Although Jiu Jitsu is frequently called the gentle art, even gentle things can erode the hardest materials over time. While the average Jiu Jitsu player may not always fall victim to the same injuries that a football player or college wrestler might face, they do face persistent and nagging wear on the body.
One body part subject to constant abuse that is universal to every single practitioner is the hands. No matter what style of Jiu Jitsu you use, you will always be utilizing some sort of grip as an anchor point as you advance to advantageous positions.
In no-gi, the grips are fairly straightforward. The C-grip utilizes your whole hand to create a closed loop, perhaps around the wrist or ankle. Or, you might use an open/thumbless grip, like with a collar tie or arm drag.
But, when we switch to the gi, your grips will often require more precision and dexterity to utilize the fabric most strategically. A gi-centric Jiu Jitsu game puts immense strain on the fingers specifically, to grab lapels, sleeves, and pants.
Grip heavy techniques, such as the spider guard, are particularly detrimental to a practitioner’s fingers. As many passionate Jiujiteiros prefer to train through the pain, an answer to finger pain was developed: finger tape.
The tale of the tape
It’s behavior you’ve no doubt witnessed from the avid competitors or the older Jiu Jitsu players in your gym. Before a training session, they sit in their chosen corner of the mat, meticulously looping tape around each finger.
While the tape itself is not an “anti-injury” safeguard, it provides its users with two key benefits. Firstly, there is a mental component, and second, there are preventative benefits to using tape.
The mental game
Feeling safe in any competitive environment is important and has a direct impact on your performance.
A wrestler with a hurt knee might favor one leg, and may even be nervous to shoot their shot with that knee. However, it may only take wearing knee pads to give them the confidence boost to fully commit to their blast double or to dive on an opportune low single-leg.
Taping one’s fingers can provide the user a similar confidence boost, giving them what they need to keep fighting.
For some, it may have reached the level of ritual. In order to get in the fighting headspace they need for a tournament, the act of focussing on a small thing like taping and protecting such a small aspect of the body could be enough to quiet an anxious mind.
The chief goal of finger taping is to both manage and prevent injury. It is imperative for every finger-taping Jiu Jitsu player to note that tape is only meant as a means of support rather than healing. Finger tape cannot, by itself, prevent or reverse the negative effects that age and relentless training may have on your hands.
Finger taping should not be practiced at the expense of other important health measures like proper rest and recovery. You’ve probably seen the impact years of Jiu Jitsu grips can have on the hands in one of your coaches or training partners.
Treat finger tape like headgear or a knee brace. It can help protect against injury or support recovery, but it won’t reverse chronic hand issues.
How to tape your fingers
While there are different methods to finger taping, the guiding principle should always be support for your digits. In other words, focus your taping on areas that you believe are most vulnerable.
In general, while the fingers and hand together can create an iron grip, the fingers by themselves can be susceptible to damage if not cared for.
When taping you will wrap above and below each knuckle. For the thumb, these points will be one in the same. Fortunately, specifically designed finger-tape is thin enough to be flexible around awkward finger angles while also being strong and supportive.
Simply wrapping the tape around the joint in a circular fashion should suffice for finger support. But, if you want added support, and that classic competition look, use the cross, or “X” taping method. As the name suggests, you will create an “X” pattern around the joint to cover and protect more surface area of the finger.
Our top 5 finger tapes
Shopping for finger tape is a little different than shopping for other types of Jiu Jitsu gear. Sure, you might have an inner debate of choosing white, black, or one with the fancy designs, but the ‘right’ choice will ultimately come down to preference.
You will want to determine your level of need for tape. Do you play a grip heavy game? Have your fingers already been impacted by your time training? Whatever the answers to these questions may be, you will undoubtedly run through a lot of tape. Try out a few of our favorites and see which works best for your Jiu Jitsu game and your wallet!
Four Stars *Best Overall*
- Flashy design
- Easy tear
- Less tape per roll than standard
Four and a half Stars *Made by Jiu Jitsu Athletes*
- New and improved adhesive
- Made for and by Jiu Jitsu Athletes
Five Stars *Best Design*
- Remains durable throughout practice
- Doesn’t leave a sticky residue
- Relatively inexpensive
Four Stars *Best Value*
- Comes with a case for storing tape
- Low price for length equal to competitors
Three Stars *Great Budget Option*
- More tape per pack
- Harder to tear
- May not hold up for long practice sessions
Three Stars *Best Starter Tape*
- May leaves glue residue on fingers
Jiu Jitsu may not be as physically taxing as wrestling or other contact sports in the short term, but over time, the body can become host to several persistent injuries. One of the most heavily utilized, and consequently, most vulnerable body parts is the hand.
Finger taping can help combat an avid grip fighter’s descent into arthritis. But, it is important to note that finger taping should only be utilized as a method of support, and should not be expected to be a cure all, or injury prevention plan. Think of tape as an equivalent in its use as headgear or knee pads.
Whether you use finger tape for injury support or as a psyche-up ritual, be sure to use it in conjunction with proper rest and sound medical advice.
Jeremy is brown belt and has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, but he also enjoys creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, where he began his 11 years of Jiu Jitsu training.