Coach’s Corner | Embrace the Smash | Tips for Smaller Grappler Success
Everyone that trains Jiu Jitsu for long enough is going to encounter a training partner who is bigger, and stronger than they are. Being a small practitioner means that you won’t have to wait long. Almost all of my training partners outclass me in the horsepower and weight departments. That being said, I feel fortunate to have had the added challenge over the years because it has made me rely on my technique more. Here are some tips that can help you succeed and keep you training, even if the scales aren’t tipped in your direction.
- Be diligent in training your escapes. Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that allows for a smaller, weaker individual to neutralize a larger, less skilled Attacker. At its heart, it is a defensive system. Never forget this. Refine your technique; make it as difficult as possible for anyone to hold you down or dominate you.
- Have maturity in your Jiu Jitsu. Recognize when your positions are beginning to fail, and start to work your escapes early. This will help you move in the transitions, as opposed to waiting for the position to totally disappear, and begin your escape from the worst possible scenario.
- Remember that proper structure, and position, is superior to strength and power, that is out of position. If you watch smaller grapplers that have success with larger opponents, you will notice that they are almost never out of position. Find the techniques that you really like to utilize and delve deep into understanding what makes them work.
- When playing the guard, distance management is everything. Utilize your structure and frames to distribute your opponents pressure across more area. The more you let a larger opponent get close to you and control the distance, the less you will be able to move. If you are unable to move, things will go down hill quickly.
- When on top of bigger and stronger opponents, utilize your knowledge of escapes to attach as much weight as possible to counter their movements. Where you attach yourself is critical. Avoid being directly in the path of your opponent’s strongest muscle groups. Make them be strong at awkward angles.
- Learn how to do take downs. Being on the bottom as a smaller practitioner is going to be a reality for much of your training time, and thus learning how to be on top can be neglected. It is important to be able to take opponents down. This is obviously important from a self defense perspective, but it is also important to be well-rounded if you’re a competitor. Find a Judo or Wrestling instructor!
- Embrace training with larger people. I’m not saying you always need to train with the biggest, spazzy white belt in the room, but train with people that are bigger, that you trust. Training with people that are stronger than you will expose holes in your technique. If you always avoid them, you are doing your development a huge disservice.
- Don’t use your lack of size as a crutch, or an excuse as to why you may be struggling. Jiu Jitsu is difficult for everyone. We all have physical shortcomings and advantages. Where someone may lack power, they may have more agility, speed ,or flexibility. Stay mentally strong and embrace the challenge.
About the Author-
Ryan Cunningham is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo black belt. He is the head instructor at Performance Martial Arts Academy: Roseburg, as well as an Instructor at Performance Martial Arts Academy HQ in Springfield, OR.