Grip fighting / Kumi Kata – The start of our game.

Grip fighting (Kumi Kata) is the point at which in Judo we first make contact with the opponent. As such it is a vitally important section in a fight, one that needs to be assessed and developed by a Judo athlete to make your chances of victory as great as possible. In this post we shall discuss some of the elements of grip fighting in Judo and how you can improve your gripping.

rope climbs
Having a strong grip is a start, developing arm strength is important and can be achieved through dedicated grip fighting practice and also through strength building exercises in the gym. A popular exercise is rope climbing. Climbing rope is popular in many training venues worldwide as it is lo-tech and has some good parallels with Judo. The width of the rope is important as you would like it to mimic as closely as possible the width of the jacket you might hold in competition. Rope climbing will build up the strength and strength endurance in the forearms and also in your biceps, triceps, not to mention lats.

If done sensibly rope climbing is safe and effective. Be sure to try it and also be sure to try variations, such as not using your legs at all, climbing slowly downwards also (eccentric contractions are very powerful tools). And “jumping” up the rope, by releasing both hands at once and grabbing higher.

But grip fighting is not all about brute force, in fact it is far from it. As with all things in Judo, strength gives an advantage but technique is equally powerful. You grip pattern is also the start of your game of Judo.

In other words, the fight starts when you take your first grip. As such it is arguably the most important moment in the match. If you fail to get a good grip, you fight from a disadvantage, your opponent having their preferred grip is able to fight their game the way they have planned. So, by not training your gripping you are in effect handicapping yourself from the outset. To win you will have to do more than you should. This is against the spirit of our art, where we consider Maximum efficiency.

A good grip will give you the solid platform to start your attack from, without a good grip in Judo you will not be able to throw. This is easily demostrated, try and throw someone with no grip at all, then with one hand on your opponent, then with two hands. Obvious really.

The grip is a highly tactical and strategic moment in a fight, in part because so much rides on obtaining the dominant grip. It is interesting to note that in a majority of elite level matches the grips are kenka yotsu (right on left or left on right) rather than right handed versus right handed. Elite players are fighting against their natural hand preference to better establish a grip fight.

As a Judo athlete, you need to watch and understand kumi kata (grip fighting) and develop your preferred grip patterns to match both your own style and of course to negate the style of gripping and throwing your opponents have.

A good start is to look at other players who do the same throw as you. Especially elite players who throw with your throw. Now, rather than looking at the throw, rewind the tape and watch how they take their grips. Look at which hand they grip with first and where they grip. Look at the second hand grip. Consider also how their opponents are gripping, ask yourself what each player is trying to achieve.

You may want to consider the mechanics of your throw and look at your grip in that respect. For example, if you are a Taio Toshi thrower, where would be the best place to grip your opponent to create kuzushi? The traditional grip? Or perhaps a low sleeve grip and a high collar? or Vice Versa?

Work backwards from the grip you think is best for your throw and build steps to obtain that grip. Will you shoot straight for the high collar or grab the sleeve first, then go for the collar? Build a pattern and test it, see where opponents deflect your plan and adjust accordingly.

You will also want to consider what clues a players grips provide you, certain grips are effective for certain attacks. So you have a warning of the type of throw you can expect if you recognise a grip pattern. This is similar to the situation in chess, where certain openeings are well known and there are also well known counters to those openings. In Judo the same is true, there are a variety of well known grip patterns, and a variety of well known ways of beating those grips; now is the time to learn some of them.

As a Judo athlete, you can use strength to provide strong tools, however if you don’t know how, when and which to apply at the right time, you will not achieve all you might. Grip fighting in Judo is the same, you need to study, study, study! You need to learn the common “openings” and how to match and beat them.


Comments (1)

Francisco AoyamaJanuary 24th, 2010 at 1:12 pm

The grip begin in the mind, teh concentration is very important, but the free mind is important too, in the fight the energy, epirit, tecnic and force.

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