Gi or No Gi?
Gi or No Gi? It's an easy choice.
What is "No Gi"
The gi (pronouced like the "gee" in "geese") is the traditional outfit of martial arts - the white pyjamas you see karate boys wearing in the movies. BJJ gis are thicker than karate ones, and thinner than judo ones.
We don't wear them.
Training without a gi is known as "no-gi" - probably because it's easier than saying "in shorts and a t-shirt" - and so all our classes are "no-gi".
For us the no-gi guidelines are pretty vague. We basically mean, “wear whatever’s comfortable” and, although few people do, you could even wear a gi.
Many people wear shorts or tracksuit trousers on their bottom half. Others wear martial artsy trousers or something similar.
On the upper half a relatively close-fitting sporty t-shirt - sleeved or sleeveless - is just the thing; the close-fitting aspect is simply so it doesn’t get all stretched or tangled up.
Of course there are all manner of sexy, fashionable no-gi items around and some people wear those too.
WHY NO GI
We have our reasons for training no-gi. Here are some of them in order of day-to-day usefulness:
Fal de reeee. Fal de raaaah.
Dave trained gi just twice a week...
The Backpack Reason
Gis are bulky. If you train with a gi, you can probably fit in your bag:
a water bottle (maybe)
a bar of chocolate
If you train without a gi you can probably fit in your bag:
shorts and t-shirt
a water bottle
a cuddly toy
a Cadbury's Creme Egg
The Laundry Reason
Whether you train gi or no gi, you of course need to wash them after every use otherwise they get very stinky. However, into a washing machine you can probably fit:
1 gi. 2 if you really cram them in.
About 17 pairs of shorts and t-shirts.
And while shorts and t-shirts dry very quickly - particularly if you get the ones designed for the sport (which pretty much leave the machine dry) - gis take aaaaaages to dry. Days, sometimes. In winter it's even worse.
The Hygiene Reason
The thing is, although you should wash your gi before your next class, doing so involves quite a hassle (because of all the drying time etc) and so people don't always do it. Instead they'll sniff their gi and say, "good for one more, I reckon" and then they'll come along to class smelling like four days of training and a quick flap in a breeze.
As shorts and t-shirts can be bundled into the machine whenever you're doing a load - and because they dry much faster - we find hygiene levels are much higher than in gi classes.
"Good for one more class, I reckon..."
The Money Reason
BJJ gis can be very expensive - maybe around £70 for a cheap one. We don't like beginners to feel they have to fork out £70 just so they can "fit in" or take part.
Most people have some comfy, sporty clothes they can wear so everyone gets to look just fine on their first day. No-one ever stands out from the crowd as "the new guy without the proper clothes". In fact they always fit in.
"I'll take 4..."
"Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!"
"I just feel that some of my techniques might not work if he didn't have a jacket on..."
The Top Hat n Tails Reason
In terms of self-defence, learning to fight someone who's wearing a gi is ideal if you think you're most likely to be attacked by someone wearing a good suit.
Training without a gi is ideal for if you think your prospective attacker is more likely to be wearing a t-shirt.
The MMA Reason
Many people like the idea of training for an MMA fight. Obviously, if you want to fight in a cage or a ring, you might as well get used to wearing shorts as quickly as possible.
Although some people fought MMA in a gi in the early days, I can't imagine anyone doing that now.
The Reason of Transferability of Skill
Of course this reason should probably be at the top of the list:
You see, we honestly believe that training with a gi massively, massively slows down your progression and that gi training just isn't as useful. Or to put it another way, you will learn a lot faster with no-gi and what you learn will be more useful.
As an example of the difference:
When gi practitioners have a go at training no-gi they inevitably complain, "It was really annoying... none of my moves worked - everything I know needs the gi to set it up" or, in short, "none of my techniques work".
When no-gi people have a go at training in a gi they inevitably say, "it was really annoying... he kept grabbing my trousers".
Ask yourself, after a few years of training would you prefer to be complaining that, after a slight change in circumstances:
a) none of your moves work
b) someone keeps grabbing your trousers?
