It’s been said that humans are competitive creatures, we like to test ourselves and our abilities against the 6 billion other bodies that roam this earth. Some people do this on a smaller scale, always trying to out do their neighbours and colleagues and prove that they are the best.
This is were Jiu Jitsu is different. Our belt ranking system might be an indicator as to who has the best skill, or has proven their techniques over years of live sparring, but this doesn’t make us immortal. On any given day, a lower belt can catch their coach, and instead of the coach becoming irate, he will just slap hands and get back to rolling (hopefully with the confidence that he is showing the right techniques and his students are learning). The coach may up their game, but this is more to prove their ability to themselves than to assert dominance.
On the mats race, religion, money or fame doesn’t matter as long as your attitude is right and you are willing to learn and be humbled.
The object of BJJ is to submit your opponent using joint manipulation, pressure, or chokes. We aim to make our friends submit to our will, but once the submission is complete, we quickly release and help our opponent up to their feet, check they’re OK, then we slap hands and go again.
This ritual is repeated multiple times in classes across the world everyday, and this is what makes the sport so addictive. The art of the tap keeps us humble, helps us learn and most importantly gives us something to strive towards. It is what keeps us up at night, and motivates us to get better, especially when we get caught in it a few times in the same class.
As a white belt, going into a sparing session with anyone above your belt can be a pretty daunting task. Having watched this happen plenty of times, there are usually 3 different ways this plays out.
- A) The lower rank belt is too worried about getting tapped or smashed, so they play a very defensive game. This might work for a while, but eventually the higher belt gets bored and starts applying real pressure or goes in for the kill with their go to submission.
- B) The lower rank belt has a bit of confidence but lacks in their technique, so ends up spending a lot of time flailing about uncontrollably, risking injury for both parties until the higher rank gets frustrated, goes for the submission and decides against rolling with that training partner again.
- C) The lower rank belt competes at the pace of the higher rank, controlling and using what techniques they know. Usually when this happens, the higher rank belt understands the situation and a fun competitive roll ensues, usually with the higher belt getting a few submissions locked in, but not forcing their partner to tap and moves onto their next position.
Accepting that you might get tapped is an essential part of the Jiu Jitsu journey, but sometimes we forego the tap to save our pride, especially when there is something on the line.
When it’s time to compete a different animal appears. An animal that is ready to embrace the pain, exhaustion and possible injury, all in the hope of some bragging rights and maybe a trophy or medal. Even though this is the case, we still pick up our opponents, slap hands and leave our beef on the mats.
Yes, we may hold a defeat in competition a little closer than one in training, but this is what motivates us to get better and keeps us striving forward in our sport.
Tapping out is congratulating your opponent on their successful submission attempt, and accepting that there is always more to learn in your Jiu Jitsu journey.