Hajime to Matte Model: Grip! (Part 2: Other stuff about Gripping)

Your opponent comes along, you must grip it.  Before the ref can count too long, you must grip it. -- I can do this all day.  And I hope at least some of my readers have heard of Devo.

Continuing my series on the Hajime to Matte model from Sensei Nick Lowe.  To read the other stuff I've written about this, click this.  The short version is that when you hear "Hajime," a cycle starts - a series of phases is kicked off, and you want to "win" every phase.  In this post, we're talking about the "Grip" phase, so let's give some thought to how to win this gripping phase.

You have been moving to get your grip, and now it's time to actually lay hands on... What exactly are you trying to accomplish? The ideal is:

  1. You get a dominating grip
  2. Your opponent gets no useful grip whatsoever

Obviously, you can fall short of the ideal and still come out of things okay, but you want to think about your objectives in these terms. You get the best *and* they get nothing. Got it? Great. Now... what was this "dominating grip" we were talking about? If you can do any or all of the following, you may have a dominating grip:
  • At its most basic - you can competently attack them
  • You can move them
  • You can control their posture
  • (Maybe) You can prevent you opponent from competently attacking
Armed with this understanding of what you are going for, how do you now go about obtaining this dominating grip?
  • World-class athletes swear that you should never reach with your Tsurite (your power hand) first.  Always make first contact using your pulling hand (Hikite).
  • World-class athletes (different ones) swear that you should usually reach with your Tsurite first.
  • Ergo, I don't think it matters which one you reach with first; really, variation in your approach to gripping is the key.  You have to mix up which hand you are using, what your targets are, what angles you are taking, etc., all in relentless pursuit of your grip.
  • Get them to react:  hand feints and messing with their feet are good tools for this.
  • Speed helps, and it's not just a matter of getting your hands there quickly - you also have to be able to secure that grip quickly.
  • Loosen their gi for them (e.g., swat their lapel open) if that fits into your plans.
  • Use anything you can get hold of as a handle, and use that handle to move your opponent (or at least parts of your opponent) to improve your grip.
  • Use throw attempts to set up bettter grips.
And how do you deal with their grip?   There are basically 3 strategies, in descending order of preference:
  • Don't let them get their grip:
    • Catch it
    • Parry it
    • Beat them to the punch - throw them before they grip you
  • Strip their grip
  • Disable their grip:  You adjust your grip to neutralize theirs, e.g., they have a powerful overhand grip, you put your fist in their armpit, or they have a strong inside lapel grip, you regrip to the inside
All of this is easier said than done, so you need to drill your gripping situations.  There are a million good drills you can use.  And don't wait for "the dominating grip" to throw your opponent... throw them as soon as you see an opportunity.  And one tip - there's no such thing as a dominating grip for the little guy when there is a gross mismatch in size and strength - you may want to really pay attention to not letting them get their grip, and launching your attacks as you are able.



kodokanjudo said...

So far there are many good points on kumi-kata (forms of gripping) in the last few posts.

Patrick Parker said...

Good article. Re... reaching with tsurite or hikite - ive heard it said that you never want to step into maai and simultaneously reach with your lead arm - the one that usually becomes tsurite - because that is too uch like all the standard situations that everyone knows how to deal with. In karate every trains to respond to lunge punch. In aikido it is a step-and-reach, in judo kata it is a lead arm attack. All the standard stuff happens that way, so you see competitors try to keep their lead hand away from the opponent till they have some control with the other hand.