The Minutiae of Grips: It’s Not Just Where You Grab but How you Grab It

The first time I rolled after a seven year break my forearms burned.  It had been so long since I had fought to hold on to a grip that my arms were exhausted.  But since then I have not had any issues with my grip.  Contrast my experience to my friend’s.  He started in May of this year and is constantly complaining about his fingers hurting and his grip burning out.  He’s much stronger than me so I suspect he has not learned how to relax while gripping.

Some people do experience finger pain in jiu jitsu that seems unavoidable (my husband loves Grappz for this reason).  But holding on the right way is important too.  Sometimes how you grab is as important as where you grab in jiu jitsu.  Ok – that’s a bit of an exaggeration but if you can’t hold on, where you grab doesn’t really matter.

Here are four kinds of grips in jiu jitsu and two tips that apply to all grips.

  • C-Grip:

    • a “C” with your hand.  Now grab something.  That’s a C-grip.
    • This grip has a lot of control but its not as strong when there is pressure against the thumb as against the fingers.  My coach is not a fan of this grip because he worries it puts the thumb in unnecessary danger; he prefers alternative grips, like monkey grip, whenever possible.
    • This is a good grip for controlling your partner’s arm and wrists from positions where they do not have many places to move and do not have much leverage.
  • Monkey Grip:

    • Make a C-Grip.  Now move your thumb up next to your fingers.  So it’s like a thumbless C-grip.  Maybe a lower case “r” grip?
    • This grip has less control than the C-grip but your thumb is no longer in danger.
    • This is a good grip for controlling your partner’s limbs or head, particularly when you are trying to direct your partner’s momentum.
  • Rolling Grip:

    • Take your partner’s gi and grab with your pinky and ring fingers.  As your fingers bring the fabric into your palm, grab a little more fabric with your middle finger.  As you roll that into your palm lightly grab with your index finger.  The result should be your ring and pinky fingers holding tightly, your middle finger a  little tight, and your index finger holding loosely.
    • This grip is good for collar chokes because you can feel how high you should be on the neck with your relatively free index finger.  I also like to use it when I’m trying to hide my arms in sidebody or trying to control my partner’s hips when passing the guard.
  • Two-ply Grip:

    • Grab your partner’s gi.  Fold the fabric.  Grab the folded fabric.  You should be holding two layers of fabric – hence two-ply.
    • Use this grip for thumb in collar chokes or controlling your partner’s neck from s-mount or the back.
  • Relax:

    • If you let your grip burn out trying to finish a submission you will be less able to attack or defend later.  Also, if you are tense you can’t tell what your partner is doing.
  • Don’t Squeeze:

    • Squeezing or holding on tighter rarely helps maintain grips.  If you have a good grip on your partner, no squeezing should be necessary.  Nicolas Gregoriades recommends thinking of your grips as hooks instead.

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