Blackbelt Bound

All Sizes Matter

Part of the frustration I feel during training is when I get “manhandled” by an opponent who is a lower rank but larger than me. I believe we’ve all watch the video from Gracie University that talks about how every ten pounds or ten years an opponent has on you equals one belt rank. If there is any truth to that video, then I roll with multiple striped black belts, every day, every round.

Jiu-Jitsu was developed to help a smaller person defend them against a larger attacker, and as I trained, I became more and more frustrated because I was downright struggling with most of my training partners. One night my roommate (who is also a brown belt) asked how training went and I told him I felt like everyone was getting better than me simply because I am small and old. Yes, stupid I know that but I was in pity party mode, and I really don’t think clearly at those times. A couple days later, he made an observation that I would have never made.   He posed the following question to me: In a given training session, how many times do you roll with someone that is twice your body weight?

Left to Right: Chris at 180, me at 101 and Rachael at 140

At my academy, the males weigh on average 183, the heaviest at 235 and the lightest at 124, and the average female weighs 145, averaging between 195 and 99. Personally, I weigh about 100 pounds give or take, so on an average day I never roll with anyone close to my weight. (As a reference the 99-pound gal is a teenager who only attends the instructional classes.) I normally give up a minimum of 20 pounds and a maximum of “I really don’t want to think about that while I’m stuck in side control.” On a given night there are only about 3-4 women training and about 15 men. Doing eight rounds, I try to roll with all the women, but that still leaves 4-5 men.

Every time I rolled and lost I didn’t use my weigh as an excuse as to why I wasn’t able to get back up from a sweep or why I wasn’t able to maintain mount. I figured I sucked. Yes, I was smaller, weaker and older than my opponents. However, sometimes, and I do stress sometimes, people would comment that they use strength to get out of a submission or the only way to keep me in a position was to use their weight. In these moments, it still didn’t dawn on me that it was my size or weight. I thought as a purple belt I should have been able to prevent them from doing this. Again, I felt like I sucked and when I would talk to my Professor about this frustration, he would tell me I needed to use my size to my advantage. At the time I wasn’t sure what he meant, but now I think I do.

Now that I wear a Brown Belt nothing has gotten easier, in some cases worse. While I focus on pressure, positioning, and posture what I am lacking is the humility that also goes along with wearing a brown or black belt. I’m not going to win every training round, but instead of using the excuse of being small or old I need to think how I did I lose my advantage. I’m not going to sugar coat this, but it is really really hard to have humility or not feel embarrassed or a failure when I get tapped to a lower rank person. I WANT TO MAKE IT VERY CLEAR I AM NOT BLAMING ANY OF MY TRAINING PARTNERS. YES, IT IS FRUSTRATING TO BE OUT WEIGHT, OUT STRENGTH AND OUTMATCHED. THIS IS ON ME AND NOT THEM. Recently, I rolled with a guy who was larger and stronger than me. (Disclaimer: The guy I was rolling with when I got hurt is not pictured on this blog). Instead of using my size and speed as an advantage I tried to out strength him, and I got hurt. THIS IS ON ME. 100%. I knew better and yet I let my ego get in the way. This is the humility I need to learn.

me rolling with Erik who is 228

I as progress forward, I going to make a conscious effort to not think about how much weight I’m given up or how much stronger and aggressive my opponent is. What I really need to think about is staying calm, keeping a connection and tension, being on top, and how I can use my size to my advantage.


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