If there is one sacred rule in jiu-jitsu, it is this: respect the tap!
When we train, we are placing an enormous amount of trust in our partners to protect each other. We are putting our limbs and joints in vulnerable positions and the potential consequences are a broken joint . . . or worse!
When we begin a roll with a fist bump, we are telling our opponents, “Let’s roll in a good spirit, but respect each other and be safe.”
In 99% of rolls, this pact is kept, and we live to train another day.
But there have been times this sacred rule has been broken. This is a serious offense, because not only does it break the trust between training partners, it also breaks the very spirit of jiu-jitsu itself.
I have seen some guys hold a submission for a longer period of time to make a point. Usually they have been angered by something their partner did during the roll. It might have been an illegal tactic (slam or spike), a partner rolling too hard, a strike to the face (intentional or unintentional), or some other violation of rolling etiquette.
You may be angry, but if you hold a submission after the tap, you are breaking your opponent’s trust and creating a potentially dangerous situation.
The other situation I have seen is not intentional. Usually it involves new students who are so intent on getting the submission, they lose awareness of their partner and continue cranking the arm bar after the tap.
We see this even in drilling!
But even though it’s unintentional, it’s still impermissible. You can not get so intent on your own technique that you are oblivious to your partner’s safety! You must always be aware of a potential tap so you can release the submission safely.
This rule is equally important in mixed martial arts. There is a reason guys like Rousimar Palhares have been punished and even banned by numerous promotions. When they don’t respect the tap, they not only undermine trust between them and their opponents (and yes, there is an unwritten code of trust between MMA fighters), but they undermine the very sport they compete in.
One time in class, I was demonstrating how to escape a headlock. I had a student with a couple of years experience holding my head as I explained the technique.
After instructing the class on a portion of the move, I wanted to reset to the beginning. I tapped the student to release the head lock so we could start again.
But he didn’t stop. In fact, he started to fight me . . . with full strength!
I tapped about seven or eight times and then started to slap his shoulder hard before he released.
The entire class was stunned.
“What the hell!?!” I said. I had no idea what was going on because I had never seen this before.
The student apologized, but I never used him again. I also watched him very closely when he rolled with other students. I concluded that he was too stupid to do jiu-jitsu and would be better off taking up another activity.
Another situation where I see a surprising lack of awareness is when two pairs of students roll next to each other. I watch them and wonder, “Do you feel your foot kicking something cloth covered that feels like a human?”
I then reach over to tap one of their legs and they are completely oblivious of their surroundings. They have tunnel vision.
Everyone, it’s really not that hard. If you feel someone tapping your body during a roll . . . STOP! Immediately! You have no idea why the other person is tapping. She may be injured. You might be dangerously close to the wall. Her finger or foot might be entangled in the kimono. You don’t know why she is tapping, but you need to stop first and find out why later.
Respect the tap!
Read also on Jiu-jitsu Times: A Few Words About Tapping