Some Gi questions from a NOGI guy?

Hey all,

I have trained exclusively no-gi MMA stuff for the past 4 yrs but feel as though my progress has stalled a little and my body has begun to feel a little worn down. I don't have any plans to be fighter - just love rolling. I don't want to give up on no-gi and wrestling but am starting to think about where the gi game might fit in.

I'm curious about peoples experiences whether switching from no-gi to gi or rolling mostly gi and then occassionally during no-gi?

Do people feel like rolling with a gi helped to accelerate technical proficiency and understanding of the priciples/elements of BJJ?

What is the comparison in physical demands between gi and no-gi in terms of injuries, recovery, general aches and pains and ability to stay competative for someone who is hoping to be able to roll into old age?

My instructor (holds gi rank from a very legit source) has told me that if we had any rank I'd be a decent/good blue (I suck I know). Does it make sense for someone at this level to try ro split time between gi and no-gi while training or is it better to focus on one or the other?

What is the structure (or ideal structure) of a typical gi class in terms of instruction, drilling, live roll etc...?

What are the protocals for letting instructors know you train someplace else? Do I have an obligation to mention it if I roll exclusively gi at one location and no-gi at another?

Sorry for the long post. I'm just trying to decide whether it makes sense for me to start looking for a gi class.


Any training is good training. You'll love the gi, IMO, and will wish you started sooner...

Switching to mostly gi training helped my whole team by leaps and bounds.  The gi forces you to slow down - at first because you can grab cloth to stop your opponent's explosive movements, but then later on you just get so used to being tight that when you take the gi off you instinctively go back to no-gi grips and STILL stay ultra tight with them (something that most nogi-only guys don't do), which is part of where the whole "gi makes your game more technical" comes from.  The other part is that because you are grappling so much slower with the gi on, you get to experiment a lot more and develop many more techniques in your arsenal, and especially if you are coming from a no-gi background already they will NOT necessarily be dependent on gripping cloth.  When I roll, I still use the same grips 90% of the time whether I've got the gi on or not - the only real difference is if I'm training for an upcoming gi competition I might grab the gi a bit more, and obviously collar chokes require gripping the gi.  We now roll one day a week no-gi in my school and everyone's progress in no-gi has accelerated if anything.  As someone who used to argue that you didn't need the gi to get good in no-gi, I have done an about face in my opinions.  The gi - especially for those below purple belt - should be used at least 30-50% of training time, I feel.

As far as physical demands, rolling with the gi is a lot less cardio-intensive.  Overall you'll get a lot less injuries, too, although your fingers will take a pounding.  If you switch to mostly gi training, you WILL need to make sure you do some sprints or other anaerobic cardio to keep your endurance up for no-gi competitive grappling.  A few hours a week of hard no-gi rolling will keep you in shape also.

I don't believe there is any "ideal structure" to a gi class, or a no-gi class for that matter, in terms of instruction, drilling, live rolling, etc.  I think it is a very subjective thing that should CONSTANTLY be changing according to the class' needs, which any qualified instructor will automatically do anyway.  Some classes will be an even mix of the three, while other classes will be just for drilling, or just for rolling, or just technical instruction.  The "ideal structure" is what contributed to the dilution of the TMA styles effectiveness, in my opinion.  BJJ needs to stay fluid, dynamic, and in a constant state of adaptation to the needs of the group and the individuals.

If you are going to train at more than one school, I feel it is important to discuss it with all school-owners and establish who you are representing when you compete (if you compete).  If you never intend to compete, I don't think it matters quite as much.  I definitely would suggest the "exclusiveness" of gi in one school and no-gi in another, however, if you want to represent both schools.  That is actually the situation I am in.  I train and compete under Roy Harris' Association for no-gi, and under the Joe Moreira/Aaron Blake Association for gi.  I was up front with everyone about it BEFORE I made the switch to dual-affiliations, and after a few initial hiccups over the whole "who are you representing in competition" and "who are promotions going to come from" stuff, I think it has worked itself out well.

I know this has been a long post, but as someone who is in the situation that it sounds like you want to be in (dual-affiliations), I wanted to answer each of your questions.  Please let me know if this helps, or if you have any other questions.

Adam LaClair

Good post Adam LaClair

what he said!

Adam makes alot of good points. To me training is training. I believe in training both gi and no-gi, although, I mostly train gi. I believe there are benefits to doing both.

Thanks for responding guys - I really appreciate the input/insight.

I have been thinking alot about adding in some gi work. Your responses have futher influenced me in this direction.

Any advice in what to look for in a gi school/instructor?

For example is it better to join a larger well known school with lots of students of different abilities to roll with including brown/black beltsor to a smaller school where there are fewer students and thus potentially individualized attention?

I've also heard some people say good things about training with good browns or even purples since they are usually eager to teach and share their insights. Any experiences in this area?

Is it common to instructors to let there purples and browns give privates? If so what wouls a typical rate be?

I live in socal (HB) so I have lots of options.

Another long post - sorry =( and thanks

i just started doing gi about a month ago after 9 or 10 months of nogi, and i can honestly say i think it makes a big difference in your technique. the game is slower and you wont be able to muscle things as much like in nogi, which is what i think makes it good for rolling into your old age.

i currently do nogi 3 times a week and gi twice a week, cause thats all i have available. id honestly do gi 4 or even all 5 times weekly if i could. my instructors are pretty understanding about me training at two different schools. the extent of the competetiveness is my gi instructor wanting to know who i tapped at nogi practice :) .

As a side note I've seen guys make a complete transformation in their game from no gi to gi in a couple of months time. If you have good fundamentals it's not so difficult.

