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The Two Meanings of the Tap
Tapping out is sending a message to your opponent. The most common message is "OK, you got me with that submission. Now let me go"
Many grapplers don't realize that tapping out can also be used to send a different message, namely: "I don't know what's going on here - I might be in danger of getting injured, so let's stop for a second"
Recently I was sparring and had my opponent pinned in side mount. He wrapped my head at an awkward angle and bridged. To relieve pressure on my neck I decided to go with the it and roll to the bottom. Halfway during that roll we collided with some punching bags at the edge of the mat - I was now wedged into a corner, my neck at a strange angle, and my partner perched precariously on top of me.
It wasn't a submission per se - my neck didn't actually hurt - but I sure as hell didn't want to find out what would happen if either he or I tried to scramble from that position. I tapped out, he let go, and - for once - nothing went snap or pop.
As you become more experienced your knowledge of technique grows - that is a no-brainer. A less appreciated aspect of the grappling learning process is that your mental library of awkward positions also grows as you spend more time on the mats. You'll figure out when certain positions are merely uncomfortable, vs. actually being damaging. You might be willing to accept the discomfort of a guillotine choke for longer, because you'll know if it is going to damage your neck or your windpipe.
Even when you get to black belt level, however, you're still going to periodically end up in weird, contorted positions that might be uncomfortable but not be submissions per se. My advice is, that if you are unsure about the safety of a position, then swallow your pride, tap out and live to fight another day. The worst that will happen is that you will make the day of some junior guy at the club who just tapped out one of the big guns. Not such a big price to pay really, when you compare it to the alternative of not being able to train for many months due to some stupid, preventable injury!
A related article can be found here:
Remember that the tap can be used to send two different messages, so happy tapping!
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When I end up in a weird angle or position thats puts something on my body in serious jeopardy (usually neck or knee). I yell "STOP"
I have found that when someone has a submission on you they are cognizant and looking for the tap.
But in the course of rolling and something freaky is about to happen they might not register the tap which is why I am vocal.
Good article by the way
snake, I like the vocal method too, you stop the action, but the person won't be talking about how they tapped you out.
yep i use vocal but i say "tap" it happens often with me because i have old injuries to my ankles and knees. i end up tapping from retarded shit all the time. like getting my feet caught in the gi or tshirt etc.
Excellent stuff Stephen.
Many years ago I was rolling with a very large white belt (270lbs.) who had judo expereince. As we were rolling he applied a classic headlock from side control. A headlock? I was thinking "Give me 4 seconds and I'm outta here and taking his back!" but this kid was wrenching on my neck really trying to make the blue belt tap out. I was thinking "Damn this thing is really uncomfortable.. but it's not a legit sub, I'm not tapping yet there is a way out of here.." The guy began to put everything he had into it. Suddenly something happened in my neck. It felt like a rubber band that was under tension suddenly snapped and my neck went limp. I tapped like Gregory Hines thinking "I just broke my neck." fortunately I did not break my neck, but I would later find out that headlock was the beginning of a bulging disc in my neck that would eventually lead me to the place I am now with a herniated disc and numbness and occasionally "paralysis" (thank god only temporary) in my arm due to the pressure placed on a nerve.
My ego hurt me. Instead of tapping because I was in an uncomfortable position, I tried to gut it out because I "thought" that he didn't have a legit submission.
I completely agree with Stephen. And I would add that as you improve, the number of people who can tap you (in your own gym) decreases. Thus, unless you are an egomaniac, you must begin to put yourself deliberately in bad positions. This (more) often leads to getting into somewhat unnatural positions that would not occur in an "all out" roll. And these unnatural positions can be painful.
Another "meaning" of the tap is to aknowledge your partner. This keeps you honest and him/her happy. Not aknowledging a "check mate" position, and spazzing out of a near tap leads to only one thing--your partner going way faster and harder the next time. Which of course leads to injuries.
"snake, I like the vocal method too, you stop the action, but the person won't be talking about how they tapped you out."
I do not know these people personally, but 99% of the people who "tap" verbally do it for some reason related to the quotation above. That is, there is a lot of ego involved. Tapping verbally is like talking through bongo drums. Tapping means tapping with your hand, or foot--not with your vocal cords. If someone wants to talk about tapping you then you are in the wrong school.
I have found in a submission I will either tap or verbally say tap or a combination of the two. As we all know sometimes you dont have hands to tap.
My reason for saying "STOP" when I am in a weird position not related to a sub has nothing to do with ego or bragging rights.
It is just my experience that a loud stern STOP has the effect of making my partner 'freeze' more so that saying 'tap'.
The least of my worries is whether a verbal tap means more than slapping the mat etc.
If a lower ranking student catches me in a sub or sequence I taught them I will congratulate them to the entire clas.
Means I did my job as a teacher.
I just tap. They usually will ask "what happened" because they don't remember consciously going for a sub.