I’m not sure you’re doing that right

As someone who is not the strongest person in the gym, I sometimes find myself in the unfortunate position of being trapped by someone who is stronger than me. What I mean by trapped is that I am in a bad position (side mount, mount, back control, etc.) and the person is strong enough to keep me from escaping despite me trying every escape I know.

I hate when this happens for many reasons. It makes me feel like my jiu-jitsu is still pretty weak if I am so easily defeated by strength. It can also make me feel panicky. I, like most people I am sure, really am not comfortable with being held down against my will. This is usually also the point when I realize that my partner is willing to use whatever strength they have to win the roll and I stop thinking about jiu-jitsu and start thinking about safety.

So I hate when this happens but I know that it is probably always going to happen and that I just have to deal with it. As I’ve said before, that’s the price you pay when you are not the strongest person in the gym. And although it is not the most enjoyable thing in the world, I know that situations like this have helped me to gain a very solid defense game. It’s all about working with what you are given.

Sometimes when someone is using a good amount of strength against me and I feel that they’ve muscled something, I wonder afterwards if I should say something. I typically don’t. Some guys are very strong and much of their game plan is to use that strength so it’s not really fair of me to say something. I also never want to seem bitter (especially since I typically am) or like a sore loser by standing up and proclaiming loudly “NO FAIR” after every submission.  And sometimes I’m not really sure if was all muscle or not and so I don’t want to accuse my training partners of something they didn’t do.

I was thinking about this last week after a particularly grueling roll with one of the newer guys. He is very tall and I am guessing at least 60 pounds bigger than me but I am pretty awful at guessing weight. He took my back at some point. Not to brag, but I am pretty good at escaping back control. Failing that I am very confident in my ability to defend submissions from the back (really it’s not bragging because the ability to defend came from getting my back taken about 5000 times).

So try as I might, I could not escape his back control. He also started going for chokes so I switched my focus from escaping to defending the chokes. I had my chin tucked and my head turned so I was feeling pretty confident he wasn’t going to finish me but he was so strong that I couldn’t break his grips either. I could hear him breathing very hard in my ear and my face felt the effort of him using all his strength to try to finish a gi choke because my gi was being pulled across my face. He twisted my head so far that my neck cracked. I thought about tapping but I was feeling really stubborn about tapping to a non-choke.

The roll ended and I was sitting on the bench afterwards silently fuming. I found the roll unpleasant for all the reasons I mentioned above. But I have to admit the thing that really gets me upset about these rolls is that I don’t like thinking they are walking away from the roll feeling they beat me. After I’ve had some time to calm down I realize I am being prideful and ridiculous and gain proper perspective on the situation but in those minutes following a roll like that, I know I am just angry.

So even though I had thought about saying something to him after the roll, I did not because I knew mentally I was in a very sore loser state of mind and I didn’t want to be a jerk. As I was reflecting on the situation later though, I realized I probably should have said something. Whenever I will bring up someone using strength it is because I think they are over relying on it or using it in place of good technique. If I feel like they’ve managed to get something on me that they wouldn’t be able to get on most of the guys in the gym then I think it is ok for me to say something because with most of the guys they are going to need to use technique and not strength.

This was clearly one of those times. My partner had a significant size and strength advantage on me and had me trapped in an awful position. When he went for the submission and it didn’t work, he didn’t try to figure out what was wrong with the technique or what I was doing to defend it, he applied more muscle. Thinking back on it now I wish I had calmly looked up at him and said “hey I am not sure if you noticed but I’m a lot smaller than you and you are using all your strength to finish this choke and it’s not working…do you think maybe your technique might be off?”.

I really don’t want to be whiny about strength all the time and I am still going to be very choosy about when I say something. But I also know that in a situation like this it is to the benefit of both of us to point it out. I know that my partner was not maliciously trying to use strength against me, he is fairly new and that’s what new guys do. If I can help him tighten up his technique in the future it will be helpful for him when he’s going against people stronger than me (everyone else in the gym) and it will be helpful for me because he will no longer feel the need to smoosh me.

I think I will always wonder whether it’s appropriate to point out someone using strength, particularly because it’s hard to be objective when I am feeling prickly after being dominated in a roll. But sometimes I think it’s OK to point out that more power is not always the answer.

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9 responses to “I’m not sure you’re doing that right”

  1. mom says :

    WOW Do not like he cracked your neck I would say something to him now that you are not so mad at losing . I think he should be aware that any man can be stronger then any woman (unless she is on steroids) and technique is what he should be working on.

  2. Sarah says :

    I feel pretty much the same. I stopped saying anything, most of the time, because I know a large part of it is that I hate getting smushed and I hate getting my ass kicked – even though it happens all the time. I started evaluating things and realizing – yes, he’s using strength to get this – but he also has it Right, so maybe technique has something to do with it too. And also realizing that, yeah, they’re going to get techniques by strength, and its going to piss me off – I just try to swallow it down.

