Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Muscling? Taking it easy? Fairness in size disparities.

Oh, boy, this will be a biggie, I think. (Pun unintended.)

I got this question from G-Stamp in response to a previous post:

"I rolled with a much smaller gal yesterday (blue belt). She had me in deep half guard and I couldn't extract my thigh to bring my knee outside of her thighs. I COULDN'T muscle it. So I applied a cross face and started to lay into her chin/neck a bit. I tried not to lean too hard or use too much weight. The goal was to apply just enough pressure to get her to let go of the deep half clinch so I could pass. She blurted..."TAP!" with a bit of an annoyed tone in her voice. I didn't attempt it as a submission and REALLY didn't realize I was muscling or using too much weight. In fact, I had backed off knowing that I could probably hurt her if not careful. I felt sooo bad. Unfortunately, a 220lb white belt doesn't have the slightest clue what it's like to have someone quite literally twice his weight bearing down.

Question for you: Is it offensive when a guy doesn't use size/weight advantage? Do you consider that "going easy"? Or is using weight distribution and strength to advance position or apply technique different than "muscling"? Is it all part of the game? It's not a sex thing. I try to be conscious of my height/weight advantage when I'm rolling with all classmates who are much smaller than me. Guy or gal."

Wow, such a good question. It's (for me) not entirely a gender issue, though I phrase things often in terms of "guys" only because I rarely get to roll with women who are significantly bigger or stronger than me. [Christy, our 3 stripe brown belt, IS significantly bigger, and probably stronger, but she's scrupulously attentive to not using strength, so I can't be sure about her comparative strength vs. me.] On the other hand, it's a truism that men have more muscle mass per unit of weight than women do, so even a man who is my weight will most likely have a significant strength advantage, so to some extent, it can be a gender issue. Wherever I say "guy," please know I really could be including bigger gals, too. And small guys have many of the same issues I do. So.. anyway...

To me, going easy is letting go of positions, or not getting into dominant positions, regardless of/independently of my efforts. I might be offended when a guy (or gal!) spontaneously gives me position or abandons his good position even though I haven't earned it. I earn things by executing the proper technique in proper timing. If I'm rolling with a guy/girl my level who weighs within 20 lbs of me, I fully expect that I will be able to escape their dominant position or submit them, fair and square, without any "handicapping" on their part.

If a guy is more than 20 lbs heavier than me, I do sometimes appreciate it when they refrain from doing knee-on-belly to the best of their ability, because the size differential plus the location of the pressure is something I sometimes can't defeat. So I am not offended when, in this situation, they put the shin across my hipbones, or put the ball of their foot on the ground a little bit. I am still often stuck there, but at least it's not excruciatingly painful. And I am never offended when a training partner of any size opts to avoid causing me gratuitous pain.

[Keep in mind I am strictly a sport jiu jitsu player-- so comments about how "it wouldn't go that way in a street fight" will be ignored.]

If a guy is more than 30-40 lbs heavier, I appreciate when they don't do "bullshit reversals." A bullshit reversal is, for example, benchpressing me off them from side control. (I know a guy wouldn't be able to get some guy their size up off them like that. I don't mind a fair reversal, one with technique, but just shoving me up because I'm lighter *and* they have more upper body strength gets annoying if I am holding side control properly and using technique.)

I am not offended when stronger men refrain from forcing americanas, kimuras, etc. if I am defending properly. At the same time, I know that even proper defense can be defeated with strength and that's fair, too. So it's a tough call, and therefore I don't get mad when someone beats my defenses. I tap, we move on, no biggie. I shouldn't be in a position where only the strength of my arms protects me from a submission because then I'm strengthing out of something, and that is poor technique even if it succeeds.

I dunno. I guess to summarize, when someone is close to me in size (which, since I'm realistic, means within 30 lbs of me, though I know guys consider that to be a big disparity) I fully expect them to use their weight distribution and strength to fully execute their moves and defeat mine, and I would definitely take advantage without feeling any guilt if they were to give me stuff I didn't earn. When I roll with someone I'm a little bigger or stronger than, which is rare, I do use my weight and strength to execute my moves, but technically. I don't just crank stuff.

