How To Use Hand Grips In MMA, Wrestling and No-Gi BJJ

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What is the best grip to use in MMA, BJJ and wrestling? The answer is: It depends! Each grip has its own usage.

This guide will teach you what kind of grip to use in each situation, the different grips to avoid, the strongest grips, and many other things you have never known about grips.

Thumb grip Vs. Thumbless grip or Human grip Vs. Monkey grip

This part is about how to choose the right grip when you want to grab your opponent. Obviously, all the grips we will be talking about are used to grab your opponent by the body and not by the gi.

Thumb grip or human grip or C-Grip

The main difference between these two grips is the thumb. The thumb grip or human grip is the natural grip that everybody uses when they want to grab an object that is not much bigger than their fist.

In MMA, BJJ and wrestling the thumb grip is used when you want to control someone’s wrist. The fact that the wrist is not bigger than the hand palm makes it ideal for you to wrap your fingers around it and control it.

How:

Wrap your four fingers from one direction and your thumb from another direction. Now you have your opponent’s wrist in full circle as if they are handcuffed.

Important note: when you want to execute wrist control, don’t grab your opponent from the wrist itself, instead grab them from the top of the hand.

Why?

When you are grabbing your opponent from the top of the hand it gives you more control over their wrist joint which can be played into your advantage through joint manipulation.

Grabbing your opponent from the wrist itself will give you no advantage at all, it will only put you in a battle of forces where you are using your force against theirs.

Thumbless grip or monkey grip

The thumbless or monkey grip is a grip used on bigger limbs, like when you want to grab your opponent from the arm or behind the neck.

As its name suggests, this grip doesn’t use the thumb to “handcuff” the opponent’s limb, the thumb stays together with the other fingers in the same line.

This grip has a big advantage which is scooping. Scooping is when you use not only your fingers and hand palm to grab your opponent’s limb, but also the bottom of your wrist and forearm.

This is a very powerful grip when used correctly. Note that the monkey grip requires a lot of forearm strength, so you might want to include grip and forearm strengthening in your training.

General rule: The general rule says that the thumb grip is used for pushing and pinning your opponent’s small limbs like the wrists and ankles while the thumbless grip is used for pulling the opponent’s bigger limbs such as the arms, thighs and back of the neck.
But the rule is not rigid and can’t be applied to the letter, sometimes depending on the situation, you can switch grips accordingly.

Hand-to-hand grips

In the part above we have studied the grips you can use to grab your opponent, now in this part, we are going to study the different grips you can use to connect your hands together.

There are countless positions where you want to connect your hands together around your opponent’s body or around a body part of theirs. You will need a strong grip to connect your hands for the clinch, takedowns, throws, etc.

In this part we are going to rank grips according to their strength. But obviously, this ranking doesn’t apply to everyone, some people will find themselves stronger in unusual grips due to their hand mechanics.

So feel free to experiment with each grip until you find the best one that suits your hands’ size and finger length.

Gable grip

This is the strongest grip of them all. The gable grip is named after olympic gold medalist and legendy wrestling coach Dan Gable.

This hand-to-hand grip is used in bodylocks, single leg and double leg takedowns, seat belts and countless grappling positions.

The strength of the gable grip comes from the lat muscles, the lats are the biggest muscles in the upper body. By using the strength of the lats, your opponent has small chances to escape your grip.

How to make a gable grip:

  • Stick your thumb to the rest of your fingers
  • Do the same thing with the other hand
  • Now connect your hands together by putting one palm against the other
  • Your hands must be in a right angle position. Keep your fingers straight and verify that your hands are making a 90 degree angle
  • Now wrap each hand’s fingers around the back of the other hand
  • Tighten the grip
  • Congrats! your grip is stronger than Hulk’s grip!

The S-Grip

The S-Grip is the second strongest grip of them all, it certainly has less power than the gable grip, but it still does the job perfectly.

The S-Grip is used for example in a bodylock or bear hug when your opponent is larger than you and you can’t wrap your arms around them perfectly with a gable grip, or if you are trying to connect your hands together in the same position but your opponent is pushing against your hips with their hand to create distance in-between.

If you can’t go for a perfect gable grip, don’t let your opponent escape, adjust your hands and make an S-Grip

How:

  • Make a hook with each hand with fingers aligning together
  • Hook both hands together using fingers as hooks
  • In order to tighten the grip pull hard with your right hand towards your right and with your left hand towards your left
  • Your S-Grip is perfect now

The guillotine grip or seat belt grip

The guillotine has its name due to the fact that it is used in the guillotine submission.

The weakness of this grip is that it uses the strength of one hand only to grab on the forearm, the other hand’s grip is completely nullified.

This grip does still have significant strength but it doesn’t use both hands’ strength in full potential, therefore it is not recommended to use it instead of a gable grip or an S-Grip.

Sometimes in a fast and explosive grappling exchange, you don’t have time to establish a full gable grip or S-Grip, you just grab whatever available to connect your hands together.

Also in many grappling situations, it is not required to establish a grip with Hulk strength, some grappling techniques require the minimum strength and rely more on the technicality of the move.

When to use a guillotine grip?

In a guillotine choke obviously! But also in a bodylock if you are facing a smaller opponent with a tiny waist.
You want to leave no space and tighten your arms around their body, that’s when you use the guillotine grip.

How:

  • This is an easy grip that doesn’t require any practice, just use one hand to hold the other hand’s forearm
  • When holding the forearm, feel free to use either the thumb grip or the thumbless grip, they are both valid and they both do the job well.

Another variation of this grip is when you grab the back of the hand instead of the wrist or forearm.

The preacher grip

This grip has the same mechanics as the gable grip except that the thumbs are not aligned with the rest of the fingers. Each hand grabs the other hand by a thumb grip.

This is a very weak grip and most BJJ and wrestling coaches advise against it. So don’t bother using it in any situation as there are plenty of alternative grips.

The interlaced fingers grip

This is the biggest beginners’ mistake they start with. Many beginners think that if they interlace fingers their grip would be even stronger, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The interlaced fingers grip is extremely dangerous, it can easily cause you a broken finger. We have very small joints in our fingers, an abrupt move of your opponent can easily cause a joint injury.

All grappling arts are unanimously against this grip, so stay away from it and don’t break your fingers.

Other lesser used grips

These grips are not used that often amongst grapplers, but still, some grapplers adopt them.

As mentioned above, hand size, fingers length and wrist flexibility are amongst other factors that vary from one individual to another, so feel free to try them and see if they work for you.

The butterfly grip

The Gene LeBell grip or three fingers grip