“You are strong.” Insult or Compliment?

Twenty years.  That’s how long I’ve been lifting weights.  It’s important to me.  Strength training has shaped my life; my mind and my body.  As a result, I shamelessly admit I like when people tell me, “You are strong!”

Damn straight.

Typically, I’ll politely accept the compliment.  On occasion, I’ll kindly shrug it off by pointing out I’m unfathomably weak compared to the world’s strongest.  The point is, I interpret the statement, “You are strong” as a compliment.

(not my image)

(not my image)

The funny thing is, when it comes to jiu jitsu, I can’t help but take that statement as an insult. “You are strong” gets scrambled by my mental filter, and the interpretation that sticks is: “The only reason you beat me is you are an ox.  Your technique sucks!”

I know that I’m not the only grappler that shares this belief, so I made a point to tell one of my strong, gigantic training partners, Jared, that he will probably hear that insult veiled as a compliment quite a bit, as he is getting pretty damn good. He weighs upwards of 250, so I believe his technique will often be misconstrued as him winning simply due to his size. My buddy, Seth, overheard me and disagreed. He acknowledged that he, too, thought like me at one point.  Seth went on to point out that in the majority of circumstances, the statement “You are strong” is meant as a compliment, even in jiu jitsu.      That got me thinking, and I realized I was very likely projecting my own fears of not being very technical on to other people when they might be meaning well! From now on, I’ll just assume people mean it as a compliment in all aspects.

Note to self: If I set up and execute a smooth, technical arm bar on somebody and they promptly tell me I’m strong, I can always reply, “Thanks!  The way to get out of that arm bar I just put you in is to work on your triceps kickbacks.  Good luck, bud.”


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