Who'd of thought that in 2017 and the debate between gi and nogi would still be raging???!!!
One of the main arguments that continues to pop up revolves around the assumption that training predominantly nogi Jiu Jitsu doesn’t improve your level of technique, and understanding, as well as it does in a gi.
However, it does appear that while this point has some truth to it, it's only a superficial observation.
Below I have briefly broken down my thoughts on this subject, providing information from both sides of the argument.
Obviously, you may or may not agree with me on any, some or all of these following points and you are free to do so. However, I hope that if you do feel the need to hold a preference for one style over the other, you hold it purely as a preference and not a complete dismissal of the other form.
Learning and Applying Technique
Expanding on what we mentioned earlier: one of the main arguments in this debate is the assumption that training in a gi is a superior method for improving your technique.
I feel that this point is a bit of a grey area rather than an absolute truth and the statement should be changed from “a superior way to improve your technique” to “one of the ways to improve your technique.
Why I feel training in a gi can improve your overall skill level – As most breakthroughs and improved understandings come from learning in the moment (that is problem solving) it is difficult to realise these “Ah-Ha!” moments earlier in your journey if you are unable to get a combination of:
The less experience you have, the more you rely on slowing down a position in order to apply the basic problem-solving model above. The increased level of friction involved with training in a gi helps everyone immensely in this respect, especially those beginning in their journey.
Why I feel training nogi can improve your overall skill level – As training in a gi provides friction, the opposite is true for nogi.
This, however, has its own benefit for improving technique as now the participants are forced to maintain control of a position without relying on the traction of gi materials.
In nogi, more focus is placed on geometry of both the individual’s body, and the combination of bodies at play. Here, the students will learn more about closing space, weight distribution and controlling levers, such as their opponent’s shoulders, hips and chin.
Now obviously both gi and nogi require knowledge and application of weight distribution, space and levers. However, to maintain control in nogi these become more important, as there are no materials providing grips or traction, effectively removing them from the equation.
Take the analogy of a blind person vs. someone with full sight. The blind person has to rely more on their other senses to navigate through the world, as sight is not available in their equation of senses.
And as a result, they gain a higher degree of sensitivity and understanding with these senses.
People in the BJJ community also like to argue that wearing a gi isn’t practical for modern day self defence, as people don’t walk around wearing a gi in everyday life.
I actually think that the truth of this statement depends less on the modern times and more on geographical location.
People in warmer tropical climates, who get around in nothing more than a pair of board shorts, will agree with the above statement. However, those in colder climates, where it is common to wear coats and lapelled jackets, may have a differing opinion.
I would have to agree that one style can transfer and compliment skill elements to enhance the other - but that it goes both ways and not one style is solely capable of doing so.
The trick is, if you’re are keen on developing a game that allows you to switch between gi and nogi, without too much fuss, you need to avoid focusing your attention on the esoteric elements unique to a particular style.
What I mean is, if you compete in both gi and nogi and want your game to improve in both styles at the same rate, you should focus more on the techniques, controls, transitions and position that apply to both.
For example, if an individual focuses an extremely large proportion of their of time developing their worm guard, they will realise a slower growth in their nogi game compared to if they devoted their time on positions like the butterfly, X and closed guards.
In a nutshell, if you want to be equally good at both, be like Marcelo Garcia and focus on the things that clearly transfer.
This last point probably isn’t so important.
But, if you’re the type of person who solely avoids the gi because you think it’s an out of date pyjama uniform, yet you choose to roll in spats showing the outline of your banana (if you’re a dude) inappropriately squirming around as you transition from side control to north south - you’re probably missing the point of the debate.
But, as I said, you’re entitled to disagree.
However, it does appear that while this point has some truth to it, it is only a superficial observation.