Staying calm while getting smothered in training

One of the things that us beginners seem to struggle with in Brazilian Jiujitsu is being smothered. A few days ago I rolled with a brand new member and he told me that he felt suffocated and a feeling of panic as I was on top of him and controlling him. I speak more about my thoughts on working with newer beginners here.

It makes sense that he’d say that, I know exactly what he’s talking about! I’ve experienced that same feeling as a brand new beginner and even now as slightly less of a beginner.

When you are rolling with someone who is really good, and has a great base, they can feel like they weigh a ton on top of you. The feeling can instill a feeling of panic as you fight to get the pressure off of you. But you have to learn that panicking only drains your energy, freaking out and flailing like a madman is a perfect way to get caught in a submission, or to simply wear yourself out.

With my limited experience, the simplest way I can describe what to do is to simply relax. Being smothered won’t stop your breathing, and yes though it is uncomfortable it’s not a submission and it won’t break you. Just chill and wait them out, work for position, remember your training, or simply just use it as an opportunity to get used to it.

Sometimes you’ll end up with someone’s cup or crotch on your nose, or one of these guys who doesn’t wear a rash guard will have their hairy nipple in your face, sure, it’s gross, and you may panic, but keep it cool. Relax and wait for an opportunity to advance your position.

BJJ is a very physical art. People will drip sweat on you, ass you in the face, bleed on you, and put you in all sorts of awkward positions, that’s just the nature of the sport. Sometimes they’ll fart, and in some extreme cases end up shitting on themselves. Shit happens, literally. Suck it up, shower, change, and carry on.

Seriously speaking though, understand that a lot of times when you are in an uncomfortable position, that’s all it is, uncomfortable. They likely can’t submit you or hurt you, it’s just uncomfortable and you need to relax. That will happen a lot of times, just keep it cool and deal with it until you can improve your position. The better you get, the more comfortable you will become at escaping and staying out of those positions. I’m not quite there yet, but I’ve observed it in my teammates and I know it’s only a matter of time before I (and you) will learn it too!

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