How “Tapping Out” Makes You Better In Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts
by Ryan Young, Professor, Kama Jiu-Jitsu
There was an academy whose name made it clear the owner didn’t believe in the virtues of “tapping out.” In fact, I knew he lived in my neighborhood in Tustin because I frequently saw his truck parked in the neighborhood. The vanity plate on his truck was the name of his academy.
Of course, wrong as I think the mindset is, I understand the thought he wants to convey, and in reality, their BJJ instructor (who just worked there and isn’t responsible for the name) was not one who thought that way.
People with this mindset is pretty common in Jiu-Jitsu schools. They typically fit this profile;
1) he was probably a competitive athlete in another contact sport (like football, boxing, or wrestling) before he ever started in jiu-jitsu or MMA.
2) he was probably approaching his training like he was going to enter an MMA event in the near future and “mess someone up.”
3) he likely trained in everything he did with a very high intensity level, thinking that if he trained REALLY hard and fast, his conditioning would increase and he’d be able to keep up that pace even longer the next time.
4) expanding on #3, he probably slapped submissions on quickly, and used a lot of explosiveness in his techniques.
5) he was probably pretty damn strong.
6) he probably injured a LOT of training partners, though pretty much always unintentionally. In other words, training partners often looked at training with him as a chore (if they were better than him), or as a battle for survival or a battle for injury prevention (“Just don’t get hurt…”).
7) he’s usually technically lacking vs his training partners, but beats everyone because he’s bigger/faster/stronger than whoever he beats of similar (or higher) rank. Be ready to tap out quick, or else something’s gonna “pop.” Often, his technical level tops out at MAYBE purple belt, despite training regularly for 10 years or more.
8) he often gets worked over and played with by the smaller and more technical purple, brown, or black belts every time, gets tapped, gets pissed, and wonders, “what the heck am i doing wrong?” then answers that question by concluding that he needs to hit the gym tomorrow harder to get in better condition.
9) He hates tapping out; sees it as losing, even if it’s to a training partner in his own academy. He also seldom gives up position on someone willingly, and when he loses position unexpectedly, goes “ape-shit” to get his position back.
10) His game is never characterized as slow and “flowing;” his game is characterized by speed, strength, and power.
Over my years in this art, I’ve known so many of these guys, I’ve lost count. To my recollection, NONE, I repeat, NONE, of these guys ever got their black belt.
A Simple Plan Of Action
All along, the simple solution to this problem really can be solved with four things;
1) Relaxing – Training relaxed allows you to see what’s going on around you by “taking the blinders off,” while also allowing your body to be able to move to meet changing situations. If your body is tense and rigid, you won’t be able to “untense” your body to be able to move to another position instantly.
2) Tapping Willingly (And Happily) – One major consequence of not being ready and willing to tap is a heightened probability of injury. Remember, a benefit of training in Jiu-Jitsu is that we can go “full-bore” and be pretty realistic. The problem is, if you’re not careful to protect yourself, an injury is not probable, it is likely.
3) Evaluating What Went Wrong – In this way, improving in Jiu-Jitsu is no different than improving in any other task in life. You need to see what you did wrong that put you in a position to submit to your opponent. Usually, the best person to ask, is the opponent who just submitted you.
4) Correcting the mistake, And Then Trying Again.
If you choose to not follow a plan such as what I outlined above, any training session you complete will just make you feel you participated in a wasted training session, and wasted an opportunity to improve.
The Good And Bad Of Jiu-Jitsu Types
By nature, Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are type A people. We’re competitive. We’re often aggressive. We’re egomaniacs. Even the passive among us are closet competitive/aggressive/egomaniacal. Those attitudes are great for those of us who want to become successful, since those characteristics are what give us the drive to succeed.
However, those characteristics, if not kept in check, are also our biggest downfall.
I can’t tell you how many students we’ve taught who are successful in just about all aspects in life. Then they try their hand at Jiu-Jitsu, and end up quitting out of frustration.
The importance of embracing the concept of tapping out is this; it tells you that you need to improve something you missed on the way to being submitted. It tells you that you’re still on this journey, and that you still have a lot to learn, making for a great future for you. It enables you to get to the point of feeling comfortable in all the bad positions.
Jiu-Jitsu is all about developing a sense of comfort in uncomfortable positions and situations. Seek and embrace the uncomfortable situations in your training.
Hate being under mount?
Find the teammate with the most killer mount and ask them to start mounted on you.
Hate being under knee on belly?
Find the teammate with the most painful knee on belly and ask them to start with their knee on your belly.
Tapping out enables you to get to the point of being totally relaxed in a bad position, yet “undefeatable,” because you’ve “been here before,” and learned how to prevail.
I learned this concept from Professor Dave, who has allowed himself to be tapped out to me many times.
Yes, I tapped out Professor Dave (“Freaking”) Kama on more than a few occasions over the years!
But guess what, the reason why he tapped out to me was NOT because I “beat” him, but because he was working on a solution to a particular position (for his benefit), and using me to help expose the missing parts in his game (deliberately putting himself in uncomfortable positions), unbeknownst to me, of course (he’s sneaky like that).
And you know what? He would only tap to me in that transition/submission ONCE, maybe twice.
After that, he “dialed in” what he was working on (the solution/escape), and I was no longer able to tap him in that particular thing again.
So you see, “tapping” eventually makes you “undefeatable,” as Master Rickson often says.
Happy, Successful Training!
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