View Full Version : Gripping.

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05-09-2005, 02:45 PM
I'm not a small guy, I'm about 5'8 165-170 lbs. The problem is, my hands are pretty small. This makes techniques on bigger people difficult for me. Our dojo has two aikido students who stand at roughly 6'5 and I'd estimate at around 200/220 lbs, muscular guys. I have a hard time gripping their hands/wrists/arms. I try to work with these two as much as possible because I think that bigger people tend to be my problem area. Sometimes I think I focus to much on it entirely and I may put the "death grip" on my uke.

My first question: Is this considered tension? will this flaw my technique? Does that give my uke energy to work with?
Second question: To those who also have smaller hands, any tips or pointers on strengthening grip, or alternate(acceptable) ways to train around it?

Thanks in advance

Janet Rosen
05-09-2005, 03:33 PM
well, many of us women have this size disparity...what I was taught early on was, as uke, to go for a feeling of "sticky palm" and not even worry about the fingers gripping if it seemed an impossibility.The palm to wrist contact allows for a real feeling of connection to develop.
As nage, it can be more problematic. You are right that a "death grip" will add tention and conflict. So strengthening your grip will not compensate for a small hand at all. Adapting to work around it is more likely to be successful, IMHO.
For techniques that the "standard" calls for gripping the wrist, I've had teachers show me how gripping the handblade or even the fingers can be just as effective. You might want to check w/ seniors at your dojo for examples of this.

05-09-2005, 03:37 PM
Hi Sean,

Although practicing with the ken and jo will help strengthen your grip and develop your forearms, I've recently discovered another MA, that in my mind, complements Aikido well.

Shaolin Chin-Na, a seizing art that deals with controlling your opponent through grabbing. I've learnt some basic exercises, that are based on strengthening the forearms, wrist, grip, and finger manipulation.

hope this helps.


05-09-2005, 05:36 PM
One of our senior teachers likes to say, "You don't need to hold his wrist. A finger is enough." Uke tends to find this disturbing, though!

For myself, I find that when I am failing to keep hold of the big-handed guys, it's often because I am forcing the technique in the first place. On the rare occasions when I manage to lead lightly and smoothly, I don't lose hold. Of course, this is easier to know than it is to fix....

Mary Kaye

05-09-2005, 05:52 PM
When I was uchi deshi I would to take gallon jugs of milk and life them with my pinky. The Iwama people I trained with were all about grabbing from the pinky, and it will improve your grip considerably.

-Chris Hein

05-09-2005, 07:40 PM
I was taught the same thing as Chris: grip from the pinky up, not the index finger down.

05-09-2005, 09:12 PM
All good points from everyone else regarding use of the pinky (actually last 3 fingers , like holding a bokken), sticky-palm, and the heretofore unmentioned knife hand (tegatana).

However, it kinda depends on which technique you are attempting and whether *gripping for "grim death"* is appropriate or not. Even so, I would say that if you have to "grip" anything, you are probably trying to muscle the technique, rather than using your partners movement.

Sometimes, if your hands are smaller than your partner, you could use 2 hands, one as the bridging support, e.g. kotegaeshi, nikyo, sankyo. (BTW, you can get sankyo from a 2 finger hold, although technically it changes the technique to a yubi tori, but the principle is exactly the same - and works really well on people with much bigger hands).

05-09-2005, 11:17 PM
Hey Sean,

Don't worry, your grip will get better with time. One thing I like to do with the football player size guy (and others as well) is to keep my entire arm and shoulder soft and not grip but keep only my palm connected to them as if glued together. It forces me to keep relaxed thus easier to keep a real grip when I do. When you're tense (not saying you are) it's easy for your partner to break away and harder for you to keep the grip but when your arm and shoulder are loose it's easier to keep the grip on a larger wrist/arm. Sounds kooky but after you try it a few times it kinda makes sense.

