How Can No-Gi Training Help Your Gi Game?

By Alec Baulding

It might seem counterintuitive but training no gi can help improve your gi Jiu Jitsu game. The two may seem worlds apart. There are different rules, uniforms, and terminology. But at the end of the day, it’s all grappling. No gi has its roots in amateur wrestling, pro wrestling, Lucha Livre, and no holds barred contests and that might be what turns many students off of training no gi at first. No gi is often seen as being harder due to the lack of grips, while the gi is often considered easier because the pace is slower. It really depends on what your academy prioritizes. Some academies only train with the gi on while others only train no gi. The best is to have a combination of the two. We can’t argue that no gi training is faster than gi training. Lycra and sweat help a lot with that. However, there is a lot of crossover.

Training No Gi Will Sharpen Your Takedowns

Depending on what rule set you compete under or that your academy uses, you will have to become more familiar with takedowns when you begin training nogi. In the gi, it’s a lot easier to pull guard so you can get away with not developing your takedown skill set. However, in many no gi tournaments pulling guard is frowned upon. For instance in ADCC you may be penalized for pulling guard, encouraging athletes to utilize their takedowns. Another reason that no gi athletes focus on standing techniques is that it’s harder to use your guard no gi. The increased pace and lack of grips makes slowing down an opponent using the guard a lot harder. Many students are so dependent on the gi for their guard game that their skill severely drops when they attempt to play their normal guard without the gi. There will be an adjustment period in which you will have to adapt your gi skill set into your nogi game. But it will come with practice.

Improve Your Control

Training no gi will improve your ability to control your opponents. With the gi, we can get away with a lot due to our ability to grip the gi. This allows us to control an opponent even with a bad grip. A good example of this is when you get close to passing the guard and your opponent’s foot accidentally gets caught in your gi top. You could be 98 percent of the way passed their guard and get completely stopped by this happening. In no gi, you will have to develop good control in order for your moves to work. Otherwise your opponent will just escape like a slippery bar of soap on a bathroom floor.

Give You a Crash Course in Leg Locks

The leg lock game has evolved due to its acceptance in no gi. The rules and the inability to get great grips without a gi helped stir the development of leg locks. You can only really experience heel hooks and reaping in no gi. If you want to delve deeper in leg lock knowledge it will only benefit you to try no gi.

Give Your Grips a Rest

The gi can be rough on your hands, especially if you like to play more open guards. Even when you try your best to keep your hands healthy, all it takes is one of your training partners breaking your grips really hard to do some damage. That’s why the finger tape industry is blowing up right now. By adding a few no gi classes to your training you can give your hands a much needed break without having to take time off of the mat.

Double Your Competition Experience

Training gi and no gi allows you to compete in more tournaments, which means more overall grappling experience. This is catching on with many events hosting gi and no gi competitions like the AZBJJF and the IBJJF. There’s really no shortages of reasons on why you should add more no gi training to your gi training and vice versa. Training with the gi will help you develop technical skills that will immediately carry over to no gi, and training no gi will help you with learning how to better control opponents, work on your takedowns, and initiate you into the leg lock game. So give no gi a try. The worst thing that can happen is that you get really into buying spats and rash guards.