Grip Fighting with Judo Coach Jimmy Pedro
When watching judo matches, most people only remember the massive throw that ended the match.
They forget the important details that lead up to that moment, namely the grip fighting. Gripping is one of the most important skills in judo and jiu jitsu stand up, because it can be used defensively (denying opponent’s their desired grips) and offensively to get your own grips to start throwing. If you can’t grip, you can’t throw anyone.
Jimmy Pedro, American judo legend and coach, has an entire system of grip fighting that he employs. Pedro is a veteran competitor, winner of numerous international judo tournaments, medaling in two Olympic Games and winning the 1999 World Championships. He went on to coach American standouts Ronda Rousey, Travis Stevens, and Kayla Harrison and others on the U.S national team.
First step, Pedro keeps his hands hovering in front of his collar. This puts them in a good spot for when his training partner reaches out for a grip. Pedro blocks the incoming hand (often referred to as parrying) by grabbing it at the wrist with both hands. An important detail is that he grabs the actual wrist, not the gi fabric. There is enough slack initially that grabbing the sleeve is not going to completely stop the hand, and it might still reach the collar.
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From there Pedro will grab the sleeve, taking a moment to take all the extra fabric into his grip. This way there is no slack and he has direct control of the opponent’s arm. During this, he keeps the arm positioned between him and his training partner. Not only does this force the opponent to be turned away from him, this also stops them from being able to jump into a fly armbar or guard, because they will be running into their own arm.
Pedro’s goal is to deny the opponent their grip entirely and be free to engage on his terms. Well ideal, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the hand will slip through and grab the collar. First, he grabs the sleeve with the same side hand and pulls the fabric down and away. At the same time, his other hand comes in and smacks the hand off his collar. This hand isn’t just hitting the arm down, knocking the grip outwards as well, in the opposite direction that the fingers can curl. This makes the collar slip out easier then if the force was only applied straight down.
Lastly, the upper body straightens and leans backwards at the same time as the hands are breaking the grip. This creates a counter force of pulling the collar away as the hands are breaking the grip. Now he has a sleeve grip and can resume attacking.
Grip fighting is an art in an of itself. Try adding it into your training by doing offense and defense rounds with a partner, with one person trying to establish a grip and one person just trying to break them. You don’t need to be the best at throwing if you can deny everyone else the opportunity to do so.
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