Gi Or No-Gi? Why Not Both?
Often a Jiu-Jitsu Academy will be known as one that trains primarily in the gi (the traditional uniform) or no-gi (without the traditional uniform). Whilst we at Flow Martial Arts have always offered both gi and no-gi classes, I’m sure if you were to ask one of our students what kind of Academy we are, gi or no-gi, the majority would state gi. So this year (2016), both out of selfish motives (I personally want to train more no-gi), and motivated by the view that one is just as important as the other for the development of one’s overall Jiu-Jitsu, we have added more no-gi classes to our timetable.
Interestingly, these additional no-gi classes were not received as well as I would have liked at first, but I kind of expected that. When I have asked our students why they are not training in the no-gi classes a common response I get is, ‘I’m not good at no-gi’, to which I reply something along the lines of, ‘Of course you’re not, you never train no-gi, you weren’t good in the gi either until you practiced in it’. To me there is no logic to that kind of response. Unfortunately, people become comfortable with what they know. Especially in the combat arts, when one reaches a certain level of proficiency in one art/style it can be very daunting to start over again in another. That person has essentially developed confidence in that style and in themselves, to start over in a different art/style and get beat over-and-over again can be a major blow to a person’s confidence, self-esteem, and ego. In my short time in martial arts I have seen that a lot with high level strikers from boxing and Muay Thai. They want to start training or fighting in MMA (mixed martial arts). They have already achieved a high level or mastery in one aspect of MMA which is the striking component, but to achieve their goals they later have to start working on the other aspect of MMA which is the ground fighting component. I have often seen these high level strikers come to train Jiu-Jitsu and last only a short time. It is not because they are not capable of mastering Jiu-Jitsu, but rather in my opinion, it is because they have reached such a high level in one martial art it can be very taxing to one’s self-esteem and ego to be at the bottom of another.
So why is it important to train in both the gi and no-gi for BJJ practitioners? In short, and purely based on my opinion, I believe they are complimentary to a strong overall Jiu-Jitsu game. Whilst very much related, they are too very much different, and both offer the development of similar skills and very much different skills. Here is one example, in the gi the tightness of the grips on the gi can teach us patience and a methodical approach, it often caters to a more proactive and pressure oriented game; whereas in no-gi the slipperiness and looseness of the grips can teach us speed and the hustle, and therefore is important for developing a more reactive style. All such skills are beneficial to a quality overall Jiu-Jitsu game. Similarly, in the gi we learn fancy and crafty chokes and submissions with the help and use of the uniform, whereas in no-gi chokes and submissions can often be more basic in their application, achieved through body-to-body application, and more some would argue applicable to real-life fighting scenarios. My arguement is, how can two sets of grips, two sets of tempo, two sets of thinking, not be beneficial to a strong overall Jiu-Jitsu game?
When I think of gi and no-gi, for me gi is the art and no-gi is the fight. When I compete in the gi I feel like I am involved in a game with my opponent, a game of grips and strategy; however, when I compete in no-gi it feels a lot more fight-like, the hustle is stronger, the speed typically increased, and the physical plays a stronger role. How can the development of all such tools not be beneficial to a strong overall Jiu-Jitsu game?
If you are a Jiu-Jitsu player who is solely one or the other, I personally feel dabbling in both can be nothing but beneficial to your overall growth and development as a grappler. It can also provide you greater freedom in your training in that you can train at any gym regardless of orientation, and any grappling class regardless of orientation. It can also open your mind to a more complete understanding and potential application of the grappling arts. For example, you may have the opportunity to train in alternate grappling arts (e.g., Judo, wrestling, Sambo) that utilise the gi or no-gi. So next time you have a chance to try the gi class or the no-gi class, why not have a go? Remember, one must crawl before they can walk, and as is often preached within Jiu-Jitsu Academies worldwide, ‘Leave your ego at the door’.
Thanks for reading and happy rolling,
Co-owner at Flow Martial Arts