beginning of the article had more experience than his opponent and could overcome them with a superior knowledge of techniques.

However, the stronger student was also attending class regularly and was no longer ignorant of the various positions. He knew what was happening.

I explained to the student that he had been winning by using techniques that his inexperienced stronger opponent didn’t know.

Now, he needed to change HOW he applied the techniques that he knew. NOT continually try to come up with a new technique that his opponent didn’t know how to defend.

Use the principle of “jiu”.

When you want your opponent to move his arm to get an arm drag, push his arm down, in the opposite direction. When he instinctively resists by raising it, then use his own strength against him to make him lift his arm where you want it to go!

helioPure genius!

Want your opponent to lean his weight to one side for your sweep?

Fake him in the opposite direction. He will then shift his weight in the direction that you truly want! Then the sweep becomes easier because he is helping you to sweep him.

There are a thousand similar examples, but the principle remains the same throughout. Use the principle of “jiu” to use your opponents force against him.

This way, you can overcome much stronger opponents and Grandmaster Helio Gracie would be proud.

Credits: Mark Mullen

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan

Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