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Why Do BJJ Practitioners Tape Their Fingers?

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If you’re new to BJJ and you have seen some of the veteran grappler’s fingers covered in tape. Or you’ve watched videos online and saw all of the professional BJJ athletes had all of their fingers tapes. 

Why Do BJJ Practitioners Tape Their Fingers? In BJJ, your hands are going to take a beating and hand injuries are almost unavoidable. By taping your fingers, you’re giving extra support to your finger’s joints and tendons to keep training with less pain.

In this article, we are going to give you every reason why BJJ practitioners tape their fingers. We will also be giving you helpful information such as other reasons for taping and how to tape your fingers.

Protection

BJJ, just like in other sports such as rock climbing and Judo puts gradual wear and tear on your fingers.

After you train BJJ for a while, you realize that BJJ is not the gentle art it is said to be. Specifically in gi Jiu Jitsu, where injuring your hands is unavoidable and you’ll eventually deal with finger injuries. After time this damage can lead to early onset arthritis in your fingers.

This is one reason why BJJ practitioners tape their fingers. BJJ puts immense strain on your hands and you need to protect your fingers. By taping your fingers, you will help protect your hands from the wear and tear of training.

Injury Prevention

Have you ever seen photos of old mangled Jiu Jitsu fingers like Kurt Osiander’s or the Miyao brothers? If so, that is what happens when you do not protect your fingers.

The next reason why BJJ practitioners tape their hands is injury prevention. Taking precaution by taking the time to tape your hands could save your hands from nagging injuries.

Hand and finger injuries take time to heal, so you could end up facing some time off the mat.

So, if you don’t want gnarled old Jiu Jitsu fingers, then taping your fingers is a good idea.

Help Build Finger Strength

When you first start Jiu Jitsu, your hands are not conditioned for grabbing and pulling on the gi. It takes a long time to condition your hands to the gi game. Maybe up to a year or more.

As you build up strength in your fingers, your knuckles will get swollen and tendons will be strained. This is why it would be good for new BJJ practitioners to tape their fingers.

By taping your fingers as a newbie, you will provide extra support to your unconditioned fingers. As your fingers get stronger, they will be less damaged if you tape your fingers rather than going without.

Tape Up To Keep Training

The other reason some BJJ practitioners tape their fingers is that it is the only way they can train. For some veteran grapplers it is impossible to practice if they don’t tape up their fingers.

Without taping their fingers, they aren’t able to take grips on their opponent without being in immense pain. They aren’t able to play many guard games like spider, lapel, or lasso guard.

Top BJJ athlete Keenan Cornelius talked about having this problem after years of grappling.

“Coming up on a decade of Jiu-Jitsu, these hands have taken a beating. I would say I’ve lost about 20% of the mobility in my fingers. I spend about 60 dollars a year on tape (buying in bulk) multiple sprains, an avulsion fracture and countless torn knuckles.”- Keenan Cornelius

When you put years into training, you will probably have to start taping your hands to keep training. You won’t be without pain, but using tape will make it more tolerable.

Does Taping Your Fingers Really Work?

Some grapplers are skeptical if taping your fingers actually even works. What I’d ask them is this. Do they have a better option to protect their fingers from damage and keep training? 

The reality is there is no other way to protect your fingers from the pain of gi BJJ. You can do all of the hand strengthening you want, but that won’t stop your hands from wearing down.

You can ask any BJJ practitioner if taping their fingers makes a difference and most will all say yes. There is no other way to protect your fingers other than taping up to relieve the pain from grappling.

Types of Athletic Tape

There are generally two types of athletic tape you can buy. 1.5 inch tape and .3 inch tape. 

  • 1.5 Inch Tape: This type of tape is made for wrapping larger joints. If this is what you have, then you’ll have to tear or cut the tape to fit your fingers. Not the best for taping fingers, but it will work.
  • .3 Inch Tape: This type of tape is ideal for taping up your sore fingers. It is made specifically to wrap fingers. There is also .2 and .5 inch tape for people with different sized fingers.

Don’t Skimp And Buy Cheap Tape

One thing that cannot be stressed enough is if you’re going to buy tape don’t buy cheap tape. Cheap tape is not sufficiently sticky enough to stay on after you wrap up.

As soon as you start sweating, the tape will start to peel off your fingers. BJJ practitioners need to tape their fingers with heavy duty tape that will stay on during rolling.

Best Finger Tape To Buy

Since BJJ has become more popular, there are now numerous athletic tape brands BJJ practitioners can choose to tape their fingers. Below is a list of some of the best finger tape you can buy.

  • Johnson & Johnson Coach Sports Tape: Johnson & Johnson is probably one of the most widely used athletic tapes in the world. It has been around way before BJJ was widely practiced and used by all different types of sports. Check Amazon for price
  • Power Train Finger Tape: This is one of the best tapes on the BJJ market. It is non elastic and made of 100% cotton for those sensitive protection. Power Train Finger Tape is very sturdy that provides great compression and completely immobilizes your joints. Check Amazon for price
  • Gold BJJ Jiu Jitsu Tape: Gold BJJ made this tape specifically for BJJ. It has a strong adhesive and won’t come off when you start sweating. This top of the line athletic tape is .5 inches wide, 10 yards long, and comes in bulk from 3, 6, and 12 rolls per package. Check Amazon for price
  • Armadillo Skin Finger Tape: With a name like Armadillo Skin, This tape is made of high grade cotton that is easy to tear away. Armadillo Skin Finger Tape was built to last and is also available in a bulk of 6 rolls of tape. Check Amazon for price

Finger Taping Methods

There are a variety of different ways to tape your fingers and each have a different benefit pending on your injury. Here are a few popular methods that BJJ practitioners use to tape their fingers.

X Taping

This is usually the method of choice for BJJ practitioners to tape their fingers. You tape x’s around the joints of your fingers that act like little braces to keep the tendons and joints stable.

X taping requires long tape to do this pattern. Start on one side of your knuckle and wrap the tape around your a few times. After that wrap around the other direction to form an x to immobilize your finger.

The Buddy System

The buddy system method of taping your fingers requires that tape two or more fingers together for extra support. When you jam a finger or injure a knuckle it doesn’t have much mobility or stability. So, what you can do is tape it to another knuckle to protect your injured finger.

To do the buddy system of taping first wrap a piece of tape around your injured finger to secure and immobilize it. Then attach it to the finger to it to provide extra support.

Restrictive Taping

This is the least complicated method that BJJ practitioners use to tape their fingers. It isn’t the best option, but it is a quick fix to keep you on the mat. Wrap tape tight around each injured joint to secure and protect them to keep training.

Taping The Thumb

Taping your thumb is a little trickier than taping your fingers. If you try to tape your thumbs like your fingers it will provide no support and just rolls off. You have to take the time to tape your thumb right or you will keep injuring it.

Wrap tape around the base of your thumb first, then start wrapping around your thumb joint. Be sure to also wrap tape around your wrist to provide extra support.

Taping Other Body Parts

In Jiu Jitsu, BJJ practitioners tape more than just their fingers. They tape all of their joints to provide protection and extra support. You can also tape these joints.

  • Wrists
  • Toes
  • Knees
  • Ankles

If you train, then you will likely strain or sprain one of these joints. Taping up one of these injured joints will keep your injury protected and enable you to stay on the mats. Joint pain comes with BJJ, but by taping up you can continue your training and keep having fun.

Check out our article on the most common BJJ injuries Here

By Let's Roll BJJ

Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years.

Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.

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