So I got a question the other day from someone looking for advice about the pain and inflammation they have in their fingers from training BJJ.
I sent them back a super-quick email response with 3 suggestions, but now want to elaborate on my suggestions in hopes that this info will be useful to someone else too.
First, here is a video I shot about exactly this topic:
Now let’s look at each of those solutions in a little more detail…
BJJ Finger Pain Solution 1
My first suggestion is to try taping your fingers.
The first time I did this my fingers were sore but I still wanted to train; afterwards I was surprised by how much it helped.
But just to make sure that it was the tape and not something else, on my next training session I did an experiment: I taped only the fingers of my left hand and did nothing to my right hand.
If there was any doubt before there was none at the end of the session; my left hand (which had been taped) felt perfectly normal, but my right hand (which had NOT been taped) felt sore and achy.
Now it does take a while to tape everything up properly so I definitely don’t do it every time – usually I only do it when my fingers are sore.
But if you’re struggling with finger pain then you should definitely give it a try and see if it helps.
Here’s one of my Youtube videos called ‘How and Why to Tape Your Fingers in BJJ’ – check it out…
BJJ Finger Pain Solution 2
Next, try playing less spider guard and less de la Riva Guard!
90% of the time BJJ finger pain is caused from maintaining a deathgrip on the sleeves, pants and lapels of your opponent.
So learn to fight in a style that’s not so grip dependent. Play less spider guard, less de la Riva guard, less collar and sleeve grip closed guard…
Go for more armbars and rear naked chokes and less lapel chokes…
Do more pushing and less pulling…
I describe this as ‘playing your gi game as if it’s no gi.’
Be warned that this is easier said than done, because as soon as you run into trouble the temptation is to grip, clench, and hold onto the cloth for dear life again.
Anyway, playing your gi game as if it’s no gi is one good solution to BJJ finger pain.
BJJ Finger Pain Solution 3
Solution 3 is to train more no gi instead of just avoiding gi-dependent techniques.
Some people don’t want to take this advice because they’re worried that their gi skills will start falling apart unless they train with the gi all the time.
This is nonsense; many fantastic BJJ players switch between training with and without the gi and find that it’s actually quite beneficial.
Trust me; if you’re doing lots of gi then substituting one or two sessions a week of no gi will only improve your gi based skills.
You’ll learn how to move faster, be more fluid, scramble bettter…
…and, importantly for the current discussion, since you can’t grab cloth in no gi you’ll give your damaged digits a chance to heal up.
Long story short: try substituting one or two gi training sessions a week with no gi.
Hope this helps!