"For example is it better to join a larger well known school with lots of students of different abilities to roll with including brown/black belts or to a smaller school where there are fewer students and thus potentially individualized attention? "

Both have their advantages, which you have already mentioned.  I think it really depends on the atmosphere and how YOU mesh with it as an individual.  If you have both options, try out a couple of classes at each to see which you prefer.  I myself prefer smaller classes with more individual attention, but there are plenty of people who would rather have a larger group.

You should also really look at the instructor - regardless of whether he is a purple belt or a black belt - and get a "feel" for if YOU can learn from HIM.  I've been in schools and seminars where I walked out feeling like I didn't get anything out of the training session, despite "legit" higher ranks being present, and I've also had (as a white belt and as a blue belt) lessons with a purple belt instructor where I walked out feeling like it was one of the best classes I'd ever been to.  Every teacher has a different style of teaching, and every student has a certain degree of responsiveness to each teaching style...... the biggest piece of the "successful training" puzzle is sometimes figuring out WHO you can learn from most effectively.  Only trial and error will tell you that.


As far as training with browns and purples, that is where I've had some of my BEST training.  As good as a BJJ black belt is, sometimes they take certain movements for granted, whereas a lower belt (but higher than you) has recently had to work that area themselves so they spend a little more time going into detail on your difficulty with it.  For instance, sometimes BB's move their hips so naturally that they under-emphasize just HOW MUCH (and/or how easily) they move their hip during a particular technique.... whereas let's say you are a blue belt taking a private lesson from a purple, he might notice that you are having difficulty getting your hip to move far enough, and instead of saying "move your hip more" he'll show you HOW he overcame the same difficulty in actually getting his hip to move more.  I'm not saying a purple belt is a better teacher than a black belt, just that sometimes I think they can "relate" to the difficulties you are having more because "how" to overcome those difficulties is more fresh in their mind.  Make sense?  Personally, I love taking privates with guys who are a rank higher than me AND black belts, and feel there are big benefits to that approach.

I don't think many school owners would have a problem with their purples or browns giving private lessons to white or blue belt students, as long as the one intending on teaching clears it ahead of time, if it's going to be in the school.  Outside of the school, they really don't have a say in the matter.  Blue belts giving privates to white belts is acceptable as long as the blue belt has experience teaching, otherwise someone might have a problem with them charging money for a private lesson.

As to rates, it really depends on where you live.  I'm a purple belt in BJJ with over 12 years of experience teaching MMA and grappling; If I lived in SoCal I wouldn't think of charging less than $60/hour with my proven track record of successful teaching.  However, in my home town I have a hard time getting people to cough up $30/hour due to the average income being under $20k a year here.  Someone else with less teaching experience (and only BJJ training) might be worth $30 to $50 in SoCal, and maybe $15-$20 in my town.  It's really subjective to the teachers experience (the higher the rank and/or the more teaching experience they have, the more they should get paid) AND the local economy.  New York and SoCal are going to get a lot more than a low-population rural area. 


My students and I have trained almost ENTIRELY No-Gi for 4 years now, and we've just started playing with the gi recently.

Some of them loved it immediately. Others are warming up to it quickly, as they're seeing some new possibilities. Here is my take on it:

"The gi is a weapon. Rolling with gi is like rolling with a knife or a stick. It has strengths and weaknesses. It has offensive and defensive tactics that you should be aware of. However, grappling is still grappling. The presence of a weapon (gi) can change your tactics (decision-making), but it should not hamper your game."

This is the way I present it to my students, and they are now enjoying training BOTH. I think it gives them perspective so that they don't obsess over the uniform. Also, they are given a lot of freedom to "play" with nontraditional gi uses. They come up with some wacky and creative stuff! They are also figuring out how to work the same stuff with a t-shirt, or no-gi.

And FWIW, sometimes we DO roll with a knife or a stick or a gun, too.

I did exclusively no-gi for over a year, and only recently started mixing in some gi training. I can beat blue belts without the gi, but generally not in the gi. I personally am not a big fan of the gi so far. It's hot and sweaty, I feel like I'm rolling in a straightjacket, and I'm a small guy, so I hate how much it sucks trying to escape mount/side. It is also really doing a number on my fingers.

I think the whole "it makes you more technical" is generally BS. The technical things you learn in the gi are frequently not applicable to no-gi. Stuff like "stay tight to your opponent" should be taught in no-gi (and was at my school). The best black belt at our school no-gi trains exclusively no gi. The best black belt at our school in the gi trains almost exclusively in the gi.

You'll learn new stuff, whether you train with the gi or not. Just train how you feel most comfortable. You should probably try to train in the gi for a bit, though, just to learn some of the chokes, which are awesome. The only other definite upside to training in the gi is that you can get a ranking, such that if you ever want to open your own school, you can say "I'm a black belt".

Just a thought. If you only recently started gi training it doesn't give you much perspective to say much about whether or not it will help your nogi game. Give it some more time.

By recently, I mean "a couple months", which is the same time frame as guys above claiming it made them more technical. Of course, you didn't suggest that the guy who had been doing it for only a month lacked perspective. It was just an opinion, which is what the dude asked for. The thing is, being technical was never my problem with jiu jitsu. My problem is being a scrawny MFer who likes to play lazy.

I still think that if you are truly trying to get better at no-gi, your time is better spent practicing the thing you are trying to get good at. I think if that were my main focus, all the days spent working spider guard, or gi chokes, or setups for subs that require sleeve grips would be better spent working on techniques that are directly applicable to no gi, at least at my level of ability.

I too started playing with the gi a few months ago. Im not sure how much crossover there has been to my no-gi game, but I LOVE the fact that it is much easier on my body.

training in the gi can do nothing to your game but help.

Gi training is also more tiring and harder. It wears you out faster than no-gi.