Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Tap Earlier

Sometimes, I hear from people, who “used to do jiu-jitsu,” that they had to stop because they kept getting hurt. And usually, they blame their training partners.

I know someone who broke a rib in his first or second class (in a school I know nothing about, far away). That’s a bummer. In that case, it’s more than likely that the partner was at fault.

But for blue belts that quit “because of injuries,” I think it’s often their own fault. They’re simply not tapping soon enough. It could be an ego issue.1 Or awareness. Either way, the issue is tapping too late.

On an straight arm lock, there are many opportunities to tap.

Phase 1, which is too early, is when you’re caught in a bad position: Your opponent’s legs are over your face and chest, and his hips are tight, under your shoulder. But your arms are connected. Don’t tap now. (You’d have to release your own grip to do so, so you don’t even have a free hand to tap.2.)

Phase 2, is when your opponent has separated your arms. At this point, it’s two on one, and it’s almost over. Tap now. You may have strong biceps, but it’s not productive to continue resisting. It’s just a matter of seconds before the next phase.

Phase 3, your arm is outstretched. Here, you have some tricks that can save you, but if you fail, and if your partner cares as much about getting the tap as you care about not tapping, you’re going to get hurt.

Tapping early helps when there are people you want to avoid rolling with. Don’t take breaks. Focus on being present, and if you’re anywhere close to trouble, just tap. It’s better to get the rounds in, even if all you’re doing is avoiding injury during the roll.

Obviously, things are different in a competition. This is not about that. This is about training forever. Don’t quit at blue.

  1. I’m not one to say things like you need to have no ego, or leave the ego at the door. It’s a nice aphorism, but not as useful as it sounds if you think about it deeply. ↩︎

  2. Yes, you can tap verbally or with your feet, but now is not the time. ↩︎

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