8 Underestimated Tips On How To Fight Big Guys

Going up against the big dogs in your BJJ Gym? Here are 8 killer tips that will change your game against the big boys.

In nature, there exists a very simple equation. It’s the predator-prey dynamic. Predators smell the fear in a prey. Through evolution this dynamic keeps changing. The predators of the dinosaur era are now tiny lizards. There exists an immediate hack for this system, if the prey takes itself out of the equation it’s no more a prey. This confuses many predators. Think of a porcupine. It looks like a harmless creature, but with its thorns up, not even a tiger would dare touch it.

What has this got to do with BJJ? Coming back to our civilized world and specifically the world of BJJ training, there are times when you have to go up against the purple and higher belts in your gym for some rolling. Or you happen to move through the rounds in a competition and you have the best in the country standing against you. There is no doubt that they are definitely more skilled than you. But there are some things you can do that minimizes the psychological advantage of these big dogs and gives your pscyhe a much needed boost and resilience. All the following points are interrelated and you’ll be able to connect them as you read through.

1. Breathe

This can not be emphasized enough. It has many benefits. It keeps your muscles supple, your brain can function for finer skills and you can concentrate for longer periods of time. Any time you start breathing heavy and struggling, it automatically activates the predator instinct in the other person where they know you are panicking because you lack the skills at their level. So relax your face, breathe like a turtle instead like a bull.

2. Stay calm

This is a natural effect if you’re breathing correctly. When your brain receives oxygen, you can stay calm even in the face of overwhelming force. Don’t grimace or grunt. Focus on getting out of a tight spot if you find yourself in one. Think of like dismantling a large bridge. You gotta start with the little nuts and bolts instead of trying to rip apart the beams like the Hulk.

3. Flip your emotions around, don’t get caught up in them

It is very likely you will feel frustrated and worthless against better opponents. It is a good starting point. These emotions are telling you something, that you need to move to a better place to function better and find that zen like spot where you apply whatever you learned without being thrown around like a boat in a storm. If you feel frustrated, recall the last time you faced a similar position while training. Replay that movie through your body in the present with the same feelings of achievement and joy you had while learning this new technique. Do NOT add extra emotional content to your actions. Let them be fluid like water.

4. If your opponent goes hard, you go light

This is the classic yin-yang philosophy in martial arts. If you see your opponent crushing you and dominating you, get over the usual fight-or-flight reflex. Use the tips mentioned above and apply continuous movement away from the line of the force. This will frustrate and tire out your opponent. Remember if you feel tired, it is very possible your opponent is feeling the same thing. At this point, it becomes about pure survival. The one who lets up gives up the rest of the roll or match to the opponent. A better skilled person mostly waits out when the other person runs out of concentration and mental energy. It is a purely psychological strategy.

5. Don’t struggle against chokes

You mostly get caught in choke scenarios like the arm triangle, loop choke, bow-and-arrow choke against better opponents. Understand that a better position has allowed them to get this hold on you to begin with and flailing around like a fish out of water will only make it worse as you tire yourself out. Right now all you can do is breathe, not panic and ride out the storm. Chances are if you persevere, the opponent will go for a different move or position. That is your chance to turn the tables and escape. Conserve your energy and explode at the right timing.

6. Be confident even if you’re unsure

Your confusion is only for yourself. Don’t let it affect your body language or actions that’s for others to catch on to. Every grip, clinch, throw you perform on your opponent should carry the stamp of sureness. It’s as if you already know what you’re doing. This talks to the unconscious mind of the person i.e. their muscles and nervous system. They won’t move in and raze you like a bulldozer if you give off the aura of confidence. The worst case is only when y
ou lose. If you have to lose, you will lose. There is no point getting all shaky before it happens.

7. Cut out verbal cues of panic

It’s typical for us to say whenever we are in deep trouble some kind of expletive: shit, f*ck, ‘oh no not again’ kind of phrases. But what do you think it does to your psyche? More importantly, what is the signal that others get out of such behavior? That you can not handle situations and maintain your emotional balance. In BJJ, this is an immediate clue for the opponent to pounce on your and finish you as you are at your weakest at this point. Admit and accept the mess that you might have got into without such profanity. The important step lies afterward, when you move on and recover.

8. A solid and stable grip

As we have noted in our article on grip training, a grip is the first contact you make with your partner or opponent. Let it not be clumsy or lacking in intention. Understand grips and breaking them from your coach and spend some time learning the tricks of the trade. Your grip or breaking someone else’s grip should give off the idea that you mean business and you are not here to be pushed around.

In conclusion, these tips are supplementary to your training. You still gotta put in the hours, roll with stronger opponents, pay attention to your diet and conditioning etc. But keep these in mind and you will be able to learn the most out of your BJJ experience. As Carlson Gracie said, to be like a lion, you must train with them. So cast off your doubts and worries, go out there and seize your rightful victory.


  1. I am so honored to be mnitnoeed on your blog! Thank you! And I TOTALLY agree that this applies just as much to women…I just started taking jiu jitsu class yesterday, and it was sooo empowering and fun (despite the insane nerves I experienced beforehand) I enjoy your blog, will post a link in my blogroll!

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