One question I was always asking, mostly as a purple belt was “how do I become heavy from top”? To be honest, I never got a satisfying answer from anyone, so I turned my attention from BJJ to wrestling. After hundreds of hours of instructional, I managed to figure it out. As I slowly made the transition into coaching BJJ myself I keep encountering the same question from students over and over again. Looking not to repeat my mistakes, I decided to rally try and explain everything to anyone who asks how to be heavy in BJJ, regardless of their belt level.
Pinning in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does not work the same as in other grappling martial arts. Suffice to say, you need to be creative if you want to retain top position. Of course, there is a hierarchy of positions and submissions to choose from. However, sometimes, you just need to hold someone in one spot for just a little while. Strength won’t help. Feeling like a fully-loaded 18-wheeler on top of someone’s chest will. That’s why you be to understand how to be heavy in BJJ. And it is not rocket science, really – you only need to understand a few crucial things, and you’ll be torturing everyone with top pressure in no time.
What is Rooting?
There’s a concept in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu called rooting. In fact, it is a wrestling concept which we have adopted and alternated in BJJ. This concept is crucial in discovering how to be heavy in BJJ. And the premise is really simple – get your belly to the ground.
Our center of gravity (or mass) is located a couple of inches beneath our navel. For BJJ people, it is the region where the belt knot is, give or take. The closer your center of gravity is to the ground, the better balance you have. Conversely, you’ll feel heavier at the same time, provided you adhere to a couple more principles which we’ll talk about in a minute.
When it comes to rooting for BJJ, think about it this way – you need to glue your center of gravity (belt knot) to your opponent. Whether you’re trying to be heavy from the top turtle, side control, mount, or half guard, you need to be aiming to place your belly on the floor, but going through your opponent.
The second part of the equation here is how to get your entire body to follow your center of gravity. That’ easy – let go. Do an experiment next time you’re in the gym. Get the smallest person to grab the biggest person in the academy from behind, bear hug style, under the armpits. Then, ask the big person to tense up their entire body. The smaller person will lift them off the ground without problems. Next, ask them to switch,. However, have a small person relax completely as if they were unconscious. The big strong person will have trouble lifting “dead weight” off the ground, and in most cases, they’ll fail.
That is exactly how to be heavy in BJJ – relax and be dead weight whenever you’re on top. If your center of gravity is also on your opponent, there’s not much left for you to do.
The Number 1 Rule To Remember
The rule that makes or breaks the mystery of how to be heavy in BJJ is “Lift everything is off the ground. I’ll use side control as an example. Let’s say you want to have the dreaded 100 kilos position, but your pressure feels more like 10 oz. First up, place the center of gravity on your opponent’s ribs. Next, relax your body so that you feel like dead weight. Finally, make sure that nothing but your center of gravity and your toes are touching the opponent. That means hands off the floor, butt up, knees of the floor, shoulders of your opponent …. You get the picture.
Nothing but your toes and your center of gravity should be in contact with the bottom person or mats. At this point, you’ll feel like a 100 kilos, or near it to most. It is the labored breathing sounds that are you mark of success or failure.
Speaking of dead weight, let’s talk about that bit more. I already wrote that if you relax completely and thoroughly, you’ll be nearly immovable. However, it is hard to stay like that once an opponent starts moving. Naturally, we tense up, trying to retain the position, but make ourselves lighter in the process. And it is all about the mindset.
When you’re on top, think about being heavy, rather than holding an opponent down.
Imagine yourself as a balloon filled with water that’s on top of the opponent. Every time an opponent tries to move it, the balloon finds space to flow through, always aiming to reach the ground with the dead weight of the water inside it. There’s no objection to the opponent’s movements, but rather filling up any hole you might find, and which h will inevitably open when they try to move.
If at the same time nothing but your toes is touching the ground, you’ll now feel way heavier than just 100 kilos. And the concept works for every top position, not just side control.
Exploring Points Of Control
I’d like to point just two more things before I wrap this article up. First, whenever you’re on top, you’ll only be able to feel heavy and pressure someone if they’re not already deep into a defensive posture. You‘ll feel much heavier in certain positions compared to others, which is why you need to understand how to block people from moving. This completes the “how to be heavy in BJJ” equation.
To begin with, you have five points of control you’re looking for. First, you want to lift the near side elbow of the ground. Second, you want control over the chin/head. Third, you want to pin the far side shoulder to the mats. The fourth and fifth points have to do with the knees. The near side knee should always be off the mats, while the far side one should never pass the centerline of the opponent’s own body. If you have all five of these, along with the three principles from above, you’ve now figured out how to be heavy in BJJ.
The way to thin about a pin in Jiu-Jitsu is thinking about not letting a person mover in any direction, rather than trying to hold them down by fore. This means you’ll be in dynamic exchanges all the time while you’re’ trying to be heavy (or are heavy if you’ve got everything set up as I told you). Every time an opponent tries to move, you try and figure out if you have all five points under control. If you do, you’ve got them pinned even though they don’t feel stuck per se.
Finally, a little trick to make your weight even more painful from the top – dance a little Salsa. Seriously, from any top position where you’re heavy, and have control over several points, simply play around by moving your shoulders and your hips. This will cause unimaginable pain to your opponent and multiple how heavy you feel several times over.
How to be heavy in BJJ? Let’s recap:
- Place your center of gravity on your opponent, or on the mats.
- Relax your body, looking to become a “water balloon”.
- Keep everything but your toes off of the mats.
- Control the five points
- Dance some salsa move shoulders and hips) to make it all feel ten times more uncomfortable
So there you have it. The answer to the mystery of how to be heavy in BJJ boiled down to five points. If you go one by one, it’ll take you a month, maybe a bit more, of experimenting to get the entire formula down. Once you have it though, you’ll b able to apply it to any top position, becoming heavier than a mountain while not expending any energy to hold people down. Sweat, right?