Lies in BJJ and Grappling in general

I've wanted to write this post for a long time. We are told many lies from the first day we start training in the martial arts, and the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not exempt. I decided to focus on the five lies that have really shaped my outlook on the journey on the mats. Initially, this was going to be one post, but I had so much to say about each lie, I decided to release it in 5 separate posts.

BJJ Lie number 1- To avoid pain, just tap when you get caught!

This is one of the earliest lies you are told in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Your instructor, your fellow BJJ students and even your mom will tell you to "Just tap!". When you get caught in something, simply tap and you get to start again. Simples

What no one tells you, but you discover very quickly, is that tapping hurts. It leaves no scars on your skin and it definitely saves you from broken bones and loss of consciousness, and you should, most definitely should, tap when caught, but be under no illusion. Tapping to another person hurts your ego. It's not a male thing either.

It's a slap in the face for your ego and the bigger the ego, the louder and more humiliating the slap.

So what they hell do we do? How can we overcome the pain of tapping?

We can't and so we don't. That's the beauty of Jiu Jitsu and the essence of it's purity. You can't overcome the pain of tapping. I don't care who you are and how long you have trained, when you get caught and you tap, it always hurts. Just look at the top players on the mundial or Abu Dhabi scene when they lose. They look like they are ready to cry like babies, and many do.

The only thing to do is to accept the pain of tapping as part of the catharsis process of evolution that we go thru when we train Jiu Jitsu. Tap, and tap often. Focus on the pain and you will see that it is not you who is hurt. It's the ego. Hopefully, with enough tapping, the ego will be dissolved and we will understand that there is no opponent. There is no self. We are all one and all that separates us is a fear based on an illusion.

The day I realised this lie, I got angry at first (at being lied to and for believing it) and then I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Believe me it still hurts when I tap and I still do all I can on the mat to not get tapped, but at least now I understand that the hurt is not mine and I don't have to carry it. It's the ego that gets slapped in the face and I don't have to identify with that. That's one of the biggest reasons I'm so happy just to be on the BJJ mat.

Next lie I will talk about: -BJJ / Grappling is for everyone.


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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graham cooke said...

Excellent article Liam as always, looking forward to the follow up.

This has made me think of a post for my own blog!! :)

The Part Time Grappler said...

@Graham, can't wait to read it :)

Many thanks for the kind words. There is a nice thread of comments on this post on my Facebook page :)

SenseiMattKlein said...

Every tap is a lesson learned. Relish it as it builds your skills. Yes, the ego is not your friend. Enjoyed this post.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thank you Sensei Klein and welcome on this long journey of grappling :o)

Jodie said...

Thanks for the great post. I especially like that you acknowledge that tapping hurts the female ego as much as it does the male ego.

I think that you are perpetuating one of the BJJ lies though. While some guys seem to be good at supressing or perhaps working past their egos, I haven't yet met a guy who has actually overcome (or dissolved) his ego. Most of them just seem to find ways to differently express their frustrations.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thank you Jodie for reading and for the kind words. I'm not sure what you mean with your second paragraph. I sure hope I'm perpetuating any lies (except that I'm awesome!)

Jodie said...


If I were to put the lie into a simple phrase, I think it would be "Ego does not belong on the mat."

I guess the best example of what I'm thinking is the whole "leave your ego at the door" thing. Your approach in the post is a very zen idea of confronting your ego and overcoming it through acceptance.

But most of the guys that I see don't overcome their egos, they get better and no longer have to face their ego issues on a day by day basis. Or they learn to better express the fallout from their egos, usually becoming better teammates in the process.

Really though, I think that ego has an important place in BJJ. It is what drives the competitive spirit and the evolution of the game.

Thanks for the great food for thought. :)

The Part Time Grappler said...

Well said Jodie! Indeed BJJ is a vehicle of transformation but not everyone:

1. stays on for the whole ride
2. bothers to look out of the window and see what's happening
3. wants to use it as a vehicle, but rather just as a hobby/sport/self defence method.

Zen is very much where I come from. To me, getting better at BJJ without the self-understanding that comes from seeing it as meditation practive means nothing. What good will it do me? Who cares? I'm in the art(s) to achieve a better understanding of myself and life, not medals, but I fully appreciate and respect that not everybody has the same resons for starting and continuing in BJJ :)

As for the ego being healthy, that's a phrase many people use but no one spends enough time explaining what they mean by it. I;m not saying they don't understand it, just that they don't share their understanding. How much ego? What is Ego? how do I understand the ego?...etc.

You just inspired a buddhism-related post my friend :)

Jodie said...

I'm glad that you understood my tangent, and I have to agree 100% with you.

For me, when I say ego, it is not the ego that is expressed through meatheadedness. Those guys I have no use for, and typically don't last in our class. The ego that I am talking about is that ego that drives us to improve our game, whether it is to get the next belt, win a competition, or just tap someone.

For me, this is one of the biggest lies, because I had always thought that I didn't bring an ego to the mat, and then I couldn't understand why I had felt and reacted the way I did to disappointments. I think that this brings us back full circle to your original thesis that tapping hurts. :)

Thanks for your thoughts. It has helped me sort out some of my own. I look forward to your Buddhism post.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Wow Jodi that's one of the nices things anyone has ever said to me. Thank you very much.

I'm slowly getting to grips with Buddhism and it's enriching my BJJ and my life. It makes me more honest and I've noticed not everyone is ready to hear it :) people want to think that they have indeed left the ego off the mat or that they must banish the ego or that they must feel guilty for this or that. Buddhism simply wants you to look at it, observe it deeply and aim to understand it and where/how it touches you. I must stop talking now so I have SOMETHING to write in the actual post :)

Once again, thank you for the kind words.