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Dear Heavyweights, Don’t Neglect Your Bottom Game

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“Whatever, I’ll just pull guard,” said no ultra heavy, ever. . .

Being on the bottom as a big dude sucks. It is horrible. Why on earth would I pull someone that is over 300lbs on top of me? Must be out yo mind. . . Shoot.

I have said this to myself and so many people in one way or another for a long time. But guess what? I had to get the heck over it because I got taken down. Believe it or not, this dude right here writing this little blog entry got taken down. This mediocre wrestler that won one (1) whole Div III college wrestling match got taken down. Who’da thunk it? When the unthinkable happened, I was completely lost. I had no clue what to do because in sparring, when we would start from our knees, I did everything I possibly could to avoid ending up on the bottom. Why the hell wouldn’t I? I’m huge, I’m strong and these other dudes have nothing on me.

It’s so common to neglect our bottom game as big dudes. It’s unnatural for us to be on our backs. For the most part, we are less flexible and mobile from the bottom. I am not saying this is a good or bad thing, this is simply a fact. It’s rare you will find someone over 220 lbs playing some kind of Miyao inverted whatever the heck. It is necessary for us to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to familiarize ourselves with the unfamiliar. Otherwise when the inevitable time we encounter that rare guy who is stronger, a better judo player or wrestler than us (yeah right, stronger AND better at takedowns? Than ME. . . pfft) we are not completely lost when he throws us around and onto our backs.

I am the biggest guy in my gym. I never roll with anybody bigger than me. There are big guys, but I am heavier, taller than all and stronger than most (I say most so I don’t hurt anybody’s feelings. You can go ahead and replace that with “all” if you want.) everybody there. If I have a sparring round with someone smaller than me, guess where we start? We start in my guard. I work off of my back. I realize it is not the same type of work as if I had a partner that was my size or bigger, but it’s a start. By doing this I have been able to familiarize myself with the techniques in a live situation and apply them. Obviously it is different than in a match, but the application of these techniques, even if on someone smaller, is necessary to build the muscle memory and instincts we need.

As much as I love driving my shoulder or forearm through somebody’s face from side control, the bottom game is a part of the art and cannot be ignored. If a person’s goal is to become as good at BJJ as possible, that person has to work the bottom game. The origins of our art are based on someone too small to take the other person down, so they are underneath the attacker. Developing a guard and bottom game is necessary in understanding the art as a whole, and advancing through the ranks.

I have a friend who is much smaller than me, but also much better than me at BJJ. When I work with him, I always start from bottom. I do not use much weight or strength because I do not want to hurt my friend. I love working with him because he forces me to be super technical in my attacks and defenses. I refuse to muscle anything on him out of respect for both of us. What am I going to learn if I just lay on top of someone for 5 minutes. Nothing. However, if I do pull guard and work on retention, sweeps and submissions against someone for that amount of time, I learn a lot more and apply a lot more and become that much better.

Kids hate vegetables. Big dudes hate working from bottom. Some stuff is necessary, no matter how we feel about it.

About the author: Carlson Gracie Team. Corrections Officer. Love Chicago Bears and pork products. Ultra Heavy.

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