I know, I know, what am I talking about? While it can be read on many BJJ websites/blogs/pages/ads/flyers/memes that tapping is the way to go and on average a black belt has tapped 10,000 times (really? is that all it takes?) and that’s the way to learn and just tap! and just tap again! Let go of your ego and tap! Well, I have a confidence to make: you don’t have to tap!
This post is inspired by one of my training partners who is going to remain anonymous, I will just refer to him as Renato.
It was right after his second fight in a recent tournament and Renato tapped to an armbar after having defending multiple triangle choke attempts and armbar attempts too. So he taps, both he and his opponent stand up, the ref raises his opponent’s hand and declares him a winner. At that point, the face of Renato looks like a mixture of anger, disappointment, low self esteem, you know what I mean, he had to tap and surrender to the better guy on that day. He walks back to the warm up area and I tell him he did a very good job defending the multiple attacks. His first response was: “You know the worst thing about all this though?” I was thinking about a couple of things but not what he was going to say so I go: “No, what’s that?” And there it was: “The worst thing is that I had to tap!” to which I answered: “You don’t have to tap”.
Hold it right there! Before people accuse me of big headeditis, melonitis or egotism (these are very serious conditions and might prevent you from improving your game by the way, watch out!), I would like to say that where I come from there a saying: “stupid question/comment = stupid answer”. My point is I wasn’t telling Renato that he shouldn’t tap, I was just telling him that he has the choice and therefore face the consequences of his actions. You don’t choose to tap from an armbar, bam! your elbow bends the other way. You refuse to submit to a choke, sleep tight sweetie. Well, I guess some of us have to work the next day so I think you’d better tap. Tapping is the way to learn about your jujitsu, about your strengths and weaknesses, about adjusting your game to this or that opponent/training partner. Tapping doesn’t mean losing. I came across a Robson Moura video recently in which he explains about tapping out regularly, wise words.
Tapping is the way to tell your opponent that he managed to put you in a situation that cannot be improved. It is a way to tell him that his technique is legit and his game is improving. Trust me, there is no shame in tapping and BJJ is far more than just tapping to a submission. When I reflect on why I tapped to this or that submission, it always makes me think about Kurt Osiander and the way he puts it just makes perfect sense. It goes something like this: “Well if you end up here, you f***ed up a long time ago!” Defend or move (shrimp/bridge/escape) before you end up in a situation in which your only option is to tap. Don’t go there in the first place.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the sub-only game and see a fight has ended by way of submission in competition jujitsu but it is rare that the submission comes in a few seconds (I know it happened recently at the ADCC competition). Fighters have to work on their position, transition, timing, balance etc…
I understand that people see BJJ as a self defense system too and most of it (I mean Gracie Jujitsu) is based on defending yourself against an attacker but it doesn’t mean you have to make the other one tap, you can just run/walk away, neutralise him/her until more help is available to you.
Anyway, this is open to dialogue and debate and you are more than welcome to do so in the comments, I just wanted to share my feelings about the famous/infamous tap or not to tap topic.
See you on the mats or in the treatment room.