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Cross Collar Grip With Travis Stevens

Cross Collar Grip With Travis Stevens

Something Judoka are well known for is gripping. The grip fighting section of a Judo match is somewhat similar to boxers finding their range with jabs at the start of a fight. The grips are the bedrock of the standing game and as such require a close and careful study. Who better to learn about the grip game from than Olympic Silver medalist and John Danaher BJJ Black Belt Travis Stevens?

Sometimes we see people simply set their hand into the collar of the gi, gripping the lapel and beginning to work their game from there. This is a methodical and slow paced gripping game that is rarely seen in Judo competition. Judo gripping is known for being highly active, dynamic, and positive. The gap between gripping and throwing in Judo can sometimes be very small indeed

Travis here notes that the collar grip he is recommending is not the step-by-step slow set grip. The hand does not simply reach into the collar and grip but instead almost punches into our opponents gi, so that our opponent feels the grip and freaks out about the grip. If Travis grips you, you know about it very quickly. It’s unsettling, it’s ballistic, it’s an aggressive gripping game that will help you dominate tachi waza (the standing game of grappling) from the moment the match begins.  

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With the taking of this cross collar grip Travis demonstrates a grip that comes through the gi, giving us positive forward motion so that our grip goes all the way through until the ‘wristwatch’ portion of our wrist touches the shoulder of our opponent. With this forward positive gripping our elbow comes across our opponents chest to create a strong defensive frame. This frame ensures that if our opponent tries to use our grip against us and attempts a back take he’s going to have a really hard time doing this because our grip and elbow frame can be curled towards us, pulling our opponent into towards us and shutting down his movement.

This is the first version of the collar grip, where we are actively going towards our partner and in an aggressive fashion looking to impact them, seeking takedowns like ankle picks, seoi nages and hard collar drags to single leg takedowns. For this version we must ensure our grip gets deep into their kimono with the ‘wristwatch’ portion of our wrist against their shoulder so that we stumble them on their feet. With this gripping our back hand stays up and actively engaged so we are ready to bring this hand into play also. 

If version one of this cross collar grip is where we are dynamically moving into our opponent then version two of this cross collar grip demonstrated by Travis Stevens is one where we snatch our opponents collar away from them. 

Version two collar grip is not one where we are aggressively moving into our opponent but instead we are aiming to create motion through movement, and as such may be of use when our opponent has a size advantage against us. With this grip we are grabbing and pulling as if we are trying to steal our opponents kimono from them and we are moving in an explosive fashion to circle around our opponent towards the opposite side of our gripping hand. 

With the previous grip version our ‘wristwatch’ went to our opponents shoulder but this time we are going to high elbow position and bringing our ‘wristwatch’ up into our opponents face. The aim here is that our forearm blocks our opponents eyes and therefore their vision is obscured, which we use to get a few steps ahead of their game.

From this dominant gripping position we are immediately snatching, moving and using a rapid pulling up and down motion to shake and control our opponents head through the gi lapel to disorient and off balance our opponent. This sets us up to be able to collar drag, use ashi waza (foot sweeping techniques) and bigger throws further down the line. 

A crucial detail for this gripping strategy is that we get that elbow high and obscure our opponents vision. If we are sloppy with this attack and leave our elbow low this creates a window for our opponent to begin to dominate our elbow and shut down the off balancing motion through the lapel we are looking for. The up-down-up-down wave through the lapel is crucial to bounce our opponents head and off balance our opponent in order to create the movement we need to set up our sweeps, throws or takedowns. 

Travis notes that these two set ups look very similar but are actually very different and we need to be aware of what we can and can’t do from each gripping strategy. With version one of the cross collar grip we are running our opponent over and are able to hit ankle picks, fireman’s lifts, double leg takedowns, collar drags to back takes and more besides. 

With version two of the cross collar grip we don’t have these options because with the snatching movement we are creating distance and moving away from our opponent in order to create kuzushi (off balancing). It’s not until our opponent starts to recover that we can look for takedowns such as ankle picks and so version two is a bit slower and not as aggressive as version one. 

Having both these gripping option in our tachi waza (standing technique) tool kit allows us to be adaptable to different opponents. Version one can be employed when we have a physical advantage over our opponent and can use this advantage to positively pressure them. Version two is employed when we don’t have this size advantage and instead have to use more indirect means of attack to off balance our opponent and gain our own momentum. 

For more game changing education check out The Judo Academy with Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens!!!