Grip fighting is very, very important in grappling. Getting your preferred grip and preventing your opponent from getting his grip is a key component of setting up throws with the gi, takedowns without the gi, sinking chokes, passing the guard, sweeping your opponent from the guard, and so on.
In fact it’s hard to think of aspect of grappling where gripping isn’t important…
Most of the time grip fighting involves you using your hands and arms to fight your opponent’s hands and arms. Once in a while, however, it is possible to use your legs in the grip fighting battle. When you bring your legs into the grip fighting equation you will win every time, given the strength disparity between your legs and your opponent’s arms.
Below I’m going to give a few concrete examples, both drawn from gi-grappling. This is because it is generally a lot tougher to remove a grip from your sleeve than from, say, your wrist. But similar techniques can definitely be used in no-gi sparring.
In above photo I’m struggling in Elliot Bayev’s spider guard. He’s controlling sleeves near the wrist and has one foot on my biceps and another on my hip. If I don’t do something quick my posture will be compromised and I’ll get swept or submitted for sure!
But if I were to step my right foot onto the inside of his right thigh it would pin his leg to the floor. I could then pull straighten up and pull my arm back, ripping his grip off my sleeve.
I use this grip-stripping technique all the time when faced with the spider guard. Using my foot to pin his leg make it impossible for him to follow my arm as it retracts backwards. That’s using the legs in the grip fighting battle!
Another time you can use your legs while grip fighting is if you and your opponent are both standing and he is controlling your sleeve at the wrist or even just grabbing your wrist (if his grip is strong).
To force him to release his grip lift your knee up, place it on the top of his hand/wrist, and then extend your hips, stripping his grip off.
Be aware that if you use this trick too often your opponent will eventually be able to grab your leg as you try it, but used in moderation it should take him completely by surprise. Finally remember to be gentle with this technique in training – you can hurt your partner if you do it fast.
Jiu-jitsu submissions are all about using your whole body to attack a single part of your opponent’s body, and grip fighting is no different. Using your legs in this context is like bringing a gun to a knifefight, something I’m 100% in favor of!