"The Tap" - Understanding it and using it properly
One of the challenges of Jiu Jitsu is the fact that we (at some base level) are signing off to allow other people attempt to hurt us via submission (a choke, an arm bar, a leg lock, etc.). There is a signicant degree of trust and responsibility involved to ensure folks don't get injured.
Jiu Jitsu is a combative martial art / sport. It's beauty comes from learning how to work against an uncooperative opponent effectively in a live exchange. What's fantastic is when it's done properly you experience all the exhileration and rush of a true competition (controlled combat) without injury or damage (even if you lose). It really is amazing. Jiu Jitsu is also known as "Arte Suave" - the gentle art, for this reason.
The safety valves to this potential harmful exchange are:
1. "The Tap"
2. Good training partners
3. The proper training environment / culture
Today, let's focus on "The Tap".
What is "The Tap"?
At the most basic level, the tap is surrendering / declaring "uncle, you got me." The informal protocol to tapping goes as follows:
1. Physically tapping your opponent three times. (This is the best means of communicating because your opponent will feel it.)
2. Physically tapping the mat three times.
3. Verbally tapping by saying "tap, tap, tap".
Which ever way a person taps, it should be clear, decisive, and easy to interprete by everyone in the room. Upon sensing the tap, your opponent should immediately let go of the submission and no injury should occur.
Clarifying question: Who is responsible for your safety and well being?
Clarifying answer: You.
It is always your job to protect yourself from injury or harm. If your intuition gives your signals or you see yourself at risk, always error on the side of caution and protect yourself. It's better to be safe and realize you could have gone a little longer / further in the exchange than the other way around.
If you ignore the signals / signs and don't protect yourself and get injured, then you're out of the game / off the mats. That's a HUGE (and unnecessary) sacrifice.
As a beginner, the tap is your friend.
"Tap early and tap often." This is a GREAT piece of advise I didn't run across until well into my Jiu Jitsu journey (some where around the ten year mark). When I began, it was all about being tough and not giving up easily. As a matter of fact, taps were such a bad thing, I'd do almost anything not to tap. Not surprisingly, my elbows were sore for a long time (18 + months) because I would fight tapping to an armbar for long periods of time under pressure and inflamed by bicep tendons on both arms. Who's fault was that? Mine. Once caught, I should have tapped early, learned why I got caught in the position, and move on. Insead, I was trying to resist a submission deep into the position, not working an escape or counter but holding on and proving I was gritty. If Tom today was coaching Tom as a beginner, he would say "tap, learn, move on, keep rolling, repeat, forever".
Reframing the tap
Rather than thinking of tapping as failure and a sign of weakness, the tap needs to be reframed as a natural part of the learning / discovery process and a longevity / good health tool.
Jiu Jitsu is a complex, technical sport. If you're going to get good at it, you've got to play the long game and be willing to put in some serious time ... it doesn't come easy (but most things that are good don't). You've got to do whatever you can to be on the mats as much as possible and get a lot of repition / volume of training in. As such, the tap is your salvation. It keeps you in the game. Sure, you will tap and thus lose an exchange (but more importantly, what did you learn from it? ... and did you keep yourself healthy?).
So you tap. So what? Everyone taps. It's part of the process it. Accept it and use it. It will make your training much more enjoyable. The key is that you keep training / getting as much mat time as possible while being healthy.
People who don't tap (or are very slow to tap) will get injured. Injury leads to interrupted learning, lost momentum, and a significant decrease is fun and enjoyment. Making the learning of Jiu Jitsu (the technical aspect and the speed in which you learn) a game. See how well you can play that game.
The trick is to train intensely while using the tap as a safety tool. Trust me, you'll learn more, be hurt less, and increase your enjoyment daily and throughout your entire Jiu Jitsu journey.
So, the question of the day, what will you do to remind you of the positive affects of using the tap wisely? Is your goal to never tap to show the world how tough you are or is you goal to learn this beautiful sport in a healthy, thoughtful, sustainable way so you can do it for the next forty plus years? You decide. ;-)
Keep doing ... daily ... forever! ! !