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The Four Major Grips From Your Feet (And Why They Are Important)
Learning how to fight from the feet in the gi can be a daunting task, but remember; it all starts with how you stand, and how you grab. Before you go just grabbing randomly and hoping something good happens, here's four of the most important grips you can have from your feet in BJJ.
1. Collar Grip
Maybe the most dominant grip from the feet is a strong thumb-in grip on the collar. The amount of control you can have over your partner's posture, angle, and distance is huge, especially if you are using your elbow against the chest and shoulder to keep a strong guard up. Many hip tosses and seio nages become much more available, and it is the best grip for snapping someone down to a front headlock. Another big advantage is that it is harder to break this grip, since the hand is behind your head, keeping the lock in a place where you don't have any leverage for a break. Some tend to shy away from this grip because it can expose your side for underhooks and grips on your belt, but the power of this grip cannot be underestimated.
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2. Sleeve Grip
Most gripping systems and strategies recognize the same important rule: you must kill the lead sleeve of your opponent. The sleeves control the arms and therefore the grips of your opponent, so keeping them controlled limits the attacks you have to worry about, and can set the tone early about who will win the gripping sequences. Whether it is with a pistol grip, a cat's paw grip, or a cuffing type of grip, you need to control the front sleeve if you want to slow down your opponent and throw effectively. You can control sleeves with the same side arm, or a cross grip, but be careful to win this battle or risk being unable to get your hands where they need to be to attack and defend.
3. Lapel Grip
While you have to defend yourself from the sleeve grip, the lapel grip can be your offense, like the sword to your shield. You are simulateanously controlling posture, angle, and distance, making this a great setup grip for judo throws, wrestling shots, snap downs, or guard pulls. Like the sleeve, you can grab across to a far lapel, giving you a ton of angular control, but you do sacrifice control of the distance and risk them grabbing around your arm.
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4. Belt Grip
The belt grip is a great setup to hip tosses and seio nages because of the positioning of your hip in front of your partners, giving you a ton of leverage (especially the taller their posture becomes). Unfortunately, you must win the battle of your hip in front of theirs, or risk being thrown yourself. Because it is such a strong commitment, you don't often see people staying here for long, or they'll drop their hips back for some security against reattacks. Still, the belt grip is one of the holds that many lower belts forget, but many black belts thrive on, and there's a good reason.
Now that you have this info, hopefully you can grab with a little more confidence the next time you are learning. For a real masterclass on gripping sequences and dominating controls, check out BJJ black belt and Olympic Silver Medalist Judoka Travis Stevens' new series 'Strategic Gripping Systems For BJJ', a 4-volume instructional series that is a huge help for gripping in all positions.