What should be my goal with bigger, stronger rolling partners that are at my skill level?

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There's a body builder at my gym who is the same level as me, and I don't really know what I get out of rolling with him. I just get smashed, and there's not a whole lot I can do about it. I get smashed by the upper belts, but they smash me with technique instead of just brute-forcing everything. They also give me a little room to work with. There's also some other white belts that are bigger than me, but they temper their intensity so that I can get some work, too.

I'm not scared to roll with this guy. He is using jiu-jitsu techniques, and he doesn't rip submissions. He's a very nice guy. But I feel when I roll with him, I'm basically wasting 5 minutes getting beat up on, because I don't really have much that I can do against him. I know the three answers I can think of, but they don't really help.

  1. Decline to roll - I don't really have any reason to, except that I don't feel I get much out of rolling with him
  2. He should match my intensity - I can only control myself, not him
  3. Beat him with technique - We're both the same rank, and theoretically roughly equal in technique; as I work on technique, so is he
What should be my goal when rolling with a bigger dude?
 

wab25

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Just going from what I read here.... it sounds like you are relying too much on your own brute strength. You just found someone who has more brute strength than you.

Your goal should be to use less strength and more technique. Go with his movements, not against them. People who did randori with Jigoro Kano said that fighting him was like fighting an empty gi.... an empty gi that won.

Here is a little old man... using technique against guys much younger, much stronger and much heavier than him:

Working with this guy is your best way to simulate what will happen out on the street. If you get attacked on the street, it won't be by clean and practiced technique... it will be by sheer brute force and determination. This guy is giving you an opportunity to experience some of that in a training scenario. Use him to learn to deal with brute force. Use him to learn to get soft and more gentle. Use him to learn not to rely on your strength.
 
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Just going from what I read here.... it sounds like you are relying too much on your own brute strength. You just found someone who has more brute strength than you.
This is 100% incorrect. When working with the bigger, low-intensity guys, I cannot brute strength them. I have to use technique or I wouldn't even be able to move them. Same with the upper belts. If I was just brute forcing everything, they wouldn't give me anything. They would just smash me to show me that it doesn't work. But I am not them.

I don't know how you could have possibly gotten out of my post that I'm trying to brute force everything.
Your goal should be to use less strength and more technique. Go with his movements, not against them. People who did randori with Jigoro Kano said that fighting him was like fighting an empty gi.... an empty gi that won.
This guy is the same skill level as me. How do I use more technique than him? I am not Jigoro Kano. I am not Kyozo Mifune, with the benefit of 50+ years of Judo experience.

Is there some magical balancing act that I missed out on, whereby people who are less strong start off with more technique? Technique is something I will need to develop. As a white belt, that hasn't happened yet.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Basically you're asking how to beat someone with the same level of technique as you, but more athletic/stronger? 4 options I see here.
1. Work your game around his. Figure out where his weaknesses are, and develop yourself around that until you beat him. While this sounds detrimental, could be useful as it could help you develop specific (technical strengths) that become your go-to weapons.
2. Get better technique than him. Go more often, practice on your days off, train harder when you're there, whatever.
3. Get stronger. Go to the gym more often and improve your strength. At some point if you plan to compete at a high level this will be a good idea anyway-I don't know what your current workout routine is, but if you neglect it in favor of martial training, this might be a good time to try balancing it out.
4. Accept it. Understand that when all else is equal, a significant difference in strength won't change much. If you're not willing/able to do the above (ie: if he's already going 5 times a week, while also body building, going to be tough for you to do #2 or #3 significantly), and you don't have an advantage in inherent talent, he'll probably always be a step ahead of you in rolling. Until one of your training practices changes. Some people are fine with that knowledge.

