There’s a subject that I don’t see discussed often, but I think needs to be touched on. That subject is when to let go of, and when to tap to, submissions in training. This subject is a two way street in that I’ve seen people who hold out way too long both in tapping and in letting go of a submission on an inexperienced (or stubborn) training partner. I’ve also seen people who tap way too early to stuff and never really learn that “next level” submission defense.
For starters, if you have been training for less than a year and wind up in a position that you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, just tap! Similarly, if you are a more experienced practitioner rolling with someone who has been training for less than a year, and you have them in a joint lock that you think is tight, and they’re not tapping, just let go!
It takes a while to understand the difference between being caught dead to rights and being in a situation that is still escapable. That confusion can be extremely dangerous to new practitioners. If they hold out on tapping to a joint lock, there’s a possibility of injuring that joint, needing to take time off, and prolonging (possibly indefinitely if they get scared off) development.
Chokes on the other hand are interesting in that we can wait until we are nearing unconsciousness to tap. Now, I’m not saying that you should wait until you are almost out when you’re caught. But if you still have wiggle room, even when the choke is starting to set in, you may be able to escape in the nick of time. Developing this ability is valuable for many reasons.
More experienced practitioners often will wait too long to tap because of ego. If you know you’re caught, and you know there’s no way other than muscling out or getting lucky that you’ll survive the submission attempt, just tap! If you’re training with a stubborn idiot who doesn’t want to tap to a locked submission, use that opportunity to transition to another position. Have fun with it; make up transitions that don’t even make sense, like upper to lower body, or weird paths to the back.
On the other side of things, tapping too early can be harmful to training. For a long time I thought my triangles were tighter than they were because people tapped prematurely. It took rolling with people who knew what a tight triangle feels like and weren’t buying my half-assed attempts to realize that I was getting false positives. If you know how to recognize when you’re “caught” always make sure you are in fact “caught” before tapping.
The other benefit of this is that you can learn to make your opponents’ or training partners’ efforts work against them. Very often if you’re in a submission that is only half on, and you hold out and buy yourself time by adjusting your position, the other person will get frustrated and try to force it. Better yet, that person will try to readjust and, in the process, give you room. I’ve found amazing counter submissions from inside of submissions.
One time I was rolling with one of my training partners. He had me in side control and put me in a slick collar choke. I was slowly losing consciousness, but was still there, so I tried to roll out of the choke. In rolling out of the choke, his arm got a bit extended and I was able to immediately capitalize with an unexpected arm bar that was exposed by my escape. I would have never seen that arm bar as a possibility if I had tapped to the somewhat tight choke.
Similarly, I’ve found other really interesting submission paths by escaping from training partners’ submission attempts. If I tap early, I miss out on these learning opportunities.