While Brazilian jiu-jitsu is less traumatic than full-contact striking martial arts, the notion of the gentle art quickly disappears after you spend a month in a gym. Of the many possible injuries, some of the inevitable ones are to the fingers, which is why you’ve seen many BJJ practitioners tape their fingers before training. But should you do it?
Taping your fingers for BJJ provides stability and support. This decreases the chance of injuring the tendons, ligaments, and joints while increasing grip strength.
Only some BJJ practitioners tape their fingers, and not everyone agrees about the level it helps. Still, taping is common practice in every gym, and knowing why and how to do it is important if you are serious about your training.
You should tape your fingers if you train primarily in the gi and rely heavily on things like spider guard and lapel grips.
But even without considering your style, BJJ involves a lot of gripping, turning your hands into organic pliers. But on the flip side, this also means finger injuries and pain are unavoidable.
Jiu-Jitsu is not as gentle as it’s said to be, and your fingers will quickly realize it once you start training. You may have seen the hands of older fighters with their mangled fingers.
Even if you don’t reach this point, there is a real chance of a finger fracture, joint dislocation, or a tendon or ligament tear. One of the easiest but most effective ways to reduce the chance of any of these happening is by taping your fingers before training.
Not only does tape decrease the chance of injury, but it can also significantly improve your performance and gripping strength. Some are skeptical of these claims and do not find much value in taping.
But many more practitioners swear they cannot complete a single session without tape, and if some of the best in the world are doing it, we should too.
Benefits Of Finger Tape For Grappling
Reduced Chance Of Injury
Taping your fingers creates a support frame for the finger pulley tendons, of which there are 8 in every finger (without the thumb), but only two are major. They are the most relevant and do most of the work.
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The common injury martial artists and rock climbers can suffer is called bowstringing and vary from a light sprain to a complete tendon tear or rupture. The result is the inability to flex the finger completely or even slightly in extreme cases.
The taping frame strengthens the pulleys, which is supported by studies done on rock climbers and from anectodical evidence from grapplers and climbers alike.
A well-placed tape can also prevent dislocation and joint damage because it reinforces the whole structure of the finger.
Increase Grip Strength
Studies on rock climbers also show that taping reduces bowstringing and increases certain grip positions, which is common knowledge in the BJJ world.
Because the tape supports the tendons, your grip strength in BJJ is physically increased, but you also have more confidence in your fingers which is sometimes more important than the actual strength improvement.
Helps Build Finger Strength
Unless you are a manual worker, your hands and fingers are surely not ready for the wear and tear of gi jiu-jitsu, meaning taping is not only for older or damaged grapplers.
The standard advice is to have a training regimen adequate for your level and gradually build up the strength in the hands, reducing the chance of injuries. But if you have the time and desire to train 5 times a week, by all means, do so.
In this case, taping your fingers before practice will help alleviate some of the tension, provide support, and prevent many nasty sprains letting you gradually strengthen.
Often people start taping their fingers for BJJ only after they’ve suffered multiple injuries, but this doesn’t have to be this way.
I know mangled fingers make you look tough (similar situation with cauliflower ears), but losing mobility is not pleasant, and training with pain all the time is also something I doubt anyone enjoys. As every doctor will tell you, prevention is the best cure.
We have an entire article with many finger exercises demonstrated in our how to improve grip strength without equipment article.
How To Tape Your Fingers For BJJ
The usual method preferred by most BJJ practitioners is to tape an X around the joints. This creates a brace around the joints and reinforces the tendons simultaneously.
Here is a good video on how to do the X-taping properly.
It’s important not to do it too tightly; you still need to be able to close your hand without stopping blood circulation.
You will quickly learn to recognize when the tape is snug enough without being too tight. The tape needs readjustment if you feel a finger going numb or some tingling.
The other method of taping the fingers is when one of them is injured. In this case, wrap the injured finger to the adjacent one, drastically increasing the overall support and decreasing the chance of aggravating the injury. This is also known as the buddy method.
Then taping the thumb is also an option, although less common. Andre Galvao often uses a tremendous amount of tape on his hands, so taking his instructions is a sound choice.
The Best Finger Tape For BJJ
Different kinds of athletic tape will do the job well, but going for a dedicated BJJ brand is the right choice because you can be confident the size, length, and material used follow the specifics of grappling.
The quality of the material matters because if the tape falls off, tears, or loses its adhesive properties midway through the session, there is no point in using it in the first place.
BJJ tapes come in various widths, so you must try a few different ones before you find your favorite.
Then having two different sizes at your disposal is also common, so that you can use the narrow one for smaller joints and the wider one for larger ones like the wrist and knuckles.
I suggest choosing reputable brands because they always have tons of reviews, and you can be sure of the quality and features. Gold BJJ produce some of the most widely used BJJ gear, and their tape is as good as any.
You can find the best price for Gold BJJ tape here.
Then the Hampton Adams is another hugely popular BJJ tape sold on Amazon and is made specifically for BJJ with all the necessary features coming at a good price:
Then if you want something a tad more expensive, Fuji also offers an excellent finger tape that will get you through even the most intense sessions and matches.
Taping your fingers for BJJ is not mandatory, but in my experience helps a lot in alleviating tension on the fingers while grappling. And if you are someone whose game revolves around hard grips on the gi and haven’t used a tape until now, the first time will feel like a celestial revelation.
Tape is cheap, so you can always try it, and if you don’t feel the need or the required effect, don’t use it anymore. But for us guys advancing in age, taping the fingers can be a lifesaver.