Five Grips All Grapplers Need to Know
A dominant grip allows a fighter to control distance, secure a position, or finish the match. The fundamentals of grip control stem from the oldest grappling sport, which is wrestling. There are four or five grips that apply whether your opponent is wearing a gi or not.
Ball & Socket
This is a go-to grip due to its versatility. It applies to grapplers of all sizes. By adjusting the grip along the hand/forearm, it makes it easier to cover varying distances. From this grip, it is easy to switch to any of the other basic grips.
Also known as Gable Lock and Monkey Grip, this grip derives its name from Dan Gable, an American freestyle wrestler and the 1972 Olympic champion, as well as the 1971 World champion. The Gable grip comes in handy for clinching because it enables fighters to control the distance while applying pressure. It is highly effective again straight armlocks such as the ‘violin’ or chokes like the arm triangle, the Monson, or the Japanese necktie. Another name for this technique is the ‘Greco grip’, as in ‘Greco-Roman wrestling.’
The link in a chain resembles an ‘S’ and thus, the grip known as the Chain Grip or Chain Hook is also known as the S-Grip. While it is not as adaptable as the previous grips, it works well in the clinch. From here, fighters employ this grip to complete double-leg takedowns, the suplex, and other lifting techniques. On the ground, it is mainly used for chokes, such as the Peruvian necktie and north-south choke. Keeping those hands clasped, or maintaining the ‘S’ shape, requires more finger strength than other grips, but it covers more ground in a controlled manner.
The Pretzel Grip has only recently become popular in no-gi matches. The choking hand’s palm faces the opponent’s chest with the thumb pointed to the ground. Then, the free hand comes over the top and the fingers wrap over the thumb of the choking hand. The move is not one typically found in wrestling. It is, however, often used to finish an arm in guillotine.
This grip, like the others, does come from wrestling. In jiu-jitsu, it is used for takedowns, such as a sweep single control, or a seat belt control. Unlike the similar Ball and Socket grip, the Butterfly helps the elbows remain closer to the grappler’s ribs.
Gripping is essential for establishing entrances, takedowns, and submissions. Without dominant grip control, it is impossible to stop an opponent from passing. In the words of legendary Judo Coach Jimmy Pedro: “Control the grips, control the fight.”