Kumi-kata or grip fighting is the key to judo success.

Grip fighting is so important in judo yet it's something that is seldom taught, especially in traditional judo clubs. Throwing techniques are taught and drills are done in the form of uchikomi and nagekomi. Groundwork techniques are taught and drills are done for that too. But kumi-kata? Nope. Seldom taught and no drilling.

If strategic gripping is seldom taught in a traditional environment, why is it that the Japanese players are so incredibly good at gripping? There's so many high-level players there, training full-time, that those who survive and make the cut are invariably those who are good at gripping.

But for the rest of us who don't happen to live in an environment where you can have 50 black belts on the mat to train with day in and day out, we need to have a structured and systematic approach to grip fighting. For most of us, we're lucky if we have one or two consistent training partners we can work with. As such, we can't just learn through trial and error or through osmosis from other players.

In the West (the USA and Europe), kumi-kata is taught just like throws and groundwork are. They are taught different types of grips. How to impose your favorite grip. How to block and break your opponent's grips. Etc. And they do drills to improve their gripping capabilities.

At KL Judo, we don't have 50 black belts on the mat. So, we have to adopt the Western approach and teach gripping.