05-10-2005, 02:35 AM
Grip uke with your center, not with your hands ;)


Mark Headleand
05-10-2005, 03:27 AM
'course you could always just grab the gi sleeves where the wrists are. Or is this considered cheating? :D

After all, in other grabs (hiji dori, kata dori etc) you're grabbing the gi and not the person themselves...

The downside is you don't get the same connection that you would with grabbing the actual wrist and the way you can manipulate their centre will change, but if you're using your centre properly and moving it to the correct position, will it matter anyway?



05-10-2005, 07:36 AM
So many good ideas. Class tonight and I will definately try them. Really appreciate the help guys.

Janet Rosen
05-10-2005, 09:31 AM
I'm amused that many (not all) of the men are talking about developing stronger grips, while the women (more likely to be smaller handed) are talking about alternate paths.
I can't figure out, if my hand cannot get around to grip to begin with, why in the world a stronger grip would do a darn thing for me?
I also cannot figure out why one would want to develop it? It won't help with connection, with finding technique, or any of the other things I'm training on in the dojo.

Chuck Clark
05-10-2005, 10:00 AM
I can't figure out, if my hand cannot get around to grip to begin with, why in the world a stronger grip would do a darn thing for me?

I also cannot figure out why one would want to develop it? It won't help with connection, with finding technique, or any of the other things I'm training on in the dojo.

I agree with you Janet. I spend a lot of my practice reminding myself "not to grip" because a gripping action is actually pulling the uke towards you way more than I like. Also, I found out a long time ago that whatever you have a hold of also has a hold of you through the same connection. Another thought... if you grip, it takes longer than you think to let go or change...

In my opinion, aikido is a "cutting art" not a grappling art.

05-10-2005, 10:08 AM
Janet, I would still say developing strength in the fingers is a good idea, but more from a defensive point of view as it makes them less easy to damage when the blendy blocky thing (patent pending) goes haywire. However, with you on find an alternative (says the tiny handed little man who normally can't grab an entire wrist when attacking)

Chuck, most of the better grapplers I've read/met talk about hooking rather than grabbing so I'm not too sure the difference is as great as implicated

(totally off-topic - Rod, I sent you a pm on the dojo visit, let me know if you got it, thanks)

Chuck Clark
05-10-2005, 11:22 AM
Ian, point taken. The good ones do, however, the direction of the hooking energy is what's of consequence to me.

05-12-2005, 10:57 PM
Hello practitioners,

IMO, having a strong grip is a secondary. One may develop it naturally over time due to diligent practice of aikido esp if one does ken suburi often. My grip is strong or weak depending on the who is the uke.

If one should focus too much on focusing on grip, then aren't you not thinking too much on physical strength? If strength is so desirable, how do we explain that to the womenfolk who learns aikido? That you must have strong grip to do good aikido? They are just by nature physically weaker, so no point asking them to train stronger grip.

And if memory serves me correctly, last I check, aikido is an art for which it allows the physical weak to overcome the physical strong.

Having said that, having a strong grip is only good for the uke to learn abt how to break it. It gives the uke a realistic feel, some challenge to deal with in a dojo setting. It is not a prerequisite nor an active factor for executing a successful aikido technique.

Just thinking outside the box.


05-13-2005, 01:18 AM
A positive side benefit from developing a strong grip, with gripptraning such as rock climbing, Captains of crunch etc.. is that the muscles that gives you the strong grip also stabilizes your wrist, which should reduce the danger of being injured when practicing techniques that involves the wrist, such as nikkyo, sankyo..

Rupert Atkinson
05-13-2005, 01:27 AM
Just doing Aikido will make your grip stronger, much as rock climbing will. But when gripping, first put your palm against his wrist and push forwards slightly, firmly, from your centre, then wrap your lower fingers around his wrist.

Robert Townson
05-13-2005, 06:19 AM
I've always been taught the idea on "non-attachment", the idea that gripping just restricts you and focuses your energy into gripping and attachment rather than the technical itself. I guess thats where you would use the sticky hands. :)