Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's Normal?

Haven't been feeling the greatest over the last few days. Despite that, class had been going well. The guard pass I was struggling with is going better. Not great. But I didn't get triangled in the last few classes, so that's a step in the right direction. One thing I noticed is that I had to wait for the right time to use that specific guard pass, not just try to do it randomly when I wanted to make it work. Also, I ended up using a variation of the pass in which I use my shin to hold down the leg instead of my arm. I have better luck when I do it that way.

Also, my quest for a top game is going better than it has been. I tried knee-on-belly, tried to remember that I could stand up if I needed to. If they got a knee in or an arm in, I tried to keep my weight on top, circling on their body and trying to find an opening. A lot of times I got caught or lost the top position. Majority of the time, actually. But I am learning that some of those positions that I was worried about doing are actually more stable than I expected. Knee on belly, for example, is much more stable than I thought it was.

Here's the thing, though. My success is relative. My game goes to garbage when I am grappling the big guys. Part of it is intimidation. Part of it is the problems with my technique. I'm sure part of it is simple laws of physics. Whatever it is, I am not seeing much progress in my game against people who have a significant weight advantage on me.

To all of you other small people, how long did it take for you to be able to consistently get into--and stay in--dominant positions on opponents who had a big weight advantage?

I struggle sometimes with knowing what I should expect out of myself. It's not just wondering if I should be able to grapple better against bigger guys. There's the whole issue of me being a girl in a full contact sport dominated by men. When am I being wimpy and when are they being too rough?

My instructor was telling us the other day in class that smaller people need to grapple in such a away that their small size becomes an advantage. Get in tight and keep moving. I may not have strength, but I can move faster and get into smaller spaces. I guess I need to start developing my strategy. What works for a 200lb guy may not work well for me. But it works the other way too. I may be able to do things that bigger guys can't. I have to figure out what my advantages are and learn how to learn to play MY game.


Georgette said...

Pssh, I still struggle with that even against guys not too much bigger than me. Rodney was a great example tonight-- technical and considerate, maybe 6" taller and maybe 30 lbs heavier? But any time I was on top, he'd roll me right off if my base was the slightest bit too "on top of him" or off to the wrong side. Very frustrating! Just know, however, that when fighting in a tournament against girls your size, their similar strength level (to your own) will make it a more even battle.

I'm always told that you can beat size/strength with skill, but that the skill has to be at least 2 years ahead. Freakin' sucks when you haven't even been training 2 years.

I will say it's great advice to use your strengths. Some small people are fast-- so good, they should be fast then. I'm small but I don't feel coordinated enough to comfortably move fast (I'm convinced I'll kick you in the temple somehow) so I am a small, tight, slow hedgehog of a grappler. Ahem-- a hedgehog-tiger.

One last thought: I am OFTEN thinking to myself "oh sure, you're just muscling out of the move" and then I catch myself and wonder if I'm just making excuses for my inadequacies. There's no answer besides experience. At some point you'll recognize when you woulda/coulda got the (position, sub, transition) if all else were equal and they were your size. Before then it's just a crapshoot. Don't be too hard on yourself. It's durn frustrating :)

Dev said...


Honestly, we can talk all day long about the idea that jiu jitsu enables smaller people to work over bigger people... except that's not it. Jiu jitsu enables smaller people to SURVIVE against bigger people. Helio Gracie's idea was that you will never beat him, not that he would beat you.

I'm 180 lbs - i don't consider myself small, but I get tossed around by bigger guys all the time. Georgette's point about experience is right - my experience allows me to survive and defend, not necessarily dominate a bigger guy. Sometimes it even allows me to control the situation for a little while, but the whole idea behind the guard position is it takes the weight and pressure of a larger opponent off of you.

I can't pull off the same sweeps and submissions on a big guy as I can on a small guy - physics gets in the way. A big guy with an idea of how to base can really ruin my day.

At the end of the day, you can't expect - after less than a year of training - to be handling, controlling, and dominating guys who are bigger and stronger than you. You should expect to be able to keep your legs in between you and your opponent, create space when you need it, and survive.

Don't get too frustrated - you'll have a lot more ups and downs over things much more important than not being able to handle the heavyweight white belts in your class. Keep playing your game, and keep having fun.

Liam H Wandi said...

Wow there is much wisdom already here :)

I definitely echo what has already been said and completely agree with the survival part. I'm over 190lb and very strong but my main attraction to the sport is art behind it (How does it work and why?) and recently my venue into that has been hightened awareness of the experience. Just letting it happen and experiencing it.

When I've got someone in a triangle and they posture out/muscle out on me, I let them BUT make sure I experience fully what they did. I noticed they always pull their knees under me and lead with their head towards the ceiling. So I started getting to the triangle and rather than lock it with both legs, I'd use my hand to hold my ankle (keeping their posture broke and attaching my upper body weight to their neck) and keeping one foot pushing on their hip and shoulder-walking straight back (ensuring their knees never make it under me). I never get the tap from there, but they can't get out either and sooner or later they stop trying and THAT'S when I lock the triangle...and release my evil laugh. Mohahaha

BJJ Cailín said...

We all get frustrated. As a 110lb purple belt I can tell you that I get frustrated those times when a guy can life me off of himself easily. It still happens to me sometimes and my STRENGTH is my top game. I'm just too small to always be able to avoid it.

You will continually be frustrated when you forget the goal of your training. When rolling with bigger people, the goal is simply to survive.

Best advice is keep your arms in tight at all times and never stop moving. When you stop is when you lose. Don't give up!

It probably took me 3 1/2 years of training to be able to truly roll consistently with new bigger white belt men. Now I simply choose not to roll with them because my main focus is competition and rolling with a new guy 40lbs heavier than me does not help me reach this goal. In fact it can inhibit it greatly. So decide what you want out of training, and within that decide what you want to get out of each sparring partner - and then do it! (Remember to keep your expectations in check, the men will always be stronger and bigger and it is a huge advantage for them. But you CAN learn to combat it...but the learning comes only with time.)

A.D. McClish said...

Wow, thanks for all the great advice!
@Georgette: I know exactly what you mean about muscling thing. It's easy to make excuses for your game when you are grappling someone so much bigger. It's hard for me to tell when it's a fail on my part or when it's muscling on theirs, especially when you're dealing with sweeps. Was my base really that crappy or is it that the guy has 70 lbs on me? ;)

@Dev:That's a really encouraging way to look at it. I definitely feel I am better able to defend myself against a bigger guy than I was when I started BJJ. My instructor was telling me today that the whole size thing does matter when you have two people of the same skill level, but one who significantly outweighs the other. He told me that I should absolutely still try to get into a dominant position, but to learn to love playing off my back. I'm not going to really have a choice in the matter a lot of times!!

@Part Time Grappler: Sounds like a good patience game. I need to learn to set things up like that. Right now, I'm just predicting when someone else is going to do something horrible to me!!

@BJJ Cailin: It might be smart to avoid grappling guys that are that much bigger right before a tournament. Even when they are trying to be careful, I've had a rib popped out of place just by the sheer weight of them on my ribs. They weren't being rough. Just doing a guard pass. What you said about keeping your expectations in check hits home. It's not like I think I'm awesome or anything (not even close). I have just been trying to figure out what I should be able to do. Do you know what I mean?

Megan said...

Let me just say that you're probably giving frustration almost as much as you get it. Smaller people give me absolute fits. It's not like I'm beating bigger guys, but I at least feel like I have something to work with. Between speed and the ability to get into holes I miss, I dread rolling with smaller people.