Friday, June 25, 2010

Response from the trenches...er, the mats....

G-Stamp's thoughtful reply (to the size disparity post) deserves its own post. My comments at the end.

"Wow. Thanks Georgette! What great responses from the wonderful BBJ/Blogger community!

Like everything in life/jiu jitsu, suppose it comes down to balance. Part of my journey is to figure out where that line id between "muscling" something and not "going easy" on someone. It's a struggle, honestly. I'm 6'0" and 220lbs. I'm not very strong (sat on my ass for the last 12 years as a policy analyst/consultant), but I'm "bigger" (er...fatter) than 80% of my classmates. Often, I'm much much bigger.

So...how do I ensure the rolls are safe and challenging, without offending someone for "going easy" and not throwing my weight around? Remember...I've only been doing this 2 months. I DON'T KNOW MUCH TECHNIQUE. Wish I did, but when I don't have technique, what are my options? Give up? Or muscle/weight to advance position?

It's something I'm struggling with now because I'm a fairly sensitive guy (pacifist at heart) taking up an aggressive sport. I want others to learn, have fun, and want to roll with me. But I don't want them to think I'm not trying either.

I guess what I take away from your post and the other comments is that there is no easy answer to this question. Finding the right balance is part of my journey. When I roll with most purple belts, all brown and black belts, I know they aren't "going easy" on me. They are testing me. There's a difference. They expose themselves on purpose to see how I'll react. They put me in difficult positions without executing the quick submission. They will set up a submission SLOWLY and allow me ample time to realize what they are doing and try to think of an escape. If I can't think of something, sure, they'll finish it off. But that's much much different than destroying me because they can.

Clearly there is a difference. A purple, brown, or black belt, no matter the size/weight differential, is not muscling or throwing weight around. But is there a difference between an upper belt dominating a novice for the fun of it and a bigger/heavier guy muscling moves? Sure...but perhaps not really.

To me...I need to think it more like an upper belt. I have a weight/size advantage. That's obvious. Just like an upper belt has an experience/technique advantage over a lower belt. I need to check my weight/size advantage to allow the smaller opponent to advance his/her game like an upper belt checks his/her game to allow me to advance my game. It doesn't mean I should give up or forgo submissions. It just means I need to learn to advance position more slowly and deliberately. My submissions need to be in complete control or I should give up and set up for the submission again to improve control. After two months, I just don't know how to get there...YET.

So you more experienced white belts or upper belts, please be patient with folks like me. If you are rolling with someone almost twice your size with little experience and they muscle something or throw their weight around, maybe they don't know any better. It may not be that they are trying to be an ass. Perhaps learning to deal with and encourage clueless big, awkward white belts like me is part of YOUR journey as much as learning the right balance when rolling with smaller individuals is part of OUR journey.

I can't say enough how much this sport is changing my life. Incredible actually... Thanks so much to the BJJ blogging community. You've really helped me progress."

And my reaction:
I LOOOOOOVE JIU JITSU! It brings together such amazing people :)

But yeah, dude, we know that. I hesitate to roll with a brand new guy (male) of any size because they don't usually have control yet, they just simply don't know what they're doing or when they're in a position where moving one inch could really hurt me. It's not because I think they're malicious, they're inadvertently not safe. So I step aside and let the bigger blues and the higher belts take on the task of educating the noobs. (Whereas I find I am often the one rolling with the brand new gals, who can be dangerous, but less so since I am fairly strong for a chick.) But I don't look down on noobs, I don't get mad at them, they're like kids. What can you do but cheer them on (at arm's length) because they're enthusiastic about this wonderful sport, just like everyone else.

I have said before that there's a sweet spot in the life of a whitebelt. It's my sweet spot, really, because for that precious month or three, they're still new enough that they make mistakes I can easily capitalize on (er, help educate them on why not to benchpress me when I'm mounted on them) but they're not so new that they're totally dangerous. It's these precious whitebelts I can practice my iffy submissions on, my sweeps in general, and work on escaping from bad positions with. So I am always trying to keep track of people as they filter in. When whitebelts get so seasoned that they're not making big mistakes any more, I still roll with them, but they're the people I can go hardest with, since my technique is still better than theirs, but they have the strength advantage, making us usually pretty fairly matched. I don't mind when those peeps muscle me, it's part of the game, though I will tell them later so I don't reinforce bad habits. I never get offended or think they're being an ass.

It's the upper level blues and above that irritate me by muscling stuff. Because they should have the technique and the know-how. :)

Keep it comin', G-Stamp and all the rest of you wonderful whitebelts. And thanks for training with us. You make us all get better as you improve.

6 comments:

leslie said...

@G-Stamp: I think the fact that you're actively thinking through and wrestling with this is a good thing. You're aware of the size and weight difference and are trying to make sure you're not simply exploiting that to get ego-boosting taps. It's also going to be harder for you since you're not an upper belt trying to help a newer belt -- you're a white belt trying to work and learn.

I think deliberately going slow and concentrating on positioning within a position (pinning them by the location of your knees, elbows, feet, head, etc., rather than your weight -- no space, but not smashing) is a good thing, too, and will help your partners see that you are trying your best to learn. I work like this with the 90-lb 11-year-old girl.

And as I said on the first post, relying almost exclusively on the arms is a huge component of "muscling". If you find yourself using your arms a lot to do everything, try to figure out how to do whatever it is without using your arms so much.

Even some of my purples and browns will give up submissions or passes on me if they can tell that they're muscling it. (Sheesh, even I try to muscle things.) So don't worry if it takes a while to learn.

Also, I as a small female go find small girls to roll with so I can see what I really know. Perhaps you need to try to find some larger guys to roll with once in a while.

Steve said...

Great post. G-stamp, you are clearly a thoughtful guy. If I could give just one piece of advice is to cut yourself some slack.

While the issues are real, attitude is really important. If you're working with your partners without malice or a lot of ego, you'll be fine. It's all about awareness, and for right now, as far as I'm concerned, knowing that you need to develop some awareness is a great start.

Thanks, Georgette, for the great post.

hughfitz said...

Great post!

Georgette said...

One thing I forgot to add... someone at my school (Neal) said this to another friend (Vidush) and it made me reflect. They said something like, when a bigger person is rolling with a smaller one, don't you know it sucks for THEM too, to have to resort to weight and strength? Because it means that but for those attributes, the smaller person would be winning. (Loose paraphrase.)

Kind of made me feel better about losing subs to stronger arms than mine :) Even arms stronger than my core! :)

G-Stamp said...

Good comments everyone, thanks. @leslie, most of my classmates are a lot smaller than me. Also, our Professor assigns partners and I rarely get the opportunity to roll with upper belts. The pool of comparably sized potential partners is small. No big deal.

SkinnyD said...

Great post, G-Stamp and Georgette! I'm with you, G, on being a sensitive guy - it's a bit of a mental battle to engage in such an aggressive sport when you aren't aggressive by nature. Not that BJJ-ers are all aggressive meanies, but I just think for super-sensitive people it's just as easy to feel bad about sportive, athletic aggression as it is about angry aggression.

Another thought that I haven't seen anyone cover is your weight will probably change with continued BJJ training. I know a lot of guys that have lost quite a bit of weight training jiu-jitsu without even really trying. I wouldn't be surprised if you find that weight margin narrowing just as a natural result of training hard.