T Nation

BJJ - "Using Your Strength"


For the record, I believe my view of tapping is wrong, but an ingrained sense having grown up the way I did.

And I am aware that I would learn to quickly tap, or go to sleep, or break an arm. I’m in fact intrigued by this idea. I have never failed a squat - because I have never challenged myself, because I am afraid of failure. One of the reasons I want to try BJJ.

Thanks for the response.


I’ve only failed one or two squats in my life, and routine tapping during a roll is not really anything like that. With a heavy squat attempt you’re venturing into the narrow margins where success is not certain and the risk for failure is severe maiming. In competition you might venture into those margins with your joints, but I don’t feel like normal training in BJJ puts you there.

The notion of “don’t use your strength” was a bit unclear to me, but it is really an unclear piece of advice, as you saw from how deep we went into the topic here. For the most part you’ll be having people apply submissions in a way that gives you plenty of time to tap. Just do your part and you’ll be fine.

If you want to try it, just show up to a class and try it!


Here is some food for though.

I hate tapping. Someone can sink a guillotine in deep or have me caught in some joint lock and I will do everything possible and then some before thinking about tapping.

Many will rightfully say thats foolish. The risk isn’t worth it. I used to scoff at that. But a BJJ black belt in the community recently passed suddenly. There was some speculation that years of BJJ and fighting off chokes caused scare tissue in arteries which resulted in a stroke. I did not know the man personally so I can’t say for sure but it definitely made me reconsider eagerness to fight off a submission until the very end.


Regarding fighting submissions- The ultimate part is that rolling is just practice. So, if you want to practice fighting against submissions, then go right ahead. Just keep in mind that your tendons and neck will get injured somewhat, and there is always a possibility for catastrophic damage if either people get a little too excited.

I feel training in combat sports and weightlifting are very similar in terms of analogies. You train most of the time in the 60-80% range for a reason. Maxing out everyday can be similar in thought to defending a submission with everything you got. They’re very useful things to do if you know what you’re doing/are doing it for a specific purpose, but you’re probably doing it wrong if you do those daily because you think it makes you tough/just the right thing to do/w.e.

Regarding “using your strength”-I honestly believe that most people who say “you shouldn’t use your strength” to a training partner without VASTLY outranking them (like a purple to a white or some such), or are experienced to the point that they understand the techniques and foundations of the combat art correctly, are just passively whining about how you turned out to be a lot more difficult than they expected.

Moving with intent generates an awful lot of power. To put it into judo-terms, mindlessly pulling with your upper body for throws is pointless. Moving your entire body for the throw generates so much power that, if done with the correct timing, allows you to ragdoll 200lb+ men with ease.

My understanding is that both are shows of power. The difference between the two lies simply on how the power is used/generated, and people who have a good deal of experience can differentiate between the two. To rank novices, however, they’re one and the same. They simply don’t know any better.

Simply put- good technique generates a lot of power that is specific to what you intend to do, but novices don’t understand what power generated from technique means and just think that it’s simply people “using their strength”.

It’s… sorta like how you shouldn’t take advice from novices when it comes to lifting. Don’t listen to novices when they say shit like “wow, you’re really strong” or “you shouldn’t use your strength”.


Damn. That’s a great post man. The comparison to lifting is really spot on IMO. Sure you can fight every submission to the bitter end, but it’s probably going to get you seriously injured at some point, or at least result in a lot of unnecessary joint wear and tear.


There needs to be a little more evidence for a claim like that (for it to be entertained with any degree of seriousness) than some wild speculation by the BJJ community. Sometimes people just die of strokes.

I don’t know how knowing the guy personally would have allowed you to make medical claims about his cause of death either, but at least it got you thinking about the implications of fighting every finish to the bitter end.


Hey Steel I said I did not know him personally. So what I meant was I wouldn’t have access to any sort of medical records from an autopsy if one had been performed. I was just restating the speculations of someone who was closer to the guy then I was.

But it is well within the realm of reason to believe that years of bjj can lead to cumulative scar tissue that could ultimately lead stroke. Any sort of trauma to vasculature can lead to thrombosis which can lead to embolism and ultimately stroke.

So I just did a quick search and found this.

That is kind of scary. Although in that article the patient seemed to be dealing with acute trauma. Regardless I will definitely not fight the chokes as much.


If you aren’t tapping, you aren’t learning; you are simply competing.

Also, tapping is part of being a good training partner. If a submission is in properly and you are fighting it due to stubbornness and ego, your partner won’t be getting the proper feedback. He might think he is doing it wrong and give up on it.


I think you’re on to something.

Your mistakes are your opponents oppurtunities. You get into a poor position, so he gets after it with a takedown/guard pass/submission. He’s trying to perfect the “attack” and you are trying to avoid making exploitable mistakes. And vice versa. If every roll degrades into a mutant scramble fighting against ogre strength, less Skills are developed.


I see why this could be detrimental to new students, but I will readily admit that one of the high points of rolling with my black belt instructor was making him quit on a cross collar choke that he was millimeters away from finishing.

I think there is a lot of value in training those situations too. Not necessarily using ogre strength, but being tougher and more stubborn than the other guy and knowing you can turn that on if you need to.

Thanks again for everyone who has shared their thoughts. This has definitely given me a lot to think about when it comes to how and when I use a strength advantage in training.


It did not seem so to me until I read that study. Thanks for posting!

