David and Goliath – Why Are Smaller Competitors Able To Defeat Their Larger Opponents ?

Most of us have heard the famed story of David Vs Goliath. In this biblical tale a small shepherd boy stands up to fight the opposing armies soldier Goliath. Goliath is a giant and is described to strike fear into most the other soldiers. We use this reference all the time to describe a small or insignificant person who overcomes great odds. But I recently read a few books about the event that suggest David was never at a disadvantage. David chose not to wear armor or use a sword (Goliaths manner of battle). Instead, David approached with only his sling and five pebbles. The slingshot of this time was very different than what we think of today. The slingshot David was using is suggested to have power a little less than a small handgun. So in essence, David chose a different style of battle and he used this style to slay Goliath.

We see this all the time in Jiu-Jitsu where the small guy defeats the larger opponent and sometimes we blame it simply on skill differences. But what about when we look at high level Jiu-Jitsu? We have seen many smaller black belts defeat larger opponents such as the Miyao bros, Marcello and Ciao Terra. While these men are all very high level…so were their opponents. So what skills do the little guys use to win against larger opponents? How does the David of Jiu-Jitsu beat the Goliath ? Here are the top reasons and tactics that small guys use against larger opponents in BJJ. But in essence this all boils down to using the sling over the sword in battle.

  • Their techniques are in general more refined because they are forced to be more technical in training. This then translates to competition and the smaller guys are usually able to capitalize when their larger opponents make mistakes. Just as the sling was more efficient than the sword.
  • They don’t play their larger opponents game. Just as David chose not to wear armor and use the sword; the little guys in Jiu-Jitsu try to avoid the game of the bigger opponent. Instead of trying to get a takedown the small opponent almost always pulls guard and tries to work a sweep of some sort.
  • We fight without any real pressure. In the story of David vs. Goliath , David was believed to be  a dead man. This is usually similar in Jiu-Jitsu competition. When a little guy competes in the open division he is usually cheered for and knows that if he loses no one will blame him. However many big guys end up feeling a lot of pressure.


  1. So…are you saying that large practitioners tend to use their natural size, strength and weight advantages instead of applying themselves to learning, refining and perfecting technique? That seems pretty…..senseless….when you THINK about it. Sounds to me that Helio was right on the mark. Food for thought anyway. 🙂


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