One of my oldest friends, Tony Pinckard, graciously agreed to make this guest post. He is an amazing BJJ instructor and brown belt under Danny Dring at LDMA Martial Arts. Along with being an inspiration on the mats, he has also been writing short stories ever since I’ve known him. He brings a great sense of humor and high level of intelligence to the game, and I’m so excited for him to share his insights with you.
I know I’ve not posted in a while, but that’s not because I’ve just been sitting around! I’ve taken some time away from writing to focus on building my social media presence (follow me on Facebook and Instagram!) and developing some new BJJ themed apparel (Free Shipping if you use this link: click here)!
Guest Post by Tony Pinckard, BJJ Brown Belt
My name is Tony Pinckard and I would like to share some insight into what it is like as a smaller grappler training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I am currently a brown belt and for reference sake, I typically weigh 140ish pounds at most. I have done most of my competitions at the 130 pounds and under division which means I could actually make weight to fight in numerous kids divisions. What I am trying to say is that I am not very intimidating. A quote comes to mind:
“God made big men. And God made small men. Sam Colt made them equal.”
When I slap hands and bump fists with the person in front of me I have often thought of the above words. However, it is typically frowned upon to bring a gun to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu roll no matter how large and/or terrifying your partner is. So I am typically left with two options:
Option 1: Suck it up and hope that my level of technique and skill make up for any discrepancy in size.
Option 2: Pretend to tie my belt for most of the 6 minute round and try to find someone closer to my size to roll with afterward. Perhaps a child.
Usually, I go with option 1, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes option 2 seems pretty appealing. The truth is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is hard no matter who you are. Being small just ups the difficulty even more. For me personally, that means I get smashed and sat on a lot. More than anyone should be comfortable with, really. Often you can see me peeking out from under someone just waiting to spring into action. Sometimes the wait is long. Sometimes I don’t escape. And that is okay.
When I first started doing Jiu-Jitsu everything seemed impossible. It was frustrating not being able to do any of the moves I was shown. It was unpleasant being squished and a lot of times I thought maybe I just really sucked.
It took me over 6 months to sub another person in a live roll and I still remember what it felt like to this day.
After all these years Jiu-Jitsu is still challenging. That is what makes it worth it to me. It is easier, but it is not easy. When I roll with white belts who are significantly bigger than me it is not a walk in the park. I still feel accomplished every single time I train. There are days on the mats I feel like I can do no wrong. Then there are days where I feel like nothing is working for me. All days are equally good as long as you train with people you care about.
Over the years, I have learned and refined countless techniques to help me in my journey. But instead of telling you techniques that work for me I’d like to share some thoughts that have helped me along the way. None of it will be sage advice and most of it you have probably heard before, but perhaps today you needed to hear some of them again. In no particular order:
1. When I first started I spent a lot of time being frustrated by what people were doing to me. One day a larger white belt spent an entire round grinding his shoulder into my face. We never left the starting position. I remember that night I decided to no longer spend my energy being annoyed about stuff I couldn’t control. Instead, I would try to learn everything I could about stopping someone from doing whatever it was that was causing me frustration. I have trained that way ever since. I still got smashed a lot, things I don’t like still happened to me. They are always opportunities to learn more.
2. Be consistent in your training. The more you learn and practice the easier it is to apply.
3. Be a good training partner. There are a million things that make someone a good training partner. Strive to be all million of those things.
4. Ask questions. There is a difference between knowing the right move and not being able to do it for whatever reason and simply not knowing what the right move is at all. What might take you a month to figure out on your own your Coach could show you in two minutes. If you want to learn faster, learn to ask specific questions.
5. Never compare yourself to anyone but yourself. I love Rafa Mendes. I’ll never be as good as Rafa Mendes. What I can be is the best version of me.
6. Trust your Coach. You may not understand their advice at the time but remember they already walked the road you are on. They can see the full picture that sometimes you can not. Things that didn’t make sense to me years ago make perfect sense today.
7. Get comfortable in uncomfortable positions. Learn to control your breathing, stay safe and not to panic.
8. If you wait until the other person tires out during your roll your escapes work a lot better.
9. The more times you fail the closer you will be to success. Don’t confuse “didn’t work that time” with “it doesn’t work. “After you fail with that move a few hundred more times you’ll be much closer to getting it to work.
10. Have fun!
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a tough sport. Tougher still if you are smaller than everyone. It is also super rewarding. I hope this helps someone on their journey. Even if it is only for one more day. That could be the day you decide to never quit. I still remember the day I decided. So far so good.
Special thanks to my coach, Danny Dring, for always providing what I needed when I needed it. He has freely shared his time, knowledge and expertise with me on and off the mats. The lessons I have learned in grappling are thanks to his willingness to pass on information he has spent a lifetime gathering. For that I am forever thankful.
I just want to give Tony a huge thank you for spending his time and energy on this post. If you’re ever in the Little Rock, Arkansas area and feel like getting choked, look him up! If you have the opportunity to train with him, attend one of his seminars, or even get a private lesson from him, I would highly recommend it.