Note: 4 doesn't mean you stop trying. It's still worth rolling with people like that, even if it's just as a more significant cardio workout before your other matches, or as a way to test if you've really got a specific technique down well (by being able to do it on someone much stronger). It just means accepting that without a major change, the issue will remain.
 

wab25

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This is 100% incorrect. When working with the bigger, low-intensity guys, I cannot brute strength them. I have to use technique or I wouldn't even be able to move them. Same with the upper belts. If I was just brute forcing everything, they wouldn't give me anything. They would just smash me to show me that it doesn't work. But I am not them.
Congratulations!!! You must be some sort of grappling phenom... Most people take years of training to stop brute forcing their techniques. Sure, most people do get better quickly as they learn new mechanics. But they still use 70-80% strength in applying their techniques. If you have achieved a mastery of not using strength, but only technique in a only a few years of jujitsu... you are learning at a very fast rate.

This guy is the same skill level as me. How do I use more technique than him? I am not Jigoro Kano. I am not Kyozo Mifune, with the benefit of 50+ years of Judo experience.

Is there some magical balancing act that I missed out on, whereby people who are less strong start off with more technique? Technique is something I will need to develop. As a white belt, that hasn't happened yet.
Of coarse it takes time. Its not something you can memorize over a weekend and then apply on the mat. Don't focus on winning. Focus on using less strength. When you are trying to do something to him, and you don't have the strength to do it... start looking for what part of the technique you are missing. Look for the openings he is leaving. Anytime you get him to exert his strength to over power you, he is also making a frame, locking him into place and creating an opening for you to go through. First start seeing those, then start trying to use them.

Read the articles posted in this forum about starting bjj. Don't try to win. Try not to lose so fast. Try to increase the time it takes for you to lose. Pay attention to how people are beating you, you learn more from losing than winning. Tapping other people will come... it just takes time.

The magic step that many people miss... is that they focus too much on the raw mechanics of the technique and not enough on the core principles of the technique. As you focus more on the core principles, and the effect that each has, you will be able to apply the same techniques with much less strength.

The people I have rolled with, that felt the most like Kano's empty gi... have been bjj guys. The most valuable thing I have learned from rolling with them, is how to relax and move with the guy, not against him. (I say that like have accomplished learning how to do this... in reality, its something I work every time I roll... for the last 20 years.... so like I said, if you have already stopped brute forcing your techniques, you are light years ahead of me... )
 
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Basically you're asking how to beat someone with the same level of technique as you, but more athletic/stronger?
Not how to beat him. Just how can I feel like rolling with him isn't a complete waste of time?

I've never beaten my professor or the purple belts at my gym. But I get so much out of those rolls because I'm able to at least do something with what they give me, and I'm able to learn something from rolling with them.

With this guy, I mainly see rolling with him as a waste of 5 minutes. It's time I'm not going to learn anything, not going to get to do much work, and just gonna get smashed and tapped over and over again.

Your suggestions are long-term suggestions about how to overcome him. While they are good suggestions, I'm more looking for short-term suggestions to overcome the frustration. Without going into too much detail, I've settled on #4. But accepting that he's going to smash me doesn't really make me see the point in just getting smashed for 5 minutes.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Ah. Personally my short term strategy with that would switch between two, depending on how I'm feeling for the day.
1: Something like my task 1. Continue trying to work a technique, or see if I can trick them into giving me a technique. I don't have to execute it fully, that's not the goal since I know I can't. Just try to get the set up of it and see how far I can take it/what to do when it fails.
2: Work on stalling and delaying. Those are important things to learn, and something you have to be able to do against anyone. The more you can stall/delay, the better off you are in other rolls when trying to set something up/prevent them. And it's something you can do with anyone-even if you can only stall him for 10 seconds, that's still something that can be improved upon. Depending on your stalling methods, you can also recover a bit for your next role.

Only thing to note for the second one is that when you see something, you still go for it-part of getting someone not to submit you is still making them fight against your positioning and submissions.

YMMV. I'm smaller and less strong naturally than most people I roll with, and that's what I've found works for me, but it's also not anywhere close to my realm of expertise.
 
