When a new Jiu Jitsu prospect walks in, my favorite part of our interaction is watching their reaction when I tell them Jiu Jitsu allows a person to use momentum and leverage to control a much larger opponent.
The reactions are always a mixed bag, but my favorites are the faces of people who consider themselves at a physical disadvantage - whether it’s because of their gender, strength, or height - as they alight with hope or excitement. On the other hand, my least favorite reaction, unfortunately, is probably the most common one: the non-believers or skeptics.
As a woman, sometimes they target their disbelief specifically at me. “There’s no way you can throw me!” “You really think you can hold me down?!”
Sometimes, their reaction is born from fear. They want what I’m saying to be true, but whether from their imaginations or respective experiences, they can’t quite bring themselves to trust me - or, as a result, the technique. “Are you sure this will work? I don’t know.” “Well, what if they do this? Then this? Or this? What about this?”
Whatever their reaction - excited or skeptical - every person eventually finds their way here: “They’re too big.”
Some prospective students acknowledge this right off the bat. They see a room full of men and women of various sizes, but they zero in on the bodybuilder that looks like he could bench press a semi and, oh yeah, just happens to be seven feet tall. They take one look at that guy, and think, There’s no way I can use leverage to control that guy. He’s huge!
Some people have enough success with training partners similar in size to silence the worries in the back of their heads about bigger students. These people usually start to doubt their abilities when techniques that have worked perfectly on smaller partners don’t work as well on larger opponents.
Their concerns are not without merit, and here’s why: size DOES matter. Read that again if you need to, but don’t panic because while size absolutely matters, it CAN be overcome with technique.
Here’s how I want you to think about this. If an untrained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller, well-trained opponent, the smaller man can win. Take a look at this video to see this theory in action:
Now, if a trained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller individual who is also well-trained, size is going to matter. It can still be overcome with technique, but it will be harder. The larger person has an advantage because they have size AND skill on their side.
A perfect example of this is to watch one of the match ups between Mackenzie Dern, who is arguably the number one pound for pound female black belt in Jiu Jitsu, and Gabi Garcia, another talented BJJ black belt competitor who outweighs Mackenzie by nearly 100 pounds.
They’ve competed against each other multiple times with different outcomes. When Gabi Garcia wins, Mackenzie Dern is still able to hold her own during the match. Check out the video below to watch Mackenzie come up victorious in a match against Gabi at the 2015 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship.
Sometimes, size does matter, but it can be overcome. So don’t let that discourage you; let it challenge you. And don’t let it make you a skeptic; let it make you excited!