Every grappler is unique. Sharing the mats with people of varying backgrounds allows us to experience different styles, skill levels, techniques, and intensity. It is a mark of an experienced grappler to roll effectively (and safely) against various grappling styles; this is especially the case when dealing with less experienced ones. Getting overwhelmed by the intensity of a roll is quite normal, especially if you are a beginner and are still learning how your body regulates its fight-or-flight response. Worry not, as today, we will talk about how to roll with aggressive grapplers in BJJ.
Dealing With An Aggressive Grappler
Experience is the best teacher. Consistent training teaches you how to deal with and respond to good and bad positions. That being said, aggression is a powerful tool that can be used to overcome technique and, therefore, should be respected on the mats. Below are several ways to deal with aggressive grapplers.
1) Put Them Inside Your Closed Guard
The closed guard is one of the most fundamental guards in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Having an opponent inside your closed guard means they are at your mercy, with them having few options than to pass your guard first. Expect an aggressive training partner/ opponent trapped inside your closed guard to crank your neck, frame their elbow on your face (while dropping their weight), and dig their elbows on your thigh to forcibly open your guard. Use the closed guard to constantly break their posture by pulling their head down, using your legs to destabilise their base, and taking every opportunity to sweep them when they are out of position.
2) Close The Distance
One way to mitigate aggression is to close the distance. Getting ahold of your opponent allows you to set up sweeps, reversals, and submissions with little risk of them becoming frenetic. Aggressive training partners rely on momentum and space for them to constantly attack. Closing the gap gives you the ability to control the opponent’s movements, thus limiting their options to counterattack.
3) Control Their Head And Limbs
In relation to closing the distance, controlling the head, arms, and legs is a great way to immobilise an aggressive opponent. Isolating the opponent’s limbs prevents them from advancing, as it can compromise their balance. This means you can trap them severely in compromising positions, thereby giving you many attacking chances. Likewise, using your head and limbs to break their posture is equally important and sometimes underutilised.
An aggressive opponent usually pressures forward. More often than not, they like to smash their way by leaning forward, thus making their weight distribution unstable. Use this opportunity to attack their legs and flip them out of balance. The same can be done in the standup when opponents pressure forward, use it to time a sacrifice throw, single leg, or duck under.
5) Pin Them in a Dominant Position
An overly aggressive opponent is often relentless in their attempt to secure a guard pass. When dealing with such opponents, sweeping and pinning them in a dominant position is a smart and efficient option. One of the best ways to wear down an aggressive opponent is to pin them using the knee on belly (KOB). Not only does the KOB drain the opponent’s energy, which will slow down their pace, it is also a means for you to rest.
After pinning the opponent down, you may work on isolating their limbs as you apply the submission. Remember that an aggressive opponent may constantly explode out to escape from bad positions or out of submissions. Therefore, it is best to go for control-based submissions when attacking rather than speed-based, as you may lose the position and the limb in the process.
6) Creating A Mismatch
When facing a bigger, stronger, aggressive opponent, it is best to avoid matching their aggression and strength. Instead, play to counterattack using smart movements. Creating a mismatch is a solid tactic that will expose the holes in their game. When opponents grapple with speed and agility, we suggest applying pressure-based techniques to slow and pin them down. On the other hand, when facing a strong and aggressive opponent, it is best to use your agility and speed to get in and out of positions. What you don’t want to do is fight a bigger and stronger opponent head on.
Fighting a stronger or faster opponent head on is counterproductive as it will force you to double your efforts to stay in the fight. This will eventually tire you out. On the other hand, focusing on creating mismatches makes you more efficient as you can rely on your strengths instead of the other way around.
7) Learn To Wrestle
Most of the time, the aggressive grapplers we encounter can potentially hurt us. We recommend that you learn how to wrestle as it teaches you how to positionally dominate opponents. Wrestling adopts the mentality of not giving up until you have finished a takedown and pinned the opponent on the mat. When transitioning to BJJ, wrestlers are challenging to deal with.
Learning how to wrestle gives you an overview of how wrestlers think and their go-to positions, allowing you to counter their moves in advance using BJJ techniques. As much as it helps with your takedown defense, wrestling is also beneficial in building your mat conditioning.
8) Utilize Gi Grips
The difference between Gi and No-Gi is that Gi offers more gripping options. Additional control can be applied to the opponent’s lapel, collar, belt, pants, and sleeves. You can use this to neutralise an aggressive training partner/ opponent and set up different Gi guards and submissions.
Remember that the more intense your opponent is, the easier it is for them to gas out. Understand that while aggression can be useful in some cases, it is not an excellent tool to always rely on. Not only should you know how to neutralise an aggressive opponent, but you should also learn its nature and use it to your advantage. Learning how to deal with aggressive opponents is critical to progress in your Jiu-Jitsu journey.
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