‘Force has no place where there is need of skill’ -Herodotus
(an ancient Greek writer who obviously had Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on his mind)
The popularity of No-Gi BJJ classes (Jiu-jitsu classes where participants wear shorts/leggings and a rash guard as opposed to the traditional cotton uniform) has soared over the past few years thanks to the influence of mixed martial arts and submission grappling events. Instead of the more traditional Gi classes, beginners search for a faster and unrestrictive style of grappling game.
But beginners can gain a lot of value by starting their training with a gi and continuing to utilise these classes along with their No-Gi training.
We’re big fans of training BJJ in the gi uniform at Kaizen Lab, and here’s why:
Training in Gi classes helps get you the most tangible knowledge out of your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) training, helping you to advance quicker and build more on the diversity of your training.
Keep reading to find out why you should begin with Gi classes.
Why Start Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Gi?
It helps you walk before you run
Besides providing a cottony cushion to protect your body from scratches and abrasion, these gi uniforms are designed to slow things down and get you confident early in your Jiu-jitsu technique. Here, you learn how to grip and connect with your opponent, and how to use their weight against them by leveraging the material to increase the effectiveness of the moves. With No-Gi, you’re sometimes able to slip your way out of holds, but, as UFC veteran and BJJ black belt Dean Lister says, “with Gi, you earn your way out rather than slip your way out”.
This is why, at Kaizen Lab, we teach our Fundamentals as Gi classes: start slow, learn the art, then go at full-speed using both Gi and No-Gi classes (whatever you prefer).
It boosts your confidence in the art
For a BJJ beginner, starting in Gi classes is a great way to build confidence by improving your defence skills. Here, you hone your skills and watch your holds actively restrict your opponents from escaping. Through the coarse, non-slippery texture of the gi uniform, the techniques you learn here are much easier to apply and hold onto than in No-Gi.
It strengthens and conditions your muscles
Ever tried to escape a collar choke (a choke hold where your opponent attempts to strangle you with your own gi)? It’s a challenging spot to be in! You’ll find yourself working hard to get out of a lot of holds like this in Jiu-jitsu. Build on your defence: Gi classes are perfect for building the right muscles and strengthening and conditioning your tendons to get yourself out of tricky situations. While No-Gi helps to build speed and endurance, it’s the Gi that gets your body in prep for the toughness of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
It’s transferrable to No-Gi training
Transitioning from Gi to No-Gi needs fewer picking up of techniques compared to the many holds you would use during Gi training. Going from Gi to No-Gi can also help you to master technique before applying it in a less restrictive environment. You may even find that a lot of No-Gi purists actually struggle more during a Gi class; whereas, the other way around, a Gi purist would still be able to hold their own.
It’s just picking up the pace and learning to switch more between holds.
It helps you focus more on technique
While No-Gi is fast-paced with relatively less obstacles, Gi is where you apply the most technique. Gi is a discipline that will see your hard work pay off as the uniform automatically hinders your natural speed and strength. Instead, the gi forces you to rely on what you’ve learnt*.
* this can also be particularly helpful for smaller and weaker participants in the sport.
The Benefits of Starting Your Journey with Gi Classes
We get it: it’s easy to relax into a No-Gi routine. But, as a beginner, starting with Gi classes can be instrumental to advancing.
Here are a few ways Gi classes could help speed up your journey in BJJ:
Faster advancement of skills
Gi is a great way to focus on learning the different concepts and techniques in Jiu-jitsu. It allows the smaller players to control larger opponents by using leverage and distance in a gi at equal odds with the larger opponent. It concentrates on how you can manipulate your opponent using skill instead of relying on how fast or strong you are—therefore helping you to advance quicker in the skills department rather than just relying on physical ability.
This is exactly why we have all our Fundamentals classes in the gi uniform: we want you to slow down and learn the fundamental skills before you start to speed up.
Lean into technique and not strength
Throwing your opponent around using brute strength is all good and well until you grapple with an opponent that has both strength and technique. Make technique your starting point, and make building your strength and speed the second checkpoint. Allow Gi to guide you and No-Gi to build your speed and quick thinking.
Gi training is also transferable to self-defence techniques because you can apply the techniques to everyday apparel such as jackets, t-shirts, shorts and pants. Anything you can grab can then be used to apply your favourite techniques.
Increase diversity in techniques
Putting it simply: if you jump into No-Gi after learning in a gi, you’ll land on your feet eventually; if you jump into Gi as a No-Gi purist, you’ll have a tougher time. Both styles of Jiu-jitsu offer their own unique advantages—so why not both? Start with Gi, and then blend into No-Gi.
What Should Your Next Steps Be?
The Gi road is one that is long, but rewarding. Here are a few steps below you can follow to get yourself thinking like a Gi purist.
Give your gi a wash and get yourself to a Gi class
There’s plenty of Jiu-jitsu coaches hosting Gi classes as well as No-Gi classes at their gym—in Perth, too! At Kaizen Lab, for example, we host all our Fundamentals classes as Gi classes as well as some of our All Level classes too. It’s Gi Bonanza!
In Perth? Check out our timetable to look at our Gi classes.
Watch this video that explains more on the benefits of training in gi
This video with Dean Lister talks about whether beginners should train Gi or No-Gi. Interesting points for both sides!
Hear from the higher belts
Talk to your Jiu-jitsu coach and hear from them directly on why Gi classes are so important.
Build a regular Gi class into your weekly BJJ schedule with Kaizen Lab’s All Levels (Gi) classes running most nights of the week. All our Fundamentals classes also use the Gi. New to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Perth (or in general)? Sign up for our three-class pass for only $39 and get rolling!
Written by Ashley Valli: a Perth freelance writer/editor and blogger for Kaizen Lab Jiu-Jitsu.