An Alphabet of BJJ · General

K Is For Kimono: An Alphabet of BJJ


Okay, so most people don’t actually call it a Kimono, but I already used the letter ‘G’ so Kimono will have to suffice. So, this article will be talking about the gi, or rather discussing the two sides of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; gi vs no-gi.  There are a lot of articles out there regarding the subject, and the (supposedly) manifold differences between the two. I disagree that they are totally at odds with each other. Quelle surprise.

I mean sure, there are differences between BJJ when done in the gi and when done without, but to hear some people talk about it would almost be to suggest that it was two different sports. This is something that has always been denied at Kaizen Academy. This is due to the fact that the style of teaching is principal based, rather than technique based. Therefore, whether or not you’ve got a jacket and pants on simply adds different nuances to the principal, rather than completely changing the game. There is a gi culture growing a bit at Kaizen, mostly thanks to Michael’s efforts. When the gi classes first started about five people would show up, now there’s at least fifteen to twenty regulars who don the pyjamas.

Some practitioners won’t practice in the gi, and others won’t ever take it off, saying that they “don’t do” that side of the sport. This doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. They’re two halves of a whole. I mean, sure, have a preference if you must, but to completely disregard one side seems nonsensical. To me it seems like a split in the road, but the two paths run parallel to each other; you can see one path from the other, and they both lead to the same destination. You can cross between them at will, but one might offer slightly different scenery in points than the other. There are some people who train BJJ who go as far to say that if you don’t train in the gi then you shouldn’t be allowed to level up (in terms of belts). To me that is utter trash. Some of the best practitioners I know rarely train in the gi (although I have seen it from time to time), and I’m always blown away by their jiu-jitsu and their approach to the sport.

This post could be immensely long – discussing the fact that there are different guards that have strengths and weaknesses in gi and no-gi, and all the nuances therein. That’s not the point of this post and I would be ill equipped to discuss most of it anyway seeing as I have just dipped my toe into the world of jiu-jitsu.

I’ll admit, when I first started BJJ, the idea of putting on a gi seemed a long way off for me. I came from a more MMA based/grappling style of training, so therefore (other than a brief foray into Judo) had never worn the gi to train in before. I avoided it at first, doing the odd class here and there, but not really taking it seriously. I wore my old Judo gi to train in, but the sleeves were too short and the material too thick to be properly appropriate for BJJ. Eventually I bought my own gi; the honey badger black one from Tatami, and started to take gi training more seriously. I found that actually I quite enjoyed it, and that contrary to my earlier beliefs, it wasn’t so different from what I’d already been doing. The main downside was (and still is) the fact that it gets so hot!

As a smaller person there are some advantages (I’ve found so far) to training in the gi which you don’t necessarily get without. One is that I can hold onto my partner. Obviously this is one of the biggest differences between the two. I hear so much talk about grips that I think I have the word imprinted on my brain. Don’t get me wrong, grips are useful (especially when your opponent is trying a sneaky backstep from half guard!), but they’re not the be all and end all. Some practitioners get so freaked out if they don’t have their grips that the rest of their technique goes out the window. Our coach is damn good at addressing grips, so if someone rolling with him thinks grips > technique they quickly get corrected!

I will continue to train both, and enjoy both, and probably switch from having a slight preference in one or the other depending on what I’m doing at the time. At the moment my preference is lying with no gi because I’m making strides in that recently. In a couple of weeks I’ll probably be raving at a new thing I was doing in the gi. Who knows? I tend to do better in competition in no gi as well, and have been competing without the gi for longer. I fully intend to do both as often as I can next year though.

So, which do you prefer? Or do you approach them both with the same attitude?

Until next time,




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