BJJ Black Belt Questions…

Question #1: How to Deal With Larger Training Partners?

Question #2: Half-Guard Position #2 Training Ideas?

Enhanced Transcript


Professor Roy: Hey, what’s going on? Roy Harris here, and in today’s video I would like to give you a glimpse of a private lesson I did recently with a couple of my black belts. They had some interesting questions and I’d like you to see how I answered them.

Professor Roy: Ashley…you have a question?

Sensei Ashley: I do. As someone smaller than most Jiu Jitsu practitioners, how do I deal with the larger, stronger opponents I interact with?

Professor Roy: Okay, yeah, that can be an issue.

Sensei Al, can I have you on your back, please?

We’ll do part one right now. This is the defensive part where you’re forced to be on your back – because I assume that’s what happens most of the time with the bigger people.

This situation is often very common when the smaller practitioner weighs 120 to 150 lbs. (54 to 68 kg.) and their training partner, who also trains Jiu Jitsu and is learning the same techniques, weighs 190 lbs. (87kg) or more. So, when I want to pass your guard, I’m always going to take my forearm and move it beyond the plane of your chest as well as the plane of your back. Then, I will hug you, put the weight of my body onto you, and then make myself heavy.

Does this sound familiar?

Sensei Ashley: Yes!

Professor Roy: So your focus should be to keep my wrists and forearms in front of your chest. The best way to do this is to MONITOR, not control, my wrists! This is how you start working your guard control.

Let’s move a little farther into the equation. Put your feet to the side where I am almost passed your guard. Go ahead and turn onto your side.

Now, the most important arm is the far one, not the near arm. Also, it’s okay if I turn onto my side like this. However, you do not want my close arm under your neck. Does this make sense? I want you to prevent this at long range using your top arm. But if my body gets in a little closer, you can now use the second hand to prevent me from anchoring my weight with my near arm.

Now, even though I put all of my weight on top of your hips, go ahead, shrimp, move your hips away and replace the guard. Or, push me somewhere between my bicep to my chest, and then push my back onto the mats.

Does that make sense?

Sensei Ashley: It does.

Professor Roy: So PART ONE is to get into the habit of using your hands and your forearms to monitor their wrist and forearms.

Here’s what I don’t want you to do: Fight the urge to put your hands on my chest or my shoulder because this is where I’m heaviest.

What’s the matter?

Sensei Ashley: I don’t have strength.

Professor Roy: Yes. So, don’t fight me where I’m heaviest.

And then when you’re ready, you turn onto your side, place your arms into position to begin monitoring my arms, and then shrimp your hips away.

Now, let’s go back…

Sometimes you may have somebody who puts a lot of their weight onto your hips. When this happens, bridge first, and then shrimp your hips away. The bridge and the shrimp are two of five unstoppable movements. Mixed with monitoring the opponent’s arms, this is how you can begin the process of dealing with size and strength!

PART TWO of this equation is to not allow your training partners to get any closer to you with their body weight than your knees.

When it comes to dealing with the feet on the hips, the bigger and stronger training partners will be strong enough to grab your ankle and knees and throw them to the side. So, it will be more efficient for you to use your knees to deal with their weight – predominantly your top knee because the bottom knee is secondary.

Now, even when I thread my left arm through your legs, that’s okay. Keep my weight off of your upper torso by pushing with your top knee. Doing this creates the space and prevents me from getting my hand under your neck. Also, when I push off your top knee, bring your bottom knee into play. Make me fight your knees. Yes!

So how does 248 pounds feel, driving itself on top of you?

Sensei Ashley: Feels okay.

Professor Roy: Feels good, yes?

So I want your primary focus to be on monitoring the wrist and forearm. Second, get into the habit of bringing your training partners into a range where you can use a stronger tool, your femur, to push and keep them at bay. This will be more efficient because the muscles that surround the femur are strong enough to handle the weight of somebody bigger and stronger.

Does that make sense?

Sensei Ashley: It does. Thank you!

Professor Roy: Let me see you do this with Sensei Al.

Sensei, would you pass her guard and go to the side mount?

Very good! That’s it. One more time.


I want you to go back a little bit, please, Sensei Al, where you’ve just passed her guard and have gone to the side mount position. Stop right there. Ashley, I want you to change your right hand from being on his bicep and forearm to your right hand on the collar by the left side of his neck and underneath his left ear lobe.

Yes. Push and shrimp. Lovely!

How’s that feel, Sensei? I don’t like that. Again, please. So awful.

Very good!

Sensei, Al, please. Do you have a question?

Sensei Al: I do. On the bottom of the half-guard position, I’m trying to either continue my bridging motion or my elbow/knee escape.

Professor Roy: Which side? Right or left?

Sensei Al: Left side.

Professor Roy: OK. For starters, get into the habit of squeezing your knees together. Then push both knees off to one side and then to the other side. This is going to be your first exercise. Doing both of these movements is what you need when your training partner starts to anchor his or her weight with the arm under your left armpit. So, pull your left elbow to your ribs through his arm, squeeze your knees together, and violently throw both of your knees to your left.

Good, again.

Sensei Al: Does my right hand push on the front of your left hip?

Professor Roy: It can push. But as you can see, the legs do most of the work.

Now, sometimes you’re going to set up your training partner by not trapping his right arm. So, let my right arm go free. Do the same thing with your legs and let me put my right arm out for base. You’ll do this for one of two reasons:

One: If my head is over top of your left hip, take your left hand grab the cloth above my left shoulder, and then put your forearm under my neck. Next,  you’re going to push the weight of my body towards eight or nine o’clock (where your head resides at 12 o’clock and your feet are at 6 o’clock), shrimp your hips away, and replace the guard. Yes. That’s it. Very good. Again.

