Oh man. Not another Gi vs. No Gi article! There are already thousands of these out there. I am still surprised that at how fired up people get over questions like “Which is better, training No Gi or Gi?”. My solution is simple: I actually believe that EVERYONE should train at least a little in both the Gi and No Gi, but put the most focus on what they love. This is going to be a two part blog entry. The first is how training No Gi improves your Gi game, and the second part coming out next Tuesday is how working in the Gi improves your No Gi.
How Did I Do It?
The first 4-5 years of my training were strictly No Gi. My gym at that time was a 10th Planet affiliate and we were working strictly No Gi, from the Rubber Guard to the Lockdown to the Twister. I loved the fast flowing nature of it, and how mobile it was. My natural movement style is slow, safe and squishing, so opening up was freeing and therapeutic. My very first day ever training in the Gi was at a Jeff Glover seminar. Over time the Academy I train at has switched over from training entirely No Gi to mostly in the Gi. Lately we have begun refocusing on training No Gi again and are headed closer towards a 50 / 50 split Gi / No Gi. I feel in a unique position to talk about both sides of the equation.
Why Pick Just One?
You definitely don’t have to pick just one, but I feel it will lead to better initial growth if you focus. Training both Gi and No Gi efficiently at the same time is a little difficult until there is a built up foundation. Whichever one you pick is great, there are no wrong answers here.
Think of this as drilling a move both on your right and left side. Normally you drill to establish a high level of skill on your dominant side, and then later, after mastery or proficiency you would learn it on your weak side. The knowledge of your strong side application makes informing your weaker side easier, and your tool is stronger. If the options are there, I would recommend a new practitioner doing a class or two of each (Gi and No Gi), and whichever they like the most (or whichever is available!) to become their focus. If there aren’t choices, just love the one you are with!
Now, just like the left side / right side analogy, once I have developed proficiency in my chosen area whether it be Gi or No Gi, I am ready to spend some time focusing on learning my weak area (the opposite). For most people basic proficiency comes around blue belt. Working your weak area now will make your strong area even better.
If Gi is your passion, train that for a year or two and focus on it, but know you are going to do some No Gi later. Then really focus on your No Gi until your skill level there matches your Gi game, and you’ll be surprised at how much the No Gi focus improves your Gi game. Now you should be proficient enough at both that you can train them however you like. Your brain should help you understand how you would adapt those grips for No Gi, or how much stronger this sweep would be in the Gi.
How Does No Gi Make My Gi Game Better?
Training No Gi actually improves your Gi training every bit as much as vice versa. I find that training No Gi helps grapplers in the Gi perform at a higher level for a number of reasons.
Rely Less On Grips
Some Gi competitors develop the entirety of their game around grips. If my entire game is based around Spider Guard, Worm Guard, and Lasso Guard, I am going to be severely lost in No Gi. I prefer to model my game closer to Caio Terra or Marcelo Garcia who will use the grips in the Gi because they are convenient but don’t rely on them. Most of their movements and games translates well to both Gi and No Gi.
The less you are reliant on Gi grips, the higher your finishing percentages in the Gi will become. Sometimes your competitor has pants that are tailored too snug to get a good grip going, so your “C-Cup” game needs to be on point. Sometimes they are wearing their Ronin Imperial Gi that feels like chain mail woven from starchy cactuses when you grip it. All of these elements add variables into your Jiu Jitsu. These variables translate DIRECTLY to lower success percentages, since the movements won’t be as consistent.
Improved Ability To Stay Tight
The Underhooks and Overhooks of No Gi are deadly weapons when used properly in the Gi. Moves like the arm drag from guard allow much better results when you control the wrist instead of grip the sleeve. The friction of the Gi only magnifies their efficiency.
A quarter of an inch gap in the Gi may not matter as much, if there are strong grips in place, but in No Gi, that same gap can be a world of difference. The better the clinch and connection when training No Gi, the easier it is to feel that same tightness when working in the Gi. Again, the theme here is that No Gi provides an instant feedback mechanism to how you are doing on this level which allows you to make the needed adjustments right away.
Get Punished More Regularly
Especially at the beginner level in the Gi, many people rely on the safety net of grips to rescue them. It isn’t unusual to see a newer Gi competitor attempt the knee slice pass without a strong control of the underhook. That is because in the Gi sometimes grips can be established during mistakes to slow the transitions down and maybe give time to recover. This type of mistake is quickly punished in No Gi and because the punishment is so swift, the mistake is easier to identify and quicker to correct. In the Gi, you aren’t punished 100% of the time, so you don’t make the correction. In No Gi, you’ll feel it right away.
This same rule applies with being off balance and using grips to stabilize positions. The floating and balancing abilities of No Gi are more evident because of the fluidity of positions and scrambles that occur.
Add Fluidity To Jiu Jitsu
Gi matches can be beautiful fluid works of art, but sometimes they can be slow grueling battles of grips and inches. Since there are no grips to stall out the movement in No Gi fluidity and scramble abilities are improved. A No Gi practitioner has to work more combinations to get to a finish, because in any given spot there are fewer options since lapel and collar chokes aren’t present. The feel of fluidity and chaining transfers directly to an attacking or defending style of Gi Jiu Jitsu with a high opportunity for success.
Alright you Gi only guys, try some No Gi rounds and see what happens.
No Gi guys, I’ll get to you next week.
Stay Tuned Next Tuesday To Find Out How Training In The Gi Improves Your No Gi.