My first jiu-jitsu professor often said “With strong grips you can control a fight.” When his hand went into your collar you instantly felt in danger and had to move fast to escape!
For the jiu-jitsu student who is starting to train with the kimono, they discover that gripping and holding the collar and sleeves of their opponents can be exhausting! I had a student recently show me some callused and red knuckles and ask if this was normal in jiu-jitsu?
Yes, if you play a lot of spider guard for example, your knuckles can receive some abrasions which heal and become calluses. Your grip strength will also naturally and gradually adapt due to the increased demands you are placing on your hands.
As you train with more experienced partners, the domination of and breaking of grips becomes increasingly important. When it comes to both stand up takedowns and passing / defending the guard, whomever controls the grips is very likely dominating the fight. International judo players have developed sophisticated gripping and grip breaking strategies. The moment one player secures his favorite grips,..the opponent is next sailing through the air for Ippon!
Here are 3 “Tips for your Grips”:
1) Make your grips count
Don’t just grab ahold of any area of gi that you can reach. Use your collar grip DEEP to threaten the choke and break the posture of your opponent. A strong collar grip keeps the top passer honest by not putting their head down if they know that they are vulnerable to a collar choke!
If you are controlling a sleeve, pull strongly and push with your legs to stretch out your opponent. After hip movement, controlling the grips might be the most important factor in an effective guard.
2) Break your opponent’s grips
Your opponent needs certain grips (especially when it comes to defending and passing the guard). It is your job to deny and break those grips.
Your professor can teach you how to deal with certain grips and how to dominate your own.
When I was a brown belt I had a mantra before training with advanced guys: “Break grips when passing!”
3) Strengthen your grips
The most convenient way to strengthen your grips is to get a kimono top and loop it over a chin up bar. You can perform chin ups or simply hang for however long your grip lasts.
This is not easy! After trying a timed kimono hang, you will laugh at how a movie hero hangs from one arm over the edge of a cliff. Total fiction!
Many gyms have a set of TRX straps that you can also use to build pulling power. I use gi sleeves threaded through the handles to make it more specific to kimono grappling.
When you have a strong grip, your opponent will not have an easy time to pass your guard and your chokes will go to an entirely new level of danger!
How to Break the Opponents Grip on Your Collar and Sleeve From Standing Position Gracie Barra Twin Cities:
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam