I posed this question on the excellent www.mma.tv BJJ Forum to instructors:
The complete question : “How do you feel about complete beginners wanting to start training and train ONLY no-gi?
“There is no gi in the streets bro” or “I’m interested in MMA” are the common reasons.
The BJJ orthodoxy has it that beginners should always start in the gi to build their fundamentals. EVERY old school jiu-jitsu guy I asked this has answered the same. And they add that they would refer the prospective no-gi student to another school.
One old school guy said “What would they say if you showed up at a judo school and told them that you only wanted to do no-gi judo?”
Interestingly, both highly respected trainers Firas Zahabi and John Danaher have said that they think it is preferable for the student to begin in no-gi and learn the grips without kimono. This was a surprise to me. They say that students can learn the no-gi grips and controls first,and that gives them a superior start. Later they can add the gi training if they want.
Having visited Brazil 2 times and trained at some famous academies I don’t think they even had a no-gi class on the schedules.
What do the other black belt instructors here think?”
Here are some of the great replies from other BJJ instructors from different academies and backgrounds:
1) “If you have good jiu-jitsu it works regardless what you are wearing.” This concept is referred to as “universal jiu-jitsu” by Prof. Zahabi.
2) “The Gi improves our defense. And No Gi makes our offense “tighter”
For most people, self defense is at least one reason that they start training. And while there are “no gis in the streets” you’ll probably be wearing clothes when you’re out and about. Might as well learn how to grapple when people have all those handles and tethers to hang on to.
If you can escape positions and subs while wearing a Gi (considering all the grips and friction the two gis make) oftentimes escaping without the Gi is even easier.
Want some self defense, a good workout and to meet nice people? Train both. Want to compete in MMA in the next 6-12 months while working a regular job? Train NoGi (in addition to the other requisite skills)”
3) “If people just want no-gi, then just do no-gi.
But traditional BJJ usually involves both gi & no gi training. MOST BJJ schools offer both –usually with an emphasis on gi classes.”
4) “I tell them that you NEED to learn the gi. 99% of the guys like you described have an ego. They know the gi will slow them down and let “lesser men” choke them in ways they have never seen. they look at gi training as this mountain they are about to climb. In reality so is no-gi. But if you wanna train 10th Planet I’m sure there is a blue belt teaching in his basement somewhere.”
*This author agrees that ego IS a major factor in why many eschew the gi.
5) One experienced black belt instructor offered this opinion “I would encourage them to do the gi first. It’s much harder to spaz out and hurt yourself in the gi due to grips and friction. Learning movements that feel weird and won’t hurt you and learning how to move so you’re less likely to hurt yourself. After 3-6 months of training I would open it up and let them train gi or no-gi.”
6) There is also a practical consideration : “The most important reasons to train in the gi in my opinion is that in most areas of the country it will give you access to more classes per week and a higher level training partners and coaches.”
7) One pro fighter summed it up simply. “I teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. BJJ is done in the gi. You have to wear a gi. *Otherwise what you are doing is more properly termed “submission grappling”?
In informal conversations in different gyms I’ve literally never heard a black belt instructor endorse complete beginners starting in no-gi only. Is this merely archaic thinking? An outdated philosophy as the art and sport has evolved far beyond the origins of the Gracie academy?
Or as one multiple time World Champion in both Gi IBJJF and ADCC no-gi Xande Ribeiro told me that he insisted that to reach your highest level of jiu-jitsu, a student MUST train in the kimono.
What do the Jiu-jitsu Times readers say on the question ‘Is it ok for complete beginners to start training BJJ only no-gi?”
Well here is my opinion, and it comes from training for about 6 years and I also train in 2 different countries, U.S. and Canada. As far as I’m concerned I think that beginners should start in a GI until they prove themselves to an instructor that they can handle no-gi. In my past I was drawn to no-gi not by the self-defense aspect but by how fun open mat looked when I was just starting. To see all these high level guys chilling out, then engaging in the occasional roll was really neat and I wanted a part of that fun. Like the old saying goes, got to learn to walk before you can run.