Technical Grappling: Judo vs Wrestling example fight

This has come up often enough that I feel it might be a good idea to show a few things on how using Technical Grappling is supposed to work. So I’m going to be doing a bunch of posts showing fights with the rules. Anyone else using these rules is more than welcome to mail me some sample fights, and I’ll host them or link to them on The Grappling Mat.

“OK, so assume I’ve grappled the guy . . .”


Woah woah woah, pardner. Ease up. You missed the key first step.

One of the things that a lot of “what if” examples start with is the assumption of a grapple. OK, fine, but the really, really key thing that you always have to state if using TG is how many CP have been obtained by each fighter as part of that scenario. It’s absolutely crucial, because the rules absolutely assume that the CP lower the ST and DX of your foe. So in short, you must include the fact that if a ST 40 guy grapples a guy with ST 10, DX 14, ST 40 does 4d+1 CP on achieving a grapple. That’s an average of 15 CP, imparting -7 to ST and DX of our utterly average foe. THAT makes the “so, I’ve grappled you” opening statement more like the massively powerful grapple turns him into ST 3, DX 7 . . . roll vs. that. Likewise, if ST 10, DX 14 grapples ST 40, and let’s say he has Wrestling-18 for +3 Trained ST, he will do 1d CP. If he rolls a 6, that’s -3 to ST 40’s ST, but the DX penalties are scaled down for the high ST, and he’s unpenalized (-1 DX per 8 CP). So ST 40, DX 10 becomes (woo hoo) ST 37, DX 10.

So let’s back up and start again, and game out a really basic fight between two grapplers using realistic assumptions.

Meet the Combatants


Let’s start a DX-based Judo artist built on (only) 52 points. In the other corner, we’ll build more for ST-based moves.

Joe Doka: ST 11, DX 11, Judo-15 [DX+4], Arm Lock-17 [DX+5]. Trained ST 12, Trained HT 11, CP 1d-1. Judo Parry-10.

Russ Lerr: ST 13, DX 10, Wrestling-14 [DX+4], Arm Lock-15 [DX+5], Ground Fighting at full skill and only -1 to defend. Trained ST 16, Trained HT 13, CP 1d+1. Wrestling Parry-10.

Two 52-point fighters, one based on Judo and DX, the other more based on ST and Wrestling. At about 50 points, neither one is particularly super-duper, nor deep in their fighting ability.

Have plan? Must have plan.


Joe’s higher DX means he’ll go first, and we’ll assume a near-sport type of match, where they start one yard apart.

Joe’s basic strategy must be to try and stay standing. He will face full, nasty penalties if he’s on the ground, and that -4 to hit and -3 to defend for posture will suck – he’s not a cinematic fighter. He can probably do a nice Judo Throw, his basic grapple ability is good, and once he has a limb, his very credible Arm Lock will probably ensure a successful lock, but he’ll have to watch his relative facing. Joe will make extensive use of retreating parry, where he can, since he gets +3 on a retreating parry.

Russ’ strategy will certainly be to take his foe down. Once there, his advantages will be huge, fighting at full skill and with only -1 to defend. His go-to on this one is Force Posture Change, but he can try to Sweep at Wrestling-4 (meh). He too can try for a lock. To help with the takedown, he’ll grapple the legs to double the effect any any CPs he manages to inflict (TG, p. 10). Once on the ground, his superior Trained ST and a net skill advantage of Wrestling-14 vs Judo-11, Wrestling Parry-9 vs Judo Parry-7 should allow him to build up CP to achieve superior position, like rear mount, immobilizing Joe and then choosing a Wrestling-based finisher.

I’m going to put notes about choices and metagame info on the fight in blue indented italics.

Less Talk, More Fight!

Joe’s first move is to declare All-Out Defense (Parry). The +2 will come in handy, and he knows that Russ needs/wants to shoot in for his legs. He doesn’t want to go to ground, and while he could try and aggressively grapple first, the Judo Parry is nice because it allows a throw while not in Close Combat.

Joe could Wait, and I’m sure someone will chime in to tell me in detail why this is the best strategy. But do note that the +2 for AoD(Parry) precisely offsets the -2 for Grabbing Parry, which achieves the grapple required for most moves. Combined with Joe’s retreat, that’s +5 for any defenses he’ll take, and most Judo moves work really well off of a parry.

Russ wants and needs to get in and shoot for the legs. He’ll take a Step and Wait to close to one hex distance. He could dart in and grapple low using All-Out (Long) or Committed with extra step, but he needs to be able to defend and he knows it. So, step and Wait, and grapple the legs if Joe enters CC.

