Here’s How You Can Beat That Bigger Guy In BJJ Class


Although the gentle art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu revolves around the concept of leverage and using suitable techniques to enable a smaller, weaker, individual to overcome a bigger, stronger opponent — this isn’t always the case. If you’ve been practicing BJJ for awhile, you would know that most of the time, strength could negate many different factors. Although this goes against Helio Gracie’s ideologies, it is a real, growing problem for many smaller BJJ practitioners. The newer schools of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with the Mendes brothers, Caio Terra, Cobrinha, Leo Vieira, and Andre Galvao at their helm, have brought forth new modifications of techniques that nullify a person’s strength. These techniques are more dynamic and fluid, much more dependent on timing and agility.

Through certain strategies brought about by these new techniques, perhaps the game of human chess could be more applicable to all BJJ practitioners, regardless of size:

1) Choice of positions

Despite what people believe, there are positions that are easier for a smaller BJJ practitioner to maintain and control against a bigger, stronger opponent. The concepts revolve around circumventing one’s opponents strengths structurally instead of choosing to overpower them. For example, your choice of guard. Opting to open one’s guard, as opposed to using closed or half guard, wherein your opponent has the ability to put all his strength and weight on you is ideal.

In this video, BJJ World Championship Silver Medalist Almiro Barros shows 5 sweeps from the spider guard. The spider guard is a great open guard concept that allows you to control your opponent as you push on his biceps with your feet and keep him off you. When you use the spider guard, you use your legs and hips to create leverage. These are much stronger than your opponent’s arms.

Another example is opting to use sidemount as opposed to a full mount. The sidemount position allows you to be more mobile, giving you the space you need to transition to another position once your opponent escapes. The full mount is a risky position for a smaller BJJ practitioner because his opponent will use his hips to bridge out and escape, making him vulnerable to being passed and submitted if he does not recover quickly.

2) Use the gi strategically

Whether you realize it or not, one’s gi is much more than just a uniform. It could be used against your opponent — whether to submit him or control him. As someone smaller and weaker, you must use your opponent’s gi against him. Utilizing guards such as the lasso, lapel, and worm gives you more control over your opponent because it restricts his movement. To him, it may feel as if you are tying his limbs together with a rope, making him handicapped.

In this video, BJJ World Champion and ONE Superstar Bruno Pucci shows 3 sweeps from the worm guard. Notice how he uses the lapel to control his opponent and breaks his posture.

3) Take the back

You can try all you want, but attempting to take a bigger opponent down and put him on his back is no easy feat for a smaller BJJ student. In fact, being small often means that you’re probably going to be taken down instead. Thus, you should take any chance you can to take your opponent’s back. When you have your opponent’s back, he is less mobile, giving you the upper hand in terms of control. Work on establishing control before executing a submission — and don’t worry, once you have the back, there are a variety of positions and chokes you can utilize.

In this video, submission expert ONE Superstar Shinya Aoki shows 5 different submissions from back control.

4) Choice of submissions

There certain submissions that are notorious for their efficacy against stronger opponents. As Helio Gracie once said, “for the choke, there are no tough guys“. As a smaller practitioner, you should opt for submissions that don’t rely on strength, especially those that allow your opponents to use their strength/physical attributes to counter the submission. The triangle choke against a guy with a thicker torso/neck for example, or armbar against a double jointed/flexible opponent — these simply wouldn’t work. Of course, all submissions, given the right situation, would work. However, to increase the chances of you finishing a submission, aim for the choke. Gi chokes, or any chokes for that matter, are one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult submissions to defend. Once they’re in deep enough, all you have to do is count to 10 (or even less sometimes) and place increasing pressure.

In this video, Almiro Barros shows a collar choke from the kimura. Almiro attempts the kimura, forcing his partner to defend, rendering himself immobile. Then, Almiro makes a slight adjustment to hold the kimura position while switching to a lapel choke.

5) Choice of passes

Your choice of guard passing is very important, especially as a smaller BJJ practitioner. In BJJ, there are two types of passing: tight/pressure passing wherein you hold your opponent in place with increasing pressure, and loose/agility based passing, where you use your agility to circumvent your opponent’s guard and clear his resistance. Multiple-time BJJ World Champions Rafael Mendes and Bruno Malfacine who are in the lighter weight classes, use agility and speed against their opponents. They constantly move and switch positions, deflecting their opponent’s strength until they are able to stabilize themselves. However, agility based passing is more effective when used in tandem with pressure passing, especially at higher levels of competition.

In this video, Almiro Barros shows 3 different leg drag passes.

Although size and strength aren’t supposed to matter in BJJ, sometimes, it does. But being smaller also has its advantages. Lighter students end up becoming more technical than their bigger counterparts, giving them an unexpected edge. They also get more of a workout, increasing pound for pound strength as opposed to those who are naturally stronger and more athletic.

