BJJ for Small Guys Part 1: Samuel Braga & Bruno Malfacine

I'm often one of the lighter guys on the mats. Weighing under 150 lbs, I'm often rolling with guys that weight 20 - 50lbs more than I do. This provides a unique challenge for us (smaller guys).  

Training with heavier guys can be very helpful but can also be dangerous. In this multi-part series, I'm going to talk share tips from some of the best light guys in the BJJ world to help you - the smaller BJJ athlete - survive and do better when dealing with opponents and training partners who outweigh you. 

Why it's good to train with heavier guys

It's the same principle as guys that wear ankle weights are weight vests. Learning to move and do BJJ on a heavier opponent will only make you that much more effective when sparring with someone your own size. I train mostly at Gracie Barra HQ and there are lots of big guys there. When I get to roll with someone my size, they feel so light! And my grips suddenly get unbreakable! Lol. 

I'll provide more thoughts in upcoming posts, but now let's ask a couple world champs their thoughts.

First up is Samuel Braga - head instructor of Gracie Barra Knoxville, TN. Braga is a roosterweight competitor and a 3 time world champion at black belt.

Here's Samuel Braga's best tip for the smaller guy:

I usually try to use de la riva/ spider guard to keep the right distance from my opponent. Keeping a safe distance to avoid getting stacked is the key point. I'm always trying to rock and off-balance my opponent to work my way to his back using Berimbolo or from reverse de la riva. Omoplatas are very effective too! 

Samuel Braga was my guest on TWIBJJ a while back.

Here's part 1 where we talked in the studio and here's part 2 where he taught some sweet techniques from de la riva guard.

Braga also taught the best selling instructional on the Berimbolo which is available as a DVD, as an app, and on-demand.

Next up is Bruno Malfacine - an amazing 5 time world champion at black belt and currently teaching at Alliance Orlando, FL.

Here are Bruno's detailed thoughts on facing bigger and stronger opponents:

Tip 1: Always use the weight and size of your opponent to your advantage

I never had any problems training with heavier and stronger guys. I have always enjoyed the challenge as if it were a way for me to test my Jiu Jitsu. When I started training back when I was 12 years old I was forced to join the adults classes, because there were no kids classes at the academy at the time. Therefore, I had to adapt my Jiu Jitsu to my body type. I believe Jiu Jitsu is an amazing sport which allows anyone, regardless of age or body type to start training. Throughout the years you will be forced to gradually realize your own strengths and limitations creating your own and unique style, finding what's best for you and finding a game that will benefit you daily.

Jiu Jitsu was created for the weak to overcome the stronger through the leverage that can be used to expand your strength, allowing you to move a bigger and stronger opponent, to attack him, counter attack and defend yourself. It's very important to trace a strategy and have a plan in mind, trust your Jiu Jitsu.. this is critical, with an arsenal of attacks (double attacks, sometimes even triple...) creating situations to leave the opponent frustrated.,Through leverage, movement and balance you have the opportunity to use your opponents weight and strength to your advantage, you just need to be ready and take advantage as soon as possible.

Tip 2: They use their power, we use our agility

Be fast and aggressive, but always be careful not to make silly mistakes, always be the first and take the initiative to start the attack putting your opponent in your own game, always trying to have one, two, even three steps ahead of your opponent especially when it comes to a bigger and stronger opponent. He won't be able to follow you and will fall into your trap!! 

I did an episode of Rolled Up with Bruno a few years back. You can watch it HERE!

Ok, that's it for this one, can you guess who will be featured in the next post?


Vinvent Picard

As tough as it is being the small guy, it allows you to build upon better technique. I am one of the smallest in my Dojo, rolling with bigger people is difficult but makes me that much better. Thank you for this post it shows that size isn’t everything in Jiu-Jitsu or life.

Essa alansari

Thank you

Very helpfull article

I needed this

My coach is a very close friend to bad boy bruno

He tought me well but still facing big challenge rolling with biger guys but same level skils its really takes a big effort

Sifer Aseph

Thanks for the article! I have this challenge as a smaller player. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.

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