If someone asked me what I think the most important aspect of rolling while wearing a gi is, I’d surely reply that it’s the grip fight. There’s no doubt about it. And just to reinforce what I’m saying here, I want you to think about the very first thing you do when you’re rolling gi. That’s right, you get your grips.
I remember a class we had up at Jeff’s place a few years ago. Gerry Navarra, a Judo black belt, made a visit and taught us some pretty sweet principles of Judo. One of the things he really focused on was grips. In Judo, grips are everything. Start to finish – if you don’t have grips, you don’t have anything.
After that class, we had sort of a round robin thing go on, where one person was in the middle and every other person had to come in and try to take them down (one by one). I had varied luck with most of my classmates, but the one person I had the most difficulty with was Gerry himself. He’s a really nice guy, but I swear, once he clamps those vice-like hands on you, there’s no getting away. It’s like he turns into someone else. When it was my turn and when I approached Gerry, he swiftly and effortlessly grabbed me and placed me on the ground. I looked up at him with amazement and at that very moment learned to importance of grip fighting.
Through the years, I’ve sort of forgotten about the ‘ol grip fight. I had leaned towards rolling no-gi and all that goes along with it. As you probably already know, the game’s completely different when you aren’t wearing a gi. No more lapel grips, no more sleeve grips, no more pant grips. It’s all hooks – under, over and in between.
When I arrived in Florida and joined up with Fighting Chance, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of wishing I had worked on my grip game a bit more than I had. I was forced to quickly brush up on what I used to know – and thinking back to what Gerry taught me helped a lot. And now that I really think about it some more, there’s no better player to turn to when you have the desire to learn about grips than a Judo player.
There are a few guys up at Fighting Chance that are really good at grip fighting. I’ve gone up against them multiple times and if I don’t pull off a triangle or something like that, my downfall is usually due to them getting superior grips on me – and not letting go. I notice these little things and when I see myself failing in a certain area, it’s tough for me to ignore it. I have to study up on it to find the exact items I need to work on. And after Thursday’s class, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
I found a few videos this afternoon put out by BJJ Weekly, featuring none other than Olympic competitor, Jimmy Pedro. I figured that if grips were important and that if I could learn a lot from a Judo guy, Jimmy Pedro was the man to watch. Lucky for me, BJJ Weekly got to him and asked him to answer the same questions I had:
– What’s a good gripping strategy?
– Should I block my opponent from getting initial grips on me?
– Once I get my grips, should I block my opponent from doing the same?
– What’s more beneficial – inside or outside grips?
– What’s the best way to break my opponent’s grips?
It’s funny because there really is a strategy to these things. It’s not enough to know that you need good grips. It’s not enough to know that you should block your opponent’s grip attempt on you and it’s not enough to know that you should do everything in your power to break grips once they happen. While knowing is half the battle, how to deal with each scenario before and after it occurs is the other half. It could make or break your fight.
I’m going to post two of the videos I watched today down below. They’re really good at answering the questions I posed above. And if you want to continue on and learn even more about grip fighting, check out the links I added below the videos. They might just help your game.
Jimmy Pedro – Judo for Jiu-Jitsu – Grip Strategy
Jimmy Pedro – Grip Break Power Play
An Introduction to Kumi Kata (Grip Fighting) for Novice Judo Athletes
Jiu Jitsu – Achieving Unbreakable Grips