Hand-Fighting as a Foundation

In a previous post, I tried to elucidate what I feel are the advantages of hybrid grappling and catch wrestling over the much more popular regime of Brazilian jiu-jitsu–you can find this brief below.

https://horsetoothgrappling.com/2022/10/09/the-four-pragmatic-advantages-of-catch-wrestling-when-compared-to-jiu-jitsu/: Hand-Fighting as a Foundation

One disadvantage of BJJ that became a prohibition against my continued practice of the art after 10+ years of study was jiu-jitsu’s commitment to the tradition of the gi. For those who may be unfamiliar with this customary garb, a gi–sometimes called a kimono–is represented here.

One prominent issue with training in a gi is that it eliminates hand-fighting–which is the very essence of grappling as a martial art–with the concept of grip-fighting. That is, instead of learning to grab the human in order to control the human, when wearing the gi, you’re conditioning yourself to grab clothing to control the human. So much of success in grappling is dependent on one’s ability to push and pull effectively–why leave this as variables dependent on what the person is wearing???

Instead, at HHGC, we focus on hand-fighting as a fundamental skill. We continually hone ways in which to displace an opponent’s weight and center of gravity with wrestling ‘ties’ (i.e., grips) at the neck, wrists, and elbows. This quick clip by Matt Lindland–a legend in both Greco-Roman wrestling and MMA–is an example of the techniques we practice.

Keep in mind that great fluency with hand-fighting doesn’t just produce advantages for takedowns. These skills assist in controlling joints for submission attempts, whether it be a double wrist lock from a crossbody ride, an armbar from the mounted position, or a heel hook from the saddle. We also train hand-fighting extensively through grappling games with kids during our family classes–sure, we’re building literacy for grappling tournaments, but the skills developed through these scenarios also transfer well to controlling physically aggressive bullies on the playground.

I encourage those still committed to gi training to at least lose the garment for at least a few rounds during their sparring each week. To wit, over the past few years, I’ve coached a lot of adults and kids during their introduction to no-gi grappling, and the most common retort I hear during their first few minutes of no-gi initiation is this–‘what do I grab???’ I’m always a bit gob-smacked hearing someone who’s been grappling for several years flummoxed on how to tie up and control when an opponent is not wearing something akin to pajamas. You must learn to grab the person (and not what they’re wearing) in ways that allow you to find points of control. Again, I posit that this is the underlying essence of grappling.

Hope to see you on the mats soon!

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