For our own good?
Toe holds. Knee bars. Calf slicers. These are some of the mythical submissions that I know exist in theory but that I have very little experience with. I have always been of the opinion that it would be nice to learn submissions early even if they are not legal in competition for me. For one thing if you learn them early, you have a leg up (bad pun intended) on the competition when you do get to the level that they are legal. Also the point can be made that not everyone trains jiu-jitsu for competition purposes so why not teach everyone all the technique? However last week I started to think about this from a different point of view.
During open mat one night last week, a guy who is relatively new to the advanced class asked me if I wanted to roll. I felt slightly worried because he is probably at least 8 inches taller than me and maybe 70 pounds or so heavier than me but I like to roll so I said yes. He was generally very good to train with and I enjoyed the roll but he clearly has either trained somewhere else or is very good at picking up technique off of YouTube because he had a very good leg lock game.
When the roll started he went for a straight leg lock and I started to defend it so he turned into my body and rolled. I assume this would be a reap in a tournament but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that it hurt so I tapped. Unfortunately because he was rolling and couldn’t stop the momentum he kept going so I very loudly let everyone in the gym know I was tapping by yelling “TAP TAP TAP” (I do this when I panic, it’s so embarrassing).
After I gingerly made sure my ankle and knee were ok we kept rolling and later in the roll he trapped my leg and then got a toe hold which I quickly tapped to because 1) I didn’t want a repeat of earlier and 2) I don’t really know how to escape a toe hold as I had never really trained them. I actually thought that I might be wrong about his level (it was no gi last week so we didn’t have belts on) so I asked him if he was a white belt and he said yes. I gently pointed out that toe holds were not legal for white belts and he said that he knew but he liked to go for whatever he could while rolling at the gym.
As I was walking around the grocery store afterwards my calf and ankle were feeling a little sore and I started to worry that I had tweaked them worse than I thought. It ended up being fine but it made me think about the danger of training riskier techniques. My training partner’s technique was not bad and he didn’t go for the submissions overly aggressive but my own lack of training the technique plus the inherent nastiness of the sub made it a potentially very dangerous situation.
So my brush with an injured leg last week has got me wondering about what is the right path to take with the more perilous submissions. I have always known that these submissions were not allowed in tournaments for lower belts because of the risk. I figured we didn’t spend a lot of time training them at the gym for that reason. I always felt it was somewhat silly to keep submissions from anyone but I am starting to think that my instructors and organizations like the IBJJF are actually protecting us from ourselves.
I am still not sure what the right answer is. On one hand if I had known how to defend better maybe it wouldn’t have been as hazardous. On the other, I’m not sure I want my ability to train (or walk!) for the next couple of months to be in the hands of spazzy white belts who are typically bigger and stronger than me. One thing is certain though, next time I roll with that guy, I will be very careful about where I am putting my feet.