Should You Build Your Game Around Your Body Type?

By Alec Baulding

It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny, muscular, tall, or short, Jiu Jitsu works for every body type. That being said, you will have to put in a lot of work to structure your game to best fit your body type. Starting out, you learn very utilitarian techniques that will work for the majority of students. Positions like the closed guard, and attacks like the armbar and the cross choke are great examples of the basic techniques that everyone learns because they work for everyone. Your physical attributes won’t have too much effect on your ability to apply these moves. But as you progress and start to go deeper into different guards and attacks. You will find yourself being drawn towards certain ones. If you’re tall and lanky, triangles and spider guard will come more easily to you versus a shorter person. Of course, there are short grapplers capable of doing those techniques, but they will come a lot easier if they suit your body type. If you don’t know what techniques work well with your specific body type, that’s okay.

Find training partners or competitors with a similar body type Your best bet is to find a higher belt student or instructor with a similar body type to you and study their game: what guards they play, their guard attacks, what passes they use, how they recompose, etc. You can try to emulate their game completely but it often work better if you grab the techniques that you like best. Creating your own game is a constant balancing act of adding new techniques, testing them out, and then cutting out the techniques that don’t suit your style. Your practice of Jiu Jitsu will always be like this. Your game will keep evolving and the techniques that you use today might be completely different by next year. So to help guide you through this process it helps to have good instructors.

Great instructors can help you learn how to use your body type Having a great instructor is the key to learning how to use your body type appropriately and building the foundation of your Jiu Jitsu. That’s why it helps to do your due diligence early to find a reputable academy. Things to look for include any measurable accolades like tournament results, organizational certifications from the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), and student referrals. A good instructor is like a guide helping you climb a mountain. They will keep you from falling off the mountain, while showing you the most efficient way to scale the mountain. You can save a lot of time in trial and error by consulting your instructor on what techniques will work best for you and on a broader scale, where you should focus to improve your Jiu Jitsu. Of course, your instructor won’t have all the answers. You will have to put in work drilling, studying competition footage, and doing specific sparring. But their knowledge and experience will enable you to streamline this process much more efficiently.

Learn what works for you Everyone’s body type has its strengths and the sooner you learn what that is the better off your entire game will be. It also doesn’t mean that you should limit your Jiu Jitsu style to only what works best for your body. It’s more of a guide to what you might get good at and use it to strengthen what you’re already great at. What are your tips for figuring out the best techniques for your body type? Let us know in the comments!