MMA Journalist Luke Thomas Explains There is No Tickling in Jiu-Jitsu

By Luke Schmaltz
Georges St. Pierre vs Thiago Alves
Jon Kopaloff – Getty Images Sport

Esteemed Journalist Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting was recently asked by a viewer of his weekly webcast if Jiu-Jitsu opponents ever resort to tickling one another in order to gain advantage.

Thomas was not especially stimulated by the question, but neither did he condescend. Rather, he explained in a very matter-of-fact tone that the tactic has no effect whatsoever due to the physical intensity of a grappling exchange.

A professional answer to a perfectly valid question, yet when expanded upon the premise leads to a realization. If a light caress across exposed skin was all it took to get another man from stopping the blood flow to your brain, humans would have been marching into battle time immemorial carrying feathers instead of swords.

If this was a world where tickling worked in Jiu Jitsu, it is safe to assume that finger tapping would work in fist fights, that blowing would defend a take down and that simply squealing “noooooo” as you splay up against the cage would divert an opponent from teeing off on your cranium.

Imagine Bas Rutten back in his hell raising heyday. His guard is up with the forefinger of each fist pointing as a horde of drunks advance upon him. In a quick flurry, he dances about, tapping the brutes lightly on the noggin and they each crumble to the floor like abandoned marionettes.

Imagine Renan Barao shooting at T.J. Dillashaw, and Dillashaw simply puffing downward like he is shooing a fly off his Jello and boom, Barao seizes, freezes and falls.

Imagine Robbie Lawler winding up an assault of bombs Josh Koscheck. At the last second before a hammerfist hits the button, Koscheck cries, “NO PLEASE STOP,” and just like that, Lawler passes out, his face smearing against the cage wires as he crumples like wet spaghetti.

If this was suddenly reality, our beloved fixation upon the deliberate violence called MMA would be over. Entertainment would consist of talk shows about flowers and PPV would be diminished to broadcasting dog shows and Martha Stewart.

A recent article published on the New Republic website outlines how students at several major universities, such as Rutgers and UCSB, are demanding that “trigger warnings” be implemented to protect them from having an emotional reaction to graphic material. Classic works of literature like King Lear, Huckleberry Finn and The Bell Jar are all being compromised because the mere written suggestion of eye gouging, trash talking and pill popping is simply too much for some people to bear.

Needless to say, these folks will not be spending their next Saturday night tuning in to a UFC Fight Night or PPV event. If they had their way, cussing, self defense and high-fiving would all be punishable crimes and tickling would definitely work in Jiu Jitsu.

Privileged college brats might have it all in comparison to some, but without the ability to appreciate the visceral experience of MMA for the raw, intense and savage thing that it is — they really don’t have much.

Luke Schmaltz is a Combat Sports writer for Follow him on Twitter @lukeschmaltz, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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