Training no-gi BJJ will transfer into your gi BJJ! The fourth lie in BJJ / Grappling

A previous post introduced my idea of writing about the 5 lies that helped shape my view on BJJ and grappling. In that same post, I talked about the first of the 5 lies of BJJ: To avoid pain, just tap when you get caught! and my oh my did the post receive a massive response. Within a couple of hours there were over 20 comments (now over 35! all very valid and extremely well written) on Facebook and I'm sure there are more now. I thank everyone who took the time to read the post and comment on it and Graham for taking the time to write a post inspired by mine on his excellent blog.

Later on that week I talked a little about the second lie that helped shape my view on this amazing martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and that lie is:

-BJJ / Grappling is for everyone!

And after that I talked about the third lie in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / grappling:

-You don't have to compete to get good at BJJ!

Today I will give you my opinion on the thrid lie in BJJ that, ever since understanding it, changed my outlook and enjoyment of the sport and art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

- Training in no gi will help your gi jiu jitsu.

While this may not be a total lie, the transfer is much less than you think. Let me propose a scenario and see what you think:

A person walks in thru the door and tells you they have done 2-3 years of no-gi jiu jitsu, free style wrestling, greco roman wrestling...etc. and you put them in a gi and pair them up with one of the following three people:

a. No jiu jitsu (gi or no gi) before
b. 2-3 years of gi jiu jitsu
c. 2-3 years of rock climbing or rowing

Assuming they match each other is size and age, I ask you to be honest and consider the following questions:

1. How will they fare when it comes to learning new material or concepts compared to person a, b or c?
2. How will they fare when it comes to free rolling (in the gi) against person a, b or c?

How would you honestly rate their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu performance (non-attribute based rolling against peers)? Would your answer change if we changed the numbers in the question to 5-6 years? 10-15? 20+ years?

I believe that training in grappling without the gi will make you good at grappling without the gi. When you switch over to grappling with the gi (let's call it BJJ or Gracie Jiu Jitsu) for the first time* you will bring in an advantage (having a good ear for details, spatial awareness, coordination, work ethics...etc.). Heck you may even bring in some technical details and knowledge that will give you an edge in the top game department but I have discovered that that edge is much smaller than people anticipate and it evens out after a surprisingly short time in the BJJ game. The secret? The BJJ gi.

As a Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners and martial artist, levers are our brushes and chisels and the gi is our canvas. People who train more with the gi will be more in tune with that canvas. Naturally, no gi grapplers have leverage tools too which they use to control the opponent and negate his / her control and they, in theory, can use the same tools on the opponent who happens to be wearing a gi.

What they never count on, however, when they venture into the world of gi jiu jitsu is that grapplers with a comparable experience in the gi have their own tools to make the no-gi levers obsolete or at least less effective. Suddenly, their trusted cross face is just a little weaker. They smile giddy as they suddenly have gi pants to grab to pass the guard with their heads driving low only to get caught in a loop choke or swept with a leg lasso spider guard sweep. Every single session you learn in the gi you learn grips and grip breaking (or at least you should) and they afford you an offensive and defensive advantage that cannot be ignored.

*I'm not talking about people who regularly train both gi and no gi. Many Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners grapple a session or two in the gi and perhaps one or two without during the course of a week. What I am talking about here is the perceived advantage we bestow upon no-gi grapplers when they start their journey in the gi, or at least spend extended periods of time training either with (BJJ) or without (submission grappling) the gi.

Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi ----Did You Like This Article?--- Click here to add The Part Time Grappler to your Favourites / Bookmarks


leslie said...

There's also the whole friction thing that the gi adds. Nogi-only grapplers are used to sliding out of a lot of things that, in gi, require more technical escapes (more limbs have to be blocked, more grips have to be stripped, more angles have to be created, etc.).

I often hear people say, "Well, I'm better at nogi than I am at gi," even though they train them equally or slightly more in the gi.

graham cooke said...

Couldn't agree more with this. I came from nogi and like to think i am an *ok* grappler. Putting a gi on in my first BJJ lesson was like turning me into a toddler again. I felt powerless to do anything where before I had room to move and it was all because of the extra control and grips afforded to my partner.

Having nogi experience means people who are well versed in the gi often comment that I "move well", but they still choke and sweep me with ease - much to my own disappointment. But I started training more in the gi because I found I was so bad at it. The way I see it, the end result is that I can only get better both in and out of the gi this way.

