A pummel (つかみ攻撃 or 掴み攻撃, Grab, grasp, grip or catch attack; referred to as CatchAttack by the internal game files, and officially as Grab Attack in Super Smash Bros. 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) is an attack usable while an opponent remains trapped in the player's grab. It was first introduced in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and is performed by pressing either the attack or grab button after a successful grab. Pummels deal very low damage (usually from 1% to 3% per use), but can be used repeatedly at a relatively fast rate until the opponent is eventually thrown or breaks free from the grab.
Most pummels consist of knee jabs or headbutts since the pummeling character will already be holding their opponent using their arms. Pummeling is primarily used to rack up extra damage before a throw, and to restore moves from stale-move negation. The latter utility becomes more critical from Brawl onward, as staleness has a greater effect on the knockback inflicted, allowing pummels to bring KO moves back to full strength, and in Brawl, to keep subsequent throws at the appropriate knockback for chain grabbing.
Since accumulated damage increases the period an opponent is grabbed for, pummels are more effective at high percentages. If too many pummels are attempted, the opponent can break free from the grab without allowing the pummeler to throw them. Because of this, a player should balance the number of times they pummel the opponent before throwing, which also depends on their character; those with fast pummels such as Fox can spare a few frames to get some extra damage on the opponent, whereas those with slow pummels such as Ganondorf risk the opponent wriggling out of their grab if they pummel at lower percentages, making it more worthwhile to simply throw them.
Pummels across games
The attack rate of pummels has been generally sped up throughout the Super Smash Bros. series, though their damage has also decreased in the process.
In Melee, all pummels deal 3% damage, and most characters' pummels last 24 frames; the exceptions are Ice Climbers, Link, Young Link, and Zelda's pummels, which last 25 frames, as well as Jigglypuff, Kirby, and Mr. Game & Watch's, which last 30 frames. This causes them to be mostly identical across the cast.
In Brawl, several characters have received more unique pummels that are faster, but deal less damage. The fastest pummel is Wolf's, which deals 1% damage and lasts a mere 6 frames, while the slowest is Mr. Game & Watch's, which deals 3% and lasts 29 frames. The average duration of pummels among the cast is 17 frames, down from 24 frames in Melee, making them much faster overall. Due to Brawl's lack of decimal values for base damage, all pummels deal either 1%, 2%, or 3% damage (or in the case of Olimar's pummel with White Pikmin, 4% damage).
In Smash 4, all returning veterans except Lucas retain their pummel speeds from Brawl. However, due to several newcomers such as Mega Man, Mii Swordfighter, Robin, and Wii Fit Trainer possessing notoriously slow pummels, the average duration has been increased to 20 frames. The fastest pummel is now Lucario's at 7 frames, due to Wolf being cut from the game, while the slowest is Mii Swordfighter's at 33 frames. Pummels are also far more unique across the cast because of the new ability to give moves decimal base damage, with several of them dealing a variety of decimal damage values; this results in some more damaging pummels than the most damaging from Brawl (discounting Olimar's with White Pikmin), with Dr. Mario's dealing 3.64%.
In Ultimate, while some variance remains between characters, pummels have overall been standardized across the board, much like in Melee, except keeping the average pummel duration closer to that of Brawl and Smash 4; this applies to their damage as well, which is considerably lower overall, with a minimum of 1% and a maximum of 1.6%, and the majority of pummels dealing 1.3%. As a result of these changes, previously fast pummels such as Lucario, Ness and Samus's deal slightly more damage, but are noticeably slower, while previously slow pummels such as Ganondorf, Mr. Game & Watch and Robin's are significantly faster, but deal moderately less damage. This eliminates a large part of the imbalance between pummels in previous games, as characters no longer refresh other moves or rack up damage at a disproportionally fast rate compared to others based on pummeling speed.
It is worth noting that like other attacks, pummels inflict hitlag, and from Brawl onwards, opponents can still mash out of the attacker's grab during hitlag, so they are another factor to consider for a pummel's practical duration. Because of this, pummels that inflict less hitlag are more advantageous. In Ultimate, the actual duration of pummels is significantly shorter than in previous games (from 5 to 7 frames), but it is augmented by a much higher hitlag multipliers (typically upwards of 2x), which keep their average speed roughly the same as in previous games. However, it is also impossible to buffer the next pummel during the hitlag from the previous, and thus it is considerably harder to pummel at the maximum speed.
List of pummels
In the following table, the total duration lists the combined total frames of both the pummels' coded duration and the amount of hitlag they inflict. The damage values and durations for Ultimate do not account for the 1v1 multiplier.