Modern Hojo Undo

Why Hojo Undo, Part 3. Nigiri Game vs. Dead lift

Jonathan Walter

Why Hojo Undo, Part 3. Nigiri Game vs. Dead lift

The dead lift is one of the basic lifts in every list of basic lifts. It is also the lift where most people can move the most weight. You grab the barbell with both hands and stand up. That's it. As with all compound exercises it works the whole body to some degree, but it especially focuses on the back, legs, posterior chain, and the grip. It's a great exercise, but I'll understand if you don't see much correlation to nigiri game. It might help to look at a cousin to the dead lift, the farmer's carry (see picture 1). With the farmer's carry you do the exact same thing as with the dead lift, but instead of picking up a barbell you pick up two barbells, one in each hand. You then take off running as far as you can. Now we're starting to look at nigiri game training.

While the dead lift is designed to let you lift as much weight as possible nigiri game are designed to force you to use martial arts techniques to lift as much weight as possible. Naturally we all understand the benefit of more specified training, but with nigiri game a lot of the reasons have been forgotten. Most people are not taught the techniques that the nigiri game train. You can see a few here: The grabbing you see in the video is not grabbing to hold it is grabbing to hurt. It is a specific technique where you pinch with the fingertips and first thumb joint (see picture 2). There are tons of ways to build grip strength, but nothing but nigiri game builds strength to grip in that way.

So, unlike the dead lift the primary concern of nigiri game is grip strength. That means that the top part where you grip is the most important part of the jar. Historically there have been two designs. Most nigiri game you see today have a very pronounced lip at the top. That lip was introduced after WWII when American GI's started dropping the jars and the Okinawans got sick of replacing them all the time. The original jars looked more like picture 3. They had much smaller, or non-existant, overhangs. This made it much harder to hold them, which made them much more effective for building grip strength. This is also why the tops of my jars look the way they do, see picture 4. It is my attempt to combine both philosophies. You should try and grip the straight section, under the lip. That way you can hold the jar with inward grip pressure, just like how the technique works in practice. If you just grip the lip on top then the jar hangs from your hand and your fingers are just resisting the downward force. That's still good training, of course, it's just not as good. Instead, you can use the lip as a safety net. If the jar slips the lip will prevent it from dropping.

One last difference between the dead lift and nigiri game, it's a lot easier to hit yourself with nigiri game. You can get some excellent leg conditioning by hitting them with your jars. For other training ideas you can check out the video page on my website:

As always, my point is not to vilify any exercise. In fact, if you do general weight training I highly recommend the dead lift. It is fantastic for building overall strength. But for martial artists the nigiri game offers something that you simply can't get anywhere else.