First and foremost, if you cannot hold on to the cloth it really doesn’t matter what type of fancy grip fighting iterations or sequences you use. Your grip game will be useless.

Most people believe that teaching grip fighting to kids or beginners is incorrect when they do not understand that teaching grip fighting to children and beginners is inherent in the process of teaching judo and jiujitsu, it’s just a matter of it being taught correctly or incorrectly.

The proper placement of the hands on the gi and explaining why are the beginning stages of kumikata and gripping and that is where all persons much start. Moving along the educational continuum from that point depends on the desired trajectory of the judoka. Some players who are on the trajectory to enter into the elite scene at the ages of 14-16 and play in the Cadet Worlds or Youth Olympics will have to be introduced to more advanced grip fighting skills, tactics and strategies while those who are not on such a strategic plan of development will not need to.

But, all persons, in judo will still start with grip fighting and can always improve their grip strength.

Here are three exercises that I believe are an excellent in order to develop fantastic grip strength:

1. ISOMETRIC FIST CLINCHES – I know it sounds crazy but this is one of the best and most under utilized exercise. It can be done on the gi or without the gi. All you have to do is start with 3 to 4 sets of 20 seconds of fist clinches. As HARD as you can. And then you may increase the time under tension as you progress.

2. ISOMETRIC HAND EXTENSION – This is similar to the clinch, but in the opposite direction. You will open up your hands and spread your fingers and hard as possible. Start with 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 seconds. As HARD as you can. And then you may increase the time under tension as you progress.

(START SLOWLY – especially if you are a beginner. It doesn’t seem like much but when/if you add it to what you are already doing, it most certainly is. I’ve never seen anybody get injured from doing too little, but I have seen it many times from doing to much. Intelligently, undertrain!!!”)

3. ISOMETRIC GI HANGS – Put your gi over some pull-up bars and grab the lapels (more advanced persons and lighter persons can grab the sleeves). Pull yourself up to where your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Also bring your knees up to a tucked position so that your diaphragm is compressed as it usually is during randori or competition and just hang. This is a great exercise because you can plot on a graph weekly, how long you are able to hang and see your progress over time. This is also a great exercise for testing for coaches. I recommend starting at 2 to 3 sets of 10 seconds.

Remember, this is about grip strength and much of the gripping strength that one needs for judo and jiujitsu is isometric. You have to be able to hold on and build up your “endurance” to hold on and the strength to be able to hold and resistance when your grip is trying to get broken.

Enjoy these exercises and if you’d like some video on gripping and grip fighting, please visit for 15 Free videos on grip fighting.

Take care,

Rhadi Ferguson, PhD
2004 Olympian
4-Time National Judo Champion