“Checkmate! That one word captures the elegance of chess, where the goal of the game is to take your opponent’s King, but the final move is never played. Rather, players try to maneuver their enemy into a position from which there is no escape and then accept their surrender.. In submission grappling the tap fills much the same role, and gives grappling a similar nobility,” says T.P Grant in his article on the SB Nation website.
When two BJJ practitioners meet on the mats to spar, the universal starting sign — a fist bump — is done not to just signal the start of the match, but rather to recognize mutual respect and concern for safety that each partner has for one another. In most cases this unspoken agreement is sacred, and partners proceed to yet another day of training. But what happens when someone keeps cranking and doesn’t respect your tap? Not only does this break all trust between both partners for future rolls, but it can land the person tapping into a serious injury. Respecting the tap is probably the biggest social contract of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
But how do you deal with someone who doesn’t honor the agreement?
If you’re not seriously injured after a partner does not respect the tap, then you need to have a conversation with them about it. If it doesn’t register, notify your coach of the situation, and let them professionally deal with it.
Some people will hold a submission longer than necessary in order to prove a point. Maybe they were kicked in the face with by a foot gone astray or dealt with an opponent who rolled too hard. In both of these cases, the tap is paramount and must be respected. Many times, new students will unwittingly disrespect the tap, but mainly because they are so intent on getting the submission and they lose awareness for their partner. Tunnel vision can be a great asset in Jiu-Jitsu, but not when it’s taken to the extreme. During training, some partners like to be on the cautious side and let go rather than gravely injure themselves or their teammate. In competition, unspoken trust is all the opponents have between each other.
A good example of broken trust occurred during a famous bout between Rousimar Palhares, a Brazilian MMA fighter known as “Toquinho” and Jake Shields, an American MMA fighter. Palhares got Shields into a kimura, and quickly cranked Shield’s arm up towards his head. Shield’s began tapping almost immediately, but Palhares kept going, even as the referee began to hit Palhares. Only when the referee physically broke off Palhares’ grip, did he stop. In this particular case, ignoring the referee’s instruction is what really worked against Toquinho.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s that it is paramount to stop immediately when your partner taps. No “ifs, ands, or buts!” Trust is all you have in order to continue on constructive and safe competitive ground for fighting as well as training.