How to Protect Your Grips and Fingers to Enjoy a Long JUDO Career!

  If you train Judo, with the GI (kimono) regularly, the chances of you having problems with the joints in your fingers at any given point are almost 100% certain. Although it is wise to give the joint time to heal, some of us, the stubborn ones, rather insist on training, aggravating the problem.

The swelling of the joints is caused by the trauma of repeatedly pushing your joints to the max, with constant pressure, impact and tugging which can result in having broken hands. There have been many studies regarding the subject of swollen finger joints in grappling, including in other sports such as Judo.

As is reality with Judo, you can’t always keep yourself from getting injured. At some point, you are bound to pop a finger or jam it when reaching for a grip. This is painful, but not the end of the world. There are several things to consider when dealing with an injured finger, and plenty of helpful ways to prevent further injury.

In this article i am going to be sharing with you some tips on how to protect your fingers while practicing your favorite sport (Judo of course). When I’m hitting my usual warm up routine I like to throw in a couple sets of pull ups. After running, or some other dynamic movement to get my blood pumping, a short strength workout makes sure I’m warm and ready to work. Pull ups are a great way to rev up your back, arms, and hands for a minute. They will ensure your grips have gotten at least a bit of time to get ready for the following training session, and will work on the strength of your tendons in the long run.

When I’m getting ready for some stand up in the gi, I get a partner to start off doing some grip breaks with me. Having them do a round of slowly increased yanks on my grip helps me get warm and ready for the more serious grip breaks that are soon to come. This means keeping my grip strong while they slowly try harder and harder to break it. Don’t let yourself fight until you literally can’t stop the break, at least for the first round of breaks. This activity is meant to warm up your grips, not work them out completely.

After warming up well, you should keep the idea of staying safe in the back of your mind. This is obviously the case for training all around, but people can easily leave their fingers out of the equation resulting in injuries. Like with tapping to a submission, getting your grip broken can be about knowing your limits. If your grip is doomed to be broken by your partner’s foot, or the power of their leg, fighting to keep the grip is understandable, just don’t make it a choice of getting kicked off and popping a finger. The reason for training is not having to fight to win, but fight to learn. Just accept that they won the battle of breaking your grips, and learn to stop them from getting that position next time.

Following IJF rules, you should always keep your fingers out of your opponent’s sleeves and pants. The point of this rule is to protect your fingers, not your opponent’s guard game. It might be a supplement to your grip strength to get deep inside the gi, but it takes one invert or sideways yank to snap your fingers like a lightly ripened banana. I have noticed lately in IJF tournaments that the ref’s are allowing the use of grips inside the gi pants at the belt line. I feel that this oversight of the rules will be changed when enough people are injured using such a grip. At any rate, don’t risk breaking your fingers for a cool back take in class, it’s just not worth it.

After training is as important as before to keep your fingers healthy and set your grips to concrete crushers. Make sure to stretch your fingers out, and ice as necessary. The buildup of injuries is easy to ignore, and can leave you with some ugly angles of fingers. And besides, nobody wants to get directions from the guy who points sideways on accident. Stretching your fingers is as easy as bending them in as far as you can without pain (using your other hand to aid the push), then repeat going as far backwards as possible. The latter stretch will also stretch the tendons running up your forearm. This will give your grips that extra strength, because tendon strength is one that comes after years of work.

Another effective way to protect your fingers is by taping them. Taping your fingers is a good way to prevent and help with finger injuries. The tape adds an extra layer of support and provides material to help brace the joints against the wear and tear of rolling. In addition to helping with injuries, taping your fingers is supposed to help with your grip. The tape again adds an extra layer on top of the skin that can be used to prevent the slipping and sliding of sweaty skin on sweaty skin.Preventative finger taping can save you many months of pain. There are actually a few different ways to tape your fingers for Judo training and competitions:

1. Single joint control

This is the simplest way of taping your finger joints and the one I use the most. Quite simply you put a ring of tape on either side of the joint. The tape needs to be reasonably tight, but not too tight as this could affect your blood flow to your fingers. This seems to help with preventing me from closing my fist too tight and applying a death grip when going for those lapels.

2. X Taping

X taping is a strong way of supporting your finger joints. This method is similar to the joint control version of taping fingers allows you to provide support to your fingers whilst maintaining a good degree of flexibility. This method is better than the joint control method because it is more durable to the stresses of training and less likely to fall off. This is normally done with one long piece of tape. Starting on one side of the knuckle wrap around a couple of times, then take the tape to the other side of the knuckle. This is done by crossing over the joint on the underside (palm side) of the finger.
Once again circle the finger a few times, before crossing back over the joint, to the original starting side. Remember you want it tight, but not too tight so as to impede your circulation.

3. Buddy taping

This would be mainly used if you have a weakness or an injury, with your fingers. Buddy taping is taping two side by side fingers together. For this you would do the same type of taping on both fingers, as for the joint control. Then simply tape two fingers together over the existing tape. This can be useful if you have a weakness in one of your fingers or if you keep catching your fingers in your or partners kimono. I’ve had this happen a few times with my little finger and it can be painful, especially in the heat of rolling or competition.

These variations will help support and protect your fingers. If however you have been over gripping there are a few things that you can do to help recovery. Obviously ibuprofen helps reduce swelling, so could potentially help with the inflammation. An alternative to this would be to put some plasticine or similar in the freezer. If you do get stiffness in your fingers, squeezing the cold plasticine in your fist, will increase blood flow and repair, but the cold will also reduce inflammation. Also using some sort of hand salve will mean you give your fingers a mini massage, helping blood flow and manually improving movement, also repairing you skin. 

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