Reader Question: “I didn’t realize until now how weak my grips are. Any advice on how to help fix that?”
The Jiu-Jitsu Times: Grips are indeed one of the more important factors in your jiu-jitsu. In fact, my first instructor, 8th degree black belt Marcus Soares of the Carlson Gracie Team, said that the three most important factors in jiu-jitsu are:
1) The ability to move the hips on the bottom
2) A strong base, posture, and balance on top
3) Powerful grips
“Strong grips can dominate a fight,” maintains Professor Soares.
One of the most common surprises after a tournament among new competitors is how their forearms were burning severely due to an accumulation of lactic acid from ferocious and prolonged gripping.
So what can you do about strengthening your grips for jiu-jitsu?
Here are two pieces of advice.
First, the most obvious is to perform pulling exercises like chin ups and timed hangs with an old kimono top draped over a chin up bar.
Simply hanging onto the collars for 30 seconds or more will really test your grips in a more sports specific way. Watch an action movie where the hero is hanging by one arm from the edge of a building while another person is hanging from their legs. Impossible!
A kimono seller gifted me with a pair of grips that may be looped through the handles of some TRX straps in order to make a great training exercise for your grips. After using them for a month, I noticed a significant reduction in burning forearms when playing guard.
I’m sure if you did a little searching you could purchase a pair online inexpensively and have them shipped to you to try.
Second, you need to learn to relax your grips.
I asked multiple time World Champion Romulo Barral this question at a seminar. Romulo is known for his powerful spider guard, which especially demands a strong ability to grip the sleeves.
Romulo answered that yes, of course you should perform some strength work to develop your grips. But he said that it was also important to understand when to grip tightly and when to relax your grips. He explained that anyone’s grips would fatigue if they attempted to grip at 100% intensity for the full duration of a match. This ability to relax at times when you don’t need full effort comes with experience.
Hope this helps you get a grip (pun intended)!