Brilliant! Yes, this! My sensei sometimes advises students to "start earlier you think you have to" - meaning, when it's done properly, there are things going on very early that are essential to the eventual technique. But to get that, as you say, you have to watch early, too.
Dealing with stong folks is one of the benefits of having the sensei I lucked into. He's not a whole bunch taller than I am, and is not an overly buffed guy. While we dont have the same body type at all, neither of us can rely on size or strength. I am not as energizer bunny mobile as he is, but I can change the positions of my hands as I am grabbed.
With sensei, I watch the presentation. He always puts a person at a disadvantage from before they attack. With Andrew (a godan at the dojo, remarkable man, should be on the seminar circuit, imo) I watch the angles he uses. If I can get a tiny bit wise from watching each of them, I will be happy.