‘That Guy Is Using Too Much Strength!’

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Photo courtesy of Robert Martin

We all know that BJJ student (most of the time it is a new student) that is using way too much strength and explosiveness in rolling. After all, jiu-jitsu is known as “arte suave” – the gentle art, isn’t it?

The purpose of rolling is to develop your technique (and have fun of course!), not to try to win by any means necessary.

Butin a real fight, the opponent will use any means necessary and 100% of their strength! If you want to use your jiu-jitsu skills in any type of real life situation, guess what? That opponent is going to go full bore!

Now we must train safely of course. But a certain amount of your training should involve someone who is using a lot of strength. Especially early in your BJJ training, you need to learn how to deal with aggression and another person’s intensity by using technique. Dealing with an athlete who is bigger and stronger than you who is trying to squeeze your head is a very important part of jiu-jitsu.

In BJJ class most students soon learn to relax in rolling and they look to learn more sports BJJ techniques and “play jiu-jitsu” with each other. Both training partners are playing by certain rules and do not expect the other to do certain unpredictable or even crazy moves. But to make your jiu-jitsu applicable to real life, you must learn to deal with that high level of intensity, an opponent who is using a lot of strength and untrained responses to your techniques.

Several years ago I was teaching a small group of complete beginners. After a few months you could see some technical progression in their BJJ and they were using techniques to pass the guard and try to sweep and submit from their guards.

One class, a former college rugby player came in to try BJJ. The rugby player was a little bigger and stronger than the other students, but he didn’t know any BJJ techniques. Should have been easy for the BJJ students to dominate him right?

Not so fast!

The rugby player lacked the knowledge of how to do an over under pass, but he did have a whole lot of intensity and used his strength to grab and squeeze the head of the other students. Some of the students were caught unprepared and overwhelmed by the pressure and athleticism of the rugby player. They had not yet developed the skills to deal with someone who was “using too much strength”.

BJJ students should be looking to develop their jiu-jitsu techniques to be capable of dealing with that type of opponent. They should not be using “too much strength,” as matching power is doomed to failure if the opponent is larger and stronger.

The message here is don’t be so quick to dismiss training sometimes with someone who is using a lot of strength. This is a part of jiu-jitsu we must learn to make our jiu-jitsu effective against untrained opponents as well.

Read also: Is Your Jiu-jitsu Universal?

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