By Paul Winter
“Jiu Jitsu is all about smaller, weaker people triumphing over bigger stronger people through technique.”
If you’ve been training Jiu Jitsu for a while, you’ve probably heard something like this before.
If you’ve been training somewhere that has big, strong people, you may have also found out that this statement is not exactly correct.
Can a smaller, weaker person beat someone larger and stronger than themselves? Absolutely, otherwise the martial art would really have no benefit at all- how many times are we likely to find ourselves perfectly evenly matched in a real-world scenario?
This statement is also made more often than not by individuals clinging to the idea that they don’t need strength training to inform their Jiu Jitsu…which is incorrect.
In very simple terms, when two individuals of roughly equal size and technique are pitted against each other, who do you think will win the engagement?
If you said the one who is stronger, congratulations. You win a gold sticker.
No matter how good your technique is, or how far you progress in Jiu Jitsu, you are going to have moments where you come up against someone who is strong as hell, and is able to use that to shut down your movement, your attacks, and ultimately, you, as they force you into a key-lock or kimura through sheer force of muscle.
In order to avoid these sorts of situations, it is crucial that we dedicate time each week to bringing up our physical strength as well as our technical grappling.
Because here’s a secret they don’t tell you at the McDojo:
Strength is a skill, too.
We always hear it in an either/or dichotomy, like “Strength versus Skill,” but that’s a false way to look at it.
Skill is defined in the dictionary as:
1a : the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance. b : dexterity or coordination especially in the execution of learned physical tasks. 2 : a learned power of doing something competently : a developed aptitude or ability
We could say that weightlifting and strength training are essentially the execution of learned physical tasks that lead to an increase in muscularity and power.
Performing a clean split jerk or snatch is certainly as technical a skill as learning an armbar- maybe more so.
So instead of thinking in terms of “strength vs. skill,” we can think “technical skill informed by physical skill” or, in other words, clean technique applied with strength is better than the clean technique alone.
This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all your mat time in order to “get swole.”
On the contrary- too much time in the rack can actually have a negative effect on our grappling…just try a heavy squat session where you empty the tank a few hours before working standing guard passes.
Instead, putting together a sensible 2 or 3 time a week strength routine that focuses on the compound lifts done at a reasonable training max will take you a long way.
I am a firm believer in the gospel according to Jim Wendler, and his 2/3x a week programs already utilize a built in “training max” system that will have you working at a capacity that allows for other endeavors.
If you are new to lifting, it can be a good idea to pay for personal training to be coached on correct form for these lifts, rather than just flinging yourself into it with reckless abandon- you probably have a grappling coach, so the same for strength training makes sense too.
If you’re still not sure, go have a look at just about every high level competitor out there, even the ones who aren’t on a special blend of tren and acai:
Even the Mikey Musumeci’s and Ruotolo brothers of the world are in the gym adding strength-skill to their Jiu Jitsu arsenal.
To be great, do what the greats do.
Get to it- see you in the squat rack!