Gi or No-Gi: A Conversation with a Traditional BJJ Practitioner

Sunday, January 15, 2017

By Tanvir Mosharraf



Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has made significant headlines as a combat sport, an art of self-defense by civilians, a tool for law enforcement globally, and is paving its way into Bangladesh. 


It has also evolved over time from its native form of practice with the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Javed Uddin, a British citizen with Bangladeshi heritage, is a BJJ black belt under Roger Gracie and commenced his journey under the legendary Maurício "Maurição" Motta Gomes. He prefers to train wearing a gi. However, there are also practitioners who prefer training without a gi, wearing shorts and a T-shirt instead. This has raised the debate on the pros and cons of training wearing the traditional outfit, or modern gym clothes. The argument being such as, if you are in a street situation, or in an MMA match, you will not be wearing a gi. Javed is the first known person of Bangladeshi origin to earn a black belt in BJJ and lives in London, which is home to a large Bangladeshi diaspora. 


At a training session in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, during live rolling a participant yells out “I want to roll with someone who is wearing a gi.” It was a mixed BJJ class where some trainees were wearing a gi, while others were not. 


This participant’s preference to roll with someone wearing a gi echoes some sentiment felt by BJJ enthusiasts.

One can train in BJJ for various reasons.


It can be for self-defense, to compete in gi, no-gi BJJ tournaments as a sport or even Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and simply for fitness. You might want to hone your skills in unarmed and close quarter combat if you are in law enforcement or military. The purpose of training is something a rookie entering the world of martial arts, in particular BJJ should consider. One could argue the goal of training defines whether or not a gi should be worn in practice.


Advocates of no-gi training argue that their training method is more modern and it allows them to be better prepared for no-gi and MMA competition. Then, they argue that no-gi training is much more realistic stimulation to a self-defense scenario in a street situation. 


On the other hand campaigners of the gi game such as Javed believe that BJJ students should have a foundation in the gi game. To him, when you attend an institution that teaches BJJ, you are part of a community. The gi can be a uniform that helps you develop a sense of belonging, a feeling of equality and common growth. His school of thought also says that the gi game makes you more creative and sensitive to technique. There are a lot of techniques that are possible with the gi and not applicable without a gi. To Javed, this makes the gi game a chess match.“


To me there is nothing called no-gi BJJ. That’s submission wrestling’’ says Javed. 


In the end it is up to the individual who decides to train BJJ if he or she prefers to train with a gi or not. However, I would argue to try both gi and no-gi and decide on what course to take. It may also be beneficial to train both simultaneously if you want to learn BJJ and also compete in MMA. 


In conclusion, a BJJ school curriculum to include both gi and no-gi training would be one of the many facets shaping its culture. It would be up to the school to strike a balance between traditional and contemporary BJJ practice. Personally, I have enjoyed my gi classes. As for those considering starting BJJ training, perhaps a trial gi and no-gi class might help while pondering to make a decision. 




Research and Reference:


Mohammed Tanvir (Nick) Mosharraf

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