Gable Grip Explained: Most Powerful Grip In Grappling

Last updated on 26.09.2023 by

If you are a grappler, you know how important it is to establish a strong and effective grip on your opponent. Whether you are trying to control your opponent, set up a submission, or defend yourself from an attack, your grip can make or break your game. One of the most common and versatile grips in grappling that you can bet your life on is the gable grip. 

Today, I will cover what it is, where it comes from, how it works, and how to use it in different grappling situations. 

Short Introduction to Jiu Jitsu Grips

Before we dive into the gable grip, let’s briefly review some basic concepts about grips in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Grips are how you hold or connect your hands to your opponent’s body either directly (No-Gi) or via theirs or your clothing (Gi). Grips can be used for different purposes, from controlling the distance and position of your opponent to creating leverage to setting up or finishing submissions or pins. 

There are many types of grips in BJJ, depending on whether you are with a Gi or not. 

When the Gi is in play, you can use the fabric of your opponent’s kimono to create grips on their collar, sleeves, pants, belt, etc.

In No-Gi, on the other hand, you have to rely on your opponent’s anatomy, i.e., body parts, such as grabbing their wrists, elbows, neck, legs, etc.

You can also grab a hold of your body parts, such as grabbing one hand with the other, which works regardless of training attire, and create a loop to control your opponent. The gable grip is part of this category. 

Some grips are stronger than others, depending on how much surface area they cover, how much friction they create, and how much finger strength they require. Some grips are more versatile than others, making them effective in various situations and transitions.

Types of Grips in Grappling

There are many ways to classify grips in BJJ, but a straightforward way is to divide them into two categories: 

  1. Hand-to-hand grips.
  2. Hand-to-body grips.

Hand-to-hand Grips are when you connect your own hands together to form a loop around your opponent’s body part. They are usually stronger than hand-to-body grips because they create more pressure and stability. However, they also require more finger strength and wrist agility and can be easily broken by your opponent.

A few examples of hand-to-hand grips common in grappling are:

  • Ball and Socket Grip: Make a fist with one hand and use the other to grab the wrist. The fist acts as a knot on a rope, preventing the grip from coming loose. A typical example is an arm-in guillotine choke
  • Gable Grip: Today’s centerpiece we’ll dissect entirely in a minute. It is a palm-to-palm grip without the thumbs, allowing for tons of versatility. Think body locks.
  • S-Grip: Place the top of your fingers (minus the thumb) together with your palms facing in opposite directions (one toward you and one away). Pull them together, and you get an S-grip. It is very helpful with threading arms deeper in Darces and Anacondas. 

Hand-to-body Grips are when you grab your opponent’s body part directly with one or both hands. Hand-to-body grips tend to be weaker than hand-to-hand grips because the opponent can move their body and create angles that break the grips or render them useless.

On a positive note, they require less finger strength and can be more easily adjusted or switched.

All grips we use in no Gi (wrist, elbow, triceps, neck, scoop grip, etc.) and Gi (sleeves, collars, pants, belt, etc.) are hand-to-body grips. 

Hand-to-body grips are much more prevalent in BJJ than hand-to-hand grips, even though the latter are more powerful and controlling. 

What is a Gable Grip?

Now that we have reviewed some basic concepts and types of grips in Jiu Jitsu, let’s focus on the gable grip. 

The gable grip, named after Olympic gold medalist wrestler Dan Gable, is a versatile hand-to-hand grip commonly used in grappling.

A gable grip is achieved by placing your palms together and wrapping your fingers around the palms.

You don’t want to have your fingers parallel (like when you interlock them) but at an angle (like for applause) to achieve that. The idea is that one hand hotels the other, making this grip strong and reliable. 

A crucial factor in terms of the strength of the gable grip in BJJ is thumb placement. Your thumbs should not be a part of the grip, as the most distal thumb joint (close to the palm) is the weakest link of the grip. 

Instead, you should have the thumbs neatly glued to your palm, so that the grip covers one thumb and the other rests on the inside of the wrist (which Danaher so wokely calls “the suicide area” of the wrist). 

The gable grip is a technique used in wrestling to create a tight and powerful hold on various parts of your opponent’s body. It can be their waist (body lock), it can be their head and arm (Darce, Crossface, etc.), or it can be their leg and waist (cradles, mat returns). 

You might even use it around an appendage, like holding an extended arm for an armbar, ‘finishing heel hooks, or tapping someone out with Marcelo’s signature short choke from the back. 

The gable grip is also sometimes referred to as the palm-to-palm or monkey grip (because of the lack of use of the thumbs).

The Origin of the Gable Grip

As I mentioned, the Gable grip is named after Dan Gable, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. 

Dan Gable was born in 1948 in Waterloo, Iowa. He started wrestling young and became a high school state champion. He then went to Iowa State University, which has a legendary wrestling program to this day and won two NCAA titles, losing only one match in his entire college career.

Dan Gable at 1972 Olympic Games
Credit: Dan Gable Facebook & Dan Gable Museum

In 1972, Gable competed in the Munich Olympics, winning the gold medal without conceding a single point to any of his opponents. When he retired from competition, he became a coach at the University of Iowa, leading his team to 15 NCAA titles, producing many Olympic and world champions.

Gable was known for his relentless style of wrestling, which involved constant pressure, aggression, and stellar conditioning. He was also known for his innovative techniques, which included the gable grip. It was one of his signature moves, which he used to control, lift, and squeeze his opponents.

The gable grip became quickly popular among wrestlers and, later, grapplers and MMA fighters because of its simplicity, power, and versatility.