The Learning Reason
Not only do we find the skills more transferable but we find that the whole grabbing-onto-the-trousers thing slows down learning by quite a big chunk.
You see, if you're both gripping onto each other so hard that neither of you can move, how are you going to get the chance to practice ... well... moving? How will you practice your cool new moves? You can't - because you can't move.
Instead you're going to practice breaking someone's grip, maybe moving an inch or so, re-breaking their grip and moving that same inch or so again (and again and again). And again.
If – most likely because you’re training no-gi - they're not gripping on for dear life, then you're more free to move around and practice that cool new technique you want to practice. And the more times you get to practice something in a period of time, the faster you'll get better at it.
You see, as with most sports, a very big part of jiu jitsu is timing. "Timing" is the ability to do a move at exactly the right moment. A huge factor in this "timing" lark is the "thinking time" between an opportunity opening up... you noticing the opportunity has opened up... you figuring out and deciding what to do now the opportunity has opened up... and you taking action.
Again, it's the experience of going through that thought process again and again and again that gets the "thinking time" shorter. And you don't get those experiences half as often when you're spending most of your time simply trying to break someone's damn grip!
The Reason of Fun
Gi and no gi are both just as much fun as each other. It's like comparing tennis doubles to tennis singles. Or, if you prefer, it's like comparing tennis to badminton. They're both good fun games that involve hitting an item over a net but they do have their differences.
I've trained them both, I love them both but, personally, I'm won over by the backpack reason, the laundry & hygiene benefits and most importantly of course, the massive improvements in learning speed.
I think for most of us it's more fun doing things you're good at. Ot, if you like, being good at something is just fun in itself. So although our classes are fun from day one. because you will improve faster by training no-gi, you will experience the thrill of excellence earlier in your training career and so will enjoy it even more even sooner.
Royce Gracie vs Kazushi Sakuraba I & II
In which we see Royce realise that the gi and his lack of experience without it caused him all sorts of problems. and so even he realised he was better competing without it.
Similarly, none of the other Gracie family members - Rickson, Renzo, Royler, Ryan or Ralek - wore gis when they competed. Even though they were allowed and even though their family are huge proponents of the gi.
The Reason that is Sakuraba
In 1993 Gracie Jiu Jitsu - and the Gracie family in general - made a big splash by bringing the world the first Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Although it was presented as a fair competition, it would be more fair to say it was at least a little bit rigged. The purpose of the whole show was to get the world talking about Gracie Jiu Jitsu, to know it was the best, and to earn a big stack of cash for the Gracies. As Barry Norman would say, “and why not?”
Royce Gracie was chosen to represent the family and the style. He wore a gi/kimono and the commentators favoured him more than just slightly. Even when Royce was getting a good, solid kicking, the commentators would say, “now this may look bad for Royce, but in many ways he’s still winning - such is the power of Gracie Jiu Jitsu”.
We all fell for the hype and the marketing, we all thought Royce was amazing, and we all wanted to learn BJJ, gi an’ all.
Again, and why not? The UFC and the Gracie Spin Machine brought to everyone’s attention the importance of ground fighting and so it was certainly worth giving the gi a go too.
However, a few years later, Japan hosted a “no rules” fight promotion called “Pride” in which a gent called Kazushi Sakuraba defeated four members of the legendary Gracie family in rapid succession - and he did this, to some degree, by apparently just mucking about in the ring with a smile on his face and making stuff up on the spot; earning himself the nickname, "The Gracie Hunter”.
Although Sakuraba obviously trained, there remains the charming detail that, technically, he was and is simply a white belt - for he trained exclusively no-gi.
And yet despite this - let me repeat - he beat four of the family’s top fighters If the gi is the superior way to train, surely this wouldn't have happened as Sakuraba's no-gi training would have left him at a vast, vast disadvantage - especially as some of his Gracie opponents wore a gi while fighting him.
In the same way as the UFC changed the way we viewed training in the martial arts by demonstrating the importance of grappling, four family losses on the trot from the sport's largest proponents of the gi surely, shall we say, "hinted" that training in the gi was almost definitely not the best way to train.
And though it didn’t convince the Gracies, a few others did notice.
No gi is better. We train no gi.