How Training In The Gi Improves No Gi Skills

Last week I explored how training No Gi can make you better in the Gi, and this week is the other side of that concept.  Both Gi and No Gi Jiu Jitsu are still Jiu Jitsu, and training either type makes your overall grappling better.  The benefits I am focusing on in this article and the previous one are the ways that each style actually exposes areas of underdevelopment in the other. Patching up weaknesses in one of these areas hones my strengths in the other.  For someone who strongly prefers training in the Gi versus only No Gi, training in the opposite is often a chance to cover skill gaps and vice versa.

Flip Book Freeze Frames For The Mental DVR

One of the key elements to improving, especially as a beginner is being able to understand what just happened.  Beginners training in the Gi and No Gi make the mistake of blurring through moves when they first begin to roll and using very little actual Jiu Jitsu, and a lot of muscling and following their body’s instincts.

If you ask this beginner after the roll, why they had their arm here, or moved their leg there, or went for this move at a certain time, they will stare at you blankly and say “I did?”  Flowing and being in the moment is important.  You should be able to play back a short DVR of at least the last few transitions of a roll to make future adjustments and improvements.

Training in the Gi is like a flip bookTraining in the Gi slows down the action and gives Jiu Jitsu a “Flip Book” type of dynamic.  Each step is very visual (especially at the lower levels). This slower motion “flip book” training is why many people claim that all students should begin training in the Gi.  They claim that it improves your fundamentals because the basic choreography is based more on known grips and less on timing, weight distribution, and the sensitivity to feel your opponent’s movements.  Once the early Gi concepts are understood, the “more advanced” principles can be layered on top. (I believe students should train in whatever they love the most, Gi, No Gi or both and that either can form the basic foundation).

The more I have trained in the Gi, the more I have found that a single small mistake 5 moves ago is actually what led to getting submitted.  Better submission defense isn’t the only answer, but preventing that pants grip that led to the guard pass, that lead to the rest of the downward spiral is.

Unlocking Additional Options

unlock better jiu jitsuThe freeze frame positions of the Gi help me feel different positions of control that are fleeting in No Gi.  I begin to feel that if I had control in this position, I could control their movement in a certain way to get a specific result.  In No Gi, I don’t have the option of having these same grips, and I can’t have that level of control. But, if my timing is on point, I can capitalize on the same principle by controlling them for a split second in the transition.  My mind is opened to more possibilities, and some of them will work!

Respect The Grips

If I can bring Gi knowledge to my No Gi, I can improve my survival percentages by a few points.  In No Gi, grips also matter, but we don’t feel the results of our opponent establishing grips nearly as directly and so we don’t correlate the bad things that happened later in the roll back to that moment in time.  If my opponent can establish a dominant grip on my Gi, then there is a good chance I am going into whatever guard, sweep or pass setup he chooses.  If I can keep those grips away I may be able to play my game. This same mindset of allowing no grips in No Gi can lead to chances for much more control of where battles go.

BackTakeFor example, if I had been more protective against my opponent establishing a collar tie, maybe my posture wouldn’t have been broken down, then maybe I wouldn’t have postured back up so strongly, and maybe I wouldn’t have fallen victim to the hip bump sweep.  When replaying this sequence in my mind, without thinking of grips as dominant forces, I would just focus on how good his “hip bump timing” was.  It would be must harder to take actionable steps to counteract this exact sequence from happening again if I assumed it was timing related.

Get Punished More Regularly

One of the biggest problems with the fluidity of No Gi is the reduction of punishment versus training in the Gi.  If I don’t respect grips or guards, or submission attempts, bad things will happen to me on a pretty regular basis in the Gi.  In No Gi, if I don’t respect a grip, or submission, bad things will only happen to me only occasionally.

No Gi TrainingThese negative results may only happen 20% of the time in No Gi.  Patching these percentages would help cover holes in my game.  Because it is only 20% of the time, I may not even notice it as a liability.  Without grips to hold me in place, escaping inferior positions like side control and submissions is much easier.  I can rely on late game escaping as opposed to much higher percentage preventative measures.

If making a similar mistake in the Gi gets me punished 75% of the time, making adjustments becomes much more noticeable and important.  After being choked a handful of times in the Gi, I am going to respect that grip, and not let it develop to that level of danger to avoid that punishment.

Submission Defense

The seemingly benign grip fight is one area of improvement, but the largest difference is in submission defense. In No Gi maybe I would limp arm my arm out of an omoplata attempt, and would be successful with that escape 60% of the time.  To me it was easy to convince myself when it didn’t work that “I just got caught,” and go back to doing what I always did.

Caio Terra Choking Lucas WalkerWhen I switched to the Gi, this escape percentage dropped to around 10% and it became evident I needed to make some changes.  By implementing some new depth to my escape with the resistance of training in the Gi, I found that my No Gi percentage went up also.  Without the Gi to “punish” me for my poorly structured escapes I would have probably continued doing the same mediocre escapes.

The grips and control offered in the Gi allow much more specific control and placement during escapes and it is easier to find the perfect point to stack your opponent, or the perfect angle to control their leg because of the slowed down nature.

Conclusion:  Train what you love, but if you lean towards either Gi or No Gi, give the other a chance to make the style you enjoy the most even stronger.

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