This article was written by Nicolas Gregoriades, who is a 3rd degree Jiu-Jitsu black Belt under Roger Gracie. Nic is an instructor at Subconscious Jiu Jitsu.
You slap hands and touch fists with your opponent. The match begins slowly, both of you searching for grips, probing for an opening. You get a hold low on his collar. The grip isn't great but it's better than nothing. He gets a grip of his own and it's stronger and deeper. You initiate an attack by trying to push him off balance. He counters by falling to his back and attempting to sweep you over himself. There is a scramble for position. It goes his way and he lands hard on top of you in a tight side-mount.
Most of his weight is on your rib cage, and he makes full use of it to drive all but a few wisps of air from your lungs. So heavy. You know it's not a good place to be. But you breathe and you hold on... Now that he has his position he begins to look for the finish. He's good from the top and you know that if you make one mistake it will end with you tapping. You feel for the space you need to escape, but his base is low and he's not leaving any gaps. So tight. In desperation you push with your arms to create an opening, leaving your hand exposed a few inches too far from your centre. But a few inches is all he needs, and he capitalizes by applying an Americana. Instinctively you draw your elbow in to protect yourself. But it's a good lock and he's strong. So strong. He has your arm bent to within one inch of tearing your shoulder apart. I have to tap! But you breathe and you hold on...
You twist and pull, trying to gain the slightest bit of space with which to save your rotator cuff. He senses the kill and intensifies the pressure of the attack. In the process, he shifts his weight just a little bit too far forward. It's now or never. You mobilize all your physical resources and bridge explosively towards your trapped arm. His centre of gravity lifts as your jiu-jitsu works its magic. He rolls off and you are out, safe for now. Against a lesser opponent, that reversal would have taken you to a dominant position, but this time you are on your knees, once again face to face with your adversary. Physically and mentally you are drained. He still looks fresh. Will he ever get tired?
He wants to push the pace and drives forward. But in his haste, he neglects to set his grips before transitioning. Your body knows what to do and moves before your mind can get in the way. You absorb his forward momentum and pull him into your guard. He becomes frustrated and loses concentration, extending one of his arms just a few inches too far. But a few inches is all you need. Armbar! You latch onto the arm, step on his hip and throw your leg over his head. All the pieces come together as the technique you've drilled a thousand times flows into one smooth movement. The armlock is on tight. But he doesn't tap. Just a little more leverage is all you need. You lift your hips and arch your back, putting everything into it; your mind, body and soul. He has to tap...he has to....surely he can't hold on? "TIME" yells somebody from the edge of the mat. You release the lock. You and your opponent make eye contact. You both smile and thank each other for the roll. A certain understanding passes between you. You know him in a way that his coworkers and 'civilian' friends never will. You look down and notice that your hands are trembling. Every muscle in your body is screaming and your lungs are on fire. Sweat runs down your forehead and stings your eyes. Your shoulder is throbbing - that's gonna hurt tomorrow...
But you smile to yourself, for this is jiu-jitsu. And I am ALIVE!