Jiu-Jitsu Functional Strength

I wrote a couple of articles recently discussing attribute free rolling and I wanted to explore the other side of this: functional strength as it pertains to grappling. I am a huge fan of the notion that you can be strong and even USE strength without relying upon it. What are some ways to be functionally strong while still practicing good Jiu Jitsu?

Perhaps the easiest way to be stronger than another person is to use your legs. More often than not your legs are stronger than other people’s arms, so if you force another person to use their arms to fight your legs, chances are that’ll be a battle that you win.

An anecdote: Last night I was rolling with one of my teammates, a 260 pound beast with wicked top pressure, and at any opportunity I’d put my legs between us and use them to hold him at by while I set up various submissions and sweeps. If I tried to use my torso at all he could easily overpower me, but as soon as my one foot went in his hip and the other in the crook of his arm (kind of a modified spider guard), his ability to use that raw power was diminished and for a moment I was stronger than he was.

Another way to be stronger than another person is to use multiple appendages to attack a single one. This is best illustrated by using two hands to attack one hand, or in some cases incorporating your feet. The more attention you give a single limb (or neck) the less likely the other person will be to power out of it.

Many people may disagree with me that these are examples of exertion of strength, but I attest that they are. 2 hands and a leg are usually stronger than one hand, and using 2 hands and a leg against one hand means that one person is being stronger than the other person in that instance. The same thing goes for using legs against arms.

One last example of functional strength is knowing what to move. In some instances, it is better to move the other person, while in some it is better to move yourself. That knowledge can translate to immense functional strength as you become able to seemingly displace enormous mass.

Functional strength for Jiu Jitsu is not necessarily built in the gym; it is built through training and learning at what points and when to apply strength to what parts of another person. In doing this, a smaller person who can lift less weight and looks weaker can be able to overpower much bigger and stronger opponents. This is of course also good technique.



Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj and www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer


  1. A blue belt writing an article on functional BJJ strength is like a white belt coaching anyone – the reality is you don’t have the experience or know-how yet to say what’s what.


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