One of the critical questions you can always ask yourself is whether you are safe at a given moment. If you can’t be sure that you are safe, you need to improve your situation unless the time is running out and you need to take a greater risk.
On a related note, what will help you evaluate your situation is to know what is possibly exposed in a given moment. This means understanding what submission options are available to your opponent at a given moment. And you need to be aware of these potential threats to avoid them. Your opponent will have a harder time setting up their attacks when you know exactly what they are working on.
From an offensive perspective, this is why you want to chain your moves together so you can overload your opponent and make it more difficult for them to catch up with your series of attacks.
There’s another benefit to understanding what’s exposed in your current position. You can use potential submission threats to your advantage.
For example, let’s say you are trying to pass the guard. If you are not careful, your opponent could grab your wrist and go for Kimura. In other words, your arm could be exposed depending on how you place your arm when you pass the guard.
One obvious way to deal with it is to be conscious of your arm placement. You know the potential consequence of being lazy about this placement, so you avoid it beforehand. This is a reasonable approach.
You should learn how to escape from major submissions at a later stage, but whenever you can avoid them early, just avoid them early. If you could do an armbar escape as Garry Tonon did against Kron Gracie, that would be super impressive, though.
Now… back to Kimura. You could also leave it there on purpose for your opponent to take. When you know 1) your arm is exposed, 2) how your opponent is most likely to set up their attack using this arm, and 3) how to counter your opponent’s attempt, the situation changes. Now you are the one running a trap to catch your opponent.
This Kimura scenario is precisely one of my favorite counter-attacking situations. I let my opponent grab my arm, but I step over and go for the armbar. If you don’t know this counter, take a look at this short video.
The key to making this kind of sneaky baits work is to make them look like genuine mistakes. If you are obviously giving something up, usually your opponent will doubt your motive and bring their defense up. Act casually!
If you are a beginner, pay attention to when your senior training partners catch you and how it happens. By paying attention to these pieces of information, you will start building better intuition about what’s exposed in a given moment.
If you are more advanced, try and see if you could use your potential vulnerabilities as bait and counter against your opponent’s submission attempts. This is another excellent way to expand your overall game, and you will become much harder to beat in the long run.