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Congratulations!!! You must be some sort of grappling phenom... Most people take years of training to stop brute forcing their techniques.
That's not been my experience at all in wrestling, hapkido, or BJJ. Case in point: the other big guy white belt that matches my intensity. He's also been going just a few months, like me.

If I was a grappling phenom (which I specifically denied by saying I'm not Kano), then I wouldn't be complaining about my white belt frustrations.

Focus on using less strength. When you are trying to do something to him, and you don't have the strength to do it... start looking for what part of the technique you are missing. Look for the openings he is leaving. Anytime you get him to exert his strength to over power you, he is also making a frame, locking him into place and creating an opening for you to go through. First start seeing those, then start trying to use them.

1: Something like my task 1. Continue trying to work a technique, or see if I can trick them into giving me a technique. I don't have to execute it fully, that's not the goal since I know I can't. Just try to get the set up of it and see how far I can take it/what to do when it fails.
2: Work on stalling and delaying. Those are important things to learn, and something you have to be able to do against anyone. The more you can stall/delay, the better off you are in other rolls when trying to set something up/prevent them. And it's something you can do with anyone-even if you can only stall him for 10 seconds, that's still something that can be improved upon. Depending on your stalling methods, you can also recover a bit for your next role.

I don't really have the opportunity to try and do something to him. He's very aggressive and he's pretty quick, too. Muscle brings a very high strength-to-weight ratio. An olympic sprinter is going to be faster than an NFL lineman, but the NFL linemen are generally faster than an average man.

As soon as we connect, he basically has full control over where I'm going. Here is an example of an exchange between me and him:

He shoots for a double leg. He leaves his neck exposed, so I go for the guillotine. He basically just shrugs it off and then takes me down. (I don't usually finish guillotines, but most folks at least have to fight their way out of it when I catch them). I land and get into half guard. I get my frames. Again, he basically just shrugs them off and grabs my arm to set up an Americana. He just bench presses my arm to flatten me out, and gets the submission.

I don't want to say "he only got it because he's stronger than me", because what is doing is proper application of jiu-jitsu principles (as far as I can tell). I am able to see some openings, but he can just shrug off any attempt I have to capitalize on them. If I'm not making him work for it, or if I'm not a threat to any openings he leaves, I can't really criticize him for leaving them open.
 

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Not how to beat him. Just how can I feel like rolling with him isn't a complete waste of time?

I've never beaten my professor or the purple belts at my gym. But I get so much out of those rolls because I'm able to at least do something with what they give me, and I'm able to learn something from rolling with them.

With this guy, I mainly see rolling with him as a waste of 5 minutes. It's time I'm not going to learn anything, not going to get to do much work, and just gonna get smashed and tapped over and over again.

Your suggestions are long-term suggestions about how to overcome him. While they are good suggestions, I'm more looking for short-term suggestions to overcome the frustration. Without going into too much detail, I've settled on #4. But accepting that he's going to smash me doesn't really make me see the point in just getting smashed for 5 minutes.
You're on the right track. Beating your partner isn't your immediate goal. Learning something is. So the question becomes, how can you learn something in your rolls with this particular training partner?

Jiu-jitsu is largely a game of positioning. If you are going up against someone who is bigger and stronger, then you can't afford to be in a position of equal leverage, because then they can match their strength directly against yours to force you into a position of inferior leverage and it just goes downhill from there. So at every step of your match, you are trying to improve your positioning relative to your partner. When he goes to square up with you, you work to establish an angle. If he grabs your wrist with a killer grip that you can't break, bring your elbow to your ribs to limit his ability to manipulate your arm. If you can't bring your elbow back to your body, move your body up to your elbow. And so on.

Of course, you say that his skill level matches yours, so he's trying to do all the same things to you. You work to establish a favorable angle on him, he adjusts to square up and then establish a favorable angle on you. On average, your skills will cancel out and then he'll be able to win using his superior physical attributes. That's fine, it doesn't prevent you from learning something from the match. Let's look at some possibilities...

