About one month ago I signed up for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).
Having previously trained Tae Kwon-Do for 10 years I wanted to learn a grappling and ground based martial art.
Tae Kwon-Do was primarily a standing marital art with very little, if any, ground work.
Prior to signing up I naively thought that having 10 years experience in a standing martial art, where my height gave me an advantage, would also give me an advantage in a ground based martial art.
What might surprise you is that I was both wrong and right.
In this post I want to share with you my experiences with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so far, as a tall (196 cm / 6’6) and skinny (95 kg) white belt.
Once I have more experience under my belt (see what I did there?) I will write another experience post.
To be clear: I’ve only been training BJJ for a total of 6 weeks and I have an enormously long way to go with my learning.
I’m in no way a subject matter expert nor do I know a lot about what I’m doing so far but with each class I’m slowly starting to piece things together.
In no particular order, here are my experiences with BJJ so far.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu As A Tall Guy: Thoughts So Far
- The first thing I had to do was buy a cool rash guard. I ended up getting a power pangolin white raven fightwear rash guard. I reviewed this rash guard here.
- Sections of your legs, arms and chest will get covered with an array of bruises; you will look like a spotted leopard. This will especially be the case during your first 3-4 weeks of training but your body / skin will adapt and eventually you’ll bruise less.
- Despite any current gym training fitness you have, the first few lessons will be surprisingly physically exhausting. This gets better with time as your body adapts.
- Stretching after class is a must. Unless you want to feel sore and tight for the next few days.
- Finding a good fitting Gi (BJJ uniform) is difficult. This may come as no surprise but BJJ Gi’s (like regualr clothing) are not made with tall people in mind. The same problems you have with regular clothing (sleeve leg, leg length or body width) you will also have with Gi’s. I have a white Tatami Nova MK4 Gi in size A5. This size (A5) Gi is unfortunately too wide in the body, the sleeves are a tad too short and also too wide.
- Wearing a larger Gi (not fitted to a skinny build) makes it easier for people to grab you, pull you down and control you when rolling.
- Having long limbs makes it easier for people to grab you (more of you to grab) BUT it also helps you grab people easily and from further. From a seated position on the ground I can reach a standing opponents collar and pull them down towards me.
- Almost everyone you roll with will be shorter than you. People will get freaked out by your long limbs and will try to pull you in close and keep you in their guard for as long as possible so that you can’t use your long limbs.
- It’s easier and more effective to get top grip (towards the back of Gi collar) than grabbing the front lapel of your opponents Gi.
- When grabbing your opponents sleeve it’s more effective to grab it underneath their armpit or as far up their triceps as you can. Having long arms allows you to do this and gives you better control of your opponent.
- Long side control (legs stretched out behind you, holding you in place as an anchor) is much more effective than the standard side control.
- Long legs and closed-guard are a perfect match (use your long legs and wrap them around your opponent).
- You need to learn how to adapt all the moves you learn for your longer limbs.
- Flexibility is king. Being tall and flexible will make you dangerous. The more flexible you are the easier you can maneuver around your opponent and wrap your long limbs around them. This is something I’m actively working to improve.
- Leverage is key. Long limbs means you have longer levers, longer levers means more force is available to you with less effort. This is something I’m also trying to learn and improve.
- Rolling with an opponent heavier than you, who sits on your chest and pins you down will help you learn how to stay calm and focused.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is very complex, technical and physically demanding.
This can leave you feeling extremely frustrated, confused and at times feeling like you aren’t progressing at all. This happens to me a lot; I come home from training, feeling defeated and confused that I can’t seem to learn any of the moves.
This is perfectly normal and is all part of the learning process.
Trust in the process, learn how to adapt the movements to your longer build and keep training.
If you persevere you will start to slowly make sense of it all and start to unleash your deadly long limbs.
If you’ve been considering trying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a long time but haven’t yet done so.
Worst case you won’t like it and realize it’s not for you and the best case you’ll fall in love with it and learn a lot about yourself in the process.
Stand tall, be proud of your height and strive for greatness.
Image credit for BJJ gorilla playing chess (cover image): here