To Gi or Not to Gi?

To gi or not to gi?  There are hundreds of different high level, accomplished grapplers who have weighed in on the subject, and the camps are divided into those who prefer to train primarily with the gi, and those who prefer no-gi.  This article will discuss the merits of training with the gi, even if your primary interest is in no-gi competition.

A quote often attributed to Roger Gracie, easily one of the most accomplished no-gi grapplers in the world, goes something like this:  “I train in the gi all the time, then take it off right before competing in Abu Dhabi.  And then I win.”    (Okay, Roger left off the “I win” part.)  Clearly, many of the best in the world believe the gi provides quality training tools for no-gi competition.

But what is it about training in the gi that can help your no-gi game?  If your goal is to become great at chess, why spend so much of your time learning to play Scrabble?

1.  You have to slow down when you roll in the gi.
Why is slowing down a good thing?  Simple:  you see the transitions much, much better.  You are quickly made aware of exactly what your opponent is doing to you, for better or worse.  Imagine trying to learn to drive a car at 120 miles per hour!  Instead, we (human beings) tend to learn things by going through them slowly at first, gradually picking up speed as we go along.  The gi helps us slow everything down to a point where we can more easily figure out what to do.

2.  Training in the gi keeps you honest.
Escaping from submissions is much harder in the gi.  Quite often, positional escapes are a lot more difficult as well- your opponent has material to grab onto, preventing you from slipping out of various holds.  If you’re an athlete, this is the most important reason to train in the gi.  You may well be able to slip out of triangles at your gym, but the time will come when you face an opponent with an excellent triangle who will finish you with it, especially if you only train escapes based on slipping away.  A great finisher will allow you no space to escape, so you have to rely on recognizing the patterns, not exploding out of things.

3.  The gi presents you with even more unique challenges, keeping your training fresh and interesting.  
Getting burned out on no-gi training?  Try putting the gi on for a few weeks.  If you don’t think training in the gi is fun, then you can disagree with this point, but you have to concede that there are a lot of techniques that are added when you put the gi on.  Explore them and exercise your grappling brain.

Whether or not you enjoy training in the gi, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.  The overwhelming majority of ADCC medalists every single year are BJJ practitioners who have spent considerable time in the gi.  Most of the elite grapplers in MMA also train in the gi on a regular basis, or have extensive training in the past.  Take the time to fully develop your gi game, and you will be amazed at how it helps your no-gi game.

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