Talk about a sport taking a physical toll! We’re quite used to baseball players having shoulder problems. Bad knees in soccer players are no big headline. But what is an injury most specific to BJJ? Let me make this a little bit clearer. What is an injury most specific to Gi BJJ? Yeah, the whole body gets a beating and you might be hard-pressed to find an answer if you’ve been grappling longer than 3 years. However, the moment you try and type back an answer you’ll get on – the fingers. Gi player’s fingers are so destroyed they literally have to be held together by BJJ finger tape.
As every Gi player (and Judoka, for that matter) can testify, grappling after a few years is impossible without the heavy use of BJJ finger tape. Whether it is used on a certain finger, joints, a few fingers or all of them you’ll see it everywhere. It is so prevalent that people sometimes mistake it for a fashion statement. However, arthritis is a real problem in BJJ and tape sure provides a way to deal with it. At least in the short term.
What Happens To The Fingers?
People that train exclusively (or just often) in the Gi, base their game around gripping the material very much. Sleeve grips, pant grips, lapel grips, belt grips, you name it. Every part of the Gi is fair game and people use it to the maximum to get an advantage. Gi manufacturers even try to make sturdier Gis make gripping them harder. This results in peoples’ fingers cracking and snapping all over. Before long, you’re taping your fingers together just to be able to train.
The repeated trauma of constant pressure on the joint, as well as frequent minor dislocations, is a great recipe for arthritis. The joints primarily swell up, with inflammation being the body’s preferred answer to the inflicted trauma. Inflammation is caused by the constant tugging and pulling that puts enormous strain on the finger joints. This constant inflammation and trauma result in the reduction of cartilage in the joints, which is known as arthritis.
Arthritis, or osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint disease, in the case of BJJ caused by constant wear-and-tear. The condition may include the formation of bone spurs, bony enlargements and profuse ligament and tendon damage. The end result – pain. And by pain, I mean constant pain that’s greatly exacerbated by gripping again and again. This is where BJJ finger tape comes in.
Best Finger Tape On The Market
Finger taping for BJJ starts with one very important step – choosing the best tape available to you. You’d be surprised how much pain you can spare yourself if you start using BJJ finger tape as soon as you notice the first signs of arthritis. So let’s take a look at a few solid tape products available on the market.
#1 Magic Finger
This tape is a bit on the thicker side, but as you’ll see later on, this might be just what you’re looking for. It is 3/4” wide and very strong, thanks to the thickness. A great aspect of this tape is that it stretches quite a bit. The tape has an impressively tight seal, even in very sweaty conditions. It’s simple in terms of design and colors, but the top class in terms of providing the service it is intended for.
#2 Johnson And Johnson
This is one of the thickest tapes available, standing at 1 and 1/2” wide. Very useful for wrapping larger areas, such as toes, or for the buddy-system. A great caveat of this tape is its price – it is the cheapest on this list. It holds really well and also provides an additional gripping surface. On a negative note, it’s is short and does not last long when used constantly.
A 15-yard roll with a 0.3-inch width is always a good starting point in the search for the optimal BJJ finger tape. It has a high thread count and will last for a long time. It’s not too thick, which makes it great for wrapping the joints of the smaller fingers. It performs admirably under the harsh conditions of sparring, holding impressively. It’s made of “low slipping” material which gives it it’s tight holding properties.
#4 Power Train
This is as minimalist BJJ finger tape as they get. It comes in simple packaging and only in black color. However, it is one of the favorites of grapplers worldwide. It’s a non-elastic tape providing maximum compression and great tension. It’s sturdier than the others on this list making it the best choice for immobilization of joints. It provides great value for the price since it comes with two rolls of tape.
How To Use BJJ Finger Tape
Now that tape selection is out of the way, let’s look at the methods that’ll keep your fingers from falling apart. We already covered using the best tape available in order to avoid bad support or unwinding of the wraps. The next rule of thumb is to use a lot. Do not be afraid to commit to taping your fingers tight. In those terms, layers are more important than single strips. The reason is simple. Bjj finger tape seals better against itself than the skin of the fingers. And lastly, do not overtighten the tape. If you restrict circulation you’ll only make things worse, so provide support without cutting blood flow off.
For me, X- taping is the method of choice. It provides me with great support while allowing the fingers as much mobility as possible. It is very durable and much tighter than single joint taping. The X pattern allows the wrapping to support itself along with the fingers.
The X-taping pattern requires long pieces of tape, which is what must be considered when choosing a tape. The wrap starts on the side of a knuckle and after a couple of circles around it goes on to the other side crossing over the palm side of the joint. After a few more circles it goes back forming the X.
#2 The Buddy System
Buddy taping is used to support really bad finger joints. It can be used with both single joint control, or X-taping as the base. In simple terms, the buddy system means you tape two of your fingers to one another. This provides extra support, much like a sling does for a broken bone.
Despite being the preferred method for competitors, this is the safest method to use for rolling as well. The small finger is a great example of a disaster waiting to happen. It gets caught inside a sleeve or pants so often that it can get really painful really fast. AS such, buddy taping it can keep it as safe as possible. Kurt will show you the way how:
#3 Restrictive Taping
This method is great to tightly immobilize fingers. It’s intended to allow injured fingers to heal, rather than provide both support and mobility for chronically hurt ones. The problem with immobilizing only one finger or toe is that it makes it easier to get caught in a Gi. The best advice is to stay off the mats until the pain subsides and then use x-taping and/or the buddy system.
If you’re intent on training with a fresh injury, though, your best bet is to use restrictive taping and enforce it with the buddy system.
#4 Taping The Thumb
The thumb presents a real challenge when it comes to taping. AS such, in the events of a thumb injury, the above approach of staying away from the mats is by far your best option. It is extremely easy to re-injury the thumb by getting it caught up in the Gi. If your thumb is healed enough to train with, then be ready to use a lot of tape. Also, make time for taping is as it is not easy. here’s one way to do it: