Make The Most Of What You’ve Got
As a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner it is absolutely necessary that you make the most of what you’ve got. You have no other choice really.
After sitting around the mats after a tough midday training session last week, a couple of the guys got talking. Just the usual mat chat; how the surf has been, work, family, and lots of Jiu-Jitsu talk. One thing one of our members said really resonated with me. Our member Dave is a great asset to the team. He is a Lawyer by day, a family man by night, a Rugby player on the weekends, and now a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner on his lunch breaks. Dave made the comment that as a new white belt, and as a white belt who is one of the two largest members in the gym, he is having difficulty rolling with the smaller members. As with most larger guys, he does not want to just use his size and strength to control his training partner, but at the same time as he is only new to the art/sport he does not yet have the technique to really do any different. He is struggling in gauging how as a much larger man he should train with smaller people. He even commented that he would prefer to be a smaller person learning this art, but that is not his reality, and as a result his only option is to make the most of what he has got.
As a larger guy I can entirely relate to this scenario. As aforementioned in a previous blog, in looking back, I think I may have been avoided somewhat as a white belt due to my size and strength at the time, and my inability at the time to gauge its use properly. You hear the comments being thrown around the gym all the time. Comments like, ‘He is just using his strength’ or ‘He beat such-and-such because he is bigger’. And whilst there is no doubt that strength and size are an obstacle to overcome for those who don’t have them and an asset for those who do have them, nevertheless it is not the be-all-and-end-all. Obviously as a larger person, and as a person who wants to have some training partners, one is going to have to learn how to roll with smaller people. If you don’t you will very quickly find you have fewer and fewer training partners. Providing you are a thinking person this skill will develop over time. But regardless, I see smaller players beating larger players all the time. I see weaker players beating stronger players all the time. And I see this even when the skill set of the larger and smaller players is quite the same. The difference is that in such instances these smaller players are using what they’ve got, and that is typically speed, agility, and co-ordination, to their advantage. In such instances these smaller players are approaching their rolls more intelligently.
Funnily, I have similarly heard comments from the other side of the argument. For instance I have heard of a larger Black Belt complaining to a smaller Purple Belt that that Purple Belt should slow down in his Jiu-Jitsu game and be less dynamic when they are rolling. This is ridiculous. That Purple Belt’s advantage in facing a larger Black Belt is his speed and agility. The Black Belt will typically have a larger skill set, and in this instance the black belt was also bigger and stronger, so for the Purple Belt to pose some threat he must use what he has got, which in this instance is his speed. For the Black Belt to say this, he is essentially requesting his training partner to take away his assets and commit to a game that that Black Belt is comfortable with.
Good Jiu-Jitsu is all about capitalising on what you’ve got, whether that be size, strength, speed, agility, co-ordination, technique, intelligence, whatever it may be. The person that can best utilise their assets will typically be in the higher advantage. Of course if we want to keep our training partners, and our friendships in the gym, we must learn to roll with people of all types and all shapes and sizes in a way that both keeps everyone injury free and maximises learning; but at the same time one must learn to use and to develop their assets in a way where they will be most advantageous to them. This balance is a hard one to find at times, and I can definitely sympathise with the situation Dave is facing. But like all things in Jiu-Jitsu, providing you are thoughtful in your approach it is just a matter of time until you find the solution. My advice is to seek out mentors in the gym who have similar attributes to yourself but are at a higher skill level. Watch how they approach the situations you are struggling with, watch how they best utilise those assets they and you have. Study how they approach rolling with a smaller or larger training partner, study how they use their assets to their advantage against their training partners. Similarly, the internet (if used properly) can be a great teacher also. Start to follow Jiu-Jitsu athletes who share a similar body type, similar assets, and even a similar mindset to you. Study how they approach their Jiu-Jitsu. Watch videos on such athletes, read on such athletes. Interestingly, I asked Dave if he had started studying any Jiu-Jitsu on the internet. He responded that he had started to watch some of Keenan Cornelius’ instructionals, and whilst Keenan’s instruction and technique is phenomenal to say the least, Dave was well aware that this is not, and likely never will be, the style of Jiu-Jitsu that will best work for his physique.
In concluding, everyone is endowed with some assets, the ability to first recognise these assets and then effectively utilise these assets is going to be your best technique in improving, and possibly excelling in your Jiu-Jitsu. The ability also to gel with the group and train in a manner that is thoughtful to those around you is similarly important to yours and your training partners’ progression. So find what it is you have, study those before you who similarly have these same assets, and always evolve in your approach.
Thanks for reading and happy rolling,
Co-owner at Flow Martial Arts