T Nation

BJJ - "Using Your Strength"


Of course. I didn’t mean to pass judgement on you for not training with people who are much larger. I can see the wisdom in that. I sometimes duck rolls with 20-something novices who think every roll is a UFC title match.

Maybe not this year, maybe not next year or maybe not five years from now, but I’ve seen and experienced enough to know that this is not an absolutely true statement. Attributes matter. Technical skill matters. They join to form an expression when we put them into action, but it’s been my experience that the technical ceiling is more often than not capable of overcoming the attribute ceiling, whether you’re talking stand-up or ground work.

I’m not saying that you can someday rag-doll a 6’3" Judo Olympian with 100 pounds on you, but rag-dolling a guy who is the same size with little training and aggressive behaviors is definitely a possibility for you.


Couldn’t agree with you more. I am in the camp of whatever gets the job done. Strength, skill whatever. But thats only in a comp or hard competitive rolls. Goes without saying if there is size discrepancy bigger guy needs to roll lighter. I was seriously chastised in my first gym for relying to much on my athleticism and explosiveness instead of “technique”. Fucking jabronies.

Speaking of hard competitive rolls here is something I would like to share. Finally got back to the states for my 2 month vacation. Started rolling at the old gym I used to train at. Went from having rolled maybe 5-8 times in the last 11 months to 3 hours a day. Well last week I was contemplating going to no gi. Wasn’t gonna go. Listened to some David Goggins shit about surrounding yourself around people who make you uncomfortable and not mediocre people who are content to do shit. Feeling inspired I hopped in my car to go. My body was hurting. Shins bruised and tender from shin on shin. Elbows inflamed from fighting armbars. I knew it my body physically needed a break.

Anyways rolled with this dude who used to be my go to guy for drilling and rolling. Very competitive guy strong wrestling background. Problem is he likes to turn up even in drills and I ain’t no bitch so I turn up too. (hes the kinda guy who gets all excited and will go outside the parameters of the box our instructor puts us or if I get an escape and we should reset will shoot a low single to get a takedown and end up on top even though we should just reset.

Well during our live roles I found myself having a front headlock position transitioned to a guillotine while in ass to grass asian squat kinda position and he tried to pick my ankle don’t know why because I was about to pull guard with guillotine. Loud ass pop in my ankle and now my voyage back into BJJ is once again on hiatus but this time due to a bitch ass ankle.

Nothing too severe. No visible bruising and swelling has mostly subsided 3 days later. But I am super phissed. Was hoping to hit 10 + hours on the mat a week and seriously level up my bjj. But I tried to put a positive spin on it. It has reminded me to focus on rehab and injury prevention. Put my focus on every possible way to expedite recovery. Hoping only to take another four or five days off.

Well that was long.


I should qualify, as always when it comes to stuff like this-

Nothing I learned in Judo will help me overcome another judoka who has well over a 100lb and nearly a foot (seriously, the guy was TALL- I’m 5ft 8ish and I’d probably be looking at somewhere around his lower ribs if I looked straight) on me.

I’ve probably need to be a master at foot-sweeps or inside trips to even have a chance. Any hip or leg throws would be instantly countered by him simply dropping his weight on me, nevermind that getting the proper grips to even initiate any of the big throws would be incredibly difficult.

If I ran into a confrontation with a random half-giant then I’m reasonably confident that I can sweep him/her- it is incredibly easy to sweep people who don’t understand what’s going on.


For what it’s worth, this is something I try to do as well. I’m smaller than you, but my lifts are similar and I’m a good bit stronger (in terms of lifting objects) than everyone I roll with. I try really hard to not rely on strength because I notice that my meathead style doesn’t work as well on guys closer in strength or greatly exceeding in weight in comparison with me. I try to use strength to control the position thoroughly enough to find the angles and gently apply good technique. For example, I can keep my guard locked on everybody I roll with if I commit to keeping it. So I’ll try to maintain that position while working positional changes and submission setups. Or I’ll bait people into over commiting to limb locks, then take the easy reversal with the extra strength.


