BJJ does not focus enough on grip fighting strategies for takedowns – where and when to grip, and why. In this post I share a basic grip fight strategy for BJJ, and a playlist with the best videos on Youtube on this topic.
Playlist: The Best Grip Fighting Videos
The Most Important Distinction for Standup BJJ
Always distinguish whether you’re standing with the same leg forward as your opponent (righty vs righty or lefty vs lefty), or mirrored to you opponent (righty vs lefty). This is an important distinction in both wrestling and judo, for similar reasons. Which side of your opponent is forward, determines which attacks are available.
For example, in wrestling, single leg takedowns and Russian ties are much easier in a righty vs lefty situation, because the leg or arm that you’re attacking is closer to you. In judo a sasae is easier in a righty vs lefty situation, but an osoto gari is harder because the leg you’re attacking is further away.
Additionally, in judo, turn throws are the most powerful throws. And which leg your opponent has forwards, determines to which side he can turn most quickly. In a righty vs righty situation, both players want to turn into opposite directions (both towards their own left). In a righty vs lefty situation, both players want to turn to the same direction (both towards their trailing leg). This completely changes in which directions the players move.
Basic Strategy for Righty vs Righty
The first grip you make is the right sleeve grip with your left hand. You are circling to your left to make it easier to get this grip, while making it harder for your opponent to get your right sleeve grip with his left hand.
If you can’t get the sleeve, you get the straight collar grip. Then you try to upgrade this grip to a sleeve or triceps grip after you get your second grip.
The second grip is the straight collar grip with your right hand. You now have two grips on. If your opponent does not have two grips on yet, you are ready to start throwing him.
If your opponent got the same grips on you (collar and sleeve), we now work to make his grips worse and our grips better. We do this by rolling our shoulders to lower his collar grip, while getting our grip higher on his collar. If our grip is higher than our opponent’s, we have the advantage.
Once we have advantageous grips, we work to cut our opponent’s hand off of our collar. We do this by faking a kouchi gari, moving our body back while pushing the grip forward with one hand. This doesn’t always work the first time, so we try several times until we succeed. If we cut the hand off we are up two grips against one, and we’re ready to start throwing.
Basic Strategy for Righty vs Lefty
Right vs lefty, the righty’s first grip is the straight collar with the right hand (for lefty it’s the same but mirrored).
When the opponent comes to return the straight collar grip, we can either let him get a grip on the inside or on the outside. Most people favor the inside grip, but it’s not objectively better. For example, for backwards sacrifice throws, the outside grip might be better.
The second grip is a grip on the right sleeve of our opponent with our left hand. Once we have this, we try to turn our opponent’s shoulders straight to us, by pulling on the sleeve and pushing on the collar. Once we achieve this dominant position, we’re ready to throw.
The Best Grip Fighting Tutorials for BJJ
Shintaro Higashi (a judoka who also does BJJ) makes the best free videos about grip fight strategies by far. He explains the basic gripping strategy for in the gi, and also has a video with intermediate gripping strategies.
I personally have had great success with his basic strategy. Not only have I been able to hit many more takedowns than before, I also have been able to practice in the standing position much longer, because this strategy makes it harder for your opponents to pull guard or take you down. So I get to practice more as well.
In the playlist below I compiled all of his videos on grip fighting. There’s a lot of overlap between the newer and the older videos, so I put the videos first that I think explain the strategies most clearly and succinctly. I also put all the tips and tricks and extra content towards the end of the playlist.
Grip fighting strategy is a topic that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough. Following Shintaro’s tips on strategy improved my standup much more than anything else.
I’m still looking for a similar strategy for no gi, as I suspect it might be slightly different. I have asked Shintaro to do it, but he hasn’t found time yet.