Joe doesn’t bite, and steps back. He’s going to force Russ to shoot. We could do this for a while, but we won’t. Russ will try a Feint, since Joe is clearly going to wait, Steven Seagal-like, until the end of time.

Note that the Setup Attack option from my Pyramid article is a bad choice for Russ – it triggers the parry he’s hoping to avoid.

So, Feint. Quick Contest. Russ rolls 6, and ah! Joe rolls 11. (I’m rolling actual dice here). Russ wins by 4.

Joe, deprived of the metagame information that he’s been successfully Feinted, continues to take AoD (Parry).

I’ll admit I feel like there’s probably a better answer here. Evaluate probably should be allowed as a cumulative benefit even while taking All-Out Defense, but in this case, Russ scored with his first feint.

On his next turn, Russ launches a Committed Attack (Determined) for the legs at a net of -1, including the -2 for taking two steps to close the distance, and ending kneeling. He rolls 8 and hits. Joe retreats, has AoD’d, but is at -4 for Russ’ Feint, for a net of  Parry-11. If Joe was forced by the Harsh Realism rules to achieve a Grabbing Parry to use Judo Throw (TG, p. 39) he’d be rolling vs. Parry-9.

The “ending kneeling” is not strictly required. Technically, I suppose you can do a leg grapple from the GURPS crouching position, but I’m going to say you have to kneel. I can do that. I’m the GM. 🙂 I view this as an application of Impossible Positions (TG, p. 11), which should definitely be read as ‘the GM says what’s what’ since GURPS is a Rule Zero game.

Alas, Joe rolls a 12.  No parry for him in any case. Russ hits the legs and rolls a 6 for CP, scoring 7 CP on Joe’s leg! Joe is -3 to ST and DX with that leg, and -1 to ST and DX for everything else due to referred control.

This is the first divergence point in the fight. I’m going to digress into options for a moment. Much like options for weapons and unarmed striking, there are now lots of ways for this fight to go.

Even on the successful attack, the maximum roll for CP was a lucky break. A more-typical 3-4 CP would have been only -1 or -2 to ST and DX on the legs alone, and either no penalty or a fairly paltry -1 to ST and DX for referred control. Joe could expect to work around that fairly easily. But no…it was a really good grapple. 

Had Joe Doka parried this shoot, his next move would likely be a Judo Throw, though a Lock of the head or arm would also be possible. Indeed, the usual response, if you can pull it off, to a low attack is to try and grapple the head and choke the attacker out. 

The divergence point here, then, is large.

The thing to avoid from a realism/game perspective is a series of repeated Feints until Russ wins by enough to just blow through Joe’s defenses. Whether that’s a house rule, invoking the multiple feints rules, or making feints cumulative (so that a lousy Feint on the previous roll puts you “in the hole” on the repetition), something will need to be done. As it happens, Russ won handily, winning by 5 off of a skill differential of -1, so he gets the -4 to defend for his shoot. 

Joe is at a 7 CP deficit and with the grapple of one of his legs, unstable. He needs to remove this threat somehow, ideally by breaking contact.

The first option would be to attack to break free, but he’s at a penalty from referred control and he’s both weaker than Russ and using Judo, both of which are staring at lower Trained ST as a result. Unless he crits, the 5 CP maximum he can remove won’t remove the grapple or the instability.

A real option for a better-rounded fighter would be a strike. Nothing says “get the hell off of me” like a knee to the face or an elbow to the top of the head. Kicking with the free leg and punching are both “only” at -1 to ST and DX, but at a -5 target. Another striking option would be All-Out Attack for Grab and Smash. There’s a rule tucked into Drop That Weapon! (p. 13) talking about shock and injury temporarily reducing Grip CP, and I think that makes sense as a general case. Bash someone hard in the face, and they need to make a HT roll or something or lose some CP.

Make no mistake, Russ has zero incentive to waste time getting Joe to the ground, and the 7 CP lucky roll means he’s nearly certain to put him there. Joe knows this.

Joe has to get out of there. He’s going to try a high-risk move, and use Judo Throw on Russ. Grapples are now mutual, so Joe has the contact he needs to just try and throw Russ as-is, but offensive Judo Throws are resolved by Contest, so Joe can use his CP to help foil it. Joe will try All-Out Attack (Double) – his skills aren’t high enough for Rapid Strikes – to grapple Russ back and also try a throw on the same turn.

Joe attacks the torso – and rolls a 9 for a hit.

The point of this first attack is to try and score enough CP to offset the 7 CP on the leg; Joe can hope to score 0-5 CP on a successful hit, averaging 2-3.

Russ is kneeling and used Committed Attack (-2 to defenses that don’t use the hands, which a Hands-Free Parry does not), is unpenalized by his kneeling posture due to his Ground Fighting, but the GM rules that having attacked the legs, and being kneeling, Joe is effectively grappling his flank or back, for a further -2 to defend. Parry-6, using the Hands-Free Parry rules (TG, p. 22-23) and he rolls an 8. Joe rolls a 4, scoring 3 CP on Russ’ torso.

The whole-body penalties involved (TG, p. 6) are 3 CP referred to Joe’s head, neck, and torso (9 CP total), and 3 CP on Russ’ torso, with 1 CP referred to head and neck (5 CP total). Penalties for the contest are that total divided by 4, rounded normally: -2 for Joe and -1 for Russ.

This is the only time in TG, I think, where referred control on ungrappled body parts stacks this way. It seems an odd rule, but I swear it works – RPK and I tried a bunch of scenarios to ensure it made sense.

The contest is Joe’s Judo (less -2 for control on a whole body movement) vs Russ’ Trained ST, DX, or best grappling skill (again, -1 for the impact of Joe’s grapple). The basic contest, then, is Joe rolling vs. Judo-13 and Russ rolling vs his Trained ST, modified down to 15. Joe goes for broke – he’s going to wind up prone anyway, and drops prone himself for +4 to his roll, making it Judo-17. He’ll also burn his full allotment of 3 CP, lowering Russ’ score to 12.

Russ is having none of it, and will spend all but the 1 CP required to keep Joe unstable – 6 CP. Final contest is a relatively even Judo-11 vs. Trained ST 12.

Joe rolls 9, Russ rolls 11, and Joe wins the contest by 1! Russ is thrown, and rolls 10 vs. his HT 10 and is not stunned. The players and GM rule that this was rolling backwards, throwing Russ over top, but landing with both prone, Russ still on Joe’s leg. It’s not unreasonable for Russ to have retained his 1 CP grip on Joe’s legs for this.

Had Russ failed his HT roll, and been stunned, the game would basically be up. Russ would have lost his grapple (misison accomplished), and Joe could have moved in for a crippling choke or arm lock more or less at his leisure. This is the second major divergence point.

Russ’ turn, now, and he’s going to keep working that leg, but he’s also going to try and take advantage of this opportunity to attack Joe after his All-Out Attack. He’s going to try a Telegraphic grapple using both legs and arms against Joe’s leg, effectively trying to set up a knee-bar position. Checking the Grip ST Table on p. 47, and then adding in the Training Bonus, Russ is ST 23 for this move, and net Wrestling-16 (+4 for Telegraphic, -2 for grappling with his legs). Roll 8 and hits, and 2d+1 CP yields 10 CP more, for 11 CP on Joe’s leg! Joe is now at -5 ST and DX for the grappled leg, and an additional -2 ST and DX everywhere else, including most skill use.

Joe is effectively now operating at Trained ST 10, DX 9, Judo-9, Judo Parry-6 for most skill use, and is even worse using that grappled leg.

Joe’s turn, and he’s got a major problem here. He’s not going to be able to get up, and his Judo is severely compromised by the CP on his leg. He’s going to try and injure Russ with a kick to the face and try and force a stun check. Rock out with an All-Out, Telegraphic (+8) Kick (DX-2) to the face (-5) making it a net of Kick-10. Roll 8 and hits! Russ cannot do a hands-free parry vs. a strike, and is a net of +1 to Parry (-1 for being prone, +2 for receiving a telegraphic attack) in any case. He chooses to let go with both hands, dropping from raw ST 20 down to 16, losing 2 CP by virtue of letting go (drops the leg grapple to “only” 9 CP). His Wrestling Parry is 11, and he rolls a 7.

I’ll admit here that the dice are really favoring Russ. Had he gotten the boot, he’d have done 1d-2 damage, rolled and came up with 2 points, enough to cause a shock penalty. Then Russ actually failed his HT roll, rolling 11 vs. a 10, and was stunned! This would have either led to Russ first losing his grapple, then (if he failed to snap out of it) Joe likely grabbing an arm and putting Russ in the Arm Bar of Doom, using All-Out Attacks until and unless Russ wakes up. This is the third time the fight could have gone Joe’s way.

Russ can again act without fear of retaliation, and reacquires the leg by attacking with both arms using a Telegraphic Attack. He rolls a 9, Joe can’t parry, and he adds Trained ST 16 for 1d+1 CP to his total, rolls a 6 (Dude. Dice.) for 7 more CP, bringing Russ up to his maximum CP of 16 (limited by Trained ST).

