What Can You Learn From Rolling With Training Partners Who Are Much Smaller Than You Are?

I am generally not considered a physically small person. I’m 6’1.5 and walk around at 205 pounds. As a result I have often had to figure out how to improve my jiu-jitsu while working mostly with people physically smaller than I am.  The truth is, I’ve learned a lot from training with physically smaller training partners, but it wasn’t always easy to understand how to learn from training with them.

For starters, training with people physically smaller than me has taught me how to utilize and eliminate space.  I have trained with people 60-70 pounds smaller than me who were able to constantly recover guard and threaten me in spite of the sizeable difference.  The reason they were able to do this was that their limbs are shorter than mine so finding and maneuvering any even seemingly insignificant crevice is much easier for them than it is for my big, clumsy frame.

I’ve also learned how much, and at the same time how little, physical strength matters.  If you ever really want to challenge yourself, find someone half your size and try to beat them without exerting yourself.  You’ll find that as long as you refuse to exert yourself, you will be forced to contend with pure technique, and if that other person is smaller than you, your technique actually has to be sharper and tighter because being physically big actually means there is inherently more space in your techniques.

Being bigger and stronger is however a distinct advantage when you know how to use it.  The second part of that statement is the important one.  Knowing how to use size and strength isn’t trivial. We are taught from day one to not be strong and not rely on our attributes. However, they are there, and they can be very useful if applied correctly.  I’ve rolled with skilled black belts who have a significant weight disadvantage and when I applied the information I’ve collected from training with physically smaller training partners, I was able to make things happen that I wouldn’t have been able to if the size difference was smaller or non-existent.

Learn to use your size and strength.  Just like a smaller person will learn to use their flexibility and speed, size and strength can be used as a tool in jiu-jitsu.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch Carlos Farias cut down smaller, seemingly more technical practitioners by being immovable and monolithic.  Watch Tayane Porfirio or Gabi Garcia do what they do.  Being big and strong is advantageous, and if you can learn to use that size and strength it becomes a technical weapon, and the best way to learn to use that weapon is to practice using it in the training room.

Always respect your training partners, as they are your most valuable assets, and remember that regardless of their size you can learn something from each one of them.  You just have to open your mind to the possibility that sometimes the best way to learn from someone is to try to use your size advantage either successfully or not and then to analyze that success or failure and use it to improve your game.


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