Wrapping fingers for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class

Why Do BJJ Practitioners Tape Their Fingers?

If you’ve seen a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) competition or seen people training BJJ, you may have noticed that sometimes people wear tape on their fingers. It can be a bit of mystery exactly what this does. So, in this article, I will explain why BJJ practitioners tape their fingers.

In general, it’s to reduce pain from finger injuries. But, certain styles and positions in jiu-jitsu require a person to grip very tightly which can also cause pain in the knuckles. Taping the fingers reduces the range of motion of the fingers and keeps the tendons in place, which reduces pain.

The tendons in the fingers have a specific anatomy that causes pain when they’re injured, and taping them reduces this pain a lot. Below, I will explain if you need to always tape your fingers in BJJ, as well as, what tape to use, and how to tape your fingers.

Do You Need To Finger Tape in BJJ

There are many different styles of jiu-jitsu and there are many unorthodox ways of controlling a person. In general, it’s not recommended to use your grips as the primary way of controlling a person, but rather to use them for finishing moves. Therefore, do you always need to tape your fingers in BJJ?

Overall, it’s not necessary to always tape your fingers in BJJ. In general, you only need to tape your fingers if you have a finger injury, or if you train a style of jiu-jitsu that uses your hands to control a person. But, this is not a recommended style of jiu-jitsu.

Taping your fingers is primarily done to:

  • Stopping swollen tendons from coming out of their natural position
  • Reducing the range of motion of the fingers

There are tendons that run along the side of the finger knuckles. They fit into grooves along the sides of the knuckles. When they are sitting in the grooves they don’t hurt at all. But, when they are overworked or injured they become swollen. 

As a result, they don’t fit into the grooves properly and they can pop out of the grooves slightly. This causes pain. Taping the fingers keeps the tendons in place, and stops them from popping out of the grooves.

The fingers have a range of motion from all the way open to all the way closed. Such as when your hand is completely open, and when your finger is in a fist. When the tendons are swollen it hurts to close your fingers into a fist. 

Your body has a natural muscle memory, and you will move your hands normally even if you have an injury. This can cause you to reinjure your fingers, or close your hands completely which causes pain. 

When you tape the fingers it reduces the range of motion of your fingers so it’s impossible to close them completely which hurts or can cause you to reinjure your fingers. Which will take them longer to heal.

Jiu-jitsu positions that mostly use grips for control aren’t recommended

It’s possible to do any move in jiu-jitsu pretty much. Therefore, there are now many very unorthodox positions that have been invented and practiced. Some have become very popular and people train them a lot. 

But, some can require a person to predominantly use their hands to control a person by grappling the collar of the gi.

However, in traditional BJJ, experienced black belts are aware that this is not the best way to do jiu-jitsu. If trained regularly it will always cause pain and injuries to the knuckles of the fingers. Traditional BJJ does not place a lot of emphasis on the grips but rather grips are used for things like chokes. 

Instead, the emphasis is on getting into favorable positions where body weight and leverage can be used to easily control someone. Rather than using the weak muscles in the hands and fingers.

When Should You Tape Your Fingers for BJJ

As a beginner in BJJ, there is a lot to learn, not only about training the art. But, also about things like your gi, and taping your fingers. Since it’s common to see BJJ practitioners tape their fingers, here’s the long and short of when you should tape your fingers for BJJ.

In general, when you experience pain in your fingers. This can occur due to a finger injury, or if you’re using a lot of grips in the jiu-jitsu. Using your hands and fingers to control a person is not recommended because it’s not sustainable, especially if you train very often.

The fingers are comparatively weak compared to the other muscles in the body. The muscles in the fingers are much smaller than the muscles in the forearms, biceps, and triceps. 

Because of this fact they can’t produce as much force. Using the fingers to keep someone from moving is not as efficient as using your body weight, or the bigger muscles in your arms or legs.

There are different colored gi’s you can buy such as white gis, red gis, and black gis. Many people wonder whether it’s OK to wear any color gi and if the gi colors mean anything. I explained the answer to these questions in detail in this article about gi colors.

What Tape Do You Use for BJJ

There are a range of different tapes you can buy for a bunch of different applications. Tape used for BJJ needs to be resistant to sweat and reasonably strong. So, here’s what tape is best to use for BJJ.

In general, Johnson and Johnson’s tape is recommended for taping your fingers for BJJ. It sticks better when your fingers get sweaty, and doesn’t slip off. A big factor when using take for BJJ is that the sweat will cause many types of tape to come off completely.

Taping your fingers requires a bit of know-how. Here’s a really good video from a BJJ blackbelt where he shows a really effective way to tape your fingers for BJJ:

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