Strength is never a weakness: BJJ

Truer words have never been spoken.   

Truer words have never been spoken.


“You’ve got great hip awareness, and you’re really strong!”

These are the consoling words I generally hear as I get politely and respectfully submitted 20 years and 3 weeks into my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. As the only 20 year white belt I know, I take this comment, and I process it.

The 20 years part is only partially true. I found BJJ in 1997 when my friends dad, who ran a martial arts school that mainly trained Jeet Kune Do. UFC was still on VHS tapes in these days. Had I only stayed with it! Alas, I didn’t, and being a touring musician was more of a priority at the time.

3 years ago, I had another exposure when I tried bringing BJJ to my nonprofit gym (strength training for Baltimore city youth ages 11-24). It ran a month or two, and I learned as much as I could while we were piloting the program. I was sad to see it go, but it didn’t get the traction with our youth that we wanted it to.

3 weeks ago I joined a BJJ school called Zenyo Jiu Jitsu. It has been nothing but fun, and a really healthy training environment. I get tapped often, and it is always with control and respect. After each roll, the higher belts will impart a piece of knowledge that will help me avoid with they just tapped me with. That’s when they mention that my strength and hip awareness made me harder to deal with.

At first, I consider the strength bit a compliment, after all, I do teach humans how to be stronger for a living. Then I realize that my use of strength means I’m likely not being efficient. Congrats GB, you’ve been trying to get strong for the past 10 years, and now that you’re there you’re just another guy trying to use muscle where technique would be more optimal. When I was weak I had to do it right haha

Takeaway: Work smarter, not harder. Conversely, strength is never a weakness, you just have to know how, when, and where to apply it.

The hip awareness I can partially credit to my two tiny training phases in BJJ, and the lions share is my training for movement quality in my strength training. Deadlifts, Animal Flows, squats, and posterior pelvic tilt planks can’t be done well without hip awareness, mobility, and strength.

Takeaway: Having more bodily awareness translates into athletic endeavors. Training with the intention of quality in compound movements and controlled locomotions has worked for me.