The Art of the Tap


Stephan’s note: The following tip is courtesy of Roy Dean, who is a black belt in BJJ under Roy Harris, as well as a third degree black belt in Seibukan Jujutsu. Today he shares with us a refreshingly different perspective from the ‘thug-jitsu’ that has become the norm at many schools.

There are many ways to view things, and the most popular viewpoints are not always correct.

Many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling students look down on tapping to your opponent. Surely, it signals submission. Some see that submission as losing- a loss of face, a diminishment of your stature in your academy hierarchy, proof that the person you just wrestled is “better than you.”

In the beginning of your training, tapping others is the goal. Later, generally at purple, brown, and black belt levels, tapping other people (especially lower ranks) becomes easy. What was once so difficult to do, and took so much struggle to attain, becomes boring and routine. Just “doing it” no longer thrills you, and how you do it becomes much more important. The quality of experience takes precedence.

BJJ is a dance, a sophisticated martial interplay where warriors jockey for position and leadership. One person may lead, and in an even match, the dynamic will switch back and forth between the two partners. After dominating the dance a thousand times, allowing others to lead refreshes the dynamic of the game. And if you’re really good, you can guide your partner into submitting you gracefully, without tipping them off on how you opened that door for them to walk through.

Every time I tap to my students, I share a little more of the art, and empower somebody else to experience success. During my blue belt tests, I am the last person to spar with the candidate. At that point they are exhausted, and although I may tap them once or twice in the last 5 minutes of their exam, the challenge is to have them dig deep and conjure that warrior within. I create a genuine struggle for them to not give up, to stay mentally strong, and seize the opportunity to finish the fight that will eventually present itself.

True martial arts is about service: to the art, to your students, and to your teacher. Part of my service is to teach those that train with me how to lead, and how to follow. This creates a much friendlier, safer, and open training environment, where experimentation is encouraged and another’s success is equal to your own. Ultimately, this will accelerate the moral and technical development for all participants.

Roy Dean

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