If you're skills are even, then at least half the time you should be able to win a positional battle, at least momentarily. Perhaps you got to an angle on his side where he wasn't facing you and so he had to adjust and square up before progressing. That's great! When you review the sparring session afterwards, note that as something you did correctly and should do again next time.

Then think about what happened next. Why weren't you able to maintain that superior position?

Perhaps he squared back up with you, you got your angle again, then he squared up with you again and you gave it up as not working. That's an important lesson. Never stop fighting for that superior angle - especially against someone with superior physical attributes. You can't afford to give up on movement and become static.

Or perhaps he squared up with you and you tried to regain your angle, but he got some sort of grip on you which limited your movement and you couldn't get the position back. Okay, that's something else to learn. Unless he already has you in a perfectly set finishing pin, even a stronger opponent shouldn't be able to just grab you and completely shut down your movement. Try to figure out the correct movement to keep him from pinning you in place as he advanced his position. If you can't figure it out on your own, try asking your teacher. Or maybe your sparring partner himself might be able to offer some ideas.

Worst case scenario, your partner gets to a dominant position that you can't escape and starts hunting submissions. Now your job becomes survival. Figure out all the little adjustments you can make to make yourself difficult to submit and give yourself an opportunity to escape if he makes any mistakes. I have plenty of times been stuck underneath sparring partners of comparable skill and far superior strength. In those cases I've learned a lot of small adjustments to frustrate their ability to submit me. You can do the same.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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That's not been my experience at all in wrestling, hapkido, or BJJ. Case in point: the other big guy white belt that matches my intensity. He's also been going just a few months, like me.

If I was a grappling phenom (which I specifically denied by saying I'm not Kano), then I wouldn't be complaining about my white belt frustrations.





I don't really have the opportunity to try and do something to him. He's very aggressive and he's pretty quick, too. Muscle brings a very high strength-to-weight ratio. An olympic sprinter is going to be faster than an NFL lineman, but the NFL linemen are generally faster than an average man.

As soon as we connect, he basically has full control over where I'm going. Here is an example of an exchange between me and him:

He shoots for a double leg. He leaves his neck exposed, so I go for the guillotine. He basically just shrugs it off and then takes me down. (I don't usually finish guillotines, but most folks at least have to fight their way out of it when I catch them). I land and get into half guard. I get my frames. Again, he basically just shrugs them off and grabs my arm to set up an Americana. He just bench presses my arm to flatten me out, and gets the submission.

I don't want to say "he only got it because he's stronger than me", because what is doing is proper application of jiu-jitsu principles (as far as I can tell). I am able to see some openings, but he can just shrug off any attempt I have to capitalize on them. If I'm not making him work for it, or if I'm not a threat to any openings he leaves, I can't really criticize him for leaving them open.
You can still try to be the best threat you can, delay him as much as you can and try to inch forward in improvements that way. Focus on making sure you can keep your frames, see if there's a weakness in them he's taking advantage of or a better way for you to hook into your guards. Theoretically as both of your techniques improve, you'll have more options even if your technique is the same and the strength will matter less. That's all I've got unfortunately, hopefully someone better than me comes along with better advice.
 
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If he grabs your wrist with a killer grip that you can't break, bring your elbow to your ribs to limit his ability to manipulate your arm. If you can't bring your elbow back to your body, move your body up to your elbow. And so on.
Problem with moving my body to my elbow is that he now has an easy way to grab my body.
Of course, you say that his skill level matches yours
At least, relatively. We're the same belt and stripe. He might have better technique than me, or at least I know he has better attacks. If anything, he's closer to me than he is to the purple belts.
If you're skills are even, then at least half the time you should be able to win a positional battle, at least momentarily. Perhaps you got to an angle on his side where he wasn't facing you and so he had to adjust and square up before progressing.
Yesterday I got behind him in the standup, he got the take-down by just grabbing my leg and pulling me through.
Okay, that's something else to learn. Unless he already has you in a perfectly set finishing pin, even a stronger opponent shouldn't be able to just grab you and completely shut down your movement. Try to figure out the correct movement to keep him from pinning you in place as he advanced his position.
He mainly goes for takedown, then submission. He didn't bother trying to advance position against me.
 

