White belts hurting other white belts. Why didn’t he just tap? This is serious stuff. I looked across the mat and saw an experienced white belt leaning back for an armbar on a newer white belt. The armbar is definitely in, but the newer white belt keeps wriggling and trying to escape. I can see the white belt with some stripes trying to make adjustments to finish the submission without hurting his opponent. Is there a way to gradually tighten this? One small shift of the hips and that elbow is done.
How will we get better if we don’t go hard and push ourselves though?
I’ve shared this before but one of the keys to ever having a chance to improve at Jiu Jitsu comes from longevity. There are no shortcuts to getting better overnight. A Jiu Jitsu journey lasts years or even decades.
Tearing up my body early as a white belt would mean that for the entire remainder of my time I will have to deal with recurring injuries. Every time I am injured there is a risk I will quit BJJ forever. Eventually after enough injuries I will start to wonder if it is all worth it. After enough damage I will start to question why I even bother.
As a coach I have seen it time and again. The same few people seem to be the ones that are repeatedly hurting themselves. They have convinced themselves that they are just accident prone. Or maybe that their opponents were just gifted with better genetics. The truth usually is that they are putting themselves in bad positions and not making protecting themselves the first priority.
Keith Owen nails this concept and influenced me early on. I watched his video on how being tapped 10,000 times is the path to becoming a blackbelt (not tapping others!). Honestly, if this wasn’t something I had focused on I imagine I would have gotten hurt and found reasons to quit like so many of my training partners.
There is a weird pressure on the mats to impress our coach and training partners with our toughness. We have to remember, in a lot of ways we are in charge of our own journey.
When should I tap then?
Unsure of the position or the danger in a position but you feel uncomfortable? Tap! Getting your neck cranked on? Tap! Is the submission you are in a type of joint lock? Tap! Are you a white or blue belt? Tap!
If someone has me in a choke and I want to try to be a hero and fight through the strangulation to force an escape, that’s fine. The risk is going to sleep, and the reward is my ego is proud I escaped. I don’t recommend going to sleep, but if I had to choose between going unconscious in training or permanent joint damage, I’d pick the first.
Escaping joint locks by “gritting through it” makes no sense, especially in training. The risk of getting a joint popped, destroying tendons and ligaments, maybe needing surgery, missing mat time for weeks, and dealing with a recurring injury for the rest of my BJJ journey, does not balance with the reward is getting out of an armbar.
Instead of getting out of an armbar by letting them damage your elbow, let Master Ken show you the way to get out of any submission in all of BJJ!
Baby, Don’t Hurt Me, No More (On The Mats)
This post started off talking about a very specific story of two white belts on a collision course with injury. I explained to the newer white belt that he should have tapped a LONG LONG time ago once his grip was broken in the armbar position. The more experienced grappler also has a responsibility in this position.
During regular training, I have no desire to harm any of my training partners. If someone puts themselves in a position in a tournament where I don’t have a choice but to deal damage, that’s on them. In my every day time on the mat, I want to keep my buddies safe, even if they don’t.
In the example I started off with, the armbar attacker should have completely released the position, and let his partner know that he should have tapped a long time ago. Treat it just like they DID tap, totally back out of the position and let them know why their reaction was so dangerous.
Hey This Isn’t Solitaire, This Sport Is Rough
For sure. There is a certain amount of toughness needed to push forward in BJJ. Letting go of submissions isn’t coddling your opponents, it is protecting them.
I really liked how Yuri talked about Jiu Jitsu teaching you about your body. By the time people are into the middle of their blue belts and above they typically have a good feel for what their body will tolerate and what it won’t. They can identify the positions where they are exposed to injury.
A new white belt will perform a knee cut wrong and tear their own knee up just because they don’t know better. It is the job of the upper belts to be their guardian angels saving them from theirselves as much as possible so they can get to where they know their limitations.
Once training partners know their limits, then the real fun begins. Training to get ready for Pan’s at Caio Terra’s Pan’s Camp a few years ago opened my eyes. It showed me that a room full of killers can train incredibly intense multiple times a day for 10 days, and still keep everyone relatively injury free.
No Fratricide Please
In Navy Seal and BJJ Black Belt Jocko Willink’s book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win he talks about how fratricide is one of the worst parts of combat. Accidentally destroying your own forces caries a heavy burden of guilt.
For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it. – Jocko Willink
Injuries and accidents will happen. The goals of all this safety talk is just to minimize it as much as possible. Now have fun, and get on the mats and train. Just make sure you warm up that tapping hand first!