From Nev Sagiba: “Just tap out and live to fight another day! ” by Stephan Kesting

“A lot of old school MMA fighters have said they
would rather die than tap out in the ring.”

Stan, the attached email articulates as well as can be stated, something I’ve felt strongly about all my life, having often witnessed abuse in training. Regards, Nev

Sometimes the worst thing you can do is take advice out of context.

For example, a lot of old school MMA fighters have said they would rather die than tap out in the ring. To them, tapping out to signify their surrender to strikes or a submission is a fate worse than death.

I’m not saying that this is a good attitude, but I understand where they are coming from. These are professional fighters competing at the highest level, who understand the risks of having this do-or-die mindset. Ultimately it’s their decision to make; whether they should tap out or take the consequences.

The trouble starts when brand new BJJ students adopt this kamikaze, all-or-nothing attitude while training in class.

Let’s say you want to fight in the UFC, and as part of achieving that goal you start training BJJ. Now suppose that you overhear some fighter talking about dying rather than tapping, and so you decide that that’s how you’re going to train. You’re gonna be a badass! Never tap out!! Fight to the last breath!!!

I’m not psychic, but I can promise you this. After just a few months, long before you get anywhere near the Octagon, your body will be completely destroyed. Surgeons will smile when they see you coming, because fixing your body will help them make their next Lexus payment. And if you’re very lucky, some day you’ll walk without a limp again.

At the other end of the spectrum you’ve got someone like Dean Lister saying, “the more you tap, the more you learn.” If you don’t know who Dean Lister is, he’s the 2003 winner of the absolute division at ADCC, the toughest and most prestigious submission grappling tournament in the world. He’s also been an assistant coach on The Ultimate Fighter TV show, and has fought in the UFC himself.

You can probably see that I agree with “the more you tap, the more you learn.” I agree for at least two reasons.

First, if you’re injured you can’t train. Therefore if something is hurting and you don’t know what’s going on, just tap out and live to fight another day. Eventually you will develop a better ability to gauge how dangerous a given situation is, but early in the game it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Every experienced grappler can tell you a story of how he got injured by being stubborn and not tapping out early enough. They say that intelligence is learning from your own mistakes, and wisdom is learning from someone else’s. When it comes to tapping out, don’t be intelligent – be wise!

Secondly, by being prepared to tap you will explore a greater variety of positions and submissions. These explorations will greatly increase the size of your mental grappling library, and you’ll be a much better grappler (and person) for it.

So when you’re just getting started, don’t be afraid to tap early and tap often.

Stephan Kesting

——————— ADDITIONAL RESOURCE #1 ———————

Read about how one bunch of competitors got the whole concept terribly wrong…
==> www.grapplearts.com/2008/10/catch-and-release.htm
——————— ADDITIONAL RESOURCE #2 ———————

Tapping out signifies two things. Do you know what they are?
==> www.grapplearts.com/2008/10/catch-and-release.htm

Grapplearts.com, 571-4050 Hastings Street, Burnaby, BC V5C 6J4, CANADA


  1. BTW I do recommend Stephan Kesting’s courses and DVD’s. If you really want to improve your ki, your aiki, your overall fitness and above all acquire greater context to your standing up jujitsu, please try the groundwork. It will open your eyes to many things; not in the least self discovery.

  2. Charles Humphrey says:

    Funny to read this after being re-exposed to groundwork for the first time in three years. It is always a big eye-opener to hidden weaknesses and after this much-needed spot of ground training I realize I need to find a way to make it part of my regular training. My advice as a beginner would be to work the middle ground, don’t tap out right away but try to see if you can RELAX your way out of the hold. As soon as you feel that you are left with no choice but to try to force your way out, then tap out or you run the risk of getting injured while learning nothing more than who was either born bigger or who spends more time doing resistance exercise, neither of which contribute to your understanding of martial skill. As long as your attempted escape strategy involves reducing tension rather than increasing it then there seems little risk of injury by experimenting a little. That is my insight from an intense few days having my bones twisted by pretty much everyone in the school I was visiting.

  3. There’s a Country Western singer, Dave Staney, whose song, “I ain’t old. I jes’ been used rough.” comes to mind. One of the verses goes something like, ‘I rode broncs and I rode bulls, like I had my BRAIN removed. Now my hips are shot, my knees are sprung and I STILL don’t know what I was tryin’ to prove…’

  4. My favorite story of not tapping out, Kimura vs Gracie:
    Notice that the local paper declared Gracie’s loss a “moral” victory for not tapping out.

  5. In the street it’s not safe to lay down to fight. And nobody heeds any tapping at all! Budo goes beyond children’s games.

    Having said that, wrestling is still one of the best training methodologies that will augment real fighting like nothing else once you get CONTEXT, not contest. And if you can tell the difference, you’re sailing.

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