David vs.Goliath: The Big Girl Complex

2:20 PM Moo 0 Comments

It's the age old story: David Vs. Goliath and it's a common one. We often hear that Jiu Jitsu was invented for the little guy. We talk about strength vs. technique and sometimes we even make the excuse "well I would have done better, but the other guy was much bigger." Gracie Barra published an article a year ago called "When Size Matters" with tips for how to deal with larger competitors, stating:

 "While not all of us was blessed with an “ideal” height to easily pin down opponents, Jiu-Jitsu has the answer to what we call the “David and Goliath” conundrum...What will be the techniques that you must pull off to win? Others will rely on their size to dominate opponents. We have to also understand that wider,  bigger opponents will always have the advantage when it comes to pinning down and taking the right position. It’s just the way it is. But Jiu-Jitsu always has the answer."

They ended the article with "Jiu Jitsu is for everyone, even the small."My experience with Jiu Jitsu had always been on the opposite end of that spectrum, while finding ways to repeatedly defend my spot in the sport by saying "big girls do Jiu Jitsu too." Very early on, I felt as if I needed to be defensive and apologetic of my size. Girls would say, "use technique" or "you're too strong, I don't want to roll with you." I was so new that I had no technique yet. It was frustrating.

When I first started Jiu Jitsu I was one of the biggest girls competing. Now, I have never been "Large" by any stretch of the imagination, but I have hips, a big butt and for what it's worth, massive thighs. I know I am not alone in this and if I had started in the U.S I may not have felt so singled out.  But I didn't. I started in South Korea, where I would be lucky to find another person to compete in my weight class. I have always worn my weight differently and quite often when I roll with men or women  they say "Wow, you are much heavier than you look." I now take this as a compliment.

I figured out that size without technique would not get me far. My first days of training I would hear "Wow, you're so strong" but that strength only helped me for the first minute or so. Relying only on strength was tiring and I wasn't learning the techniques. As I started to learn a bit more, I was able to save my energy and roll while tired. I didn't automatically attempt to flip my smaller opponents or instinctively go towards mount (although S mount is definitely my favorite and there are many techniques to be perfected from that position). I realized that using my weight was an advantage in the same way, flexbility, longer legs or speed could be utilized by other opponents. Being heavier doesn't mean I instantly know how to use my weight or apply pressure properly. What it does mean, is that once I learn I am a force to be reckoned with, with a skill set I am comfortable using.

When I watch Jiu Jitsu tournaments I really look forward to seeing the absolute/ open weight classes. Every time I've  watched, I've noticed that when there was a huge size discrepancy I would hear boos for the bigger person. It was as if everyone around would band together for the little guy, giving the bigger person a "villian" complex before they have really even stepped on the mat to roll. Many of my friends do this without even noticing, because it has become so ingrained in us to cheer for the underdog. Which brings me to  my next question: Why do we perceive the smaller person as the under dog? If Jiu Jitsu was all about strength, it wouldn't be called the "gentle art." We wouldn't see people with such tiny frames climbing up the ranks and progressing, even in areas like absolute.

Yes, it's true there are times when strength is on your side and there are people who rely merely on their strength. You will inevitably run into an asshole on the mat at some point in your life. But not every larger competitor is like this. In fact, I have been blessed to be surrounded by large men, who roll as if they are the smallest men on the mat. They are technical, they are fierce and they are very fair. They never feel as if they are stifling themselves by rolling with a smaller competitor and quite often the technique shines through.

After winning the first and second match of my first competition a fellow competitor said "wow, you move really fast for your size. I was surprised." My response was simple "It's not about my size, I move fast because I am fast." I'm an athlete, I am dedicated to the things I do and I refuse to be a one trick pony. I love being underestimated.

Down 15 pounds since my last competition, I am still learning to effectively use my weight. Had my only strength been "being heavy," I might have noticed a significant difference in the way I roll with people, now that I weigh less. Sure, there is a difference in my game and I do notice myself picking up speed, but I know that relying solely on that weight would not serve me to improve and progress in jiu jitsu. And I also know, that being able to effectively use your weight is a skill we really need to respect and not belittle.

Next time you see a big guy or girl step on the mat, I urge you to think about them as you might any other competitor. They have strengths and weaknesses, different techniques and more than anything they deserve to be there as much as you do and they deserve your respect. Again, Jiu Jitsu is for everyone! Oss!