Oki Poke-y: Grapplers

They’re big, they’re bad, they want to do 720 motions and make you mad. The self proclaimed, most big brained archetype in fighting games: the Grappler! No, not the Yu-Gi-Oh card, I’m talking the huge, red “hulk”-ing brutes that can turn one neutral exchange into a round win at a moments notice. Surly, burly and quite often hairy and scary, grapplers are one of fighting games oldest archetypes and have made an impact on the community through tournament results and memes. You either love them or hate them, I give you the Grappler.

What is a Grappler?

Grapplers are defined by two primary characteristics:

  • They don’t have a projectile, if they do, I’m looking at you Dragonball Fighterz Broly, they can be some entirely new, unique archetype, but not a grappler.
  • They have one or more command grabs, which are integral, irreplaceable parts of their playstyle and key to their strategy

These characteristics were established by Zangief all the way back in 1992, where he was one of 8 playable characters in the vanilla arcade version of Street Fighter II.


Grapplers are all about getting close to your opponent and deleting your opponents health bar with big damage combos and command throws. Due to their conspicuous lack of a projectile, their typically large bodies and poor movement speed/mobility, grapplers don’t have the easiest time playing neutral. They get walled out easily by zoners and shotos alike, even characters who are usually aggressive often turn to a slower, more methodically paced strategy against grapplers. But to combat their natural weakness in the zoning game, grapplers are often given projectile invincible, armored (can withstand one hit without suffering hitstun) or super armored (can withstand infinite hits without suffering hitstun) attacks, specials and grabs. These mechanics heavily reward the grappler player for making hard call outs, or reads, on their opponents offensive/defensive options and maintaining a zen-like level of patience, which is made possible by the larger health pool grapplers are given, typically the largest in the game. Being able to condition the opposition, give them a false sense of security in their decision making, bide your time and maximize your advantage when you do find a single opportunity is a hallmark attribute of a good grappler main. Grapplers have zero difficulty abusing their advantage when they get in, with incredibly strong oki on the defenders wake-up and equally powerful mixups on a blocking opponent, not through overhead-low, but strike-throw guessing games. These mixups are are made even more powerful due to grapplers access to one or more command throws, which can’t be teched or ducked under like a normal throw. Adding yet another layer to the yomi when a grappler is close to you, many command throws also have tic throw setups, meaning you can cancel a poke into the command grab leaving the opponent forced to jump or backdash as their only options to avoid being thrown, and even then backdash isn’t a viable escape when in the corner. Grapplers define the phrase “feast or famine” and aren’t very consistent characters, but are nightmarishly imposing once they get within striking distance and can collapse or crumble even the stoutest of competitors in seconds.

Who is a Grappler?


Virtually every fighting game franchise has one or more grappler characters, starting with Zangief and T. Hawk in Street Fighter II, all the way up to Ladiva from Granblue Fantasy Versus. Other examples include: King from the Tekken franchise, Hulk in the Capcom made Marvel fighters, Scarecrow and Bane in Injustice, Kotal Kahn from Mortal Kombat, Rook in Fantasy Strike, Potemkin from Guilty Gear, Raam from Killer Instinct and Cerebella in Skullgirls. Grapplers have long been bringing hype to some members of the fighting game community and being a terror instilling menace to others. As they say though, styles make fights and if you enjoy a methodical, measured yet explosive playstyle then the grappler archetype will be an enjoyable play and/or watch for you. So pick up a grappler and throw your friends around like a younger sibling until they rage quit and never want to play a game with you again. You know that deep down that’s exactly what you want anyway in your sick, twisted, disgusting grappler heart.

T. Hawk
Kotal Kahn

Published by Ty Valentine

Hi, I'm a student studying for an Associate of Arts Degree and later pursuing my Bachelor's in Digital Journalism. I've been playing fighting games since I was a young buck in the late 90's and began delving into the competitive side of the genre 6 years ago. Hopefully you'll be entertained and educated by the content I'll be posting in this blog such as: fighting game history, game reviews, retrospectives, mechanics breakdown/analysis and me teaching my girlfriend Kirsten how to play Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Smash among other titles.

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