A handshake seals a deal, but a secret handshake seals a friendship.
What is it?
A slap and fist bump is a secret handshake of sorts that is commonly used in BJJ/Submission Grappling. You start the roll/match with your partner by slapping hands and either bumping fists right after, or one person gives a high five and the other a fist, or both giving a high five.
What does it mean?
When you slap and fist bump with your training partner, it marks the beginning of the roll but more importantly, it’s a mutual agreement from both grapplers to keep it fair play, nothing personal, to watch out for each other and it’s a form of mutual respect.
When did it start?
According to Brazilians who have been training for over 30 years, the normal salute in BJJ up to the late 90’s was just a hand shake, not a bow like in Judo or other more traditional Japanese martial arts. Helio and Carlos Gracie just shook hands.
In the early 2000’s, a fad began in Brazil where Jiu-Jiteiros would do that slap and bump instead of a regular handshake.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and where it started, but we have to look first at Brazil.
I was training in Rio de Janeiro in summer of 2002, and noticed that everybody was already doing it but how about before that?
Reddit BJJ member “Cuddly warrior” who is a bjj black belt didn’t see anybody doing it in Brazil in the late 90’s:
My take on it is that it was a Brazilian fad that got to the mats, and from there the Jiu-jiteiros took it worldwide.
Do other martial arts do it too?
The simple “fist bump” or “pound” can be traced back to the late 1800s when boxers would be instructed to touch gloves at the start of a contest. This quickly became the customary greeting between boxers in and out of the ring.
Some people take advantage of it
In this instance, one competitor chose to ignore the slap and bump to shoot for a takedown instead when his opponent was reaching out. Not very fair play indeed: