Big Panda Swinging
I started my BJJ career at 190 pounds, and I put weight on over the years, moving from middle heavy, to heavy, to super heavy, and now back down to middle heavy. I have always been on the big side of the room when it came to pairing up for as long as I can remember. But for years, some of my best training partners were much smaller than me. They were in the featherweight or lightweight divisions. Fast forward: my wife is 120 pounds and one of my most technical black belts I have in my immediate surrounding, so how do you train with people much smaller than you? What rules should you follow?
Concede the bottom position. If you are the bigger player, sit down, play guard, and control the amount of strength you use. Sweep or submit by using positioning and leverage, not by using your weight or strength advantage. Do not go for things that would not work on someone your size. Very often I see big guys bench pressing people off of them or muscling them over during sweeps, developing bad habits that are only exposed when they train with someone bigger.
Control your pressure. You do not need to apply max pressure at all times. I see some bigger black belts rolling as a maniacal steam roller, crushing anyone in their path. If someone is lighter than you, apply less pressure when you are on top, even less if they are a lower belt. When pressure passing, apply pressure slowly and work on moving up the body methodically.
Control, control, control. The bigger you are the more you have to control your own body weight. I think there are few things as dangerous as a big lower belt throwing his weight around. If you are on the bigger side of things, avoid dropping your weight with speed such as blast knee cuts, or long/back step passes against smaller people. The same goes for techniques like rolling kimuras, flying submissions, or guard jumps. The difference in weight makes them much more dangerous and the risks vastly outweigh the rewards.
Use movement-based passing. Attempt to move like a lightweight. Be a heavyweight capable of moving your feet and set up your passing with a movement-based game. You will still need to apply pressure to finish your passes, but again, apply pressure slowly.
Let me repeat that. Apply pressure slowly. Give your opponent the ability to tap if they are uncomfortable. Most injuries happen when pressure is applied quickly, where you drive really hard or drop your weight abruptly. Go slow, and take care of your smaller training partners.
Follow these guidelines and you will have smaller training partners that actually look your way when pairing up between rounds. In the long run, this will mean a new way to grow your ability because it forces you to be mindful, aware, and work on skills that aren’t typically associated with bigger pandas.