The Great Debate - NoGi vs Gi

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In the proven tradition of such well thought out and timely debates as “ tastes great” vs “less filling” I bring you.. Gi vs NoGi.

Miller's timeless classic

Yes, it's true, I sent a friendly email to Steve asking him to give his thoughts on the merits of Gi training vs NoGi training. Just like poking a hornets nest or dropping a weight on someone's toe, this was bound to get interesting.

Hazmat recommends no poking here.

So, before you get too interested in Steve's “Ode to the Sweat Suit.. er Gi”, I'd like to share with you my thoughts on NoGi training and while I believe it is a very enjoyable and sound training method.

To begin, I was originally a Gi only player. In fact I trained with the Gi until I was awarded my Blue Belt. I enjoy rolling in the Gi, frankly because I had no other experiences to compare it with, all I knew was Gi, so that was all I practiced. Then, as luck would have it, a very well respected NoGi school opened up less than a mile away. This was destiny, I was clearly meant to experience NoGi training, in fact within one week of rolling NoGi I became a “convert” and sung the praises of this new fast, agile, explosive, and realistic game.

Alright, let's get down and dirty, Steve gave you his ten reasons, it's only fair that I should at least hold serve.

  1. With the Gi your offense can be “less efficient” and still succeed.

Now, I say this out of experience, with the Gi, provided you have a sound and solid grip and position it's very difficult for your opponent to slip, slide, or otherwise spin out of your attack. Without the Gi, your submissions must be very tight, they must rely on pressure, position, and speed. There is very little room for error without the Gi, making many NoGi submission attacks difficult to defend.

  1. The Gi can create a dependency on the “handles” most importantly the arms and wrists.

Why aren't all door handles this cool?

You don't have to become a proponent of the Rubber Guard system to understand how difficult much of the Gi guard passing and grip game becomes when you lose the sleeves and long pants. When you do not have such well established handles you are often forced to learn a game based on underhooks, overhooks, pressure, and position.

  1. Quite simply, speed kills

Faster than a 56k Modem!

This is most true when dealing with small, fast players. Steve used Marcelo Garcia, an absolutely amazing player in his post, some I admire very much. However, watch him closely, his speed in the NoGi matches is remarkable, in fact many of the smaller players benefit greatly from the NoGi game as it accelerates the action and allows them to take advantage of their God given talents.

  1. NoGi board shorts are practical and stylish.

Yep, it's true, while Gi players may get more patches, we get to wear our board shorts anywhere. In fact I've used NoGi board shorts at the beach, out in the yard, working out in the gym. You name it, NoGi board shorts allow you to “double your wardrobe” which in this economy is a must. Which leads to my next point.

  1. Gi's can be super expensive

While can be argued that MMA styled board shorts aren't cheap, it's very easy to drop by a discount store and get inexpensive board shorts, try doing that with a Gi. No way, not going to happen. Besides if you roll often enough, you might need multiple Gi's, now the prices really start to add up. Oh yes, belt too, don't forget about the belt. What does the NoGi player need? A few old t-shirts and maybe an inexpensive rash guard, plus a handful of board shorts. I'd bet bottom dollar you'd be hard pressed to get into the Gi sport for less.

  1. Realism

Sure, sure, you aren't going around fighting other people outside of the gym, in fact as a whitecollar bjj reader you are most likely working long hours and spending time out side of the gym with the family. You don't expect to really use your BJJ skills for self defense, but you hope you can if you need to. In all fairness, BJJ regardless of training clothes is a very realistically trained sport, you practice and spar at full (or just less than) speed frequently. The problem I see is that with the Gi you may begin to favor techniques that just don't transfer as well with the Gi off. For instance I was a big spider guard player in my Gi days. Early on in my NoGi sessions I found myself looking to setup my spider guard only to find that.. well no sleeves, and you can't play wrist control spider guard consistently, trust me, I tried. NoGi forces you to streamline you game and practice techniques that work regardless of your opponent's chosen apparel.

  1. Save your hands

Years of Gi training..

Back in my Gi days I consistently worked the Gi based chokes (another thing that disappeared when I move to NoGi), however I also frequently suffered from busted up hands and fingers. The Gi is not a “forgiving” material, if you get your fingers caught in it during a roll you risk jambing them pretty bad. What's that? It's all part of the sport you say? True, maybe, but I prefer to keep the money makers in good shape, without functioning fingers and hands I can't get a whole lot of work accomplished, heck I doubt many people can.

  1. It's not traditional? It's a new tradition!

Yes, yes, No Gi training is not traditional, but you know, all traditions had to start somewhere. At sometime someone was saying.. “Gi” no, we use a traditional “X” no Gi, not traditional. So you see, every tradition starts somewhere. Who knows, when my daughter is old enough perhaps they'll be talking about NoGi as traditional and rejecting whatever comes next.

  1. It's fun

Yes, that's debatable, but to me training without the Gi is just plain fun, it's fast, it's free flowing, and it constantly keeps you guessing. It's like a chess game where the moves must keep up at a brisk pace, gets the mind going and blood flowing. All in all it's a great way to spend an evening.

  1. It's different and worth a try

If you've never rolled NoGi before, give it a try, I think you'll find it opens you up, it forces you to think “outside the cloth” and gives you a fresh perspective on the game.

Now, with all of these being said, I have great respect for Gi players and the Gi game, in fact if it weren't for them there would be no BJJ and that would be a tremendous loss for me and my readers.

So, in closing, thanks Steve, it's been fun, anytime you want to roll NoGi down here in “The Swamp” I'm all for it.. what? What's that you say? Get my Gi and visit you in the “Arctic Tundra” hmm.. right.. gas is pretty high, have you seen the price of plane tickets.. besides wouldn't your family love a nice tropical vacation?

Come visit me, I promise it is NOT like this.

Train hard, with..or without the Gi!


Challenges + Effort = Growth

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Today's math lesson is very simple.

Challenges + Effort = Growth

Shells grow.. yes, not my best illustration

Or, as I like to say to my wife and daughter (yes, just because she is barely two doesn't save her from her Father's soap box speeches!), "It is only through challenges and obstacles that we find real growth and advancement."

Think about it? When was the last time you were truly challenged? Whether on the Mats, in the work place, or even balancing the budget.

Children are a great teacher of this lesson and my daughter is no exception, a few weeks back we took her to a water park for little kids. She was immediately drawn to this swirling vortex of water park entertainment, the crazy slide!

She loved it, but each time she climbed up the steps she would slip and bang something.. either her head, her arm, her knee.. you get the picture. So at first I tried to be the good Dad and help her climb up..However, I quickly noticed something that made me immensely proud. She engineered her own little method to get up that slide without banging anything, she would find a rail, plant her feet, and take it one step at a time, pulling on the rail whenever necessary to maintain her balance. She learned something that morning, and so did I.. my little equation just might be correct after all, only when challenged do we truly grow.

So, how do I translate this to BJJ? Simple, it's time to put a little challenge back in your game. It doesn't have to be competitive, your challenge could simply be to only work submissions from a certain position, or to start from your weakest position. Alternatively, you could talk to the "better, faster, stronger" set and get a few rolls in with someone who "challenges" you.

Take these lessons in moderation though, as challenging yourself can easily tax the body, mind, and spirit well beyond what they are accustomed to.

However, given a touch of challenge, I think you'll appreciate the growth.

Ahh life lessons from a two year old, ok.. almost two year old.


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