Jiu-Jitsu Grip Strength

Grip strength is a physical attribute that all practitioners of BJJ are constantly trying to attain and improve. Far more important that grip strength is grip timing, placement and endurance. What makes grip strength so important? And what aspects denote true mastery of grip as a weapon for BJJ?

In the Gi, we have the benefit of having an almost infinite combination of grips available to us, both on the jacket and pants. Sometimes during a match Jiujiteiros will until un-tuck a lapel either on themselves or their opponent for use later in the match. This sort of “grip” is analogous to setting up a pawn in a specific position on a chess board to block the movement of other pieces later in the game. Grips can be established to attain stable foundations, or as mere distractions to mask true intent.

The ability to grip and squeeze is useful, but secondary to the ability to grip and hold on. At most people’s first few tournaments they’ll notice that after each match their forearms experience a burning sensation in the muscles and the reason for this is that it takes a while for us to learn to control our grips. We burn our grips out far too easily and don’t have them for later matches in the day. That said it is also important to learn not to abandon grips that are necessary to ensure victory…

The “secret” to grip is mastery of timing. If you hold onto a grip with too much fervor you’ll invariably burn yourself out, if you let every grip go you’ll allow your opponent to attain dominant grips which will most likely cost you the match. The key is to know when to tighten and when to loosen the grip to expend as little energy as possible and maximize the result of the grip. Think of it like driving a car, you can’t hold the steering wheel with your full grip ALL THE TIME, you need to relax your hand and feel the road by way of the steering wheel. When the road gets bumpy, tighten your grip a bit to stay on course. This is normally a skill developed through mat time.

Grip placement depends on what kind of game is being played. Play around with different grip sets that are available and figure out which set gives you the best results. Anyone with experience can tell you that the difference between winning and losing can often be in a well placed or misplaced grip. For example certain moves are better with grips on the INSIDES of the knees while certain grips are better on the outside of the knees, that tiny difference can make a move work or fail.

These are just a few thoughts on the constantly evolving realm of grips as they pertain to BJJ. Learn grips, love grips and get good at grips.


Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer



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