My goal from the beginning was never to be recognized as “the big guy” with my training partners. That sounds ridiculous since I’m almost always the biggest guy on the mat when I train, but truthfully I try not to be. I train BJJ because I want to learn the art, not lay on top of people or toss them around because I’m so much bigger or stronger.
Besides that, just because you’re bigger, sometimes way bigger, doesn’t mean you can be effective. I assure you there are lots of folks at this gym that give me problems and the occasionally butt whipping even though I have 80 pounds or more on them. I guess being “the big guy” is unavoidable most days so I try to be the most technical big guy I can.
This presents a couple of challenges. First, there are some positions that I don’t train that often because, well, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’m not going to go to knee on belly with my training partner unless he’s about the same size as me or I know I present no real threat due to their ability to escape (thanks Vince!) Second, I’m always second guessing myself when I do get a position, finish a submission, or escape. “Did I get that because I’m bigger and stronger or did I get that because I executed great technique?” Both of these things really matter to me. When I do encounter a training partner or opponent that is my size I want to be confident that I’ve worked on my technique and strategy to a degree that the size becomes irrelevant.
The way I’ve dealt with this in my training is to really try and play a “little man’s game”. I like to pull guard, play half guard, play with leg locks, and catch people with sneaky submissions that rely on technique. That helps me focus more on my technique. Of course, there are always times when I’ll get frustrated or even scared and use my size as an advantage, but I honestly try and keep that to a minimum. I’m sure I do it more than I think. Ultimately, though, I’m still learning and whether or not I got a technique because of size or efficacy I’m helping my training partner get better too.
For the record, when someone says, “you are so heavy or strong or big,” it’s not a compliment, just an oberservation of phyisics. Hah!
Mark Pushinksy is a purple belt at Revolution BJJ, a business owner, and a father of two.