FighterEmpire Interview with Gilbert Jamal Smith teaching us how to maintain a dominant position

“When my opponent is significantly stronger than me what can I do to make sure that they do not gain a dominant position on the ground?”

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Gilbert Jamal Smith: “Typically, when you’re going against a bigger person you don’t wanna fight strength for strength. So you’re gonna use technique alotta times I’ll tell my students to play the small man game. You gotta be nice and small and agile I’ll like to particularly use my speed and my agility to get around the bigger stronger object the problem is that the people when your opposition and your strength you’ll wanna fight back in the same manner but you can’t. You’ll start playing more of a game of chess and less of a game of checkers I’ll advise my students to play the small man game keep in tight and look for opportunities where you can use more leverage so you can gain a better advantage and not just strength. So for me it’s not as technical it’s more philosophy and strategy.”

“Even after I manage to get a dominant position like the mount my opponent is still able to escape. What tips do you have to make sure that they will stay where I want them?”

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Gilbert Jamal Smith: “If you’re in a position like the mount what really helps is having heavy hips to be able to sink your hips in. You can sink your hips so far into the sternum that you can actually levitate by putting your arms up in the air because now you’re holding your body up just by your hips driving down and your core strength and from there alotta times with people on the bottom they try to shrimp out we gonna hand fight em. Were gonna make sure that they’re hands aren’t pushing on our knees and try to keep they’re bodies flat on their back when they start turning they start to get their hips out and shrimping that’s when it causes problems.
So the goal to keep the back flat on the mat and one of the things that helps like I said create heavy hips. As far other positions from side mount or half guard have a strong underhooks and create heavy hips will really help to make sure the person stays in position flat on there back it’s sort of an oxymoron but you gotta create no space your movements gotta be tight you gotta be precise and have nice strong hips.”

FighterEmpire: “And how would you recommend strengthening your hips?”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: There’s two parts strengthening hips, and having decent hip flexibility. Because alotta people tend to have very tight hip flexor muscles. They’re hip flexor muscles are like the solar ab muscles so mostly when you bending down those are the muscles you us. there’s your hip flexors muscles you would use and the reason is alotta people sit down for a long period of time watching tv, on the computer, driving so those muscles become super tight and then the glutes they become in a extended position meaning they become weak so you need to increase the strength of your hip extensors then increase the flexibility of your hip flexors so with that said deadlifts, kettlebell swings, hip bridges things that to physically finish the exercise you have to really drive your hips and use your glutes to get stronger. One thing people do wrong so like a deadlift they come up and won’t quite finish they won’t stand up and flex the glutes get those things super tight drive your hips I’m not saying to overextend your back don’t leaning back that’s too much pressure on the lumbar spine but the full range of motion go all the way down make your hips 90 degrees and drive and when you finish the drive squeeze your buttcheeks. So doing that from deadlift kettlebell swings those things will actually get your hips alot stronger.”

“Once I’ve been put into a position like the mount and my opponent starts ground and pounding me or going for submissions I start to panic making it even harder to escape. How do you keep your cool and escape while being ground and pounded?

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Gilbert Jamal Smith: “Well first and foremost the biggest thing about these positions is not getting in that position if you get put in a mount against a big guy you’re basically already screwed. If you allowed the guy to get there you’re already screwed. So maybe you wanna tap out. Take it slow and understand what he has to do to land a strike he has to posture up so you want to buck and bridge and shrimp out. So on the ground one thing we’re not gonna do is put our hands on our head and block so tightly because you’re still taking the brunt of the punch so when someone’s throwing those wild loopy punches trying to finish the fight we catch it and we call that the meathook don’t set your arm straight they’ll go for an armbar. keep it 45 degrees and catch in the and try to catch and when you catch the punch and when you wrap it up and when this is JiuJitsu you have to think about bucking and bridging. Buck bridge shrimp those things have to be consistent you can’t let the other person settle.

meaning that the level of intensity meaning that if someone’s about to get a mount on me as soon as I feel I’m losing my position I’m bucking and mounting I can’t let this person settle. Mot letting him settle every second you let him settle the more your securing his position increasing the difficulty of getting outta there. Some guys no matter what you do you’re gonna get mounted that’s the way of life there’s always someone bigger and badder if you can help it when in the mount buck and bridge right there you cannot I’m gonna try and work out of it.”

“Even though I am a big guy and can overpower most people I always lose my ego rolling with more experienced people in the gym. The thinnest, wiriest dudes will flip me, sweep me, and use their technique to almost completely void my strength. Is muscle not much of a factor in BJJ?”

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Gilbert Jamal Smith: “Thats why BJJ was established for a weaker guy to use techniques that would allow for a smaller guy to take out a bigger guy. If you roll with a flexible guy a tall guy a small guy you have to respond a way around these oppositions. if you are the strong guy and that’s all you have your gonna fail. You have to be able to increase your knowledge base in grappling and understanding movements you have to understand how to attack how to defend, it comes with experience it comes with training but you have to have an open mind. Just like in boxing, I can’t tell you how many times that come in my gym a complete meathead that can lift 1000 pounds but punches like a little girl because they have no mechanics behind their punch. It’s the same thing with the jiujitustu these muscles ain’t going to save you against somebody with good technique. so with that said I’m not saying having strength is a bad thing. If two people have the same technique it will go to the bigger stronger guy. So its not like strength is a bad thing. But in BJJ it shouldn’t be your main focus.”

FighterEmpire: “So experience and technique is always going to beat strength in BJJ?”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: “I wouldn’t say always.”

FighterEmpire: “Strength within reason?”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: “Yeah I’d put my money somebody with more experience and more technique.”

“Whenever I attempt a submission and fail, my opponent escapes into a better position over me and I’m screwed. It makes me not even want to try. What can I do to prevent this? Are there certain submissions keep me still in a strong position?

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Gilbert Jamal Smith: “Well first and foremost, I would say not to stop trying. Any man will tell you that… any businessman will tell you that, any athlete will tell you that. If you go for an armbar and the guy arms gets out his posture your movement isn’t as fast as it needs to be. Create space don’t be afraid to make mistakes I’d never go against somebody that has the attack mentality. That’s the way you should be. I believe in jiujitsu some moves are more difficult than others but using some fancy move you saw on youtube stick to the fundamentals and the basics and practice and drill. If you practice one move two times then go live you’ll get killed. But if you practice your moves 1000 times and try to become better you keep learning from your mistakes. There are moves that you know this is all a philosophy thing its all about perfecting your craft getting better at it keep rolling, keep attacking, keep training with your professor your coach. You’ll learn from the mistakes you’re making so don’t give up.”

FighterEmpire: “How important are your grappling skills to your technique?”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: “For me it’s the biggest aspect of my fighting game for those that know me I have a significant amount of submission victories on my record. I’m pretty proud about that don’t get me wrong kickboxing I love it. In the end of the day people love to see knockouts. They appreciate submissions but they love to see a knockout. But I am who I am I’m not going to change. I believe Jiujitsu grappling always got that little ace in my pocket I can pull out so I can survive down there. It’s a big part of my game.”

FighterEmpire: “Would you say an MMA fighter could succeed in the ring without any grappling knowledge or skill at all and relying solely on striking ability?”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: “No that’s completely ridiculous.” 

FighterEmpire: “So to be a well rounded fighter you need grappling you can’t base without it at all?”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: “Of course, yeah.”

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