The Paul Harris Effect: When Competitors Don’t Release On The Tap

In competition, adrenaline is flowing, submissions and positions are being exchanged at full speed, and if you’re not willing to break your opponent, your chances of winning may not be as high. Where is the line drawn? 

A while back, I wrote on the topic of responsibility to protect one’s opponents in competition. The summary was that while good sportsmanship tells us that we should try to let go as quickly as we can when an opponent taps, there’s always time to tap as long as you recognize that you’re caught, and if you don’t, it’s not your opponent’s fault.

Over the weekend, a match took place at Ultimate Mat Warriors between Renzo Gracie black belt Ryan Quinn and Kevin Crane. Crane caught the Danaher-trained black belt in an inside heel hook and applied it very quickly, causing an audible pop. 

Quinn verbally taps several times before Crane lets go, but the timeline is very short and it’s hard to tell whether or not he even registers that his opponent is tapping. Sometimes it can be hard to hear when you have coaches and spectators yelling at the stage, and it can be very difficult to stop movement once it’s started.

While this post isn’t really about Kevin Crane, he does have some violent criminal activity in his past, and his body language and demeanor in this video is not one that exudes sportsmanship or any concern for his opponent for that matter. Regardless of whether or not he meant to crank after the tap and injure Quinn, this video isn’t a good look for him.

In training, I make a habit of letting go of submissions when I don’t feel like I can apply them in a controlled fashion, but in competition, I’ll apply whatever submissions I’m given. 

Lachlan Giles made an excellent video analyzing his wife Livia’s submission at the ADCC Trials.

Once a heel hook is in motion and the hands are clasped, avoiding damage becomes increasingly difficult and if you want to reduce your risk of injury, you have to be willing to tap far earlier than people often do. 

Did Crane intend to crank the heel hook after Quinn’s tap?  I don’t know. But it certainly wasn’t as severe of a situation as Tex Johnson’s heel hook win over Felipe Pena in which Johnson cranked for far longer after Pena tapped, but again, in that situation, there’s a good chance that Johnson didn’t feel or hear Pena tapping due to adrenaline and overstimulation. Many people have given Johnson a pass on cranking through Pena’s tap, so should Crane get a similar pass?

In competition, a good practice is to expect that an opponent’s reaction to your tapping will be far slower than in training. You should, of course, fight submissions, but when it comes to something like an inside heel hook, your grace period might shorter than with a choke or an armbar.  

On the other hand, tapping too early means that you might be tapping to something you could have escaped. There’s an extremely fine line there.

If you’re a competitor, what is your policy as far as tapping to submissions in competition? Have you ever launched so hard into a submission that you may have not given your opponent enough time to tap or worse yet, held after the tap?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here