A hallmark for high-level strikers is an effective jab that allows them to calculate the distance between their opponent and momentarily stun or deceive.
Likewise, a hallmark for high-level grapplers is an efficient grip sequence that allows them to limit their opponent's attack options.
In the grappling arts, some individuals are masters at creating movement, and some are masters at inhibiting movement.
Whichever side you sway, your matches will always start with a grip, which is why they need to be effective.
Here are three ways to improve them.
#1 Focus On Counter Attacking Your Opponents
At the start of any match, there are many hundreds of ways we can begin to attack.
But after our opponents start pressuring us, many of us fall back into our habits and forget that every potential route starts with a grip.
Gable, Ball, and Socket, Monkey, C, Figure Four, Reverse C, Two on One, each with a specific purpose.
Remember, there will always be a difference in our grips used when competing with a BJJ Gi or without it.
But whether we compete for pins or submissions, in Wrestling, Sambo, Judo, or Jiu Jitsu, etc., our hands are always going to be the mediums for our attack sequences in the grappling arts.
If you can peel grips off you, you can deny your opponent his attacks. There is no substitute for good old-fashioned grip breaking.
But also, be aware that the second you defend or initiate a grip, you must do so with intention.
This is because each specific grip initiates a particular follow-up attack, and each particular grip can only be optimized in a specific position.
Your adversary might be knowledgeable about your potential attacks and understand why you are initiating that specific grip.
If he or she is aware of your intentions and can predict your thoughts, he can shut down your offense before it even gets started.
So, if you want to take your grappling game to the next level, you must first focus on peeling, then initiating grips of your own.
After that, you can focus on combining the two skills while defending your opponents during your training sessions.
In this process, you will learn when to grip an opponent, how to grab them for maximum leverage, how much energy to exert using a grip, which grips are best suited for offense, and which are best for defense.
Once you're able to focus on both aspects of defense and offense during your gripping exchanges, you will inevitably gain foresight into your opponent's future actions.
#2: Grip Strengthening Exercises For Grappling
Contrary to popular belief, I don't think grip strengthening exercises are conducive for your training.
The idea behind these exercises is that accentuating your training with supplementary grip exercises will improve your overall grip strength.
This is true.
However, is it an efficient use of your time?
Ideally, you can have the most robust grip in the world, but if you have no idea how to use that grip or when to use it, it has a point of diminishing returns for your grappling game.
Now, let's say you did know how to use your grips; therefore, the strengthening does help.
But what if you come across an opponent who spent all that time you used strengthening your grips, focusing on grip sequences and grip breaking mechanics.
Who do you think is more likely to be most efficient and effective using their grips… Regardless of grip strength.
The point is these grip strengthening exercises in relation to the amount of free time you have will determine how useful they are for you over long-term periods.
If you work out and lift weights 2-3 per week, or go rock climbing once a week, or spend many hours a week focusing on breaking grips, your hand and forearm strength will improve as a side effect.
Ask Gordan Ryan or Jordan Burroughs they are the best in the world in their respective sports, but I rarely hear them speak about partaking in grip strengthening exercises.
Do you really need or want to spend your precious time doing grip strength exercises?
#3: Using Your Head To Accentuate Your Grappling Grips
It is impossible to get to an elite level in a grappling sport without using your head to assist your grips.
Let me explain.
In Wrestling, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, a term called "head position" is often used.
Typically, your first point of contact with your opponent is either your hands, feet, or head.
But as participants of these sports, we sometimes put a greater emphasis on grip fighting with our hands and neglect that head position can affect our performance levels.
Just as your hands are a barrier to prevent people from shooting a double leg on you, tossing you over their shoulder, or passing your guard and submitting you, so is your head.
Your head can be used for both offense and defense alongside your hands.
If you can effectively and efficiently use your head to assist your grips, your grip fighting will get better, and your overall skill level will increase.
Your body has a network of tendons and fibers that all work in unison. Therefore, baseball and golf players are told to swing the bat or club with their entire lower and upper body instead of just using their arms.
Likewise, when you go for take-downs, you first need effective head or hand positioning before initiating the move.
I would say go further by making your head and hand positioning works together in unison to get to your goal of a take-down.
Remember, your head acts as the steering wheel for your body.
Hence, the adage in combat sports, "where your head goes, your body follows."
If your head position is leaning forward, so is your body weight, vice versa.
If you know your opponent's head position in relation to your own, you have an idea of where their body weight is.
Perhaps, you know where their head position is in relation to their grips, which might mean they are off-balance.
The list can go on Aeternum.
Look, your head can be used as a barrier against their grips or a trap to ensnare them into yours.
And like anything in life, it takes decades of practice or years of intense focus to make it effective at the highest levels.
After all, if it were easy, every Martial Artist would do it.