I walk around at about 195 pounds so I would be considered a “heavyweight” or a “middle heavyweight”, however there are guys who outweigh me by a lot. We recently got a message from one of our readers with a video of a squirrel bouncing all over a cat (the two appear to be playing). The squirrel is clearly far more agile and if it were a jiu jitsu match would have won. The reader paired the video with the following comment/question “How I feel doing BJJ with small guys…. What’s the best way to prevent this happening, especially in no gi?” I’ll provide the very best advice/insight I can on this.
For starters, the key to remember in BJJ is that it’s designed to make athleticism less of a deciding factor in the outcome of matches and fights. That said a smaller person with substantially better technique will very likely prevail regardless of the size of their opponent. On the other hand, once the size disparity becomes big enough, technique can be negated (to a degree, I mean check out Akebono vs. Gracie…)
Another crucial point to remember is that physical attributes are in fact enhanced by no gi. As in being bigger is BETTER for no gi as the gi grips allow one to create more distance.
When I roll with someone smaller (I’d say 30+ pounds) who is much faster than I am, I find my best course of action is to work my timing. If I can be where the other guy wants to be before they get there, I can beat them. If I can negate a grip before they even take the grip, I can beat them.
I’ve got a training partner with whom I frequently roll who is much faster than I am, and he’s technical. Also though I’m a bit bigger he’s not substantially smaller than I am. I find that trying to beat him at his game is nearly impossible. But if I play a passive game and beat him to the punch, my chances improve. I have begun to learn the warning signs that certain moves are coming and in doing so, am learning to time him. The ability to time one person’s game can sometimes translate to the ability to time others’ so it is a useful skill.
Once I do manage to establish a top position, pressure is important; I want to punish the other person for being smaller than me :-). When I roll with guys who are much bigger and stronger than I am I tend to accept bottom side control or mount and work from there to find holes in their game, specifically areas where their pressure isn’t great. When I find those gaps I use them to escape. I also make mental notes of the paths I took to get there, and when I am the big guy I try to close those paths. That is to say, perhaps one of my best ways to learn how to bully smaller guys (because ultimately that is our goal as bigger guys) is to find guys that are even bigger than us and untangle the fabric of their game and use the knowledge gained therein to as a weapon.
How about our other readers? How do you handle smaller more athletic practitioners? Do you find it difficult to control them? Or can you use your size and strength as enough of an advantage to negate their athleticism?