When someone is way bigger than me, or if they're one of those ripped dudes with biceps like basketballs, I'm not offended if they give me a little extra space, exert less than their maximum force, etc. It's more fun if they let me in the game, otherwise I just end up turning hedgehog.

Bottom line, training rolls are rarely about "winning." (When they ARE, then I know I've let my ego get in the way, and I'd like to minimize that.) If someone strengths out of a submission I'm throwing, so be it. If they muscle out of position I've earned fair and square, oh well. Honestly most of the times I think someone muscled out, I immediately suspect it's my crappy technique and me making excuses for it. I definitely don't walk around with a chip on my shoulder insisting people roll with me as hard as they can go. I have nothing to prove. :)

What do ya'll think??


The Part Time Grappler said...

The thing is, not everybody is as mature on the mat as you are Georgette.

Very well put and I agree with everything you said. It's important to use your attributes. Never abuse them. Not just for niceties and politeness but because we're on the mat, away from our loved ones (the tv and the fridge) to learn something and using strength to benchpress some one just ain't it. However, you need a certain measure of strength to flip someone with e.g. an elevator sweep. The more technical you are, the less strength you'll need but's not fairy dust that makes them fly, it's your quadriceps!!

As for weight, the first question is why are you using it. For example, I use my weight in side control to pin and free my hands to attack but in KOB I use it not to pin but to force openings and mistakes. Hence, my weight is on for a longer period in SC than in KOB. If I don't get what I want from KOB with weight, it's only BJJ-clever to move on to something else. Once you think about why, how and how much kinda resolve themselves :)

slideyfoot said...

As a small guy, I appreciate it when big people don't just crush me and crank americanas from all over the place.

The key word is 'control'. If somebody has good control, then they'll likely be a good training partner, no matter what size they are.

Still, I'd agree that giving up positions and not putting any pressure on you is going too far, unless they're a brown/black belt trying to observe your game.

HomeImprovementNinja said...

Well, I don't think it's necessarilly a gender issue either, but part of it is common curtesy and part of it is, well, jiu jitsu.

For instance, the knee on belly thing. If you outweigh someone by 50-100lbs, then you can injure them without even applying a submission, so why put all your weight on them? Similar thing with older dudes: I don't stack them hard(unless I know they are flexible) because I know from personal experience that it's easier to tweak your neck when you get older, so why not try some other technique that will still get you where you want, but without injuring anyone? If you go around injuring people, no one will want to train with you except the other a-holes who no one rolls with because they also injure people (have fun getting your arm cranked before you can tap).

As for the jiu jitsu part of it, yeah, you should avoid stuff that relies on strength and only works against much smaller opponents (like bench pressing them). Not because it's cheating, but because it doesn't make you better. If all you care about is winning, then you can keep coming to the beginner class and tapping out the noobs, but that won't make your game better. The only way you get better is by using good technique and IMHO you will get better faster by using good technique (even if it doesn't work) than by using bad technique and getting a "bullshit reversal" or getting someone significantly smaller than you to tap from knee on belly pressure. Just my .02.

Steve said...

I've thought about this a lot over the last few years and the conclusion I've come to is that there is a bias against strength and size in BJJ. I've never heard anyone say, "Hey, technique! You're using too much athleticism." Feel free to substitute flexibility, explosiveness or speed for athleticism.

Strength and size are physical advantages, but so are flexibility, explosiveness, speed and natural athleticism. None of these should be relied upon to the exclusion ot technique. They can be crutches in that way.

But at the same time, we have to use what we have.

The other side of this is being aware of our partners and where they're at in their training. I try not to just tool any white belts. I'll take submissions that are there, but I try to explain where the mistake was and allow them to work.

If I'm rolling with someone much lighter, I'll avoid grinding that person mercilessly, although it's contextual. If that person is training for a major international tournament, I'll try to amp things up a little.

I guess it all comes down to whether you're avoiding technical gaps with physical gifts. But I always kind of wonder why we focus so much on strength and weight, but have a blind spot for other even more effective advantages that people have.

leslie said...

I'm with Georgette -- "going easy" is when I get away with things I haven't earned and no matter what I do. That is annoying and frustrating because I'm not getting any real work, either. (I also sometimes say "going easy" to mean they weren't just slaughtering me as easily as they're capable of, though I should really say "going light" in that case.)

