It takes 2 to tango. That’s what my grade school principal told me once after a schoolyard fight. I was trying to convince him it wasn’t my fault. He was right of course, without 2 willing participants there is no fight. But it’s easy to miss the deeper truth here. If either fighter loses his will to continue, the fight is over.

The essence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not to apply a choke or a submission hold, and it is certainly not to score points. The essence of BJJ is having the ability to force your opponent to submit – to use your knowledge and skill to destroy his will to fight.

A fighter’s will is a combination of desire, belief, and value. He has to have the desire to fight or he will walk away. He needs to believe that success (as he defines it) is possible or he will quit. And he has to value the victory enough to be willing to pay the price. If any of these components are missing then a fighter’s will can be broken.

On the other hand, a fighter with a strong will can overcome an opponent who is bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled. It is always a mistake to underestimate a fighter with a strong will, especially if he is willing to pay any price for victory.

In order to break your opponent’s will to fight, you must convince him that either he doesn’t really want to fight, or he cannot achieve success, or that the price he will have to pay for success is just too great. If you can accomplish any one of those tasks then you have broken his will.

During the fight the will of both fighters can continually change based on events in the fight. You must manage your own will while working to destroy your opponents. Here are 6 tactics that you can use to help break your opponents will:

Dictate the pace of the fight. If you dictate the pace of the fight you can make your opponent uncomfortable and take him out of his rhythm. Fighting out of rhythm saps the will from an opponent as he feels like things just aren’t clicking for him.

Apply unrelenting pressure. Many fighters look for little breaks in the action to think about position or to recharge before an attack, denying those opportunities frustrates opponents. Unrelenting pressure doesn’t mean the same as a furious pace, your pressure can be slow and building, but it never lets up and provides no opportunity for rest.

Chain your submission attempts. If you try a submission and your opponent successfully defends it, his will actually gets a little lift and yours gets diminished. Never think in terms of single submissions, they usually won’t work the first time. A continuous flow of submissions attempts will diminish his will and increase yours regardless of their success.

Don’t show weakness. Even if you are tired or in pain, don’t show it. Control your breathing and continue to move deliberately. Your opponent may even give up on a submission attempt if he doesn’t think it is working. If he begins doubting his attacks, or believes that he cannot hurt you, it weakens his will significantly.

Convince him you are willing to pay any price. If your opponent believes that you are willing to fight through broken bones and he knows that he is not, his fighting will be half hearted. He will look for an opportunity to quit and you have won before you started.

Reframe the fight in your own mind. If your opponent is fighting to get some exercise and maybe get a shiny medal, and you are fighting for your life, the outcome is not in question. Make sure your opponent understands your reference frame. If he is just there for fun but thinks you are fighting for your life, he will break quickly.

Remember that once you feel you have broken your opponent’s will it is important to finish the fight as quickly as possible. Every second on the mat provides more opportunity for him to regain confidence and turn the fight around.

Bill Thomas