I would like to know more about the circumstances surrounding the injury, but that’s probably not available.


Not clear what you mean by this. One man’s stubbornness and ego is another guy’s grit and perseverance. I’ll also revert back to my earlier comment that if a submission is “in properly” then you shouldn’t be able to “fight it.” You either go to sleep or the emergency room. If you’re saying you’re experiencing guys not tapping even when joint destruction is imminent, because they trust you to not injure them, then I agree that is bullshit.


That’s how I feel with the high mobility guys. We’ve got a high schooler who occasionally shows up and he’s really bendy. I’ve let kimuras and Americanas go on him because I didn’t trust him to tap. His jiu jitsu is still basically non-existent, and I think his jam is frustrating people who are wondering why he hasn’t tapped and why his shoulder isn’t destroyed.


It’s training not some back alley. Training is about improving. The reason why that submission doesn’t make you tap quicker might be because in training you aren’t trying to kill the other guy.


Nothing you just posted brings me any closer to understanding what you mean by this:

An example would be helpful.


I guess there are no leg lockers in here?’

first thanks for the great read

but really are there no leg lockers in here?
is everyone just playing top and bottom bjj?
not a single leg locker?

not some freak in your gym just crushing everyone
tappig left and right?
go seek them.

Im old
Im pretty tiny at 180 ish lbs ok more like 170
I no longer roll at all - blew up my knee and its not happening.
forget the 20+ years of wrestling greco Judo Bjj milage - that knee is a non starter.

Im lucky- went to some big midwest schools for wrestling
some good international clubs for greco - and at home
was lucky enough to get to a good kodokan school here in NYC

Im also dated- how I train or trained they style of judo and BJJ that I played - shit kodokon is all about brutal grace not brutal strength. and really for the most part in BJJ I played a posture heavy top game- but I did like my leg locks
more frequently I like riding legs- allot

before I stopped rolling- I had a few places on the rotation
Renzo’s being one of them- and watching John Danaher
hone his death squad
into the leg locking machines there are was a scary glimpse into the current life of high level bjj

the leg lock game- really nullifies most if not all ‘big strong types’
no matter what the skill level or length of the body.
the fear of tearing an ACL will tap pretty much everyone- no resistance needed.

no before you big strong types - get all butt hurt.
I do feel for you- its awkward as F to roll with a size mismatch.
or to ‘limmit’ the strength you might apply and I can respect all that angst.
But its also respectful - and really teaches body awareness for lack of a better term
to control your own athletic ability to limit your own physical attributes to make you a productive partner

It is super hard as a ‘tiny bro’ to apply some techniques- to larger people ( except leg locks)
but its also just drilling and rolling right?
because competing is something else
I tried to avoid partners and yes schools or classes
that really focused on going hard Im really there to learn.

powering out of a sub is fine- if you are doing with purpose
and most times using strength to resist a sub- would frustrate most other beginners too
vs spazzing out. Hopefully that ‘controlled roll’ pays dividends

Rhadi Ferguson comes to mind thinking of a judoka who is
supremely athletic and used that attribute to his success.
and there are quite a few ‘power players’ in Bjj that make those
attributes part of there winning ways.
maybe model your own rolling after people like that.

As an aside I think it is very difficult for many beginners,
to accept that they are beginners. Begin a large athletic and powerful person might make that harder to accept as well.
Its humbling to be new - and probably a difficult hurdle to get past
to ‘hold back’

hopefully there is something good in this giant ass wall of text


Good to see you around. I hope the injury repair is about over. You crossed my mind during that media shit storm with CM, thought you might have been filming there. Don’t be a stranger on anyone’s threads. Stay Safe.


Well . IBJJF rules don’t allow for heel hooks in the gi and most people train exclusively gi its not a real surprise that a majority of those involved in recreational BJJ are not familiar with heel hooks. Actually now that I think of it I don’t think you can use heel hooks in no gi IBJJF tournaments as well. So that makes sense since IBJJF is arguably the biggest BJJ organization with the most amount of tournaments.

Obviously other grappling tournaments don’t have the crazy rule set and you can go for a much wider range of attacks.

I started at a gym where day 1 (if that day was heel hook day) you are familiarized with heel hooks. Exposure starts right away. The owner/instructor probably thought it was a disservice to not teach his students to go for the heel hook and to defend against it. It definitely stopped me real quick when someone locks up a heel hook and you don’t even have a clue how to defend against it. It is a lot more defendable then most people think though.

Being large can still impede someone’s ability to get a submission even if they are a heel hooking son of a gun. Rousimar Palharres did a good job stopping Garry Tonnon at Polaris 3. Granted RP is no slouch himself but if we are being honest there is a huge discrepancy in skill between RP and GT and the only reason RP was able to hang in the match was his size strength and athleticism.

So in conclusion. Fuck IBJJF.


I’m still getting familiar with the basic positions and entries. Not very proficient with any submissions yet. My best one is probably the calf slicer from the truck, and I’m not even sure that counts as a leg lock.

Some guys in my gym are pretty good at attacking legs, so my defense has improved a lot in the last 6 months. Heel hooks still scare the hell out of me though. Both applying and defending.


@bagofbro I’m also a leg lock novice. They are on the curriculum, I just haven’t gotten there yet. Heel hooks and knee bars are things I tap to pretty quickly. I just don’t have a good understanding of the mechanics yet. Probably another good example where “using your strength” could end poorly!