Joe is effectively now operating at Trained ST 7, DX 7, Judo-7, Judo Parry-5 for most skill use, and is even worse using that grappled leg.

All-Out Face kick again for Joe. Rolls a 12 and misses.

 Russ could try Wrench Leg, but he’s not improved it, and that would make it Trained ST 12 vs. Joe’s HT 10. Not awful odds, but not certain. Instead, Russ goes for a Leg Lock, rolling to attack vs. Wrestling-14. He hits, and Joe rolls a 9 to defend – no matter what he’s doing (Parry or Dodge) he fails. The limb is locked.

This time, Joe wants none of that and Telegraphic Attacks to break free. Rolls an 8 vs a modified Judo-11, but Russ can do a Hands-Free parry, rolls a 9 (vs. Parry-9, so he just makes it) and the joint is still locked.

Russ can now try and break Joe’s leg, and he will do so. He spends 3 CP to set the upper bound injury at a crippling 6 HP (locked joints count double). Russ’ trained ST with two arms and two legs is a whopping 23, vs. Joe’s Trained ST 8 or Trained HT 11. Russ can spend a CP to lower Joe’s roll to the base HT 10, and he does so. Win or lose, the CP on Joe’s leg are reduced to 12 next turn.

Russ rolls a 9, and Joe an 8 – Russ wins the contest by 11, more than enough to inflict maximum injury and crippling the leg.

Parting Shot


The interplay between Control Points, Posture, and even position (though it didn’t come up much) is pretty clear here. The Wrestler came out on top, but there were several chances for the Judo guy to turn the tables.

First, the “I Feint until I win” probably has some limits somewhere, but I’ll admit my Search Fu is failing.

Next was that the fight had a few places where it could have gone either way. Had Joe gotten that successful Judo Parry, the ensuing throw would have had a chance of stunning Russ (50-50) and possibly injuring him. Depending on what that looks like, Joe could have grabbed an arm from crouching, and put Russ in a standing arm lock to end the fight. Likewise, the second throw – the successful one – nearly did end the fight, as did the kick to the face.

The real weakness in the builds was a total lack of striking skills, as well as the deliberate lack of Ground Fighting on Joe’s part. That was there to prove a point, and that point was “spend the five points it takes to be a good ground fighter.” Or bring a sword.

Technical Grappling really cranks up the resolution on grappling and ground fighting. I hope this example shows how.

A Comment from the Forums


The poster known as Purple Haze makes a great point, salient to comparisons between this example and reality:

As an old judoka I find it hard to believe a judo practitioner’s “basic strategy is to try and remain standing.”
Try to be the one doing the takedown so you have an advantage when you get there, but get the fight on the ground as soon as possible. Is the basic strategy of judo and jujitsu.

There’s wisdom here, but also a common misconception. Our guy is not either a “Judoka” or a “jujitsu practitioner.” He’s “a guy with only Judo and nothing else.”

If you look at the writeup of BJJ in Martial Arts, the realistic skills are both Judo and Wrestling, Techniques include Ground Fighting, all the locks, and Low Fighting! Basically a combination of both fighters. Jiu-Jitsu (not BJJ) has Judo and Karate, with Ground Fighting as an optional skill only, so the basic style is stand-up based. Judo itself (p. 166) is Judo Sport, Ground Fighting, Technique Mastery (Judo Throw and Sacrifice Throw), which has a solid ground fighting basis.

The builds at play are, as I say in the intro, not optimized. Technical Grappling rewards skill depth, as does Martial Arts, as does real life. These one-skill wonders suffer badly from

* The wrestler is pretty incompetent against strikes
* The Judo-skill guy is incompetent on the ground (!!)

It’s a mistake, though a common one, to associate the GURPS skill names with styles of similar name. In this case, I made a dedicated ground fighter and a dedicated standup fighter, on about 52 points.

Next time, I will take a couple actual stylists built on 100 points.

10 thoughts on “Technical Grappling: Judo vs Wrestling example fight

  1. I really need to buy this PDF – the rules have gone from sounding a little on the clunky side in terms of added bookkeeping to sounding like they don't have that much in the way of negative impacts on the flow of combat. But I bet even you might balk at using TG with Last Gasp. 🙂

    Also, it's worth noting that part of the issue of "system mastery" when it comes to GURPS is that so many people are coming from games where there's a generic catch-all category skill for combat, some that only lump everything in to a single "Judo" skill, and others that have a broader "Martial Arts" or even, as much as it grates on me, an "Unarmed Combat" or even "Fighting" skill. A good GURPS GM needs to introduce the appropriate skills, techniques and maneuvers to a player who might not be used to a system that requires so much knowledge of how things actually work.

