At intermediate and higher levels (amateur and particularly professional) the lighter students at a BJJ/grappling academy have it a little tougher than the average (and larger) sized fellow practitioners. The conventional platitude for BJJ “size doesn’t matter” isn’t entirely true as much of the time as many believe. Getting trapped under a heavier opponent that outweighs you by 20+kgs (50+lbs) is not fun! I am roughly 130lbs bodyweight so trust me when I say I know what it feels like to get squished under a heavier partner.
I am slightly lighter than the average 145-150lbs practitioner and that tends to put me at a great size/weight disadvantage against even an average Joe! Everyone seems like the Class 5 Kaiju (Pacific Rim) once we get to the ground!
Being one of the lightest guys on the mat (if not the lightest) I have spent my entire martial arts journey learning how to deal with larger and heaver opponents so here are my two cents on the eternal battle:
Once the opponent’s weight is settled on you it becomes a very steep uphill struggle to escape.
I have heard some doctors say “Prevention is often better than cure”. As the light as feather guy, my advice is to anticipate your opponents movements and in turn when a position is being lost. For example your guard is being passed, then you need to move on to your next move BEFORE the opponent has their preferred grip or settles their weight on you.
Ever seen the videos or seminars of black belts of small stature? Notice how they keep avoiding getting crushed by larger opponents? They keep moving their hips even in guard, maintaining distance and never allow the larger, heavier opponent to “get a hold” to apply strength!!
All my students know I keep talking about Floating and Leading (topics for a separate post). However this floating is slightly different.
I have trained with lighter instructors and partners. Some of them were women (no I am not ashamed to admit I was defeated by superior technique from women). I have also seen them with real heavy weights and controlled those heavy weights myself too.
Lighter guys can control the heavier guys from the top by not applying much pressure; for example, techniques like shoulder-in-the-face or 100-kilo-control inside mount. We simply can’t use that against the heavier guys because then we “lock” or “attach” ourselves to the mass of the heavy guys. Thus when the heavy opponent rolls we are forced to roll along with the heavy guy possibly ending underneath.
Personally I use the guard, but I have seen a lot of the lighter instructors using the knee-on-belly to control the top. Using this we can be “connected” sufficiently to control, however “floating” enough to not be “locked or attached” and get rolled over.
Keep Weight Off.
A lot of the conventional sweeps and almost entirety of half-guard sweeps depend on undermining the base of the heavy opponent on top by getting under them. Beautiful when it works. Being buried under a building, when it doesn’t work.
To counter all that weight on the chest one of my solutions is to utilise the “Z-guard”. It allows one to use structure (framing and brackets) to prevent the opponent from settling and crushing you with their weight. Similarly framing and bracing can be used against a side mount to counter the weight as well.
Get the BACK.
Every movie that has a smaller hero go against a larger/heavier bad guy, the small guy will take the back!
How else do you keep safe against the heavy and manage to defeat them?
The small guy will have the advantage of speed/agility and can spring at the right opportunity to the back and then look for submissions!
This one is a bonus as it works for everyone.
If I am not wrong then I think at one point Helio Gracie had said that chokes are the royalty and foot locks the dirty thief. Something Dean Lister also quoted and went on to say that foot locks worked for him so he would stick with them.
However if you can master choke then you will always have that one back up plan in almost any situation but most particularly against the heavier opponents. !!
Have fun beating the BIG Guys