If you belong to a decent sized BJJ / Grappling / MMA gym like the Labs @ Fighting Fit, you are likely to run into a variety of people of all shapes and sizes, not to mention levels of experience.
I have presented here a simple matrix of Size / Strength vs. Grappling Experience. Any two people rolling in BJJ will either match each other in grappling experience, in size and strength or both. I’ve divided your potential level in relation to your training partners into 9 scenarios:
You are Less experienced with strength / size Disadvantage: LD
You are Less experienced with strength / size being On par: LO
You are Less experienced with strength / size Advantage: LA
You get the picture.
LD: You are most likely to be dominated. They're bigger, stronger and they know what they're doing! Work on surviving. Don't have too many of these rolls in a day in the beginning if you can.
LO: You are more likely to survive but still struggle to make anything happen to your advantage. Relax and feel what is being done to you (haha excuse the language!) and try to learn from it rather than bench press your way out of trouble.
LA: You are most likely to survive, depending on how big the experience gap is (not the attribute gap). The best advice I can give is to work on your bottom (guard, half guard, escapes...etc.) game and work on the details. Leave your strength right next to your "ego" at the door.
SD: You are most likely to get injured. Sorry but that's the truth. You look at their belt and the "ego" tells you that you should be able to do some damage which is a huge fallacy* so you start pushing thru the pain barrier especially once your body is warm. The neck, shoulders, knees and lower back usually fair the worst. Please don't do that to yourself. As Eddie Kone once told me "would you rather fight for 10 minutes or learn for 1 hour?". Respect their strength and work around it as much as you can, always aiming to perfect the use of technique and leverage to survive, escape and take it from there.
SO: This is fun-central. Still, don't throw caution to the wind as you can still get accidentally injured but basically it doesn't get sweeter than this. People in your SO group will be responsible for the biggest chunk of your development and growth in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Grappling
SA: Love and respect your friends. Reserve your strength and size advantage to the technical portion (nothing wrong with applying your weight to the guard pass or using your strong, long legs to finish the triangle) and refrain from using it to force things on (yanking armbar finishes or twisting necks in false-choke-like-contortions). After all, they are your friends and partners and these dirty tactics benefit no one (not to mention they won't work within your SO group!)
MD**: Be careful. Remember that inexperienced people usually have a lower level of coordination than you and can easily (and accidentally) injure you. Focus on getting out from under them and work the top game. Focus on separating and sectioning their body (breaking their posture and base, separating their elbows from their sides...etc.).
MO: Play your A-game. Not to show off, but with the objective to sharpen it. The experience gap will afford you more reaction-time to sharpen your game and smooth the edges.
MA: Try new things (sweeps, reversals, sneaky subs...etc.) Open up your game. This is where you add width and variety to your game.
I know I use a very broad brush here. What do you all think? What are your experiences?
*Within the same belt, people's skill can and will vary and while some purple belts (e.g.) may have a wicked half-guard game on the left side, the person they're going with (also purple) only passes on the right and suddenly your "ego" is shouting "catch up, run, squeeze, bridge them!" rather than the more sensible: "Hmm, I need to make my right and left guard retrieval game more even!"
**There is a LOT of activity and some good tips on overcoming a larger opponent in BJJ / Grappling. I'm just saying be very very careful!
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