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Sorry, Boys: Size Matters | Blog | Tap Out 101

Sorry, Boys: Size Matters

| On 05, Dec 2012

I’m about to write an article that may irritate people, and I’m not sorry.

I hear this concept bandied about a lot, particularly when instructors are trying to sell the sport of BJJ to new, timid, small, unathletic, or female students: “size doesn’t matter.”  And almost invariably, the person speaking is an average height, well- muscled, athletic male who has been training long enough to handily disable the average person on the street.  I’m here with some bad news.  Size does matter, particularly in BJJ.

When new women come into the Academy, they are usually looking for a way to defend themselves. The love of the sport and the competition aspect come later in most women’s BJJ journey; primarily, the crucial first few months are mentally devoted to learning some kind of self-defense.  I think we’re doing them a disservice by telling them that BJJ will allow them to defend themselves against men, and setting them up for frustration by telling them they should be able to dominate their larger male classmates.

I have a relationship with BJJ that has lasted longer than many marriages. I’ve cried, bled, slept, and sweated on the mats; BJJ is a habit so deeply ingrained in me that I couldn’t extricate my identity from it if I tried. I’ve been hearing these words since I was a child, words that were meant, I think, to be empowering: “size doesn’t matter.”

But then I left my small pond for a bigger one, and I can’t pretend it wasn’t shocking. Suddenly, I was playing with men who were stronger, bigger, and faster than I was. My ego took a hit. I kept hearing that old mantra, “size doesn’t matter”– but it did seem to matter. It was a turning point in my BJJ journey, as strange as that sounds, and I slowly came to the realization that everything I thought I knew about BJJ and size was wrong.

  • There are points in time where II will be unable to effectively perform a technique in live sparring because of a size or strength disparity.
  • There are points in time where I will be overwhelmed by my partner’s size and/or strength.
  • There are points in time where I will tap to or be swept by a lower belt who is using poor technique and a lot of brute strength.

I won’t say that we should stop extolling the virtues of BJJ.  BJJ is a wonderful equalizer in many ways, and as a form of self-defense, it is nearly unparalleled.  Make no mistake, though– it won’t give you superhuman abilities. What it will give you is the ability to survive in a scuffle on the ground against a larger, untrained opponent.

If I could give a piece of advice to the small practitioners out there, female and male, it’d be this: don’t tie your ego and confidence in your technique to this concept of “size doesn’t matter.”  Instead, accept that it does matter, and fight through it.

Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of cleanly sweeping a heavyweight.  It’s worth fighting for, as far as I’m concerned