Recently, a reader sent the following question to the Jiu-Jitsu Times:
“Ive been wondering… What can I do against someone physically stronger than me, someone who literally uses brawn to get position and then submission. Get stronger?” – Sean
This is a good question asked by many new students to BJJ.
Let’s acknowledge two points right at the beginning:
1) Strength and size do matter when it comes to any combat sport. Being a fitter, stronger athlete is always a benefit.
2) There will always be bigger, stronger opponents. If your ability to win is dependent on you being stronger than your opponent, that is only going to work as long as you are stronger than your opponent.
BJJ has a reputation as a martial art style that provides tools for a skilled, smaller fighter to defeat a larger opponent. I am over 200 pounds, but when I was a blue belt, I was schooled by a 145-pound black belt. His level of technique was so much higher that it negated my size and strength advantages. I have witnessed lighter female blue belts arm locking and choking much heavier male students.
If you are a smaller person, you are especially going to have to learn how to deal with the weight and strength of a larger opponent by developing your technique in the guard and half guard. You also have to learn how to get to your opponent’s back. Your instructor should be able to help you with some techniques specifically for these situations.
One last thing. I often hear first-year students dismiss opponents who use strength while rolling.
Well guess what? That is reality! Most humans will come at you with full intensity, using all of their strength and speed. Your task as a student of BJJ is to learn to deal with that type of opponent!
Helio Gracie developed his family’s style of jiu-jitsu for the very reason of allowing smaller, weaker people to defend themselves. Your solution lies in learning technique, not in trying to get stronger.
Hope this helps.