How Does the Gable Grip Work?

The gable grip creates a strong and tight loop around certain parts of your opponent’s body. You can adjust this loop by sliding your hands along your forearms to cover different distances and angles.

The gable grip works by way of strong attachment, which is due to powerful alignment, 

Namely, the palm-to-palm connection, which, without the thumbs, is strong, is accentuated by aligning your wrists. Think of it like striking in karate – the back of your palm should be aligned with your forearm via the wrist. 

This alignment requires constant small adjustments but results in a connection of the palms, which is extremely difficult for opponents to break.  

Another aspect of the gable grip responsible for its versatility is that it works from different tangles. You can use it from the top, from the bottom, and from standing, both in offense and defense. 

The loop it creates allows you to maneuver around the body part you control, switching directions and disrupting balance at will.

Gable Grip in Wrestling

Since the grip’s origin is in wrestling, its uses in the oldest grappling sport are numerous. 

Bodylocks from all directions are the most obvious example. The rear body lock position is a staple of wrestling control and a launching pad for many takedowns. The position’s success is based solely on the power of the gable grip.  

The front headlock is another position where the gable grip shines. Whether for control or transition, the grip makes or brakes the position. 

Regarding pinning, the cradle is the best example of using a wrestling gable grip. The near-side cradle is a better fit for the gable, with the ball-in-socket grip a more suitable option for the far side.  

The gable grip is also a staple of Nelson holds, particularly the ¾ Nelson. 

Gable Grip BJJ Examples

Every aspect of using the gable grip in wrestling is transferable to BJJ, particularly in terms of the front headlock and cradles. 

Jiu Jitsu, however, extends the uses of the Gable grip further by utilizing it in different submission holds. Many neckties, including the Japanese necktie, are designed to showcase the flexibility of the gable grip.

Everyone’s favorite leg lock in modern grappling, the heel hook, also works with the gable grip as the main finishing configuration. 

I previously mentioned Marcelo’s short choke, which is done from the back when you can’t reach fully across the neck with the choking arm. Instead of looking for a figure four grip, you place the elbow and forearm of the free arm parallel to the opponent’s spine, and you grab a gable for the finish. 

The Darce and Anaconda begin with a gable grip and, in some instances, might also be finished with it. There are a bunch of catch wrestling-derived chokes that also work based on the gable grip, such as the Shultz choke. 

In the arm-locking department, the gable is essential for catching straight armlocks, like Craig Jones’ Choi Bar. They seem to be enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in the moment.

Last but not least, the crossface, a.k.a shoulder of justice. Let’s face it: there’s hardly a better way to hold on to someone from top half guard, top side control, or mount without the crossface, whose power lies in the mechanics of the gable grip. 

Gable Grip Variations

There are a few variations of the gable grip that you’re probably using in BJJ but not realizing it. 

Butterfly Grip – It is a continuation of the gable in terms of going deeper with the palms so that you grab the insides of the wrist on the opposite side with each arm. Very useful with heel hooks. 

The V-Grip – A direct variation of the gable grip, the configuration stays mostly the same except for the thumb on one arm (the thumb on the hand covered by the other palm), which goes in between the index and middle finger of the opposite hand. One of the best ways to finish is and Japanese necktie, Peruvian necktie, bolt cutter choke, and sometimes, Darces.   

Reverse Gable Grip – A weaker but more fluid variation where you hold the back of one palm with the other hand. Thin guillotines, especially low-elbow finishes. 

Why is the Gable Grip so Strong?

A few attributes make the gable grip one of the most robust grappling grips. 

The first is the fact that it is a hand-to-hand grip involving your arms. This means it is dextrous, adjustable, and difficult to break since motion won’t help. The attachment via a thumbless connection means there’s no space left to use for prying the hands away from each other. 

Alignment of the wrist (constant re-alignment, to be more precise) adds even more power through stability. 

Finally, there’s the alignment of the elbows. The gable grip connects you to your opponent, but to create motion, you need to use your entire arms and torso. Pulling your elbows back towards your ribcage, as far as possible, is the final piece of the puzzle that makes control via the gable grip unbearable for opponents. 

Settling the Debate: Gable Grip vs. S-Grip in BJJ

The gable grip and the S-grip are two of BJJ’s most common hand-to-hand grips. They are both very strong and versatile grips that can be used in many situations and transitions. However, they also have some differences and advantages over each other.

The main difference between the gable grip and the S-grip is how they connect your hands together. The gable grip is by now clear. An S-grip connects your hands by hooking the tops of your fingers on each arm, palms facing in opposite directions, and curling the fingers towards the palm. 

The main advantage of the gable grip over the S-grip is that it is more stable and more powerful. It is easier to hold because the gable squeezes your elbows together and pulls them toward your chest. Conversely, S-grips push your elbows apart and away from your chest, leaving more space. 

S-grip provides a larger loop but at the cost of a weaker connection. Over the Gable grip is that it covers more distance and creates more leverage on your opponent’s body part.

If you need maneuverability or have trouble connecting your hands for a gable, go for an S–grip. Otherwise, stick to the gable grip anytime you can.  

Conclusion

The Gable grip is a widely used and adaptable grappling grip named after Dan Gable. This grip involves holding hands and can be utilized to manage, lift, compress, or defeat your opponent from various positions. It can also be adjusted, modified, or switched to different variations depending on the situation and preference. It is one of the strongest grips available in grappling and will make your life easier on the mats, regardless of the presence or absence of Gi.