What you need to know when transitioning from the gi
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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners often train in the gi (kimono) since day one. It’s inevitable, however, that one day they will train without the gi. The style of Jiu-Jitsu that does not use the gi as the training uniform is named, aptly, “No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu”. The attire of choice for no-gi practitioners are rash guards, tank tops, and t-shirts for the upper body, while opting for spats, shorts, or even gi pants for the lower body.
Training No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu is not as simple as shedding the gi and grabbing your partner to roll. There are differences, both minor and major, to consider when transitioning from traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to no-gi. Let’s look at these differences, and should you consider participating in your gym’s next no-gi class, you can be aware of what to expect.
No grabbing the uniform
In traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with the gi, you are able to grab your partner’s belt, lapel, pants, and gi jacket. Basically, anything your opponent is wearing is fair game to grab and tug them around with. Grabbing your partner’s uniform allows you different variations of chokes and controls.
In No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, you cannot grab any part of your opponent’s uniform.
Control and chokes are different
Because no-gi practitioners aren’t allowed to grab their opponent’s uniform, chokes and control positions rely heavily on clinching and overhooking.
Where you would grab your opponent’s gi lapel to break their posture, you can instead look to clinch your opponent’s neck and use an overhook on one of their arms. Where you would grab your opponent’s sleeves or gi pants to control them, you can look to grip their ankles or wrists for control. Finally, where you would use your opponent’s lapel to establish a choke, you can look to utilize your arms to realize chokes.
Leg locks are options
Traditional gi Jiu-Jitsu, for most belt levels, allows for only straight ankle locks as legal leg lock submissions. It’s only when you get to the higher belt colors that your leg lock options open up. At the black belt level, legal leg locks include toe holds, knee bars, calf slicers, and straight ankle locks. Heel hooks and reaping of your opponent’s knee are illegal.
Enter No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu. At the highest competition levels and in your own gym (varies from gym to gym), any leg lock is fair game. Along with knee bars, toe holds, calf slicers, and straight angle locks, you have heel hooks at your disposal. No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu will often appear to be leg lock heavy if using a non-IBJJF ruleset. Using an IBJJF ruleset, however, No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu will allow only the leg locks that are legal for traditional gi Jiu-Jitsu.
Certain guards will not exist
By the very nature of No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, the concept of the gi is non-existent. As such, opponents will have nothing to grab onto- no sleeves, no pants, no label, no color, no belt. This will mean guards like the spider guard, lasso guard, or worm guard will not exist in No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu. Practitioners of No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu will need to learn to rely on other guards, like closed guard, open guard, butterfly guard, half guard and deep half guard. If you are already proficient with these guards in gi Jiu-Jitsu, transitioning to No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu will mean, simply, no grabbing your opponent’s uniform.
The pace will be faster
The gi slows down the pace of a match. When your opponent is holding a dominant position on you when training in the gi, they can wind down the clock and secure a victory via points. Alternatively, when you are in an unfavorable position in the gi, and your opponent attempts to advance position, you might grab their uniform in order to slow down their attack or advancement.
In No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, you do not have the luxury of slowing down your opponent by grabbing their gi, nor does your opponent have the luxury of clinching your uniform to pin you in place. Hence, stalling is going to be difficult, and holding an advancing opponent by their uniform to slow them down will be illegal. Expect quick escapes as you both begin to sweat, and expect increased reaction times, both offensively and defensively.
We hope that our examination of the minor and major differences when transitioning from gi Jiu-Jitsu to No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu has helped prepare you for what to expect. It’s essential to understand the grabbing and gripping rules, the leg lock rules, and the pace of the game. Happy training!