Mash in the center
BJJ has a funny way of bringing people into your life that sometimes change your game in ways you never anticipated. I had one such situation in 2011. I had the pleasure of meeting a person who would become a friend and great training partner.
Mash, which is short for Mashashi Takahashi, was a Purple Belt in BJJ and a Black Belt in Judo. He also competed in Judo in college back in Japan. He was visiting Louisville for about a year and while he was here he became a fixture in the gym.
We trained together, competed together and partied together. He was hilarious in the last respect.
Grip Fighting is the Nuts and Bolts
One of the things that stuck out about his stand up style compared to mine (and most of the gyms) which had more of a wrestling / BJJ element to it. Was the hand fighting for grips. This led to me having him teach Judo classes with an emphasis on the grip fighting techniques he used. These classes had a profound effect on me and sent me on a road of being kind of obsessed with grip fighting at times.
I know it’s a weird thing to obsess over. Especially with all the cool stuff in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu like submissions. I mean it’s not sexy and doesn’t make you go OOOOOooo. . . . ahhhhhh. But dominating grips and being able to dominate the BJJ grip fighting is huge.
When you think about it. Grip fighting in BJJ is a core element to everything! And yet many times it goes overlooked or just isn’t focused on much. Even though a technique begins with “grab this and grab that.”
I compared to a car. When you look at a car. You notice the color of the paint. The styling of the panels. The way the lights look. All that stuff. But you probably don’t even think about all the nuts and bolts that hold the thing together. Grips are the nuts and bolts to your BJJ game.
They Couldn’t Get Grips on my Students
This grip fighting focus spilled over into my BJJ competition game almost immediately. And as I started to fight more aggressively for grips in my Jiu-jitsu matches. My wins, and more importantly the way I won, shot up. And when I’m talking about BJJ grip fighting. I’m not just talking about the feet and doing takedowns. I’m also talking about the ground. Even submissions start with grips first.
This whole grip fighting focus came to head about a year later.
I realized I was competing against a Judo Black Belt in a BJJ competition. And I was dominating the grips. I was even able to score a throw! Which I’m not going to lie, I was pretty happy about.
He was better at throwing than I was. But I had dominated grips.
Soon after this. I was coaching my guys at a local tournament. We had so many people on the mats that I was rushing around like crazy. Then all of a sudden I felt it. My stomach start to almost cramp up. I had forgotten to use the bathroom for several hours. I rushed to the bathroom to get rid of the water I had been holding.While I was using the restroom. I overheard some people from another team talking in the locker room which was attached to the bathroom. Their conversation went something like this.
BJJ Player 1: Did you go against anyone from Derby City?
BJJ Player 2: Yeah. . . they’re so rough!
BJJ Player 1: Yeah! And I couldn’t get any grips on them!
When I heard this. I must have been grinning ear to ear. Probably inappropriate for a bathroom setting.
This is honestly why I created the Get A Grip video series. To help educate beginners on the importance and the how tos of grip fighting. Because if you can keep the grips your opponent needs off. Then they will be unable to use the techniques they want.
And I’ve seen first hand, both through myself and my students, how much of a difference being more focused on grips can make in someones BJJ game. And I can say 100% that focusing more on grip fighting changed my game fundamentally.
If you’re not already focused on Bjj grip fighting. Then you should be. If you’re a beginner and you’d like to shorten the learning curve for your grip fighting Bjj abilities.
Check out the Get a Grip series I created.
Sadly, Mash (although he wanted to stay) had to leave the gym. But he’s still one of our team. And always will be! He even sports our patches. It always makes me happy that when people train here they enjoy the coaching and the experience enough to want to be a part of it even when they leave.
Mash sporting Derby City patches at his home gym in Japan!