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Gumby Column: The Tap Out

    Wed, 2004-12-15 12:03 — Gumby

    When is a tap not a tap?
    The Great Tapping Controversy

    Hopefully shedding some light on the subject.

    When is a tap not a tap?
    The Great Tapping Controversy

    In my early days of Jiu Jitsu, I was fairly infamous around the academy for being the guy that was impossible to tap. Kind of a dubious honor (it would be better to be known as the guy who could TAP anyone), it was a title earned with equal parts freakish flexibility (you don`t think they call me Gumby for nothing, eh?) and stubborn determination. One day, the legendary Roleta was visiting the academy and we were getting a burrito (which to my surprise he had never had before) and he asked me about my reputation. "Yeah," I replied with sheepish pride to the man who to this day is one of my all time hero`s in this sport. "That`s very foolish," was his response. He went on to explain that the rewards in this sport are simply not worth the risks of getting injured (particularly when training at the academy), and that may game wasn`t going to get any better while sidelined with an injury. "Besides", he added with a smile, "there`s no skill in showing that you can withstand the pain of the submission. The skill involved is to not get into the submission in the first place.

    That conversation has been lodged in my brain as one of the more noteworthy of my career. The point was especially driven home to me when Roleta, already suffering a broken foot in an earlier match against Margarida, Roleta quickly tapped in the finals of the Absolute against Comprido when the same broken foot was attacked. Disappointing, sure, but Roleta would fight another day.

    Now one would think that a tap out should be a clean conclusion to a match, but over the last year in competition we have had a number of controversy over tapping out, or not tapping out as the case may be. There is no set of comprehensive rules governing or addressing the controversy of the Tap Out, therefore as a launching pad for Promoters and Competitors I`d like to offer my informed OPINION on the subject on a case by case basis.

    1) The Non-Tap: This is the case in which an athlete never taps, despite being in a seemingly impossible to escape submission hold. In most cases, I believe that the decision whether or not to tap (and the consequences that follow) are solely the athlete`s in the hold, and that the referee should simply be there to acknowledge the tap and make sure the opposing athlete releases the hold after the tap is acknowledged. Certainly, there are some competitors who simply do not know when it is in their best interest to tap, and in those cases if an injury occurs than it is entirely their own fault. Some people have a higher pain threshold or degree of flexibility than others, and ultimately each competitor is responsible for their own safety. I`ve heard the argument used that in "well, in MMA would you let a fighter continue striking a downed opponent if they haven`t given up yet" but I think it`s an apples and oranges situation, the key difference being a competitors ability to INTELLIGENTLY defend himself. If you`ve been knocked senseless you obviously have lost the ability to intelligently defend yourself, however that situation rarely occurs in submission grappling/BJJ.

    So in summary, I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT ONLY THE COMPETITOR SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO TAP OUT ON THEIR BEHALF AS LONG AS THEY ARE CONCIOUS.

    Oh, and if you`re one of those types who refuse to tap out, please read my anecdote in the first paragraph above, that $500 first prize will not even cover the ride in the ambulance.

    2) The Non-Tap (Kids Division Addendum): Kids are squirmy little buggers, aren`t they? Despite the fact they can probably withstand submission holds better than most adults can because of their greater flexibility most tournaments have implemented "catch rules" where if a child competitor is in a submission hold for a specified amount of time (usually as quick as five seconds) the match will be halted. I think that is great, and applaud the efforts by promoters to have a ZERO percent injury rate in the kids divisions in order to have them continue to grow. I don`t think kids can always intelligently defend themselves or realize that hanging on could lead to an injury, and honestly they shouldn`t have to think about those things at this stage BECAUSE THEY`RE MINORS. I`ve seen plenty of parents and coaches argue that their kid didn`t tap or whatever and I say let it go, you`re putting way too much pressure on the kid.

    THE REFEREE SHOULD HAVE THE ABILITY TO STOP A KIDS MATCH BEFORE A TAP TO PREVENT AN INJURY. Which leads me to something I`ve wanted to get off my chest for a long time:

    2A) IF YOU`VE EVER SHOUTED "BREAK IT" DURING A KID`S MATCH, YOU ARE A DOUCHE. Nuff` said.

    3) The Verbal Tap (aka The Yell) There are more ways of tapping than simply physically tapping your opponent. Sometimes it`s not possible to "tap out" so a verbal submission is required. While it would be ideal if something as clear as "I respectifully and humbly submit to your superior grappling technique today," would come out, in the heat of battle "Tap" sometimes barely has enough time to come and it sometimes comes out as "YAAARGH!" While I`ve already established that I`m firmly in favor of only the competitor being able to tap out during a match, the referee is their to enforce safety and if you give him/her a legitimate reason to halt the match they are certainly going to take it. Moreover, most competitors aren`t out to actually hurt their opponent and would be consciously looking out for safety as well, and the natural reaction is you think you`re causing someone damaging pain is to let off. If you really were in that much control of your facilities and intelligently defending yourself, you surely could control what comes out of your mouth, right?

    A VERBAL TAP IS THE SAME AS A PHYSICAL TAP, AND IF YOU YELP, YELL OR OTHERWISE CRYOUT SOMETHING UNINTELLIGBLE DURING THE MATCH THE REFEREE MAY CALL THAT A TAPOUT. YELLING=TAPPING

    Funny story, I was watching Dave Camarillo referee a match when one of the competitors would yell at every move he or his opponent attempted. The guy honestly sounded like he was in labor. Finally he got caught in a submission and just kept yelling so Dave called the match. His corner was upset and argued with Dave a bit back and forth until they let out this zinger, "how long have you been in martial arts? You don`t know what a ‘Ki-yaa` is?"

    4) The Phantom Tap- You know, the tap that allegedly never happened and the match is stopped, only to have the competitor in question say they never tapped and want the match restarted. I don`t keep accurate statistics, but if I had to venture a guess I would say that in 86.94% of these cases the competitor gave the referee good reason to stop the match. I`m not calling anyone a liar, I`m just saying in the heat of the moment maybe people have selective memories. Also, sometimes while adjusting position sometimes motions look like a tap out. Like I said above: I`m firmly in favor of only the competitor being able to tap out during a match, the referee is their to enforce safety and if you give him/her a legitimate reason to halt the match they are certainly going to take it. In this case you`re simply going to have trust the competence of the referee and take their word for it.

    IN CASES WHERE THE QUESTION OCCURS WHETHER A TAP OCCURRED OR NOT, THE REFEREE HAS FINAL JURISDICTION. RESPECT MAH AUTHORITY!

    5) TAPPING TO WIN- In the US I`ve heard that this particular maneuver has been named after a certain fighter, which is slightly unfair, as he`s certainly not the first to pull this particular maneuver. Tapping to win means quickly tapping the second an opponent puts on an illegal maneuver in the hopes of getting them disqualified and thus winning the match. Kind of a bitch maneuver, but it`s sometimes legitimate. How to handle this? My opinion:

    TAPPING OUT TO AN ILLEGAL TECHNIQUE SHOULD NOT AUTOMATICALLY LEAD TO DISQUALIFICATION BUT THE OPTION TO DO SO IS AT THE DISCRETION OF THE REFEREE.

    I hope the above is used as a guideline for competitors and promoters to hopefully clear up a lot of the controversy surrounding the tap out. The common denominator for all competitive matches is of course the quality of the referee, and the most basic underlying principle should be SPORTSMANSHIP. After all, we all want to be back On The Mat another day.

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