For BJJ practicioners of the larger persuasion, it can be difficult to allow yourself to use the full spectrum of your pressure. I know for myself, I used to find that I was holding my weight off of my training partners and being “lighter” than I really am. Most of my training partners are in a deficit of 70-100lbs. This is borne out of the best of intentions. I don’t want to hurt my training partners, nor do I want to be the guy that is avoided when choosing rolling partners. To tackle the problem, I had to use mental BJJ and come up with a solution.
The issue here was that this causes a detriment to my top game. I was not allowing myself to train at my best, and I wasn’t being a great training partner for my compatriots. This wasn’t a lack of physical knowledge, this was also a mental block with which I was struggling. It never felt “OK” to put my full pressure/weight on a training partner who was in a weight deficit. Part of this was my desire to be seen as a technical BJJ player. A larger part of this was my desire not to be labeled as just a big guy. Great Pressure is a technical skill, not just a weight advantage. In some extreme cases of size difference, it is absolutely necessary for me to “pull my weight” and not give my full pressure. I find that these cases do not often arise during my normal training sessions.
After practice and discussions with my training partners, they pointed out to me that flexibility, atheleticism, size and strength are all natural talents/gifts. While I was respected for my desire to be a gentle training partner, I was limiting myself. To resolve this, I only played my open guard/closed guard and began to focus on sweeping my opponents. Avoiding the urge to attempt submissions off my back/guard, my primary goal was to sweep only.
Here’s where this helped my top game: My reward for a successful sweep is that I allow myself to really apply pressure from the top, albeit in a slow and controlled manner. If a sweep is unsuccessful, well then I miss an opportunity to work my top game and must work my escapes and guard recovery, which is a nice secondary reward.
I believe this has enhanced my training partners and myself overall because of the following breakdown:
1.) I attempt to sweep. My sweeps get a +1
2.) My partners having been swept before are more intent on defending my sweep. Their sweep defense/reversal gets a +1
3.) When successful, my sweeps get a +1 and my top game pressure gets a +1.
4.) My partners have a new pressure contingency to deal with and therefore their side mount defense and escapes get a +1.
Everyone benefits because we have multiple areas to improve with each roll in a safe and controlled manner. I have more fun in my rolls and I feel better about my overall progress.
*Disclaimer: Ensuring safety of your training partners is very important, so I would suggest trying this with a someone who is within a 20-50lb weight difference first and progressing from there.
Evan Essig is a blue belt at Revolution BJJ.