It’s Tough Being Big In BJJ

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

“The Jiu Jitsu I created was designed to give the weak ones a chance to face the heavy and strong.” – Helio Gracie

What’s a big guy (or girl) to do? Jiu-Jitsu was designed so that other people can defeat you. You’re always going to be a measuring stick for other people’s effectiveness. You’re not going to get a lot of sympathy when you lose. Here’s a few things I sympathize with people I don’t feel so friendly towards when they’re sitting on top of me:

Target on their Back
You can be the nicest person in the world. You might not even like training hard. Still, when you walk into a room you immediately have a target on your back. Your size makes you a test. Unless, of course…

Nobody Wants to Train with You
You’re big, which means you have the potential to injure others even without as much technical knowledge as the smaller guy or gal to your right. This means people may pair up around you instead of with you. If you do want to train hard and really test yourself it’s hard to do so without another big person around. You may not even have someone in the academy that would be the equivalent of someone in your tournament division.

“You’re Really Strong/Big”
I hear tall people get a little tired of describing “how the air is up there.” Big and strong people most likely find it arduous to hear about how big and strong they are. “You’re so strong” is a low-end passive criticism post-training. People say it to make themselves feel better that they lost. Even if it’s true, you don’t need to discuss it. Those people would be better off training with you more, or realizing they could just as easily say, “you’re so much better than me,” the next time they lose to anyone. Excuses can be real but they’re still not productive to dwell on. Just train and let your training partners do the same.

The Crowd is Against You
When was the last time the crowd rooted for the big guy over the little guy? The big guy is expected to win. If he does, there’s no viral video of it. Maybe someone will make a meme about “Try the absolute division, they said. It will be fun, they said,” with a photo of you on top of someone markedly smaller.


Gis Don’t Fit
It’s hard to find a gi that fits you right. Your proportions are different than “average” guys and your uniforms probably cost more anyway since they involve more fabric. Lanky Gi is one I’ve heard of that finally realized there’s a target audience in hard-to-find big sizes.

You’re awesome. You’re an asset to the academy you train at. You give hope to people of similar size, and if you stick around you’ll serve to help more people join that can close out divisions with you. Since you have all this weird pressure to be technical, you will be. Your game will become so nuanced that no one can pull out the “you just won because you’re stronger” line and really believe it. AND you can crush them if you ever want to. Politely, of course. You set an example in the academy that your instructors can point to. As you get better the whole team gets better. If you ever need to turn it up to enforce etiquette on the mat you’ll be right there. Since there is always someone stronger than you out in the world, your technique means you’re better prepared should you ever need to use Jiu-Jitsu outside the gym. You’re better prepared to help those you love. You’re better able to help yourself. And that’s what we’re all here for.