  2. I do own the PDF and there are just a few areas that are still clunky feeling to me: the primary control and referred control aren't very hard, and I think that using d20s or something to track CP on combatants isn't a bad "bookkeeping" solution. The part that gets ugly is when you are tracking separate CP totals on multiple limbs or locations and have to figure out the referred control over all the locations AND also calculate the control points that apply to the "Whole-body."

    The basic CP mechanic is awesome and I'm going to start using it–where it gets iffy for me as a GM of a face-to-face group is keeping track of all the CP on what locations and all the various penalties.

    My other concern is illustrated in this example: *in a duel*, I have zero concerns whatsoever regarding TG's playability and usefulness. Where I lose confidence (though I haven't tried it yet!) is how this level of detail works out in actual play *in a group* where you have 5 PCs and 10+ NPCs and all kinds of stuff happening with multiple real-life minutes between turns, some of which will use TG and some of which will not.

    I really am curious to see the Designer's Notes to see if there's any way to simplify things a little!

    1. I have at least two simplifications, one of which was playtested extensively by the Forums user named Kallatari. The other is logical but was never tested, but might well ease some of your mind with respect to the CP on 50 NPCs.

      I'll cop to the referred control by locations thing being . . . rough on the corners. But given the number of times that (for example) someone grabs someone else by one wrist, both wrists, a dog bites and hangs on to your ankle, or a face-hugger gets freaky with you, some sort of location-based mechanic was required.

    2. Oh don't get me wrong, Doug, I like the rules overall. And I completely agree with you that a location-based mechanic was necessary. What I find in my F2F group is that the level of detail desired by the players is related to both the frequency of combats and the importance of those combats. In my recently completed THS game, there weren't a ton of fights, and when there WAS a fight, it was fairly significant, so we tended to bring out all the rules and use them. Compare that to a game like DF though–in DF, if you stop and use every last detail, you will spend 4 hours killing a dozen orcs and that's not good for anyone.

      So, TG's "playability" is only a "problem" (without the Designer's Notes simplifications) when you are trying to use it for situations it arguably isn't meant for–and those situations are arguably the same times when you wouldn't even want to use the full power of GURPS tactical combat in the first place!

      I fully plan on using TG in my Banestorm campaign running now, so I will keep you posted on how it goes!

    3. One thing that brings to mind: if you turn on the "cinematic switches" via TbaM or just "This is DF, everyone's AWESOME" with TG, the Control Points stack up so fast that there's very little need in many cases to worry about things turn to turn. You grapple, inflict 7-14 CP in one attack (!!), and use the fact that you're Awesome to Rapid Strike and then dump them on their butt in one turn.

      In my experience with DF, the times I've wanted to grapple is to disadvantage a foe via a takedown or judo throw to put them prone, stunned, or (more importantly) temporarily immobile for speedy foes. That allows bringing my Axe of Beheading to bear, and 2d+4 (2) cut is fairly definitive.

      From that perspective, the strategy is "gain CP, spend CP, one turn, thanks" and for that you can pick your favorite Combinations so that you can buy off the Rapid Strike penalties and reliably do it in one turn.

  3. Thats was quite interesting, complex but playable and it seems to play out a good deal; like an MMA match. Kudos

    My only observation, a personal one is though one of my players loves GURPS and would go for it the chance of the group getting these rules into play is pretty much nil. I find the guys sometimes think Pathfinder combat (which is deadbone simple) without options is that the edge of their interest level. Its too bad though, I'd like to see a fight, maybe some mix of Master of Defense and Kampfringen in actual play.

    Its just as well I suppose, I am kind of lazy on the rules front sometimes too.

  4. Great Post Doug. I love MA and bought TG as soon as it came out. However, even as I begin to grok it, I can't see using the calculus of beatdowns in a game with multiple assailants. I've already added AP and new hit locations, but adding CP seems like over-the-top cinematic bookkeeping, and here I never bought TbaM (GURPS).

    I love the stuff, I am just trying to find a way to give it the Lite treatment. Maybe a flat penalty to the grappled area and half that, and a "tag" that can be burned for useful advantage – essentially all attacks give one CP that gives -4 to target and -2 elsewhere and can be burned for a -4 to opponents skill, or +2 damage or some such.

    1. If you have a Pyramid subscription, you should check out the "Coming to Grips with Realism" article in this week's issue (#3/61). It has several such "I don't want to muck with this" options in there, some of which have been used by one of the playtesters for the better part of two years.

      Your simplification is interesting, and there's a kinda-sorta similar rule in the article.

      Also, your request for a fast-and-loose version? Not the only one. Let's just say that I'm working with a coauthor on something.

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