I don't mind weight/pressure when it's used as part of a technique or position. According to my guys, they're increasing weight & pressure on me because they have to in order to hold me down. So it's supposedly a compliment. I have -- rarely -- asked a higher belt to back off a little with weight or pressure because I felt like my ribs were going to crack. Usually I just try to bear it, because I know I'm smaller and they're working on their pressure. I may tell them afterwards that I nearly tapped to their side control pressure because I know it will make their day. (Never at the time, though, else they'll grin and purposely try to make me, lol.) I also try to use that pressure as motivation to not get under them. :)

Often, though, they notice when I'm smashed because of too much weight/pressure, and they back off before I need to ask. For example, using your top deep half, maybe the guy will shift his weight from my chest more to his legs or even arms; the position is maintained, but some of the pressure directly on me is released. I've even been having to work on this because we have an 11-year-old girl who's 40 lbs lighter than I am. It's not easy to do a technique or position properly while being conscious of keeping your weight and pressure off of someone, especially when with everyone else you're having to use as much weight and pressure as possible.

For me, "muscling" is when someone relies largely on their arms to pull, jerk, force, and overpower me into the position they want. Often it involves picking me up, simply because I'm smaller; the average guy at my gym is 50 lbs heavier than me. I know you can muscle a technique using your legs & the rest of your body, but most people who I categorize as musclers are basically arm-wrestling the whole time. There's a newer girl at my school, not much bigger than me, who tries to muscle everything with her arms. It doesn't work for her, though it does often work for the guys. Guys can "scissor sweep" me without using their legs -- lift me up with their arms, scrape me over their bottom non-moving leg so my legs are pulled sideways, and then dump me on my back. That is muscling. (So I agree with Steve, though he said it more succinctly: "avoiding technical gaps with physical gifts." And we have a guy who is too flexible and relies too much on that, and we've told him so.)

Georgette said...

Leslie, that was really well put. I totally agree-- I don't ever think of someone "muscling" into or out of something when they use core or legs. It's usually an arm thing! So true.

Achy Knees and Guillotines said...

Being somewhat on the other side, (6'2" 210lbs, ex college athlete) I constantly toe that line of using my athleticism and size and abusing my athleticism and size, never quite getting it right (still, at mid-level blue belt).

More times than not I am too careful with my partners. I have even had some of them yell at me for, "letting them win".

Honestly though, isn't that one of the main draws to BJJ...the process of figuring it all out? If it were easy, I would hazard a guess that none of us would even be here disgussing it.

Also, you should get one of the following that we just had sign up at our academy - a self described, "complete amateur with no experience". This of course translates to, "a sandbagging ex-collegiate wrestler, a solid 265lbs, that likes to use neck, toe, and finger cranks to get out of any situation with which he is not familiar".

I am sliding out of my chair typing this due to all of the Tiger balm I am now wearing.

Georgette said...

Achy-- I love those "no experience" guys! (Hope you put a sheet down to protect your chair..)

Most noobs are like that, for me. Even if they legitimately HAVE no experience, aren't sandbagging, and aren't 265... when they're thrashing around with the point of their elbow in my trachea, temple or sacrum, they feel like hell.

Georgette said...

Thanks to Dev ( I might have a quickie attack that doesn't depend on me not getting bullshit reversed from side... I've seen this before but needed reminding.

It's a Marcelo gi choke from side control.

Anonymous said...

I am in an interesting situation where I am right in the middle of the gammut as far as size goes at our academy. There are lots of guy smaller and lots of guys bigger, but not many right at my size. I find that I play pretty much the same game with all of them, 90% of the time. We do have, however, a really good crop of students that are smaller than my and technically better than me. So, the only time I really "go light" with someone is when they are better than I am and I am trying to learn from there movements. I only do this with guys that I know use mostly technique in their grappling. I still put a decent amount of pressure on them, but a little less than normal because I want to see where they would take it, so that I can learn from what they do.

If I am going at my normal pace and pressure, I tend to zone out a bit because I am too focused on what I am doing and not watching as much of what they are doing. I know, this is a fatal flaw, but hey, I am still a white belt.

Meerkatsu said...

Love the photo at the end!

