Tips for Smaller BJJ Practitioners

By Gabriella McCrossan

This article is for small Jiu Jitsu practitioners. But it can also be for people who train with and coach smaller people. Although technique is king, size and strength do play an important role on the mat. The following are some tips that can help you get the most out of your training.

1. Train Smart: When you find yourself alone at the bottom of the size and strength spectrum, you have to modify some aspects of your training. Most importantly, who you are training with. It’s important to be able to train with people that won’t accidentally crush your ribs or rip your arms off, whether from ignorance or hubris. Maybe this means you only train with upper belts, or maybe it means you make opportunities to train with people your size.

2. Make your own opportunities: This can come in a lot of different forms, no matter where you live. You can try training with some of the kids or teens at your academy or bring in your own kids if they’re close to your size. It can be a great way to spend quality time together if you do convince your children to join you on the mats. You can get online and find open mats in your area, or if you’re a woman who happens to be small, you can reach out through many different online avenues and maybe find some female training partners within driving distance.

3. Techniques: You might have to modify techniques to accommodate the proportions between yourself and your training partners. You might not see a lot of success with some techniques unless you execute them perfectly while it feels like others can just grab your arms and pull them right off. Thankfully, there are many resources for people in this situation only a google search away. One of the most well-known is Stephan Kesting and Emily Kwok’s series on “How to Defeat a Bigger, Stronger Opponent. Until you get to that, you can focus on making sure that you are moving around your opponent during rolls, rather than trying to move them, and on using every last bit of weight that you do have to apply pressure exactly where you want it. Take the time to talk to your coaches and training partners to look for feedback or insight. Talk to them about ways to help you while also getting something out of their training, work together to help your own progression.

Reach out to others in the Jiu Jitsu community who may have found themselves in your same shoes. Bring people in and make your own training partners. Even if someone is brand new, it won’t take long before the benefits of having someone your size outweighs the downsides of having to work with someone new. They won’t be so new before long. If you’re someone who frequently looks around and finds yourself to be the smallest person in the gym, leave us a comment with any suggestions you might have for others in the same situation!