This time,  because of where my head is, you’re going to grab a hold of the cloth first. The reason why I’m having you grab the cloth first is because one of the most common mistakes I see is students put their forearm under the neck and leave the hand exposed. Then they get caught in an Americana and end up having to tap. So first, you grab the cloth, and then you put the forearm under the neck, and you elevate my head.

That’s it. And shove me to eight or nine o’clock. Yes. Beautiful. Again, please.

Two: Sometimes, my head doesn’t move that far and it stays over top of your left pectoral. When this happens, underhook your left arm under my right armpit. Make sure your bicep is in my armpit. Reach for the ceiling with your left hand as you bridge and drive the weight of my body towards 10:30. Throw your left leg and sit up. And now, you can keep your hip on the mat. Your left hand should be next to and grabbing my left hip. Your right hand is behind you for base.

Let’s do this again, please.


So, when you train, I want you to do it three ways:

• Number one, you trap the arm and you put me on my back.

• Number two, you don’t trap my arm, my weight goes out wide and you go to form under the neck. And then you push and place me back in the garb.

• Number three, same thing, you don’t trap, but my weight doesn’t move very far. Go to the underhook, push my weight alongside of you, and sit up. Make sure as you hug with your left hand, your left hip stays close to my right hip. That way, there’s no space for me to do anything.

How do those feel?

Sensei Al:  Very nice!

Additional comments


So often in Jiu Jitsu circles, we hear the marketing statement like, “It’s not about size and strength.” Or, “It’s all about technique and leverage!” Well, everyone who’s trained in Jiu Jitsu for more than three (3) months – especially those who are smaller in size –  knows that this statement is simply not true. When a student weighs 120-140 lbs. (54-63 kg) and their training partner weighs 200-240lbs. (90-109 kg), and both of you are learning the same techniques and drills in class, everyone knows that when it comes time to spar, the larger training partner will have a marked advantage!

Therefore, information like this is critical for the enjoyment of smaller practitioners!

The only downside to this information is this:

Larger and stronger individuals will learn and use it against their smaller and more highly skilled training partners. Fortunately, there’s additional information that can be learned to neutralize and/or counter this information!

NOTE: Try not to make the same mistake as so many students in the past have done. Here’s the mistake:

“Professor Harris teaches concepts/techniques/movements/drills A, B, and C. And because he stops his instruction there, it must mean that THIS is all he knows about the subject matter!”

For example, I remember teaching a group class on the basic under-the-leg guard passing technique. We spent 90 minutes on just that one technique. And yes, there were that many details and that much information to share on it!

After class, the students marveled at what I had presented. Some asked, “How come you don’t teach like that all of the time?” I responded by saying this:

“I presented on one single technique tonight – for 90 minutes. There was so much information your minds were blown and overloaded. There’s no way you’re going to remember all or even most of that info! What’s more, I’ve just scratched the surface of this topic. I have four and a half hours more information I could share with you on this one very important technique. And then, I could teach for another three hours on the topic of how to train it so you could have a measurable and noticeable skill with it in just one week!”


Once a student learns how to address/solve a problem, their next step toward gaining a skill will always involve practicing what they have been taught. The big downside, as I see it, is that Jiu-Jitsu students have never been taught how to practice. Think about that statement. Have you ever been taught to practice a technique? Or was it just assumed you knew how to practice a technique?

Let me ask some even more penetrating questions:

Is there more to practicing a technique than mimicking what an instructor just taught you? And, is the practicing techniques the quickest and most efficient route to skill development?

I am of the opinion that the initial practicing of a technique, where we mimic what we saw our instructors do, is a very important part of the process. However, this practice represents a rudimentary element in the process of skill development. So much more needs to happen for a measurable skill to show up in two to three weeks – and by more, I’m talking about more than just putting in 500-100 repetitions! Don’t get me wrong, putting in those amount of repetitions will help move the needle towards skill, but only slightly.

In Harris Jiu Jitsu, we have (A) varying levels of instruction, (B) varying levels of practice, (C) varying levels of training, and (D) varying levels of sparring. Together, they make up over one hundred levels of practice and training – whereas all of the other forms of instruction I’ve seen only have four (e.g. practice, combinations, drills, training/sparring). Let me share one example with you:

Harris Jiu Jitsu Instruction Level One
This is what you saw in this instructional video. Keep in mind that there was a lot more to this instructional video than JUST the technical instruction. There was also an unseen portion that focused on how to practice, what to practice, and when to practice each.

Now, in this instructional, I taught “the essence” of some techniques, mixed in with a few conceptual ideas. With these two elements of practice, students will be able to exemplify the concepts in their positioning and movements, practice s few good techniques, and begin to experience higher levels of success. THIS is a good start!

What comes next is Level Two Instruction…

Harris Jiu Jitsu Instruction Level Two
This is where we move beyond the essence and get into a handful or two of details. It is also where the next two levels of practice come out!

While there’s a lot more I could write about this instructional video, I hope it has been eye-opening and informative! If you’d be interested in taking some private training – either online or in-person, send an email and let’s chat. I’m sure I can make a very positive impact on your Jiu Jitsu training!

Roy Harris

P.S. Do you have questions or comments about this post? Let me know in the comments below, by sending me an email, or by clicking on the social media icon above and writing to me there!

Copyright © 2024 Roy Harris. All Rights Reserved.

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