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The Number One Concept In Judo With Travis Stevens

The Number One Concept In Judo With Travis Stevens

There is a sequence in any grappling art which goes 1) Gripping 2) Breaking balance 3) Application of technique.

Without gripping there can be no breaking of balance and no application of technique. Gripping, known as Kumi Kata in Judo, is something Judo focuses heavily on. 

In addition to this Travis Stevens comes from a school of Judo, Jimmy Pedro’s Judo Center, that pioneered a systematic approach to Kumi Kata on the American Judo scene and gave American athletes a competitive advantage at the highest levels of competition. 

So who better to show us the details of Grip Fighting than Silver medalist Olympic Judoka, John Danaher Black belt and Judo Fanatics instructor than Travis Stevens?


We start this video with Travis demonstrating kumi kata against an opposite stanced opponent. Travis’ opponent has gained inside lapel control so Travis is shut out from his own throwing game at the moment and only has outside lapel control over his opponents gripping side. 

Take your game to the Next Level with Travis Stevens! Click Learn More!


The temptation here might be to start reaching for our opponents sleeve, which as they are in an opposite stance is quite far away. If we do start to grip for this sleeve and take a grip on the top of our opponents sleeve we leave ourselves open for our opponent grip underneath our sleeve in return. Not good!

The grip underneath our sleeve coupled with how far we had to reach towards our opponent makes it very easy for them to control our hand and have our hand close to their own body, giving them even more control over us!

Allowing our opponent to have both inside lapel grip and control over our other hand like this is a disaster for our game and leaves us incredibly vulnerable to being thrown. We cannot allow this to happen and luckily Travis is here to show us how to systematically employ our own kumi kata to take a dominant position of the gripping, and therefore be in a position to start breaking our opponents balance and posture down. 

To begin with when we have an outside lapel grip our arm will be over the top of our opponents inside lapel gripping arm. Travis begins to adjust this situation by first getting to a position where his chin is over the top of his opponents gripping hand. This begins to shut down the power of their inside grip. It may take some shaking of our own body or pressure from our shoulder but somehow we need to work out a way of getting our chin down and on top of our opponents inside lapel grip. 

While we are getting our chin on top of their grip our opponent will also be attempting to grab our sleeve and we cannot let them get that grip! So we’re keeping our hand close to the inside of our own shoulder and chest to shut down that sleeve grip attempt. 

Now while we have our chin shutting down their grip and we’re defending our sleeve we wait for an opening to come over the top, almost like the motion of an over handed punch, in order to grip high on our opponents lapel.

The reason we come over the top of the chin line here is that we don’t want to come below their chin and grip low on our opponents lapel because this leaves us open to being countered by the same chin movement we used and our opponent can also break our lapel grip and gain control of our sleeve! This is what we were wanting to avoid all along!

As we take the high lapel grip with a high elbow our opponent needs to really reach upwards to grip our sleeve. This starts to break their posture and gives us a lot of leverage to break down the elbow of their gripping arm on our lapel. As they reach up we can rotate their elbow inwards and collapse this arm.

Now our opponents controlling arm is broken down we can bring their head in to us and break their posture down further. We have now gone from a situation where we couldn’t get past their dominant inside lapel grip to collapsing this arm and gaining control of our opponent.

Using Travis’ approach to kumi kata we have gone from an inferior position to employing our own grips (stage number 1 mentioned at the start) to breaking down our opponents posture (stage number 2 mentioned at the start) and we are now in a position to either capitalise further on stage 2 by taking a grip over our opponents back or move on to stage 3, employing our own waza, or techniques. 

Travis notes that from this grip ashi waza (foot techniques) are readily available or we can set up for bigger throws. 

Grip Like a World Champion 2.0 by Jimmy Pedro

If you would like to learn more about how a systematic approach to grip fighting can revolutionize your stand up game then check out Grip Like a World Champion 2.0 by American Judo legend Jimmy Pedro!