Lessons from the Mats: Position before Submission

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Jiu Jitsu, here is the objective: Two opponents face off with each other and start a fight standing up. The goal is to take your opponent to the ground using some kind of throw, takedown, or redirection of their energy. Once on the ground, your task is to get into a dominant position and submit your opponent with an arm lock, leg lock, choke, or various joint manipulations. While doing so, you must avoid your opponent gaining the upper hand and dominant position and submitting you. Your opponent “taps out” to call it quits and to avoid being choked out or having a joint, arm, or leg broken or strained. Sounds fun, doesn’t it!

While practicing Jiu Jitsu, there is an important lesson I have learned. My instructors have always mentioned and taught the idea of “position before submission”. This means that you have to get yourself in the correct position before you can apply a choke, arm lock, or hold that will submit your opponent. Before that, you must also ensure that you are not in any kind of dangerous position where you risk being submitted. So even before “position before submission”, one must think to stay out of danger and then fight for a dominant position that allows one to submit their opponent.

Many times in Jiu Jitsu, I have shot straight in for a submission and was not in the correct position to do so properly. Because of this hastiness, I put myself in harm’s way as well as gave my opponent a change to put me in a position to submit me. How does this example play out in your life, business and hats you wear? Are you making sure that you are out of danger before you position yourself to win, succeed, or close a deal? Are you just shooting in hastily and putting yourself in harm’s way of potentially being submitted or placed in a bad position?

Another point to make is this: Many times in Jiu Jitsu, I end up in bad positions. They are not comfortable, they are not fun and they push my comfort zone to the max. Even being in some of the worst positions (having a 6’8”, 360 lb. opponent lying on your rib cage for instance) while grappling, one thing I remember is that it is just a bad position. Many times, if you ride it out while properly working through and defending the situation, you will not get submitted. However, I see many people submit only from being in a bad position. Are you in any bad positions right now? Does the pain, pressure and discomfort weigh on you like a 360lb. monster? Are you about ready to tap out, give up, throw in the towel and call it quits? Remember, you are just in a bad position. You are not being submitted. It may feel uncomfortable, it may feel tough, it may feel like you can’t breathe. Can you ride it out? Can you make just one small adjustment and put yourself in a better position? What are the little things you can do to get some breathing room, create some space and ultimately get into a better position?

I remember one time while grappling with this above mentioned 360lb. monster; I ended up on my back with him on top of me crushing my rib cage. I could breathe just enough to not pass out. He was crushing me like a ton of bricks; however he was not advancing to submit me. He held strong amounts of pressure, but I stayed calm, made small adjustments and did not allow him to submit me. I wanted to tap, it would have been easier to just relive the pressure, stand back up and grapple another opponent. I refused to do so. The moment I saw a small opening as my opponent moved, I was able to place myself in a slightly better position. I could now breathe easier. I gained a little more confidence. I advanced slightly. He got tired, he made another mistake and I capitalized again. I was able to squirm myself into a dominant position. A minute later, I submitted him.

Life, business, parenthood, being involved in the community, whatever the role may be can be a lot of pressure. There are just days when I want to flat out give up, call it quits and let my opponent win. But then I remember that I am just in a bad position. There is nothing worth “tapping” over at this point. So remember to relax, breathe, be patient, wait for an opportunity to advance little by little and you will see that opening to get back up again.