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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

26 November 2010

Article - The Dreaded Beast-Men

Article #21, by guest writer Allie McClish

For a fighter, I’m not much to look at. I’m an average sized girl: 5’5’’, 135 lbs. In a sport dominated by men, most of my opponents boast a significant weight advantage. Add onto that the spastic craziness of a new, white belt male and you have a creature I like to call the beast-man.

I used to complain about the impossibility of grappling beast-men. They were too big and strong. They used too much muscle. I cringed at the thought of grappling them, secretly rejoicing whenever my instructor, Fabio, assigned me to grapple someone with a little color on their belt.

When I got my blue belt, my distaste for beast-men increased. I felt I had something to prove. I was supposed to be more technical than them now, right? Mysteriously, that technique was missing on the mat. I was still getting crushed. The more I tried to beat these guys the more frustrated I got.

My breakthrough came when I realized I was looking at them in the wrong light. Beast-men weren’t my enemies. They were my training partners. Not only that, but I realized that these guys, with all their strength and spasticness, were some of the best training partners I could ask for.

If you take BJJ for self defense, who would be more like a real attacker on the street? A seasoned brown belt who rolls with control and courtesy, or a white belt who is coming at me with all of his strength and random bursts of movement? The white belt would be more like what I would actually face.

I realized I only wanted to defend myself against people who were going to attack me nicely. I was complaining about the most realistic mock attackers that I would get in a safe setting. Having training partners who relax and teach me things is an invaluable treasure, but having guys whose only goal is to crush me into oblivion is equally valuable.

After I stopped looking at these guys as evil villains who wanted to ruin my evening of happy grappling, and started looking at them as real-life scenario tests, everything changed. I took the pressure off myself to perform. I stopped letting my own frustration and anger cloud up my mind while I was grappling. Instead of thinking about how unpleasant the grapple was, I started thinking about what I was doing; paying attention to where I could move, where they were off balance, where both of us were vulnerable.

The results were instantaneous. Not only did I grapple better, but I started growing again in general. I started enjoying jiu-jitsu again. I stopped hating the beast-men and actually learned to look forward to the challenges they present.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re big or small. Eventually, you’ll encounter people that seem created for your misery. When you come up against them, the difference between frustration and growth is your point of view. You can decide to complain, or you can be thankful that beast men are there to point out the holes in your game. You can be the victim against an insurmountable enemy, or accept the challenge of a training partner who has something to teach you. The distinction is yours to make.

Allie McClish is a blue belt, who has been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a year and four months under Fabio Novaes in Florida. She maintains a blog at Allie the Clear Belt.

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  1. For a second there I thought I was reading the wrong blog on my Google Reader!
    Nice guest article I always enjoy reading Allie's balanced and informed posts on her blog.

  2. Allie, as a 140 lb, 46-year-old (male) blue belt, I agree with your conclusion. Once I embraced rolling with the "beast-men", my game with them improved. Now I rather enjoy defending against them with a fraction of the effort that they are attacking with; I enjoy hearing them breathe hard as they squeeze and push and pry with all their might as I shift and tuck and move.

    Even if I don't get the submission, I love seeing the sweat roll off their red, breathy faces.

    But I digress, you are absolutely right -- the "beast-men" are the ones that you are going to meet in the dark parking lot. Our self defense can only get better when we roll with them.

    The only problem is that these are the people that will ultimately injure us. We have to keep that in mind.

  3. Finally!!! Thank you, Ms. McClish!

    I find it incredibly irritating that so many women bjj bloggers strongly encourage any and all women to take up bjj (It’s not for everyone. Really.) and yet criticize or complain about big spazzy white belts at every opportunity. Self defense is often the primary selling point used to get women to try bjj. Even if it isn’t the primary motivation, it’s probably one of the reasons a woman sticks with this sport. I think it’s disingenuous to tell a women she should try bjj so she can defend herself, and then tell her to avoid sparring with spazzy or rough guys. Sure, avoid them as white belts and even into early blue-belt-dom, because they are more likely to cause serious injuries. But being able to deal with these guys should be a goal of every woman who does bjj. A would-be rapist is much more likely to be a 200 lb man with no concern for your physical condition than a 125 lb woman, a 140 lb teenager, or a gentlemanly blue belt. Helio Grace took on Masahiko Kimura despite a 50 lb size disparity and refused to give up. (ref. Being small is no excuse. Being a woman . . . That may be an excuse, but I, for one, refuse to use it.

    Besides, once you can handle them, rolling with “beast-men” can be a real blast.

  4. Great just underlines how important it is to be aware of who your training partners REALLY are. Thanks Allie/Slidey!

  5. Really good post! I agree full heartedly. It's easy to "think" and plot your next move with an experienced upper belt, but that doesn't teach you to "think" in a real live, high pressure situation. Rolling with "new" and bigger people, gives you an idea of what it would be like to fend off an attack in real life. It's much harder to fight off a large untrained fighter, becuase they don't move in the predictable manner that one of your seasoned training partners do.

    Thanks Allie and Slidey!!