Knowing when to tap


Last Thursday was the first time that I was able to make it to the kids class since I got back from the Worlds. Unfortunately my training has gotten in the way of my helping instruct these classes. But with some adjustments in my schedule, I've been able to incorporate this back into my routine. I really missed working with the kids.

They offer me a different perspective. I learn a lot from the kids. Teaching forces me to focus on all of the small details apart of the reversals, sweep, choke, arm bar, etc. I also find their thirst for knowledge and care free spirits to be inspiring.

Some of the kids have been a part of this program for as long as two years. I can remember back when they were first taught the importance of tapping. One of the first moves that everyone needs to know in jiu-jitsu. Tapping is what makes jiu-jitsu a controlled sport. It is a way to prevent injury.

You would think that everyone would want to avoid getting hurt. Sometimes ego over shadows the sense of self preservation. It doesn't matter how old one is, some people are just simply not able to accept losing or being "beat by a girl, especially 7-year-old boys.

When I first starting instructing the kids class, I used to kind of toy with the kids like a cat does with its prey. I let them think they were getting away or sinking in a submission. Only to maneuver out and pass. Then sometimes I would make it seem as though they had "really" caught me in that triangle even though I was obviously taking them through the submission. My goal was to offer them confidence and for them to believe that anything is possible, even tapping the instructor.


However, when I over heard them talking on the side lines calculating on how many times they had beat me, I realized that I was doing them an injustice. They were not really making me tap. I knew that, but they didn't. I was instilling them with a sense of false confidence and reassurance. I was doing them more harm than good. Truth be told, they had a long way to go before any of them were really tapping out an instructor.

So, I've changed my tune. Granted I am a small, I am not as small as a 7-year-old. So if I were to go full speed or use full force I could crush their little ribs. By no means do I take it easy on them when it comes to technique. Now I have them plotting and scheming on me, which is a lot better in my opinion.

The other day I was rolling with a boy who is an competitor and shows a genuine interest in wanting to learn jiu-jitsu. He was the first to want to roll with me. He was determined to tap me or give it all he had. At about about 2.5 minutes of our 3 minutes round I caught him in an arm bar. It was obvious that he was not going to get out without tapping. But he would not tap. I sat there waiting for him to tap just barely extending my hips out applying minimal pressure. But still no tap. He was convinced that he did not have to or refused to because he didn't want to admit he had lost.

Not wanting to break anyones arm, especially a child's, I had to call tap for him. This is common with the kids. I know that they know how to tap, but not when. Perhaps their lack of tapping in time has to do with the fact that they don't understand the repercussions involved. Or maybe it's because pride gets in the way or maybe a little of both.

But it is not only the kids that I find this happens with, adults do it, too. It's on rare occasions that this has happened to me with adults. But typically it goes like this: some new guy will ask me to roll. I will agree and then they will just use muscle to maneuver out of a positions or submission attempts I apply. About a month ago I caught this one student in a tight arm bar. Being nice, since we were only training, I didn't wrench his arm out of socket as I would in a tournament. I applied just enough pressure to his extended arm to make it obvious that I had caught him. However, he absolutely refused to tap. In a last ditch effort he used what I describe as dirty tactics to free his arm. He applied the knee-to-eye move. That is he used his knee to my eye. FYI: It was a totally inappropriate move to use in training ... especially to a woman.


Not knowing when to tap could be a painful lesson to learn. One that will put you out for a while. Allowing the ego to dictate will only hinder the progression in jiu-jitsu. In my opinion, not being able to recognize and address weakness, leaves no room for growth.


  1. Good article.

    There's a really good thread on the topic of tapping, which I take any opportunity to link (it really helped me when I started, though that was only 3 and a bit years ago):

    Training, Stagnation & Tapping


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