No-gi improves Your BJJ Gi Game

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By: BJJ Motivation

Which is better: gi or no-gi? Obviously, there is no answer, but the debate between Gi vs No gi rages on in the jiujitsu community.

However, what is certain is that all the best practitioners will tell you that both “styles” of BJJ complement each other and should be practiced if you want to get better at jiu jitsu. 

In this article, we explore how training No-Gi will improve your gi jiu jitsu.

BJJ Basics

Brazilian jiu jitsu has traditionally been practiced while wearing a gi with pants. In contrast, no-gi jiu jitsu skips tradition and occurs anytime jiu jitsu is practiced without the gi (often with shorts or spats instead of pants). In modern times, the BJJ rashguard has become ubiquitous with the practice of no-gi, but you can easily just not wear any shirt. Yet, the types of the clothing are not the only differences between these two styles. 

Why focus on both gi and no-gi?

Focusing on both no-gi and gi training is analogous to improving your weak/dominant side in jiu jitsu.

The first premise of the argument here is that people have a base fundamental style when they first start to train. Typically, you get into gi or no-gi and then stay with that focus for a few years. In a similar way, people develop a dominant side for submissions and defense (left/right). Naturally, one side gets attention and the other is neglected. By favoring one side over the other, holes in your game develop. Likewise, just as it’s important to not neglect the “weak” side, it’s equally important not to neglect both styles of jiu jitsu.  

For the gi player, these “holes” can include not understanding better grips, being too defensive, and not having a “fluid” game. By training no-gi jiu jitsu, you can help overcome these common shortcomings.

Let’s explore a few ways no-gi improves upon gi…

How does No-gi improve the gi?

Free yourself from Grips

Gi jiu jitsu is premised on having something to grip. The first time a gi-practitioner tries no-gi is like looking at a deer in headlights. This person may be in a dominant position, but will not understand how to submit once they realize there is nothing to get a hold of.

In the gi, everything from submissions, takedowns, and defenses usually require you to grab onto a piece of clothing as part of a technique. Nonetheless, grips are not always required in the gi, it’s just that we are naturally accustomed to it.

In contrast, a no-gi practitioner does not have this reliance on grips since there are (essentially) no cloth grips in the sport. Thus, a gi practitioner who starts to train no-gi will learn a whole new arsenal of familiar techniques that do not require grips.

For example, using underhooks and overhooks are essential in no-gi. You’ve got to develop a subtle feel of your opponent to learn how to use them properly. Again, there is no simple “hanging on” to your opponent like there is when playing in the gi. When you transfer these soft skills over to the gi context, you will become a deadly submission master. For instance, after some no-gi training under your belt, doing an arm drag from guard will be super easy with the benefit of the friction of the gi. 

Dynamic Grappling / Less Defense

A gi match can be methodical and slowly paced because of player positioning. In contrast, a no-gi match is often fast, dynamic and fluid. It’s “move it or lose it” in no-gi. 

The pacing requires multiple attacks and combinations to be successful. By training no-gi jiu jitsu, you can become more adept at understanding how attacks and combinations work. Because you have less to work with (i.e. no cloth to grab) you need to get good at being fluid and finding the right chain of attacks that will work. When you slip up, you need to be ready for the follow up (immediately).

Also, while defense is important in both gi and no-gi, gi practitioners can have a tendency to stall. This luxury is not available in no-gi. By training no-gi, a gi player will learn what it means to be an offensive player. 

Understand your mistakes faster

Last, no-gi arguably gives gi players a faster learning curve to improve. No-gi can be punishing in that mistakes can get identified quickly. This is because you cannot make last ditch defensive plays when there are no grips. Thus, when you screw up, you usually get submitted. While this doesn’t sound fun, it can be a great way to progress faster. The more mistakes you identify, the more inclined you are to learn how to fix them. You aren’t wasting time on low-percentage defenses that rely on grips.

So, if a gi player wants to start learning quick, they should ditch the grips and get into no gi.

Additional Reading:

No-Gi for beginners (via JiuJitsu Times)