Robot Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Grips (Anchors) – Torque and Injuries
Whether you are training with a gi or without one, grips / anchors are incredibly important. One unfortunate problem students run into is that the improper gripping technique or insistence on holding a particular grip can lead to injury. This week, let’s look at these issues a bit closer.
First and foremost, remember that a “grip” does not mean “holding onto the gi in a particular place.” That is why I prefer the term “anchor” because it allows us to more easily see how all of the following function as a “grip” would, but the term “grip” seems to imply the use of the hands alone -
1) Grabbing the kimono - This is the most obvious use of an anchor. We grab the lapels, pants and sleeves regularly in grappling because this allows us to control our opponent’s joints that are in proximity to this grip. In other words, when you grab onto the fabric, you are generally not interested in controlling the fabric (it is possible buy fabric at the store in bulk if that’s the case!), but rather the ankle / elbow / spine – whatever is closest to where we have latched our hands. Since we are interested in controlling the joints, keep in mind that taking out all of the slack from the fabric will confer the greatest control because it brings your anchor closest to the area you are trying to control. This is also the type of anchoring that tends to cause the most frequent injuries.
2) Grabbing the body - In the previous example, we would grab the pants to potentially control the knees or grab the sleeves to potentially control the elbows. In this case, we can grab directly onto the joints we want to control. When grappling without a kimono, it is useful to translate your grips into their no-gi application – sleeve grips become wrist / elbow control and instead of grabbing at the lapel, we control the back of the head, similar to how a Muay Thai fighter would control the head to deliver knee strikes. Even when grappling with a gi, there will be times when we prefer to grab directly onto our opponent’s limbs instead of the kimono, so watch out for these circumstances! Lastly, if you are new to no-gi grappling, one of the first changes to implement is to control your opponent’s head directly with your hands whenever possible. The spinal fault you can create here will make it much easier to maintain grips on their limbs and also make it much easier to capitalize on the fact that neither grappler has material to grab onto – but we are still interested in utilizing torque efficiently against our opponent. One of the best ways to maximize your use of torque to is minimize your opponent’s ability to harness torque. Nothing does this better than a spinal fault!
3) Anchoring; Not Just for Hands Anymore! - When you use the instep of your foot to hook behind your opponent’s knee, you are creating an anchor. When you pull your elbow in towards your side and trap your opponent’s hand in place, you are creating an anchor. When you create torque and focus that torque through your shoulder onto your opponent, you are creating an anchor. This is worth mentioning because all anchors, whether they use the gi or not, are best utilized if we can remove the slack from the system they occupy. For example, when you use your elbow to trap, squeeze it to your side until you remove all the space in that area.
Lastly, keep in mind that insisting on keeping an anchor when it is in a mechanically weak position can result in injury. For example, if you are holding onto your opponent’s lapel and they step back, grab your hand with both hands and try to snap your grip off their collar, it is sometimes best to let go prior to this and fight for a new anchor. By stepping back, they have moved your elbow away from your body, which means there are less stabilizing forces working in your body to help keep your grip stable and strong. By using two hands against your one, they are creating another advantage that they can use to more easily break your grip. Instead of holding onto the grip and risking injury, hunt for a new grip or use the current grip earlier next time around. There will be a time when you can hold onto certain grips despite your opponent’s best efforts to break them. Keep in mind that this is usually due to very minute, hard-to-perceive adjustments that are occurring to maintain the grip strength (a skill that requires mastering) instead of brute strength. So, be patient, develop this skill and if you hurt your fingers in the process, here’s a video from the always-hilarious Kurt Osiander on how to tape your fingers for grappling.