Not all submissions were created equal. Helio Gracie said “For the choke there are no tough guys… with an arm lock he can be tough and resist the pain… with the choke he just passes out, goes to sleep.” Let’s take a look at the disparity between different submission types.
Chokes: as mentioned above, chokes can’t be “toughed out”. If you’ve watched the famed match between Renaldo Jacare Souza and Roger Gracie, you know that had Gracie done the same thing with a choke as he did with an arm bar (namely, crank the submission to its limit), he would have won the match. However, Jacare was tough enough to not tap and then to avoid Gracie for the rest of the match and win on points. The key disadvantage, in my mind, to chokes is that they require a greater degree of precision than joint locks. In order to execute a choke, one needs to have contact with both carotid arteries; if you miss the carotids you won’t get the choke, simple as that.
Arm/Shoulder/Wrist Locks: As pointed out above, a person CAN tough out of an arm lock. However, there are so many available. If you attack an arm lock and the other person starts to slip out you can turn it into a shoulder or a wrist lock. This variety of transitions isn’t necessarily available with other submittable appendages, and that’s an important distinction. I personally find that arm locks are much easier to secure and finish than chokes because of the fact that if I fail at one sort of arm lock, I can transition to another. All of this said some people have very flexible joints, just look at the nasty attempts of Fabricio Werdum when he faced Vinny Maghalaes. Maghalaes’ flexible arm joints allowed him to survive the onslaught of Werdum.
Leg/Foot Locks: lower leg attacks are surrounded with controversy in BJJ. From their humble beginnings in the Fadda academy, in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/submission grappling there are many limitations put on leg locks. The rationale is that if you have two people who don’t really understand them fighting for them someone is bound to get their knee blown out. I have personally executed a couple of heel hooks in tournaments without anyone getting injured, the key is to know how to lock it up right, and for the person getting leg locked to respect it. There are a couple of caveats with leg locks. They can be difficult finish if the other person is flexible (similar to the arm lock dilemma.) Just look at any attempt to leg lock the Miyao twins. Good luck there! Also, some leg lock entries leave the person initiating the attack a bit vulnerable. I have been both on the giving and receiving ends of effective counter locks.
There are other types of submissions that can be covered like spinal locks, neck cranks and others. What sorts of attacks do you have the most success with? Are there some submissions that don’t “work” on you?