That sucks! Some stuff is unavoidable but one thing I’ve gotten “better” at is just giving up on a takedown if I get into a situation where I’m no longer sure I can move safely, trying to land favorably, establish a guard and just working from the bottom. I only work aggressive stand-up with people I trust, and being the biggest guy in the room often means young and aggressive guys come at me pretty hard, even if we’re just drilling. That’s how a “ninjitsu black belt” managed to make my knee go pop and put me off the mats for a few weeks last year. No technique, just kicking the side of my knee when we were drilling Uchi Matas. It sure seemed like he was trying to go hard and make a point.

This is a great example. Tree trunk legs can have all kinds of great applications from the guard. My guard game isn’t all that great yet, but I have a lot of success with simply maintaining it like you describe. There’s a lot less space to wiggle out of compared to a 160 lb guy’s legs. Hip bump sweeps and scissor type sweeps can feel almost effortless at times. I take that as a sign that I’m doing them right and also happening to be much bigger and stronger than the people I train with. Would I need more technical refinement to pull that off if I could only squat 225? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s irrelevant.

Stand-up game is another “use of strength”. I don’t mean rag-dolling people around recklessly, but doing things like getting your foot back to the floor to stop a single leg. Posting a leg out further to prevent a double leg. Putting more oomph behind your osoto gari. Using people’s tendency to use more of their strength to set-up your next move when they over-commit. Snap-downs and arm-drags work better. I’m not a technical master at this stuff yet, but again working on refinement, timing, more sophisticated set-ups while also happening to be a helluva lot stronger than everyone I train with.

Framing is another “use of strength” that comes to mind. If I’m on bottom and someone tries to scoop my frames up and climb to high mount like they did on a beanpole who gave up his frames without a struggle, well, that’s not going to happen the same way with me. My elbows will stay on the mat as a technical response that also uses my strength to deny high mount.

I reverse people from side control all the time too, and I’ve had enough success with it that I’ve stopped using it as my go-to escape so I can work on replacing my guard or working them over my head with frames to hip out and (usually) go for a single-leg.

I “use my strength” to reverse people from the bottom of side control, but I’m also loading them up on my frames, waiting for the right moment when they are driving into me hard without a hand ready to post, typically when they’ve got my head wrapped and want to play the shoulder pressure game. I love doing this to people, and I’ve gotten it to work on black belts, a wrestler who was almost my size and the one dude I’ve rolled with who was larger than me. I’ve been told this was “using my strength”, but fortunately my instructor banished those thoughts from my head. I’m just good at it, and happen to be strong as well.

This is me every time I send someone over the top with a reversal. Nobody likes being underneath me!



This is one of my favorites, partially because I’m pretty new. I basically offer the Americana or cummorah (sic?) because my shoulder mobility is good, and when guys lean in because Im not feeling much pressure, I just plant my other hand on their close hip and toss them over. At 175-180, I do it and some similar things pretty consistently to the couple of 250+ pro guys who come in. Makes me feel special till I get squished and they lay into head and arm chokes with a gut for added measure.


What you’re describing is almost exactly how I started playing the reversal game, which was the first escape I had any success with. The main refinements I work with now are framing the hip with my inside forearm instead of pushing with my hand and framing the neck if I can with the other hand instead of letting it dangle like a worm for a piece of Americana bait. If that’s not an option I will sometimes reach around and grab their belt or reach over their arm to make a gable grip with my inside hand that’s still framing the hip if we’re doing no-gi. I went away from baiting submission attempts because I get burned bad on those with upper belts, so I keep my arms safe and frames in. It’ll work great on new guys though!

I can usually get people to over-commit to pressure by bridging into them lightly and giving them a nudge like I’m trying to replace guard, let them drive into me hard and then a BIG bridge to the other side and a strong nudge with my inside frame. Up and over. Same idea of “baiting” them with an Americana, but your arms are safer. You’re still using their reaction and their momentum to send them over the top.

Better angles are the next thing I’m going to work on with that particular escape. I have a tendency to neglect that shift of my hips and send them over even if they are perpendicular to me, which is definitely a case of “using my strength” for a successful outcome when technical refinement is still within easy reach.

Always something to improve.


