The most important skill in jiu jitsu is learning how to tap.
It is one of the most fundamental aspects of BJJ, that enables us to fight to the full extent of our skill without damaging our partners.
This is pretty unique amongst martial arts.
But knowing when to tap is the key to your own protection and learning.
Tapping is also a reciprocal relationship, you agree to tap when a submission is on and your partner agrees to let go when you tap. This is the agreement you make when you slap and bump hands. This is what really does make it one of the most important skills.
Despite the fact that you can train and roll with people that are much more highly skilled than you and they will be able to tie you in knots. The one thing that is always within our control is when to tap. Knowing when to tap is going to be down to your physical attributes and your comfort zone, but you never want to put yourself in too much danger. We all want to keep training, we all have day jobs and home lives, all of which will be a problem if you suffer a nasty injury at the gym. Don’t let your ego get in the way of living and enjoying your life.
A big part of tapping IS your ego. If a white belt has me in an arm bar in a club roll and it feels tight, I have to be honest and admit it is a finisher. This is being honest with myself, giving my partner the credit they are due and keeping myself safe. Just because they have been training less than me, does not mean they can’t get a submission on me. If I get a bruised ego because a beginner tapped me, this is far better than having a jacked elbow. Also your partner has just done you a favour, they have exposed something in your game, that may give you a new focus.
I really enjoy my training and I want to do it as much as I can for as long as I can, so I have learned to tap early and tap hard. There may be times when you will not be able to tap with your hands. They may get pinned or they may actually be in a position where there is nothing to tap against. This can be a scary situation but remember verbal taps count as well and if you end up in the one in a million in a position, where neither of these are available, tap with your feet by stamping hard just like you would with your hand. But if you are trying to tap always make sure your partner knows. Make it clear you are tapping. Slight body contact or verbal noises happen all the time when rolling. So you have to make it clear to your partner that what you are doing is you tapping.
Tapping not only protects you but protects your partner too. No one wants to actually hurt their training partners. As most people won’t stop until you tap, because the expect you to. It is an equal responsibility. Your partner will feel bad, your coach won’t be happy that someone got injured in class and you have an injury. So one wins in these situations, so tapping is very important.
Learning when and how to tap is an important skill not only because it protects you, but also because it protects your partners and shows that you are putting your ego aside.