Legs or Hands: The Importance of Choosing the First Contact in Jiu-Jitsu

Legs or Hands: The Importance of Choosing the First Contact in Jiu-Jitsu

In jiu-jitsu and all grappling sports, the first contact often sets the tone for the fight and can be a decisive moment that shapes the outcome.

At the moment when you’re faced with the decision of whether to use your hands or feet to establish the first contact, understanding the dynamics of both options is crucial.

Given that grappling sports revolve around the concept of connection, how we initiate this vital contact is of utmost importance.

Whether you’re trying to establish control or aiming for submission, it all starts with deciding whether that contact will be made with the hands or feet.

What’s important to note that the first contact’s decision doesn’t depend on us but on our opponent. It relies on their position, movements, and intentions. Often, our choice depends on whether our opponent reveals any weaknesses in their movements.

In No-Gi grappling, where grips are limited compared to Gi grappling, we often establish the first contact with our feet, focusing on the ankles and knees. Then, the hands come into play, seeking grips on the wrists, collar, and elbows, depending on the situation and our opponent’s position.

All of this is aimed at establishing control and manipulation over our opponent.

Nicky Ryan is one of the competitors who pay special attention to the first contact with his feet because they provide him with signals about the opponent’s movements, which he then uses to execute his planned attacking techniques. Nicky has explained his entire Wrestle Up system in his instructional series called “Wrestle Up” where he explicitly uses his feet as the first contact, followed by his hands.

Just as we test the waters before diving in, the first contact is something that is extremely important and serves as a scouting mission. We test the opponent’s defense and vulnerabilities, and we check their tendencies and identify gaps in their game that we can exploit.

In the end, mastering the initial contact requires a deep understanding of the sport itself so that we know when to use our hands and when to use our feet. Improving that first contact will help us adapt more easily to our opponents and their intentions.

Think about this a bit more and plan for what you’ll establish first contact with each time. Practice different scenarios, and you’ll see how many quality follow-ups you create from different contacts, almost unconsciously.

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