Training Diary: Three Thoughts on My First No-Gi Class


This is what no-gi looks like. If I was one of these guys, which I’m not, I’d be the guy in turquoise. (Marco Crupi/Flickr/CC)

On Monday night I did my first no-gi class. It may surprise my non-Toronto BJJ BJJ friends that it’s taken me this long to get around to trying no-gi, but my school is pretty traditional, so you can’t actually train no-gi until after you get your blue belt. Also, no-gi scared the pants off of me. Or scared the gi on to me, I guess.

Finally, a mixture of a tight schedule, a desire to push myself and me wanting to be less dependant on collar-and-sleeve grips lead me to take off my jacket, get throughly uncomfortable, and train some no-gi.

Here are three quick thoughts:

It’s basically like being a white belt all over again

Like I said, my instinct at this point is to start a roll by going for a collar-and-sleeve. In no-gi though, there’s no sleeve and no collar, so instead I started the roll by staring at my hands and trying to figure out what to do with them while my opponent swept me into mount. It was a bad time.

It’s very slippery

A gi soaks up sweat. That’s why it weight like 20 kilos by the time you’re done training. With no gi that sweat is just kind of around, making everything wet. Including you, your opponent and the ground. The upside is that even if you’re stuck in a bad position, it can be hard for your opponent to submit you because you just keep slipping away. The downside is that it’s harder to get enough traction to get yourself out of said bad position.

Leg locks 

The key difference between gi and no-gi, beyond wardrobe, is that no-gi allows for more leg locks. BJJ is as much a mental art as a physical one. Having to have an added awareness of what your feet are doing adds one more thing to the checklist.

My Professor, Jorge Britto, said that traditional BJJ is chess and no-gi is checkers. I don’t ever want to disagree with Prof. Jorge about anything BJJ related for obvious reasons, but I would like to suggest that if traditional BJJ is chess, no-gi is Central Park speed chess. It’s only marginally less strategic, but infinitely faster.

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