I’m quite novice and come from a wrestling background. I have built in instincts that don’t work well in BJJ, so I have spent the last year or so pulling guard at start of every rolling session. There’s something weird about feeling stronger than an opponent yet being on bottom, even when in control in bottom. Do you notice anything similar? If so, how did you address it?


Well, if you’ve wrestled you’ve probably got a decent takedown game, but in my circles guard pulling as a go-to is frowned upon and actively shamed. Again, I’m working a curriculum that’s geared towards violence, not sport, so stand-up phase is a training opportunity to put people on the ground, defend against the same and hit the ground in the best possible position no matter if you’re on top or bottom.

Of course, many high-level guys are notorious guard-pullers and butt-scooters, and do it to good effect. That’s not the house I’m trying to build though.

With newer guys, yes, I get that sense of owning them from my back. That said, my training priorities have me viewing the guard as an emergency position. I don’t hunt submissions from there. I want to work on that eventually, but for now I’m looking to keep their posture broken, set up either a scissor or hip-bump sweep to get on top, or get back to my feet with a technical stand-up. I’ve taken the occasional armbar and kimura, but only when it is served up to me on a platter.

But no doubt about it, the guard is a helluva position when you’ve got someone who plays it well. It’s such a deep rabbit hole to go down, and my instructor can give me all kinds of fits from his back that make me feel like a clumsy and weak child. I’ve passed his guard exactly one time. Once. That’s it.

For now, this is the basic pathway I try to take in a roll. Get to side control. Take the mount by lacing their legs with my arm and stepping over, or beating their inside frame and climbing up high in side control with lots of face pressure. Easier to step over to low mount without getting caught in guard or half guard when you’re up high or have their legs laced with your arm. From there, I look to beat their frames with pressure or submission threats, then climb to technical mount. Simple armbar if it’s open (the one that keeps me in technical mount, not the one that has you falling on your back). Kimura grip for control. Face pressure (or strikes to the face, if we aren’t being gentle) to force the turn-over. Flatten them out and RNC.

Lots of other stuff can happen and sometimes I settle for an Americana, an Ezekiel, an arm triangle, armbars, cross collar or lap drop chokes and even side control submissions, but the house I want to build is maintaining a controlling position at all times and smashing the everloving bejeezus out of people with pressure until I can take the back while staying on top to choke them out. All techniques that work in gi and no-gi, always trying to be in positions where I can stand back up quickly if I need to.

The house still needs a lot of work.

Not everyone likes it when I do that though, so I’ve got the drunk uncle treatment that’s still a fun and productive game to play without much pressure. I tend to just kind of go with the flow when I put pressure on the back burner, aka “flow roll”. Give-and-take exchange of techniques without full resistance until something juicy opens up, don’t fight too hard if someone catches me in a technically sound submission.

My pressure game is all about taking what I want, which is ultimately the back. It’s not fun when my instructor goes down that path with me, I can only imagine how miserable it would be if he put 100 more pounds on his frame. I suppose I’m like rolling with Homer Simpson on that episode when he decided to lift weights and eat Powersauce bars.

A really big revelation for me was when I stopped looking at rolls as a contest to win and started approaching it as a training opportunity with specific objectives in mind. Sometimes I still put that aside and play to win no matter what, but that’s usually with new and really aggressive guys, who I haven’t trained with much lately.

Homer smash!


Totally understandable. I just wanted to break my scrambling and bridging habits. My thought is to roll with 2 different mindsets. One is to learn jujitsu and be relaxed and collected while looking for positions and submissions. The other follows a pattern of tie up, snap down, sprawl, body lock, roll, take a dominant side control or mount, then consider submissions between ground and pound :sweat_smile:


I like it! Strong-ass wrestlers are a handful, I wish I had access to someone like you to train with! I’ve got some strong guys and I’ve got some wrestlers, but nobody who really checks both boxes like you do. The biggest wrestler I rolled with moved to freaking India the week after I trained with him and there’s another guy an hour south of me who I’ve trained with once. He’s my size and a wrestling coach but still pretty novice with his jits. He hit me with the strongest shot I’ve ever felt on a double-leg. Boom. Smash and pass!