Teaching BJJ: An Open Letter to My Heavier Students

So, I teach a couple of classes during the week, and recently have had some heavier students come through. This is my letter to them, which I thought you all might enjoy as well:

Hey you,

You, the student who has to stop sometimes in the middle of warm ups because they are too out of breathe to continue. The student who hesitates to put too much weight on someone, possibly due to a lifetime of remarks about your size. The one who some students have trouble wrapping their legs around and crossing their ankles for closed guard-you, the one who ties your belt and then looks at me almost embarrassed because your stomach hangs over your knot. The student who doggedly tries a technique over and over, who needs to take the extra time to get through a technique because of a difference in size, or because you feel your weight is an encumbrance.

I am so happy you are here and never, ever want you to feel like you are not welcome in my class.

I’m glad you’re here because more than anything you have made an incredibly bold move to do something to improve your quality of life. Sure, it would be easy to just stay at home, or go to a gym and just mindlessly run on a treadmill, but you decided to put yourself into a group setting to learn jiu jitsu. It’s hard sometimes, putting yourself out there, throwing yourself into a sport where you will be faced with situations where your physical fitness, and your weight can be highlighted at times.

I’m proud that you took these risks, that you are venturing outside of your comfort zone and you are trying to do what you can in these classes. I’m proud that after you stumble, you get back up and try again. That when you stop to take a breath during our warm ups, you don’t give up and you jump right back in, that you drill and want to learn how best to perform these techniques.

The only thing I ask is that you continue to come to class consistently, and continue with the drive and purpose that I have seen from you since the beginning. It won’t always be easy, we all have days when we just aren’t feeling it but I want you to always put in your best effort possible. I know you have doubts, especially at the lower ranks, but I promise you there will be such an unmistakable feeling of accomplishment  when you are able to successfully pull off that sweep or submission you have been drilling over and over again, it makes all that work worth it.

I don’t know what your specific motivation for coming to train may be- maybe it’s to lose weight, maybe not, but my biggest wish is that through jiu jitsu you become the healthiest, happiest version of yourself, regardless of what size.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Teaching BJJ: An Open Letter to My Heavier Students

  1. AnthonyR

    Awesome post!

  2. I agree with Anthony. Awesome post! What a great message! Keep up the great work.

  3. Pingback: November 20, 2013 | BJJ News

  4. This really hit home for me. As a larger practitioner (260 lbs), there are just some things that are difficult for us to do (this is looking at you, Inverted Anything). I know I have been having a tough time lately getting motivated to get to the gym and this blog really got me thinking. Luckily, having been involved with CrossFit, I don’t find myself winded too often but sometimes, there’s just “stuff” in the way, haha!

    I appreciate you writing this as it’s always nice to hear from those who are far more experienced. Now to get back into class!

  5. Marcus

    As a 41 year old guy who weighs 252 pounds who has just started BJJ I have start crying at work. The people I train with are amazing, really supportive but there is always a little niggling feeling that I am never going to get it.

    • Katie

      That’s great to hear that you just started Jiu jitsu- consistency really is key. And weight loss may not be your primary goal- by still attending class, drilling and training you can, and will find ways to adapt techniques to your body type.

      But, you have to go to class to make this all happen 😉

  6. In my time involved with BJJ I’ve seen so many people lose weight as a result of training. Some of my students I have currently, started at an incredibly unhealthy weight with terrible eating habits and many hadn’t exercised in years. Fast forward, they’ve lost 40lbs, 60lbs, 80lbs even 120lbs in some cases.

    The key to losing the weight and improving yourself is what Katie talks about in her post. Consistency! Be consistent and don’t give up. Make everyday a chance to improve just a little bit.

    If you’re reading this and you are a little heavier and in need of a little inspiration, here. One of my students (someone whom it took 6 months to build up the courage to walk into the gym) came in severely overweight and couldn’t even finish a modest warm up in class. They would wheeze and need a break multiple times. Fast forward a little over a year, they lost over 100lbs won an amateur MMA fight and several BJJ tournaments.

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