How Your Body Can Affect Your Game

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It’s a fact of life that a 155 pounder is not going to have the same ability to smash and smother an opponent as a 300 pounder. It’s also a fact of life that a person who is 5’6 is likely to not have the same propensity for a scary guard as a person who is 6’5. I was talking to a teammate the other day and we were discussing the potential strengths and drawbacks of different physical attributes.

Shorter people tend to have lower centers of gravity, also physically smaller people tend to be able to make themselves more compact and in doing so can be more difficult to physically hold still. When one looks at most high level wrestlers, they tend to be stocky and squat rather than long and lanky, and there’s a reason for this.

Lanky people tend to have a stronger proclivity for wrapping and entangling opponents using their limbs, and very often can generate tremendous leverage. Remember, the longer the lever, the greater the force that can be applied.

People who are extremely well muscled can generate a lot of force in a short period of time, but large muscle mass often requires a lot of energy, fear the guy who is very strong but not very big. I’ve rolled with guys who looked super strong and guys who ARE super strong, and quite frankly those who ARE super strong are way scarier.

There are, of course, exceptions to all of this. There are people with little stubby legs who possess fearsome guards and there are tall lanky people who can drop enough pressure to make you very very sad in their bottom side control. A lot of this has to do with personal preferences, and while there are no set rules, there are generalizations that can be made. In competition, you’re gonna want to avoid tall people’s guards, and if you’re much taller than someone, know that they’re going to be weary of YOUR guard.

Some instructors are great at teaching people who have similar body types to them, but not so great at teaching people who wield weapons that they themselves don’t have. For example, I’ve seen instructors who are great at teaching smaller people but aren’t so good at teaching big people, and vice versa. Make sure your instructor is able to teach people with your body type. The very best instructors can teach anyone of ANY body type, thus producing a well rounded team from the smallest to the biggest competitors.

What body type do YOU have? Do you find that you fit the stereotypes held in jiu jitsu for your given body type? If not, how were you able to avoid being pigeonholed?


  1. The best instructors find a way to bequeath concepts rather than techniques so that a practitioner can use them according to body type and personality.

    What constitutes a “scary” guard? Rafa Mendes (154 lbs) isn’t exactly a behemoth, but I bet most would consider his guard terrifying. I think most become “weary” of a tall person’s guard after they’ve been in it, and “wary” before that. =]

    But, yes. Body types, like in any other combat sport, influence a fighter’s style. Short and stocky tend to prefer close range passes and sweeps while the tall and lanky tend to capitalize on long range guards.


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