tapping in bjj

Tapping in BJJ IS Losing, IT’S Failure  

This morning I saw a video showing a guy at a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournament who simply REFUSED to use tapping out as an option. He continued even after being caught in several submissions. One leg lock attempt that left him visibly injured, to the point where he could no longer stand without a limp

Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it:


Why Didn’t You Tap???

I’ve run into the “Not Tapping” thing several times in my 14+ years of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training.

There was this time when I was a White Belt.  These 3 MMA fighters stopped by our gym for a grappling class. During the class one of my good friends who was nearing his Blue Belt (but was still a White Belt) caught one of the MMA fighters in a Kimura. As he cranked the guys arm the MMA fighter began to grunt and make sounds of discomfort. My friend sensing the pain eased up and held the position of the Kimura but stopped cranking it any further.

Eventually our coach stepped in and broke it off. The MMA fighter then stood up screaming about how he hadn’t tapped and my coach calmly informed him that he was saving his shoulder so he could train tomorrow.

The man stormed out of the room.


Why Didn’t You Tap?

As a coach I’ve run into this before as well. I once had a situation with a student who REFUSED to tap to things. In a lot of cases till it was too late.

In one particular instance. One of my other student’s placed a wrist lock onto another student who refused to tap. As the wrist lock slowly got tighter and tighter, the student applying the lock asked verbally, “Are you alright?”

To which the non-tapping student replied, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

There eventually came a POP and my non-tapping student stood up clutching his wrist while wincing in pain. I quickly rushed over to look at the person and see what exactly happened.

The student who applied the submission was visibly shaken by the fact that he hurt a fellow training partner. Contrary to the hard nature of training and potential of submissions. Most people don’t enjoy hurting their training partners.

I quickly, took the student over to the side and asked, “Hey man, did it hurt when the wrist lock was being applied?”

The student’s reply came as he was still holding the injured wrist in his other palm, “Yeah. . .”

My face at this point had to have been one of just complete anger because I was so irritated by that response. Then I asked the question that got to the root of the issue. “Why didn’t you tap????”

His reply sums up why some people still insist on waiting till the last possible moment or refuse to tap at all, “Because I didn’t want to lose.”

After hearing this. . . I lost it a bit and went on a long rant about training properly.

Not Tapping is like Not Respecting The Check Mate in Chess

Even at my worst in regards to being overly competitive and going too hard. I still tapped all the time. Could you imagine all the injuries if I hadn’t tapped often. I wouldn’t be able to do BJJ today. Even today. I’ll tap very quickly than risk my long term ability to train and just be a human. No tournament or win during a roll is worth 3 – 12 months of time off the mat and away from my students as well as the possibly long term consequences.

Also, if you don’t tap. You’re not respecting the game of rolling. Rolling is 100% a game. There are players, with basic rules to govern the environment and finally there is a way to win and lose.

When you don’t tap to a submission. It’s like playing a game and not respecting the rules once you’ve lost. It’s as if you were playing a game of chess. And once your partner established a check mate against you. Instead of saying good game and rearranging your pieces. You begin to just start moving your pieces as if nothing happened.

The difference though is that where as in a chess game you can always just get your pieces back after the game. When you don’t tap to legitimate submissions. You don’t get those “pieces” you’ve lost back.


Tapping IS Losing, IT’S Failure

People use this saying that tapping isn’t losing, it’s learning. I don’t agree with that exactly.

Tapping is losing. You lost. . . plain and simple. You can doll it up however you want to in order to make yourself feel better, but it’s losing. We play a game and when you tap, you lose. When you get the tap, you win.

That said, tapping out is still learning. As is every loss and failure. And I feel like that’s one of the benefits to BJJ is becoming ok with losing.

Failures are like the scars that lay scattered around my eyebrows. Each one of them has a story of me doing something wrong. The only reason I have the scars are because I did something wrong. And you better believe that I learned from them and corrected the mistakes later on. And I wear the scars proudly.

There’s no shame in losing, and failure. Here’s the root issue that a lot of us have trouble with. Including myself at times. We act as if failure is so bad. But it’s not. It’s only bad if you perceive it to be so and give it that negative power. It’s the failures we experience that really push us forward and make us better. Nothing lights a fire under you or makes you get your shit together quite like screwing something up. And behind each failure is a story of you not doing something correctly. And you’ve got to be open to reviewing that story to get the most out of anything.

So respect your opponent’s by playing the game of rolling correctly. Respect your body and it’s longevity by tapping to legitimate submission attempts. And lastly, embrace your failures. Lose the aversion you have to failure and move towards it! Failing is what you’re supposed to do! Because that’s where you need to go to improve.




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