Published: January 6, 2023

Strength in BJJ: A Blessing and a Curse

Strength in BJJ: A Blessing and a Curse

Relying on strength in a combat sport is a surefire way to slow down your progress. While you can only get so much stronger, your technical skills in a martial art like Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) have almost no limits. By focusing on improving your techniques, it won’t matter how big or strong an aggressor is. BJJ emphasizes positioning, leverage and the application of larger muscle groups working together on smaller joints, ligaments and appendages to control and submit the opponent. This is why you can defeat the largest of aggressors with the correct techniques. 

The early practitioner’s curse

At the beginning of your BJJ journey it is hard to have a great understanding of all the small details. Almost by default, at the early belts you will naturally use strength to try and overpower your opponents. This will work to an extent on smaller and less skilled opponents, which would be great if all of your opponents were smaller and less skilled. Unfortunately, you will discover that opponents come in different sizes and abilities, so strength based fighting will only get you so far. 


If you can’t rely on strength, what should you do? This is a common question among white, green, and blue belts. The core concept, as I’m sure you realize, is to focus completely on improving your techniques, and not worry about immediately beating your opponents in the academy. One of the best ways to get past using strength and power is to drill the techniques to perfection. When you do the technique really well, you will realize the strength does not help you.  


Slow is smooth smooth is fast

When first training a technique, do not try to do it fast or hard. This is not a race or a power game. Train it slowly, so you can perfect every detail of the movement. You will aid your muscle memory the most by doing the move slowly at first. While in class, ask coaches and professors questions that arise. Write the technique in your journal as it is described. These will all aid you in improving the technique. 


In the early stages of the journey it is easy to find yourself buried by the volume of information and techniques shown. Pick no more than three techniques and focus on those. Roll with smaller people and focus on technique, not smashing or powering the technique. Let go of your desire to win, and replace it with a thirst for knowledge and experience. Above all, have fun. It becomes less of a competition when you can let go and just have fun, and when you aren’t competing in the academy, you can completely focus on improving your technique. 

Spend focused tIme on the mats

Nothing will replace your time on the mats. Come to open mats, randoris and drill classes. The more time you have on the mats, they better you will become. By being conscious of how you are using your strength, you will continue to improve your technical skills. Once you have a technique down, focus on doing the move the best you can in live training. If you have it down well, it will feel nearly effortless. Your mat time is moving your active thinking and processing the move to muscle memory. It is this conscious minded training that will help you remove the need to use strength, and be able to defeat opponents using pure technique. 

Published: January 6, 2023

Categories: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bullying, Martial Arts, Training