Liam H Wandi said...

Thanks Leslie. I admit that I sometimes play the devil's advocate and when someone says I'm better at nogi than gi I tease them and say "Nah you're just worse at gi than you are at no gi" :p

Liam H Wandi said...

Thanks Graham. I MUST stress that you, or any hypothetical person who does 2-3 years of nogi grappling, is indeed an *ok* grappling. It's just that the gi changes the game. A LOT!

I am very grateful that you used the word "disappointment". It's such a great word. It's based on expectations, and expectationsa re based on a preception, which is based on the 4th lie. When the lie is found out, the illusion vanishes and people enjoy the game instead placing unnecessary expectations of how they ought to do :)

BJJ Judo said...

I think it is worth mentioning that the opposite effect can be true as well. Often when gi only players take off the gi they have a hard time dealing with the speed of the no gi game. They also have a harder time pulling off some submissions where the less technical but fairly strong player can slip out of without added friction of the gi. I personally like to train both but dont have the time so I focus mostly on gi.

Liam H Wandi said...

Very interesting BJJ Judo! I personally prefer the gi training too. There far more cheat-codes with the gi :o)

A.D. McClish said...

I am on board too. Training with the gi adds another element of challenge to the game. I did notice that, training almost exclusively in gi, I got too reliant on lapels and sleeves. Now I have to make a conscious effort to use grips that can go between both gi and nogi. I do love me some gi chokes, though!! lol

thestudent said...

my experience is a bit different. I found transitioning into the gi easy enough. Guys even senior to me time wise were not too dificult to handle. However my 1st gi comp was tough. I had a lead of 12-2 on my oponent and he pulled out a choke i had never seen, so in that sense you are right about 'tools'. My training partner however threw on a gi, which he never trains in, and won his weight group beating a purple and a brown belt on his march. Our coach i think is the key, he has principles that allow for the transition to be easier. I do however agree with u in general. What would happen to a greco champ in a olympic judo match?? Pain! Lol. Thanks for the excelent blog.

Jake said...

Although I know where you are coming from I have to say my experience has been different.

I have approximately 3-4 years of No Gi experience focusing strongly on the use of under-hooks and over-hooks, pressure and the all important squeeze.

Approximately 6 months ago I began my Gi journey and what I found is all my stuff still works, only it works better. If you apply the squeeze, to the gain the friction, to hold the position to apply the technique, having fabric only makes it easier. If you dig an under-hook and hold it tight as you would in no-gi to control your opponents upper body, but then feel and grasp a little fabric, you have the best of both worlds, a stronger under-hook.

What I will admit is a complete absence of understanding regarding lapel or collar chokes. That being said it isn't much of a hinderance.

But then it might just be my approach that is different that transfers over so well. Regardless, I have rarely found sweeping generalizations both in life and in jiu jitsu to always be accurate.

Love your blog by the way.

Liam H Wandi said...

I agree Allie, but I also understand WHY I train better now a days and therefore make sure I indulge in pure gi-jiu jitsu (the sexy shizzle that wouldn't translate into no-gi) coz I couldn't care less :D Gotta love the gi chokes :)

Liam H Wandi said...

Hi thestudent. Many thanks for taking the time to read the blog and for the very kind words about it :)

I believe you completely get where I'm coming from. No-gi grips will naturally work in gi, but someone of similar experience to you but from a gi background, will have offensive skills against you using your gi (or even their own gi! Gotta love the Ezekiel!) to stop you, make you think, make you hesitate or even sweep and sumbit you.

The Greco / Judo example is good, but stand-up grappling is always more explosive than ground fighting. Still, judoka spend a lot of time working on dominating he grip game to set up and execute offensive and defensive strategies. Spot on!

Liam H Wandi said...

Hi Jake, thanks for reading and for the very nice words good man! You are very right that the approach of the instructor AND the athlete/student will make a big difference in specific cases.

I noticed, however, with good no gi players starting a gi-journey is that they fall victim for chokes and sweeps if they try to pass my guard (they just leave themselves open for it) and even if they do pass and get to side control, when they try to mount, they always leave themselves open to back-door escapes to half guard or even back takes.

It's not that their technique isn't good (of course it is! It is the obvious result of their years in training in grappling!), it's just that unless I'm underhooking ot overhooking they don't realise why I grip what I grip and how I use it to set up escapes, sweeps and subs.

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