BJJ Submissions: The Importance, Categories, and Tapping


In BJJ, a “submission” is a technique, that when executed successfully, will control, maim, hurt, or subdue. There are many different submission techniques, each targeting different parts of the body. For example, the Rear Naked Choke submission targets the carotid arteries, thereby reducing blood flow to the brain, and rendering the victim unconscious. By comparison, another example is the Armbar, which targets the elbow, hyper-extending it to its breaking point, and thereby controlling and/or maiming the victim.

Importance of Submissions

In BJJ culture, submissions are highly sought-after prizes when sparring. They are important to the culture for both individual and collective reasons, and it is likely that it will always be an important aspect of the art’s identity.

Submissions and the Individual

How frequently or easily you tap out your peers is a uniquely tangible way to measure progress in a sport that is known for its non-linear progression. Newcomers to the sport may spend months training before being able to tap out a peer. Inversely, highly advanced practitioners may go months without being tapped out. Keep in mind that measuring yourself in this way can be dangerous. It can invite one’s ego to convince them they are better than their training partners or others in the sport. Maybe they are, or maybe they aren’t. The bottom line is that if you aren’t getting tapped out, you probably aren’t being pushed hard enough by your training partners.

Submissions and BJJ

One of the selling points of BJJ is its effectiveness as a martial art as applied to real-world scenarios. Regardless of whether you think BJJ is applicable in street fights, a submission that is executed from a dominant position (whether in sport or combat) is seen as the pinnacle of the art. This is an important distinction for BJJ when compared to other martial arts, because it allows the practitioner to test the effectiveness against resisting opponents. Additionally, it also allows the art to be used in various settings from street fights to wrestling to MMA.

Curriculums and Continued Growth

One amazing aspect of BJJ is that there is no centralized governing body that specifies a curriculum or list of approved submissions. Some gyms follow a curriculum and others don’t, and both can produce high-quality submission grapplers. Additionally, new submissions continue to be discovered and/or named, and they are taught to the community either though instructionals, coaching, competition, or through rolling against it.

Submission Categories

There are many different categories of submissions, each targeting specific parts of the body. Some categories have hundreds of different techniques and variations, whereas others only have a few. There are new techniques being developed all the time, and each gym may use different names. The actual techniques within the categories will not be listed below. Instead, you will find a description of the categories and how each area of the body is generally targeted to submit an opponent.

Neck Cranks and Wrenching

“Neck cranks” use a twisting or wrenching force on the neck to cause pain and discomfort. If ignored, this kind of submissions can cause lasting damage. These types of submissions are often viewed in a negative light, due to the emphasis on wrenching force and the long-term damage that can happen if the training partner does not tap in time.

Neck Chokes

“Neck chokes” target the carotid arteries. You can apply this pressure by using the legs, forearms, biceps, or other parts of their body or fabric. Regardless of how the choke is applied, the key detail is to press against one or more arteries in the neck and reduce the flow of blood to the head.

Crushing or Compression

“Crushers” or a crushing, compression-like force can target a number of regions on the body, most notably the trachea, biceps, knees, diaphragm, lungs, or chest. One example of a crusher would be to apply pressure to the trachea, most commonly from a modified choking position. Another example would be compression of the lungs from a modified head-and-arm position. In these circumstances and in similar techniques, the intent is to break the area through crushing force.

Spinal Locks

“Spinal locks” involve twisting the spine and may be seen as dangerous, similar to neck cranks. Like the neck, a damaged spine may not recover as easily as a damaged joint and should be practiced and applied with extreme care. The most famous technique in this category would be the Twister, which targets the spinal column.

Joint Locks

“Joint locks” target a shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle, or knee with the intent of hyper-extending the joint and eventually tearing the limb from the socket. Examples of this include the armbar, kneebar, Kimura, wristlock, or ankle lock. The armbar is one of the most famous examples of a submission, and it is often the safest to apply. This is due to the number of pain receptors in the elbow, which makes it easy for newcomers to know when they are in danger. By contrast, the kneebar is generally reserved for more advanced practitioners, as the knee does not have any many pain receptors, and waiting for pain to tap may result in injury.

Ligament Attacks

“Ligament” submissions target the shoulder, knees, and ribs. While ligaments aren’t exactly a specific region of the body, it is important to distinguish them from joint locks or cutters. For example, a knee reap or heel hook, while appearing to target the knee, will actually target the ligaments at the knee. These can be dangerous because you will not necessarily feel pain when the ligaments are damaged.

Muscle Cutters

“Cutter” submissions are very similar to the crusher or crushing submissions mentioned above, and in some cases, they may be the same thing. However, the cutter is differentiated from a crushing pressure by utilizing a bladed portion of an arm or leg. For example, using the blade of the arm can target a specific area with cutting pressure, as opposed to the general crushing pressure over a wider area of application. Examples include the bicep cutter or calf cutter.

“Position Before Submission”

A “position” refers to the bodily arrangement or placement of two grapplers, and submissions are generally referred to based on the context of the position. For example, a team member may say, “I tapped out John yesterday with an armbar from side control top.” In the case of the armbar, the context of the position can be an important distinction, because there are many different positions that are commonly used to execute an armbar.


Additionally, a common saying in BJJ is, “Position before submission,” which means that you should establish and maintain a dominant or controlled position before attempting to submit your opponent. In doing so, the practitioner shows their mastery of positional dominance, as well as the ability to tap out their opponent in a safe and controlled way. It is often an important lesson for newcomers to learn, and can be a good indication of their progress in the sport.

Tapping to a Submission

A “tap” is used to acknowledge a successfully executed submission, and the player applying the submissions will release the hold. This is beneficial, because it allows BJJ practitioners to test out the effectiveness of their techniques against a resisting opponent that is also trying to tap them out. A player may tap out in many different ways, though it is usually done by slapping a hand on the mat loudly and repeatedly. A player may say, “I got tapped out yesterday by John,” and mean that they had to tap the mat when John applied a submission that they could not escape from.

“Tap Early, Train Often”

You may have heard people utter the saying, “Tap early, train often.” This essentially means that you should not wait until a submission hurts to tap, as it will prevent many injuries from taking place to begin with. Additionally, you don’t have to take time off to heal from an injury you don’t have. Instead, you can continue to train regularly.

Partners who Don’t Tap

Especially when grapplers are new to BJJ, sometimes they don’t want to tap out. This could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps they view themselves as amazing fighters who can’t be beat. Additionally, they may not want to tap to someone that is smaller, younger, or of a different gender. Regardless of the reason, these are people who have not yet learned the truth of BJJ: everybody taps. Against these people, look for dominant positional control, and force them to make poor choices. If you can dominate them positionally for a long enough period of time, they may be more likely to give us a submission.

Did you Find This Helpful?

If you didn't know what a submission was before, or if you're new to submission, I hope this helped you get a better idea of what to expect. If you think of something that wasn't covered or would like to know more about a specific detail, leave a comment below or send us a message.

Justin Murphysubmit, submission, tap