    I try to keep my frustration inside. I already KNOW that even if I’m in great position, elbows tucked, defensive – almost every guy has the strength to pluck my arms out of their hidey-spots and muscle them into a submission. I’m just trying REALLY hard to accept that. And get really good at defending.

    Except for, yeah, those times when they’re just yanking and smooshing away and getting nowhere but hurting me or suffocating me. Like the guy who bearhugged me until my eyes bout popped out and I tapped. Usually I just laugh and say “just because you can squeeze me/yank me/flip me like I’m nothing… doesn’t make it a technique.” Or when some new guy is just crushing me and squeezing me and not doing anything, I prod them to try something new. “What can you do from there?”

    “hey I am not sure if you noticed but I’m a lot smaller than you and you are using all your strength to finish this choke and it’s not working…do you think maybe your technique might be off?” <- Gonna use this one, though.

    • Your Doom says :

      Yeah, I know what you are saying. Sometimes it’s strength plus technique and being weaker means it’s going to be harder for me to defend and I just have to deal with that as my reality.

      It can really aggravate me though sometimes when someone uses their size and strength to hold me down or squeeze me or something similiar. I end up wanting to say “OK you are stronger. We knew that going in. Now let’s do some jiu-jitsu!”.

      I really wish I had said that to him at the time but I will save it for later as I’m sure this is not the last time I will be in the situation.

  3. Savagekitsune says :

    Sometimes I will say “the lapel is on my jawbone” or “my fist is jammed in there, that’s why it’s not working,” If it’s a decent partner, I’m saying this to let them know they need to adjust or try something else. If it’s a douchebag, I’m saying it to let them know that their yanking is fruitless. Either way, it doesn’t come out sounding like I’m challenging them or putting them down.

    If the guy is new, I give them the benefit of the doubt that they just don’t know any better. When I was new, I used what muscle I had as well. I might say something to the new guy, since he may be educable. If it’s a blue belt or above, it’s more likely that he’s just a douche, and you’re not going to change him. Let it go. Either avoid him, or be defensive and consider it sub defense practice. (Although I will say that it drives those guys NUTS when they can’t sub you, especially if you are relaxed and breathing easy and acting all lackadaisical.) 😉

    • Your Doom says :

      I like that approach, I’m going try something similar next time! He is new which is why I didn’t want to be a jerk about it because I know that’s just something that a lot of new people do. I do like to try to give the new guys tips when we roll if they are going super hard because it usually makes them think and they tend to back off of strength when I start giving them tips on position and such.

  4. slideyfoot says :

    Good advice from Kitsune, as usual. 🙂

    If I’m against somebody much stronger than me (which is pretty common, as I’m small) who I haven’t rolled with before, the first thing I will try to do is get on top. If we’re starting from the knees, I’ll immediately grab their leg and pull it up into the air, trying to pass. Failing that, I’ll drive forward, aiming to get to a knee cut position, or at least top half guard.

    If I’ve messed up, or they’re more experienced so they counter it, I’ll stay extremely defensive. If there is a big strength difference, then I will probably find myself in the same position you did. In that situation, there isn’t much you can do except tap: I’d rather have my ego damaged than my neck.

    Having said that, I’ve certainly fallen prey to “I’m not tapping to that, they’re doing it wrong!” Normally it’s when somebody is just squeezing your head and twisting your neck. It hasn’t happened for a while, but I’m hoping that I’m now at the point where I’ll just tap. Can’t be sure though, as the ego is a powerful thing.

    Strength isn’t a bad thing, so I try not to blanket tell people “don’t use strength!” Instead, I try to emphasise that if they have to use lots of strength to get their technique to work on someone small like me, then they are going to really struggle against people who can match or exceed their muscle.

  5. tonydismukes says :

    A few thoughts…

    Most likely, the big strong guys will not stop using strength to win until it stops working for them. Telling them not to muscle their way to a win is unlikely to change their behavior. When they come up against someone who is smaller but has the skill to neutralize all their strength, they’ll realize they need to change something. (Either that or they’ll get frustrated and quit.)

    For the smaller, weaker person, it’s easy to get frustrated because you’re not getting your fair share of “wins”. It feels like the other person is cheating somehow when they get the tap by virtue of being 80 pounds heavier even though their technique is inferior. Forget about that. The true goal on the mat is always to be learning. When you are the smaller person, you have the true advantage in learning. You can tell right away if your technique is correct or not, because it needs to be impeccable to let you survive against the big guys. In the long term, you are much more likely to end up as a master technician than a big guy who relies on his strength.

    Don’t let your ego get you injured. I’ve tapped plenty of times to submissions that weren’t technically correct. Some guys are just beastly strong enough to grab your head and rip it practically off your neck with sheer power and no technique at all. That’s physical reality. Tap before you get hurt and study how to prevent them from getting hold of you that way next time.

    • Your Doom says :

      Thanks for your thoughts! I do try to not let my ego get in the way but sometimes in the moment I get so frustrated and angry that it does. After this last injury though I think I will be much quicker to submit and live to train another day!

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