JowGaWolf

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But I feel when I roll with him, I'm basically wasting 5 minutes getting beat up on, because I don't really have much that I can do against him. I know the three answers I can think of, but they don't really help.

  1. Decline to roll - I don't really have any reason to, except that I don't feel I get much out of rolling with him
  2. He should match my intensity - I can only control myself, not him
  3. Beat him with technique - We're both the same rank, and theoretically roughly equal in technique; as I work on technique, so is he
What should be my goal when rolling with a bigger dude?
If you are rolling with him then you aren't wasting time. You should be paying attention and keying in on what he's trying to do to you and when you are in danger. You should also try to recognize openings and weight shifts in which you can exploit and prevent. My MMA partner dominates the ground game but I'm still able to escape many of his attempts. Even if it's just a delay, I don't bother trying to escape the mount because I'm just taking small bite size things of what I need to deal with. I don't try to be aware of everything at once. I'm not at that level yet. I make progress each time. But paying attention to how my sparring partner reacts to my actions is a big part of the learn process. You should be taking in a lot of information at this point.

My sparring partner used to break my grip by attacking my thumb. So I took that information worked out a solution to the issue. Now that my grip technique has improved he can no longer attack my thumb. He tries, but when he reaches for my thumb, it's no longer there. Then he tries to attack the other fingers and I roll my grip a little and it protects those fingers. I don't know what else he's doing because I only focused on that small piece of the puzzle. Now that I have the solution in place I can start paying attention to other things. Right now my sparring partner is going easy on me, but each time he notices an improvement. The little tricks that he uses are slowly becoming less effective to the point where he now grounds and pounds (with light punches).

If you aren't gaining anything then you probably aren't paying attention to what is being done to dominate you. My guess is that you are too concerned about "beating your opponent" than learning. I tell kung fu student's that's counter productive. I think it's the same with BJJ or at least that what it seems for me. Considering that everything I'm learning righting now fighting on the ground is not being taught to me. I'm simply trying to understand what's happening and taking notes of what is being attacked. Any technique of escape is 100% learned by just doing it. One small piece at a time. In fact you should have a faster learning process than I will because you are actually being taught techniques.
 
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If you are rolling with him then you aren't wasting time. You should be paying attention and keying in on what he's trying to do to you and when you are in danger. You should also try to recognize openings and weight shifts in which you can exploit and prevent. My MMA partner dominates the ground game but I'm still able to escape many of his attempts. Even if it's just a delay, I don't bother trying to escape the mount because I'm just taking small bite size things of what I need to deal with. I don't try to be aware of everything at once. I'm not at that level yet. I make progress each time. But paying attention to how my sparring partner reacts to my actions is a big part of the learn process. You should be taking in a lot of information at this point.

My sparring partner used to break my grip by attacking my thumb. So I took that information worked out a solution to the issue. Now that my grip technique has improved he can no longer attack my thumb. He tries, but when he reaches for my thumb, it's no longer there. Then he tries to attack the other fingers and I roll my grip a little and it protects those fingers. I don't know what else he's doing because I only focused on that small piece of the puzzle. Now that I have the solution in place I can start paying attention to other things. Right now my sparring partner is going easy on me, but each time he notices an improvement. The little tricks that he uses are slowly becoming less effective to the point where he now grounds and pounds (with light punches).

If you aren't gaining anything then you probably aren't paying attention to what is being done to dominate you. My guess is that you are too concerned about "beating your opponent" than learning. I tell kung fu student's that's counter productive. I think it's the same with BJJ or at least that what it seems for me. Considering that everything I'm learning righting now fighting on the ground is not being taught to me. I'm simply trying to understand what's happening and taking notes of what is being attacked. Any technique of escape is 100% learned by just doing it. One small piece at a time. In fact you should have a faster learning process than I will because you are actually being taught techniques.
He breaks my grips by grabbing my arms and putting them where he wants them. I guess I could chop off my arms? Then he couldn't grab them.
 

