This evening I got someone to tap for the first time. It was to a bow and arrow choke from the back.

For reference, I started on 2nd September 2015 and tonight was my 37th class.

So, why did I make it work this time, when I haven’t before? I think there were a number of reasons.

Probably most importantly I’ve simply learnt enough and practiced sufficiently that I was able to do a number of things right in a row, without screwing up too badly. A successful submission is, by definition, the last thing you do in a roll. So you have to get the chain of moves before it right — and any serious mistake will derail you. So — at least at my level — there is a real element of luck in getting everything to line up at the same time.

Closely related to this, I was able to attempt a number of submissions in succession. It was a long roll and I can’t properly recall the exact sequence. But, roughly, after I got to side-control, I attempted a kimura. This didn’t really work, but did allow me to take the back. My opponent was defending the rear naked choke, but I was able to get a lapel grip for the bow and arrow. Something weird was happening with the fabric at the back of his neck, which meant I couldn’t get any real tension. He was trying to escape and I ended up moving to an arm bar — but he’d linked his hand together tight. I felt I was losing the position faster than I was breaking the grip. So, when he tried to escape again, I returned to the back with a body triangle and worked for the bow and arrow until I got it.

This was all a good deal messier and confused than I’m making it sound.

The point is that it wasn’t that I did particularly well on a particular submission. Indeed, I’m fairly sure that with a little more experience I’d have had a good chance of finishing both my original bow and arrow choke and the arm bar. But I’ve learnt enough that having got a positional advantage I could keep trying things until something worked.

Finally, I was able — for pretty much the first time — to split my attention effectively between working for a submission and maintaining my position. In particular, when I was attempting the first bow and arrow I was also working to keep the back. Then, when I was going for the arm bar I correctly kept my legs heavy. And, rather than holding onto that for dear life when it wasn’t working, I was able to recognise the issue and move into a strong back control position.

It’s easy to understand the need for maintaining position in theory, but much harder to focus on everything you need to in practice.

So, an important and satisfying milestone. Now I just have to do it again.

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