There is a ton of discussion about taping fingers in BJJ. In this article you will find out if and when it makes sense to tape your fingers in BJJ, why other people do it, and how you can go about it.
Why do people tape their fingers in BJJ?
Tape in BJJ is typically used for one of the following reasons:
- To stabilize injured fingers
- To prevent finger arthritis
- To cover up cuts and rashes
I’ll explain whether taping your fingers helps in each of these instances.
Stabilising common BJJ finger injuries
BJJ guys tape their fingers most often to stabilize their fingers after they’ve had one of the common BJJ finger injuries: a sprained finger, dislocated finger, swollen finger or broken finger.
It can definitely help to tape a finger that is hurting. Taping your finger also helps to stabilise your joint and prevent further injury.
However BJJ guys often overuse tape, and use it to train when they should really be resting. This causes them to repeatedly injure their fingers. This increases recovery time and can lead to permanent damage in the finger.
You’ll also see some BJJ people that date their fingers for every class.
They do this not necessarily because they have an injury right now but because they have a history of injuries in their fingers.
Injuring your fingers again and again can lead to permanent damage and the development of finger arthritis.
So if you have a finger that is always bugging you it may be smart to tape it up just to prevent damaging it any further.
Cover up cuts & wounds
The last reason why people take their fingers in BJJ is to cover up cuts and wounds.
If you want to do this you should definitely apply a bandage first and then tape over that,. but you’ll see a lot of people that just put tape over their wounds directly (not a smart idea, because you’ll open up the wound when you take the tape off).
You should also be really careful not to have your cuts get infected and lead to skin infections if you decide to tape over your cuts and keep rolling.
Benefits of taping your fingers in BJJ
Your fingers are some of the most important parts of your body for gripping, holding and gripping your opponents in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If your fingers are not strong enough and well protected, you risk them being injured very easily.
Some of the most common finger injuries in BJJ are to the tendons, ligaments and joints in the small joints of the fingers and toes.
The best way to avoid finger injuries is to tape your fingers and make sure they are as safe as possible.
Taping the fingers in BJJ allows you to:
- Increase grip strength,
- Increase your ability to hold your opponent,
- Protect your fingers and joints from being injured,
- Reduce the risk of them being broken or sprained
- Make you more confident in certain moves that put pressure on your fingers
For these reasons, taping your fingers in BJJ can lead to better performance if you have one or more painful fingers.
How to tape fingers & other joints in BJJ
How you should tape your fingers and joints depends on your exact injury. I’ve written a companion blog post in which I describe how to tape your fingers and other joints for BJJ for the most common injuries to the fingers, toes, knuckles, ankles and more.
The ‘Too long didn’t read’ version is that you want to buddy tape your fingers together whenever you can, and you want to be generous with the tape you use.
Buddy taping is good
Buddy taping is the practice of typing two fingers together so that you can support an injured finger with an uninjured finger.
This works really well as you but then some mobility in your finger but also prevents from hyperextending in any which way.
Use a generous amount of tape
The most common mistake with taping fingers is to use a small amount of tape. People usually just don’t want to waste tape, and that is a valid concern.
However, a small amount of tape is not going to do the job. It won’t protect you well enough and it will come off really quick.
If you have a longer lasting injury and don’t want to use a lot of tape every class, it’s often worth it to invest in a simple brace for your injured joint. Finger braces are available for less than $20, so if you regularly tape your fingers, you make your money back pretty quickly.
How long should I keep my fingers taped for BJJ?
There is not one set answer to this, it depends on the type of finger injury, your general health, and your rolling style.
The general rule is if you are not in pain then leave it on for another week, the longer you have it on the longer you will have to come back to full strength.The worst thing is to injure your finger again during the first time that you train without tape.
Remember, this is not a set in stone answer. You have to get to know yourself and learn how quickly you recover from injuries, and how well you can restrain yourself during sparring to protect your injuries.
