Have you ever heard the story about the old bull and the young bull, standing at the top of a hill, watching some cows?
The young bull turns to the older bull and says, “Hey, let’s run down there and each make sweet, sweet love to one of those cows!”
The older bull retorts, “Why don’t we just walk down there, nice and slow, and make sweet, sweet love to ALL the cows?”
The original story may have used slightly different wording instead of ‘sweet, sweet love’, but anyway, you get the point…
Sometimes it’s best to make haste slowly.
Fast and Slow Gripfighting in BJJ
This story has applications for BJJ practitioners as well!
Often when you’re rolling you’ve got to get your grips and go! Regardless of whether you’re doing a guard pass, a submission or a sweep you progress hard and fast, no time to waste!!
But at other times it’s also good to take your time and not spook your quarry. And it’s that second, more laid back approach that I want to talk about today.
I call it The “Soft One, Hard Two” Gripfighting Strategy.
Often you’ll be in situations where eventually you’ll need two grips to attack, or transfer a grip from one hand to the other.
In this case you can often get the best results when your first grip is super soft. Just with the tips of your fingers with hardly any tension in your arm, wrist and hand.
This accomplishes two things…
First, by not getting a hard grip you don’t give your opponent any indication that that grip might be important down the road and that he should break it immediately.
And secondly, your opponent might mirror your state and become slightly more calm and relaxed himself.
Then when everyone is all calm and relaxed you strike!
This concept is illustrated both in the video at the top of this page, and in three examples below. Check them out.
Gripfighting to Pass the Guard
In this first example of stealth gripfighting I want to use the Superman Pass against my opponent’s butterfly guard.
This guard pass generally requires two grips: one at the knee and the second on the opposite side lapel. And I can get these grips in either order: knee first and then lapel, or lapel first and then knee.
In the first picture below I get the first soft grip with my left hand on my opponent’s right knee. I just fold the cloth into the tips of my fingers but I DON’T grip it tight because that would give him an indication of what’s coming next!
Then, whenever the opportunity comes along, I get a second grip with my other hand on my opponent’s lapel. This is the hard grip
Now it’s time to act.
Simultaneously my grips solidify, I punch his leg across, I shoot my own leg back, and I push him forward in a modified kneeling X pass (which is, incidentally, my current favorite guard pass. If it all goes well I end up past his guard and in side control!
If it’s hard to figure out the gripping sequence I used then watch the video at the top of this page.
And if you want a detailed breakdown of the guard pass itself then click here or watch the video below.
This stealth gripping strategy can be applied to many different guard passes, not just the Superman pass above. You could use it for the standing X pass, the Torreando pass, and others.
But it can also be used in situations that have nothing to do with passing the guard. Like in this next technique, for example…
Gripfighting to Solidify Your Side Control
It can be really annoying to try and hold a good grappler in side control. He’s forever framing your head, shoving your hips, getting his forearm under your jaw, trying to escape and generally make a nuisance of himself.
If you can remove one of his arms from the equation then it makes life a LOT easier.
And one of my favorite ways to turn him into a one-handed fighter is to use the far side lapel trap.
In this technique you take the bottom of his far side lapel with your bottom arm and then bring it up over his far arm, trapping it in an Americana armlock type position. You then feed the end of his lapel to your other hand which is coming under his head.
This might sound pretty complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple.
Start by opening up his jacket and lightly, gently, and innocuously gripping the bottom of his lapel so he doesn’t get spooked. In this case you’re gripping his right lapel with your left hand. This is the soft grip.
The next thing I like do is distract him with shoulder pressure and meaningless movement of my legs. This distraction allows me to swing into action and pass that lapel over his right arm and feed it into my left hand which is sitting there waiting for it, just under his head.
This second grip is the one you hold hard. In fact at this point your opponent knows that he’s in deep s**t and will be struggling wildly, so you have to use some grip strength to keep things tight!
Now you’re in a beautiful position. From the lapel trap you have a ton of chokes, armlocks and transitions.
Here’s one example of a powerful baseball bat choke using that lapel trap grip I’ve often used to submit my training partners…
Gripfighting to Sweep from the Guard
Almost every sweep and submission from guard in BJJ relies on getting grips on your opponent. But if you sink those grips too vigorously then you give him a great big warning of what you’re up to.
So the stealth gripping strategy works here too.
In the example below you first get a soft, innocuous grip on his pant leg with your left hand at the knee…
Keeping on gripfighting with your other hand while you maintain that knee grip softly. Try to get your right hand latched onto your opponent’s right lapel, roughly at chest level. This second grip is your hard grip – hold on tight because he’ll likely want to strip it immediately – and move directly into your sweep!
One of the simplest sweeps from here involves punching your right hand forward, pulling your left hand towards you, and driving forward onto your knees to knock him over onto his back!
If you want to see this sweep in action check out the video below. It’s a variation of the Sit Up Sweep by Brandon ‘Wolverine’ Mullins from his Nonstop Jiu-Jitsu instructional in which Brandon has an entire attack series based around this lapel and knee grip
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