So be more wary of the smaller BJJ practitioners in your next class – they may just have something sneaky up their sleeves!


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6 Vital Tips For Surviving On The Bottom


Everyone who trains BJJ knows this experience:

You’re on your back and you have a big guy on top of you and he’s just smashing you with every ounce of his being…his shoulder is driving into the side of your face and you can feel it in your teeth…you can hardly breathe as his torso crushes your chest and you feel like you are breathing through a straw… you’re just hoping he will move or mount you or do something to relieve the pressure…

We have all been there at one time or another. Being on the bottom just sucks…or does it? First off, being on the bottom is very uncomfortable. But then again Jiu-Jitsu isn’t the most comfortable activity after all we choke, arm-bar and twist each other up like pretzels just for fun. So I think you first have to accept that you are going to end up in positions that are simply not comfortable but that doesn’t mean you have to give up either. Nobody wants to tap out because someone got side control.

Think of it this way, when you end up in bottom side control what is the worst thing that could happen? You might tap out if they catch you in a submission. But if you are doing a great job preventing possible submissions and they are just smashing you, what’s the real danger? Unless you have a pre-existing injury, there’s no real danger of getting hurt when someone has side control, so there’s no reason to tap! When someone has side on me I first try to position my body to prevent being submitted, then I take a deep breathe and try to relax my body. When you’re tense and rigid it is easier for the top player to control and move your body. In addition, when you’re tense you burn more energy. Once you take a deep breathe you need to mentally remind yourself to relax and that you’re in control. Then try to position your body so that you can be as comfortable as possible. This is a time to stay focused, keep your wits and stay in the moment. If you start to get anxious and “freaked out” your body might misinterpret this information as “real” threat and create a fight or flight response.

This will cause your heart rate to increase, make it difficult to breathe and quickly cause you to physically and mentally unravel. Remember, bad position isn’t the end of the world. In BJJ we tend to get this mindset where if someone is in a better position (regardless of whether they submit us or not) they are winning. Unless you are keeping points this simply isn’t true. Even in tournaments this isn’t necessarily true…there are top-level guys who have had entire careers built on working from “bad positions”. Remember, it’s only bad if you get submitted! When I was starting my matches from bad positions I would have these ego-flares where I would worry what others (including my partners) were thinking. There I was a BJJ black belt and I would have a purple belt in side control giving me fits. But again this was my ego trying to tell me a different story. You have to let go of the idea that “bad position” equates to failure. It’s never really a failure, even when you tap, because that was just an opportunity to learn.

Tips for surviving on the bottom:

1. Relax and breathe. Remember, your breath is your first point of focus when you’re tired, anxious, etc. Breathing will help you calm down and bring you back to the present moment.
2. When in doubt ask yourself, “Where am I and what do I need to do next?” This will keep you in the present moment and help you to formulate a plan.
3. Look at the clock. How much time do you have left in the round? Maybe you have 30-seconds left so your plan might be to hold on and survive. If you’re 30-seconds in, you need to conserve energy and wait for an opportunity.
4. Don’t tap to position. Unless you have an injury, problem-solve and find your way out. Remember, everything can change in a moment. If you do get submitted it’s not the end of the world, use it as an opportunity to learn!
5. Have solid basics. When you get in a “bad position” this is your opportunity to apply solid, fundamental Jiu-Jitsu. If your basics are weak, your Jiu-Jitsu is weak!
6. Get feedback! If you’re really getting stuck on the bottom and you’re not progressing, talk to your teammates and coaches. A private lesson with your instructor might be helpful.

Control the conversation in your head. It’s easy to fall apart when you’re getting smashed. Believe in your Jiu-Jitsu, control your ego and maintain a positive mindset even when you’re stuck on the bottom – a great lesson on a off the mats!

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Congrats to Leo and Dania Silva!

Congrats to this talented young girl on winning double Gold this past weekend at NAGA – North America Grappling Association !! Keep up the great work to KNOXX Athlete Dania Silva and keep inspiring !


leo silva knoxx.jpg

Congrats to this talented young man on winning Gold this last weekend at NAGA – North America Grappling Association !! Keep up the great work to KNOXX Athlete Leo Silva !

Kusari Pro Jiu Jitsu Gi now available

The Limited Edition KNOXX “Kusari PRO” Jiu Jitsu Gi is available at exclusively @knoxxgear and KNOXX Gym @knoxxgym. They will available in adult and youth sizing in white, blue, black and the special edition grey…KNOXX Athlete: Tracy Pham @phamtasticjj ——–
*Some sizes and colorways may already be sold out.