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How to Tape Fingers for BJJ

March 5, 2024

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art rooted in self-defense-themed techniques, including dominating opponents with grapples and submissions. Your fingers are your most important tool in BJJ, as practicing or competing involves a lot of gripping your opponent’s gi (uniform) or limbs. That’s why you must always take care of your hands and use protection to prevent tendons, joints, and ligament injuries. 

Many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners tape up their fingers to protect them during competition. Some rarely use tape, while others would never compete without it. This article shows you how to tape your fingers in BJJ and shows you how to tape them up properly.  

Why you should tape your fingers in BJJ

Taping fingers is a common practice in many combat sports, including BJJ. There are many reasons fighters choose to tape their fingers during training and competition for the following reasons:

Hand protection

Any measure you can take to reduce the risk of injury is necessary. In BJJ, it is crucial to prevent injuries to your hands. Once your hands are damaged, it will be some time before you can train again, as fingers often heal slowly. Taping your fingers can help stabilize the finger joints, which lowers your risk of hyperextending or spraining them when grappling an opponent.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is hard on your entire body, but your hands take the bulk of the trauma. You have to try and grab and hold on tightly to your opponent while they use their strength to thrash and pull to escape your grasp. Additionally, tape can cover cuts and other wounds on your fingers. You should always apply a bandage first before taping up a cut. Otherwise, you risk opening the wound when you remove the tape. 

Improved grip strength

It takes a lot of time for new BJJ fighters to master the difficult gi grappling techniques. Having strong fingers and hands is necessary to maintain your grip on and control your opponent and prevent them from escaping or countering your moves. All newcomers get swollen fingers when they first start practicing. Taping your fingers helps strengthen the muscles around your finger joints over time, which improves your ability to grapple, perform different grips, and submit your opponent.

Better performance

It’s important to note that taping your fingers is not a substitute for proper technique and strategy in BJJ. Effective technique and leverage are paramount in the sport. However, taping helps increase finger strength and improve your overall performance over time. Many BJJ practitioners incorporate grip and finger strength training into their conditioning routines to enhance their game.

What kind of injuries can be prevented by taping fingers?

BJJ involves a lot of stress on the fingers and hands, which can lead to injuries such as: 

  • Sprains and Hyperextensions: These painful injuries occur when the soft tissues in your finger stretch or tear. The thumb is particularly vulnerable to hyperextension and sprains when attempting to secure grips.
  • Jammed Fingers: This injury occurs when your finger is forcefully bent while gripping your opponent or forcing your way out of a submission is applied by your opponent. It can cause pain, swelling, and temporary loss of mobility in the affected finger.
  • Fractures and Dislocations: A fractured or dislocated finger is a more severe injury that often requires medical attention, including setting the bone or joint and immobilization.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: It is easy to overuse your wrists and hands while practicing BJJ because it involves a lot of wrist and hand movements, which can lead to injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome over time. Carpal tunnel causes numbness, tingling, or pain in the hand and fingers that can limit your ability to train and compete. 
  • Blisters and Abrasions: The friction on your fingers because of continuous gripping can cause blisters and skin abrasions on the hands. Finger taping can reduce friction and protect the skin on your hand.

How to tape fingers

There are different methods for taping your fingers, and the specific technique you use may depend on your personal preference and the type of protection you need. For example, a fighter with a damaged finger may tape two together to stabilize and immobilize the injured finger. Most fighters generally tape their fingers at the joint because that’s the area with the most potential to get injured. Taping the finger joints keeps them from bending awkwardly. 

There are several standard methods for taping your fingers, each with benefits. These are detailed below:

X-Taping

It is called X-taping for an obvious reason: the tape is applied in an “X” pattern. This method is commonly used because it provides support without compromising the mobility of your joints. It also helps protect injured fingers and sore joints. To use this method, you choose a spot on the inside of your finger, just above the joint (do not apply tape directly to a joint), and wrap the tape around it a few times. Continue wrapping the tape around the base of your fingers in an “X” pattern until you reach the knuckles. 

Buddy taping

Buddy taping is when two adjacent fingers are wrapped together with single taping. This method is usually used when one finger is injured and needs to be taped to a healthy finger. Buddy taping helps immobilize and protect the injured fingers or joints, especially during competitive settings. Immobilizing injured fingers is important to avoid hyperextending or spraining the affected finger, which could make an injury even more severe.  

Begin by wrapping the tape around the base of the injured finger (where it meets your hand) a few times to create a foundation. Then, wind the tape around the injured finger to the base of the healthy adjacent finger. Continue wrapping the tape around the injured and healthy fingers a few times, ensuring that the injured finger is immobilized.

Thumb Taping

Your thumb is more vulnerable to injury than other fingers while you’re grappling and gripping your opponents. While some athletes provide extra protection by taping their thumb, others avoid it because it can negatively impact grip strength. 

Restrictive Taping

Restrictive taping limits the movement of a joint to prevent further injury or strain. BJJ fighters usually use restrictive taping to treat injuries in a competitive setting quickly.

Tips for taping fingers

  • Tape at the joint
  • Don’t apply tape too thick. Before you compete, you will be inspected and may have to retape your fingers. Although instances are rare, a delay like this can result in a disqualification. 
  • Always clean and dry your fingers before applying tape. Dirt and moisture can weaken the adhesive and loosen the tape.
  • Don’t limit the range of motion. You need to protect yourself while maintaining the ability to use your fingers to grab.
  • Apply an appropriate amount of tension, ensuring you don’t restrict blood flow.
  • Always check for comfort. You should be able to bend your fingers and grip without discomfort.

What kind of tape should I use?

Single-sided athletic tape that is breathable and allows for some stretching is best. Fighters look for tape with a strong and reliable adhesive that can withstand grappling and sweat. High-quality tight materials such as hard cotton or rayon provide good support and comfort while allowing flexibility and movement. The size of tape can vary as well, usually ranging from a half inch to two inches wide. Narrower tapes are better for wrapping smaller joints on fingers, while wider options provide better coverage and support for larger areas like knuckles and wrists. The tape you choose ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Many BJJ practitioners learn how to tape their fingers properly to suit their specific needs and preferences. It’s important to note that while taping can help reduce the risk of certain injuries, it is not a guarantee against all finger injuries, and proper technique and safety precautions should always be a priority in BJJ training.