A Discussion On Getting Tapped By Surprisingly Skilled White Belts

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Flickr/Creative Commons: Sylvain

Reader question:

How do you deal with new (I.e. maybe wrestlers, or just those bigger than you) douchey people who sub you and also subs from people of lower rank? Also, now I am teaching a few classes, but don’t want to show these douchey guys anything! And I’m like crap, I teach you guys but can’t beat you like coach can. I just want to avoid the blue belt blues.

If you train long enough, you’ll inevitably get tapped by someone of a lower rank than you. People come in all shapes, sizes, and skill levels. It is important to take someone’s age, weight, and experience level into consideration. For example, many wrestlers come in with years of legitimate grappling experience. You’re not simply going to tip over a ‘white belt’ wrestler’s base with a blue belt level sweep, particularly if they have size on you. What separates a wrestler from a jiu-jitsu practitioner is primarily the idea of submissions as well as the notion of whether or not it’s ok to be on your back. Many of the control principles, scrambling reflexes, and functional movement directly translate over.

 

Every BJJ student knows the importance of using pressure, whether in stabilizing your position or passing the guard.

Being a teacher forces you to wear a different hat. A truly good teacher understands that in teaching it is not about you, it’s about the student. You’re undertaking a selfless endeavor by teaching, and that shouldn’t be lost on you. A common misconception in the world of jiu-jitsu is that we’re competing against each other in the academy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The academy is a place for mutual growth in preparation for the ‘enemy’ that exists out on the street.

Recall that the blue belt is a time for learning a lot of techniques and figuring out your game. I thought I knew a lot once I achieved my blue belt, but by the time I was a purple belt, I couldn’t believe how wrong I was. Much of your job as a blue belt instructor, particularly as an assistant instructor, is to mirror what the head instructor is showing to the students and help them achieve it using efficient mechanics. Wrestlers often come in with a “smash or be smashed” attitude. I have no doubt that the vast majority of blue belts have figured out by that point that jiu-jitsu is all about efficiency over strength. Understanding and mastering are two different things.

I recently saw a black belt instructor of mine post something about how he taps more as a black belt than he ever did as a blue belt. As a brown belt, I tap to more blue belts than I ever did as a blue belt. Garry Tonon has very publicly stated that he gets tapped countless times in training, knowing that when it matters he will be well-prepared to defend himself.

Let me make one thing explicitly clear: getting tapped or tapping someone out in an academy setting never matters. I repeat: it NEVER MATTERS. No lives are on the line, no money is at stake, the only factor that comes in is personal pride. If we truly take pride in being an ambassador of jiu-jitsu we must understand the universal notion of leaving our egos at the door. Having said that, we are all human. I’ve certainly had instances as a purple or brown belt getting tapped by a hotshot white or blue belt, needing to take a breather for several seconds after a roll to process what just happened. The several seconds has nothing to do with fatigue; it’s more for me to override my own emotions and deal with them the healthiest way I can.

Lately, the time between getting tapped and restarting is becoming less and less as I realize that nothing changes after I get tapped — I still have the same life, same friends, same everything. The only thing that changed is that I got one tap better and one tap wiser.

Athleticism does not equate to knowledge; tapping someone or getting tapped does not equate to skill level. Be a leader within your academy, and understand that a wrestler coming in has specialized knowledge and is often looking for respect. Use them as an asset, do not compete with them. Once the relationship has been established based upon a foundation of respect, you will find that they will reciprocate that same respect. Use them as allies to gain knowledge, and resist the urge to not share knowledge with them. You’ll be thankful later for teammates that force you to grow and evolve based on what they’re throwing at you. If you never show them anything, they’ll stay at the same skill level, and that won’t benefit anyone.

If you redefine your definition of what ‘winning’ is, you’ll feel enlightened after every session. If, however, your definition of ‘winning’ is getting a tap, prepare for a long journey. Adjust your perspective and watch your happiness on the mat increase one-hundred fold

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Arman Fathi is a staff contributor for the Jiu Jitsu Times. He is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu Brown Belt under the Redzovic family in Chicago. He is currently living in Southern California training under Professor Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet HQ and Professors Ryron & Rener Gracie at Gracie University HQ. He is a brand ambassador for Alavanca fight gear and Quikflip Apparel. Visit www.Alavanca.com for a full line of jiu-jitsu training gear and accessories. Visit www.quikflipapparel.com and enter code FLIP10 for 10% off any order. Arman can be found on Instagram @TheRealArmanHammer.
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