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He breaks my grips by grabbing my arms and putting them where he wants them. I guess I could chop off my arms? Then he couldn't grab them.
No you just have to pick up when he's about to do that to you and prevent it. Don't wait until he actually controls your arms to defend against it.
 

Tony Dismukes

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Yesterday I got behind him in the standup, he got the take-down by just grabbing my leg and pulling me through
And now you should know that when you get behind someone to not leave your leg in position to be grabbed that way. Excellent lesson. Some of the lessons I remember best are the ones where I thought I was winning but then I got reversed because I neglected one crucial detail.
 

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My teacher always advises that you build you JJ on a foundation of defensive skills
Your first objective in BJJ is to become very hard to tap and the best way to do this is by getting beaten up a lot and really focusing on how to "just not get tapped". Get comfortable with being crushed, learn those small adjustments that make it difficult to attack your limbs or neck, figure out how to get your breath back under pressure etc
So I think it's excellent that you have partners like this who will give you the opportunity to develop optimally (ie start by building a solid defensive game)
 
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spend more times working your techniques and less time trying to beat someone.
I don't even have a chance to work on my techniques against him. That's the goal I'm trying to reach. To be able to work on my techniques against him.

I've said this several times already in this thread. If you were paying attention, you'll even notice the title is "what should be my goal" and not "how do I beat".
No you just have to pick up when he's about to do that to you and prevent it. Don't wait until he actually controls your arms to defend against it.
If he gets his hands on my arms, he controls my arms. There is no in-between where I have an opportunity to defend.
 

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Problem with moving my body to my elbow is that he now has an easy way to grab my body.
If you have your elbows to your ribs and he grabs your body, then he's just given you the underhooks. Not generally to his advantage.

It's actually easier for him to get a good control of your body when your arms are stretched out and your elbows are away from your ribs. He can just move your arms out of the way and have a clear shot at your torso.
He breaks my grips by grabbing my arms and putting them where he wants them
Not if you have your elbows against your ribs.
If he gets his hands on my arms, he controls my arms.
Controls your arms in the sense of tying them up and making it difficult for you to mount an offense, sure. Controlling them in the sense of putting them where he wants them? Not if your arms are in the right position.

I've grappled with other black belts who are literally twice as strong as I am, if not more so. Some of them can get grips on my wrists that are really hard to break. None of them can just move my arms wherever they want to.

Any time someone can just easily move one of your limbs wherever they want to, it means that you have something out of place in your own body alignment. (Unless you are a small child and they are Brock Lesnar.) Your goal right now should be learning to recognize those structural issues.
 

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I don't even have a chance to work on my techniques against him. That's the goal I'm trying to reach. To be able to work on my techniques against him.
Probably right now you need to recalibrate what you think of your "techniques" that you are trying to use against him. It doesn't sound like you are getting to the point where you can attempt an armbar/choke/sweep/etc on him. Instead, the "techniques" you should be trying are things like:
  • can I hand fight well enough so that it takes longer for him to get good grips on me than he did last time?
  • can I get an angle on him so that he has to adjust his feet to come towards me?
  • can I block him from getting a crossface on me?
  • when he gets a dominant position and starts prying my elbows away from my body so he can get an armlock, can I make it difficult for him?
  • if he's on top and successfully begins prying my elbows away from my ribs, can I shift my body in a direction which allows me to slip my elbows back to my ribs?
  • etc, etc, etc
If you have zero success with any of those, then he's probably not just stronger than you, he's also more technical and just isn't giving you the same opportunities to play that the upper belts usually do. In that case, start paying attention to how he is applying his technique and don't assume that it's working just because he's bigger and stronger.
 
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