Until the 1960s, judoka didn’t think much about gripping skills. Then the former USSR judo team entered the Olympics and brought sambo-wrestling grips into the tournament. The team’s many victories because of the grips stunned the judo competition world. Today, gripping skills are considered important in the world of judo info, and this is especially true at higher levels of judo competition.
How the First Grip Tips the Scale in Judo Techniques
One of the most common pieces of judo info that students learn in beginning judo is to get the first grip possible. In advanced judo, getting the first grip becomes more difficult to accomplish because it gives the gripper a decided advantage. The first person to grip is the competitor who gets to dictate the direction of play. If you grip first, then the opponent has to react. You pull, he will pull. The first grip is like playing “King of the Mountain.” The first to the top is better able to maintain that top position.
The thing to remember about the first grip is that, in many ways, we’re referring to the first good grip or dominant grip that allows a competitor a better position in which to attack. So this means that the first grip isn’t necessarily the “first grip” of the entire match. It is the first grip in the current tussle that you find yourself in with your opponent.
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Because the first grip gives the competitor control over the person who doesn’t have a grip, you need to do something with that grip in order to stabilize the situation. If you don’t, then your opponent will counter and turn you into the defender.
How to Get the First Grip for Judo Techniques in Judo Competition — Tip #1: Isolate the Grip
This is where both your hands are in front and you are concentrating on the opponent’s oncoming arm. As it comes forward, you catch it with both hands from below. Once isolated, pull it downward and secure it with your rear hand. Now quickly reach for the lapel with your lead hand. For grips that come in at a low angle, one hand goes under and the other goes over the opponent’s gripping arm. As his grip is about to tighten up, place your weight over your extended arm and shove downward and away.
How to Get the First Grip for Judo Techniques in Judo Competition — Tip #2: Fluffing-Up Grip
This judo technique is done against a person who has his judogi tucked tightly into his belt. Reaching for a judogi in this condition may be risky because your arm is extended, thus allowing the opponent to grip you. Therefore, draw the opponent’s judogi out of the belt through a series of quick pecking-type maneuvers with your lead hand and far out enough to get a grip on it.
How to Get the First Grip for Judo Techniques in Judo Competition — Tip #3: Cross Grip
Because the left lapel is usually crossed over the right, a tightly tucked-in judogi may be difficult to grip with your lead right hand because the label faces in the same direction in which your fingers are coming into grip. If you swipe across in the opposite direction with the left hand, you can insert your fingers because the right lapel’s positioning is easier to hook. Once gripped, the judogi may be pulled out and quickly transferred to the other hand. In some cases in which there has been some preparation, a technique may be executed from this grip even without switching grips — perhaps an inside or outside seoinage. Also, while some competitors can maintain and execute throws from the cross grip, it is generally not advised. If you hold it for more than five seconds, you may incur a penalty, so once the judogi has been pulled out enough to grasp, grab it.
How to Get the First Grip for Judo Techniques in Judo Competition — Tip #4: Elbow-Offering Grip
Extend your lead elbow to offer your opponent an elbow grip. Once he takes it, rotate your elbow and upper body counterclockwise. Your rear hand simultaneously will be moving clockwise to intercept the opponent’s lead-hand grip — which hand the opponent uses depends on which arm you offer him. Once your rear-hand grip is secure, quickly reverse the direction of your hands in a scissoring-type motion. Your rear hand continues to pull while your lead hand and arm should be free to assume a grip around the backside of the opponent’s uniform. This grip is ideal for a lateral direction sumi-gaeshi. Many of these nontraditional gripping techniques, such as cross grip and elbow-offering grip, must be followed up with a technique within five seconds or else you may be penalized with a shido.
While it is important to get a grip, it is even more important to do something with the grip once you have it. Hopefully it will be to attack. In many instances getting a grip is for defensive purposes. It is the stellar athlete who gets a grip to be on the offensive. During practice it is a good idea to see how quickly you can identify an opening and attack. Once you get your grip, your opponent will sense that he is in danger and will make quick adjustments. You need to act as quickly as possible allowing little time to build a tolerance to your technique.
About the Author:
Hayward Nishioka is an eighth-degree black belt in judo as well as a former member of the U.S. world team and former world-team coach. In 1965, 1966 and 1970, he was the U.S. judo national champion. In 1967, he won the gold medal in the Pan American Games. He has been internationally recognized for his contributions to the sport. His books include Judo: Heart and Soul and The Judo Textbook, as well as his latest — Training for Competition: Judo — from which the preceding text was excerpted and adapted.