There is nothing like trying to “break-in” a new white belt who happens to be half-man, half-beast on their first day of rolling and them telling you, “that doesn’t work.” LOL!
Back in the day, my brother Marcos Avellan were about 17 and 18 when we first started NHB (No Holds Barred, what MMA was called before the term Mixed Martial Arts) and our first training partners were all huge. My brother was about 155lbs and I was around 195lbs. Our instructor was probably about 6’2″ 240lbs solid. Our training partners were a mix of physical specimens ranging from 5’7″ 240lbs, to 6’3″ 260lbs. Needless to say, my brother and I got over mat claustrophobia pretty quickly. 🙂
Learning to survive being crushed by a giant takes a mix of patience and endurance. As the smaller man you will always out last the larger man, as they are going to use much more energy moving around than you will. You just need to be able stay calm, keep out of danger, and preserve your energy until your opportunity presents itself. I have fought quite a few giants in my day and have been able to come out on top because of this knowledge.
To truly master this skill set, you need to put yourself under the gun and tango with a big boy. Grab your favorite hulk and train with them. Just keep your wits about you and stay patient. No matter what you do, you will more than likely end up getting “squeezed” at some point. Relax, breathe deeply, and intelligently work your way out of the position. Some times you might be able to escape. If so, position yourself so that you are safe from submissions and not holding the brunt of weight.
Pro-Tip – If you are in bottom side control, laying on your side makes it easier to breath versus being flat on your back with your opponent on top of you.
If you end up in a very bad spot, don’t be afraid to tap. Yes, it possible to be submitted just be being squeezed enough. Just think of a hamster. Now a man squeezes the hamster until it explodes. Now imagine you are the hamster.
While you are not going to explode (hopefully), you probably don’t need to have a stiff neck or bruised ribs. Be smart. If you are 160lbs and you are rolling with a 250lb guy, you are a huge disadvantage. It is not shameful to lose to someone that large (or to anyone for that matter), so let go of your ego. Look back up at that hamster. If that hamster was wearing a black belt, do you think it would help him much? LOL!
It will take time to learn the puzzle that is battling a behemoth. Using drills is a good way of building these skills. For example escape drills – starting in bad position and working you way out. You can negotiate beforehand how much resistance you want, so that you can be a bit more comfortable and not squeezed as much. You can also practice this for finishing submissions, holding positions, etc.
If you are an older athlete, you may want to pass on this. I know the difference between recovering from battling a 300lb goliath when I was 20 to now is completely different. I have a student that is 300+ pounds that is an amazing athlete. If I roll with him, 9 times out of 10 I will be jacked up, and it isn’t because he slammed me or tried something crazy. It is just because he is a powerful guy and resisting that motion takes a toll. Think of it like doing an explosive heavy lifting session, because that’s what it is.
So go ahead and grab the bull by the horns if you dare!