What tape to use for BJJ
There is a lot of different tape out there in the market, so it is hard to recommend the absolute best one. Some tapes are thinner than others and some are more sticky.
However, there are some types of tape you should use for BJJ and other types that aren’t as suitable.
The best tape brand for BJJ
The tape that I have found to be the best tape for BJJ is the KT Tape brand. This tape is waterproof and the stickiness is incredible. It also lasts longer than other brands of tape because it actually sticks for the whole class. The only downside to this tape is that it is a little more expensive than other brands. However, I have found that the KT tape is worth the extra money.
Another good option is Monkey Tape. It’s specifically branded for grapplers, it’s very sticky and comes in a variety of colors.
I recommend staying away from the athletic tape that is sold at the local drug store. This tape is not sticky enough and will not last. It also will leave a sticky residue on your skin. This tape is also very thin. This means that it will not offer much in terms of support for your joints
How big should the tape be for BJJ?
How big or wide the tape you use should be depends on which injury you’re treating.
If you have an injury in a small joint such as your finger, you need a very thin tape to properly tape it. Or if you have a wider tape, you need to cut it in half or even smaller. For your finger, you want a tape that’s thinner than your knuckle.
If you have an injury to a bigger joint, such as your ankle, you need a very wide tape. For your ankle, you want a tape that’s as wide as your heel. A thinner tape doesn’t support the joint enough.
Since you need different sizes of tape for different injuries, you should probably buy a couple of different sizes of tape and always bring those with you to class.
How much tape to use for BJJ?
If you want to tape your fingers when you are doing BJJ, you need to use quite a lot in order for the tape not to come off during training.
However, you shouldn’t use too much tape. If you use too much tape, you will have problems with moving your fingers.
The fingers must be able to move freely. If you use too much tape, the fingers will look like sausages and this is not good.
The key is to figure out how to tape your fingers with the correct technique, so that you use the tape efficiently.
Other ways to protect fingers & avoid finger injuries in BJJ
There are also a number of other ways than taping your fingers and joints to prevent injuries in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
I’ll go over the most important ones here.
BJJ finger sleeves & braces
Instead of typing your fingers you can also get finger sleeves or braces.
These are sturdier and easier to put on than tape.
They’re also quite inexpensive and in fact, if you find yourself regularly taping the same joint it’s probably less expensive to buy a brace once than to use tape on it every class.
I’ve seen people wear braces for their fingers, their wrist, their ankles and their knees.
Another great way to protect your fingers in BJJ is to strengthen them with finger exercises.
Generally you don’t need to train finger flexion anymore 4B cuz you already do that a lot in Brazilian jiu-jitsu by gripping people.
But you probably have underdeveloped finger extension strength. This imbalance can lead to injuries in the fingers but also even in the wrist and elbow.
An easy fix for this is to buy some finger resistance bands. You can put these around your fingers and train your finger extension while you watch Netflix.
I actually got mine to fix an elbow injury on recommendation of my doctor and they worked very well. They’re also inexpensive.
The final piece of the puzzle to preventing finger injuries in jiu jitsu is to adjust your rolling style to a less rip happy game.
When my fingers are hurting I stop playing spider guard for a while. I also avoid making grips on the gi and instead go for no gi grips more.
And whenever my opponent goes to break my grip I let go myself and switch to a different grip. (This is really something I should be doing more anyway so it’s a good excuse to work on a more dynamic game than I have.)
I also try to switch out gi classes for no gi classes because one of the advantages of no gi over gi is that it’s much easier on the fingers.
Final thoughts on why and how to tape fingers in BJJ
We have all gotten used to the fact that sometimes small injuries happen during training. If you want to avoid your injuries getting worse over time, you should take care of your hands and tape your fingers.
At first it will be a bit strange and uncomfortable, but you get used to it.
Just make sure that you know how to tape your fingers properly, so that your fingers are well protected but can still move freely enough.