I do occasioanlly get slightly annoyed when a more experienced senior ranked and heavier opponent fails to apply any pressure on me. Ok, not true, I'm actually thankful for their lack of ego and ability to look out for my welfare. But in my squirming and wriggling and escaping and protecting, all the time I'm thinking, is he going easy on me or what?

As an aside, whenever I've rolled with very good lady grapplers who are also heavier than me, those gals DO NOT TAKE IT EASY on me at all and I am very grateful for the hard roll.

Frank said...

So I'm a 125lbs man, and while I'm pretty strong for my size that doesn't help much when you're going agains someone who's 200+lbs.

Generally when I train with the women at my gym I don't hold back much at all. Most of them are very technical and competitive at the top levels of the sport. Often they're my best training partners.

Guys who are under about 170 can go as hard as they want with me. I can handle about 50lbs weight difference without getting worried about accidental injury. It's when they start getting close to the 200 mark that I become anxious about them hurting me without even meaning to. I don't mind getting smashed and tapped by a bigger guy, it's more the getting stacked and my ribs popped that I am concerned with.

I prefer training with people closer to my own weight because I can use my full range of techniques against them. I might be able to get an over the head sweep from the de la Riva guard against someone 190+, but probably not if he was resisting hard. But look at it this way. It's a loose loose situation for them. If I beat them, they got beat by a pre-pubescent elf. If they beat me up, they're a big mean bully. So sometimes it's good to be the little guy. Or girl.

Mark said...

Excellent comments from all!

Here's my perspective from a 36 year old, 155 lbs male, kind of a weakling (barely bench 120), and bluebelt. I teach BJJ noobs and have trained in the martial arts for 30 years.

My concept of BJJ and other martial is military/police oriented. The rule of engagement is typically some form of "escalation of force".
**Note for me "force" equates to weight, energy, technique, weapons etc...
Use the absolute minimum force/energy/simplistic technique at all times. Ramping up as my opponent successfully resists. This maps perfectly for police officers who train BJJ, they can't just jump on a guy and RNC him unless there is a serious and dire need.

Within the concept of "escalation of force" is what effect do I want to create? The particular effect needed may be something like turning away, extending an arm or giving up position. This maybe where some people could complain of getting crushed. Put on just enough pressure/leverage and they can't move or are forced to move in a predicted manner.

With any opponent, especially with a lighter, weaker opponent I apply the escalation of force at the same speed as my opponent increases his/her resistance. Once my force overcomes their resistance I can apply just barely enough energy for the effect I want, which leads me to potential for a submission.

Although people in class, even big guys state I am heavy in sidemout, I'm really only applying just the bare minimum to hold them down. If 100 lbs does the job, I don't need to waste more energy to stack my measly 155 lbs on them! The gives me a 55lb safety margin to back into if they drink a Red Bull during the roll and sprout some wings.

For pressure intensive techniques, such as KOB, I press just enough to let them just barely get the 99% of the escape, and I increase just a hair more to stall it, but no more. I tend to let everyone I roll with get 99% of their resistance and then I escalate to steal that last 1%.

I believe for many people that last 1% feels heavy, crushing and exhausting. Yet it is still only the bare minimum for the effect I need.

To sum up, if a noob needs 2 oz of pressure to hold them down, good that's all he gets. If, I'm up against Brock Lesnar, you better believe I'm going to park a monster truck on his head :)

But what about the opposite? What do I do when some 350lb guy tries smash my face into the dojo foundation? He has no escalation of force, it's all on or all off. Endure. PLENTY of times I've rolled and been in a seriously DIRE situation, absolutely getting smashed and thought to myself, "Oh this would really suck ass if this was a real street fight right now. Do not quit!"


Megan said...

This is a big one for me (6', 215lb female). I get paired with the new women (almost always tiny) a lot by instructors, because I know they don't want them scared off by the guys...even the smaller ones.

My biggest beef lately though is guys (usually just a bit higher in belt level) going too light and giving up positions that I haven't even come close to earning...and I'm still not sure how to get them not to hold back so much. I had one guy completely let go of an omoplata that I was trying to work my way out of before I felt any discomfort at all. I asked him why he let go, and he just stared at me.

Personally, I think it's a communication issue. I want you to talk loud enough for me to hear you, but don't scream at me, and I'll do the same.