I had a conversation with a friend/teammate yesterday and he revealed to me that often people avoid rolling with him because of his size and strength. At 6’1 and 200 pounds, I am by no means one of the smaller guys in the gym. This guy, however, is just a specimen of a human being and makes me feel small and weak by comparison. But he has never been reckless while rolling with me, and even though it hurts to roll with him and get crushed by him, I do it.
No matter what size you are, you should roll with the big guys in your gym, especially the ones who are good at jiu-jitsu. I understand watching from a distance to determine whether or not the bigger people are safe to roll with, but once you’ve determined they are, you should seek them out. The benefits outweigh (no pun intended) whatever petty emotional trauma it may cause.
A bigger practitioner with solid technique will offer you challenges that someone smaller than you simply cannot. I’ve rolled with world class guys ranging from featherweight to super heavy, and each was able to give me a different look. Smaller practitioners are innately quicker and are able to find nooks and crannies that a bigger practitioner simply can’t work with. Bigger practitioners, however, offer a degree of force and pressure you should not avoid because you can learn so much from it.
Learn to deal with being crushed.
That’s right I said it. Learn how to survive being in the side control of people who weigh over 240 pounds. Hell, figure out a way to recover guard and submit them. As time progresses, the skill set developed when going against someone much heavier and stronger than you will come in handy.
I’ve learned valuable lessons from rolling with unforgiving, large bruisers that I would have never learned had I taken the easy route of avoiding them. Rolling with someone who is much heavier and stronger than I am can be terrifying, but as long as I trust that individual to not crank on me, I can explore the awfulness that they bring to the table.
Learning to sneak limbs under another person is one of the most useful skills one can develop in grappling. Simple elbow and knee placement can be the difference between getting crushed and having your neck cranked and being able to set up a sweet heel hook entry. And the stress inoculation is wonderful.
When I compete against bigger practitioners, I know what to expect, I know what it feels like to have them drop their weight on me, and there are no real surprises in that experience. I may not always win, but I’m usually ready. But if I wimped out and stuck with people my size and smaller, I would have never known or experienced that. The unknown is far scarier than the known, tried, and solved.