Gi, No-Gi or Both?

Gi, No-Gi or Both?

Tyson LaRone, SAKC, RMT, YSAS, BJJ Black Belt

BJJ is one of the few martial arts where there isn’t a clear answer on what is worn for training in it. Some schools strictly practice only in the gi, some treat it more as wrestling and train only in shorts, t-shirts or compression gear. Some train both and may slide more often toward one side or the other, and it really boils down to the instructor and the focus of the school. If it’s an MMA gym and BJJ is being taught as only a part of the overall program then it’s more likely to be no-gi. If it’s a pure BJJ school with self-defense as part of the curriculum then the gi is more likely to be the norm. I believe that no-gi and gi are both essential as training tools no matter what your focus, and here’s why:


No-gi is great for developing your attacks and control from top positions, especially when both competitors start to get sweaty because there’s no friction to help you keep your grips and your weight on someone. If you don’t set everything up just right, it’s much easier for someone to explode out of something and escape. If someone is strong, fast or flexible it will be more of an advantage in no-gi, and since it’s easier to escape you’re also likely to spend more time scrambling which means you’ll get in great shape! Even if you like to compete in the gi, it’s good to train no-gi because all gis are different and you don’t want to base your whole game around certain grips that may or may not be easy to get depending on the fit and material of the opponent’s gi. This also makes no-gi training great for self-defense since you never know what kind of clothing an attacker might be wearing.




The gi is an excellent tool for developing the fundamentals of BJJ, especially the guard and escapes. The added friction and grips of a gi make physical attributes less effective so you must be technical to escape submissions and top positions. This also means that matches will be more even between people of different genders, weight divisions and athletic abilities. Positions are easier to maintain and the game tends to be slower-paced than no-gi which usually results in a more cerebral match where no-gi can be more instinctual. Having more time to think during a roll means you’ll be more likely be able to look back and pinpoint how and why certain things happened so you can make adjustments. Finally, since all no-gi techniques can be used while wearing a gi (though some not as well) but gi techniques can’t be used in no-gi, the total number of possible techniques and strategies is much larger when using the gi.

In closing, both gi and no-gi have their pros and cons but totally neglecting either one could lead to some pretty big holes in the game. That is why even many of the greatest MMA world champions of all time like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva trained extensively in the gi even though they would never wear it to compete. You don’t necessarily have to split it 50/50 and every instructor will have their preference but I believe it’s essential to at least mix it up every once in a while to make sure your skills are well balanced.

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3 Exercises for Hip Mobility and Health

Training in BJJ week in, week out can take a toll on the body in general, but the hips often get the worst of it since they’re at the center of almost every technique we practice. There’s a good reason for that, but we still need to take extra steps to make sure they stay mobile and healthy:

Keep Rollin’… 

Primarily your hip flexibility is determined by how lose a group of muscles known as the IT Band are. The IT Band is notoriously tight, and that can make your hip movements restricted. After each work out or training session, you can use a foam roller (fairly cheap on sites such as amazon) to stretch out and loosen the IT Band. Simply lie on the foam roller, and move down the roller on the outer side of your leg from knee to hip. You should feel the strain and to begin with the first few rolling sessions will be painful. After time the rolling will get easier, and your hips will begin to loosen and you’ll start to feel and notice the benefits.

Just Keep Swinging

Leg swings are also a great way to promote hip flexibility as well as improving control, accuracy and range of your kicking. The exercise is also just as simple and easy to perform as it sounds. Simply swing your legs. Swing to begin with but as you start to feel comfortable instead of swinging, begin to lift, to gain more control over the movement. Swings can be made both to the front and the side. It’s the movement towards the sides that really makes the difference in your hip flexors, so concentrate on this for optimum results.

The Amazing Spiderman

Lastly we’ve got spider-mans. No not that kind of spider-man. This exercise not only helps mobility in the hips, but also works the abs, so is a welcome addition to the normal strength and conditioning circuit. To do the spider-man, take a press up position. From here move your knee to your elbow, mimicking the movement of spider-man climbing a wall. You should move the knee wide of the elbow to make the most out of this exercise. When you feel more confident, try moving your knee to the opposite elbow to work in a twist to the movement. This will work the inside of the hip muscle group as well as the lower two abs, making it a truly awesome conditioning move. Not only will your hip flexibility be improved, but you’ll have a head start if you’re ever bitten by a radioactive spider.

Conditioning of the hips should be done on a regular basis, if you don’t stretch regularly or get slack on the circuits; you’ll find that the hip seizes up incredibly quickly. Work this exercises twice a week and you’ll find you all round game improves dramatically.

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Common BJJ Mistakes

BJJ may look like a wild scramble, a furious ball of flailing limbs writhing up and slamming down. However, BJJ is deceptively intricate one wrong move and you’ll find yourself pinned in submission more effectively than when your older brother used to hold you down and shove socks in your mouth. It’s because of this BJJ can be tough to grasps, and incredibly frustrating for beginners. If your looking to stop using the arena as a glorified drum kit and tapping out, we have highlighted some common mistakes that are easily made in the heat of a BJJ sparring session.

1. Multiple Attacks

Multiple-Opponents-Step-5Bullet2Perhaps the most common, but also the easiest to correct. Countless begins launch into an attack with one technique in mind. They struggle relentlessly to apply the technique, even when its painfully obvious that it has failed and isn’t going to get you anywhere.

If you triple your attacks by using a simple three technique combination, you’ll be surprised at how close you come to tripling your success rate and win ratio. Attack with a specific technique in mind, but anticipate your opponent is going to defend your advance. Here is where you apply the counter to their counter! A key aspect of sending an opponent sprawling to the ground is the distribution of weight and centre of balance. As your opponent moves to counter, these both change, giving you the chance to sweep in with the second attack and introduce them to the floor.

2. Knowing When to Defend

BJJ Self DEfenseGenerally speaking, if you’re below your opponent you should be thinking about defence. Power from above will usually overwhelm an assault from below. This is not the case though, if you keep a solid guard. The most important part of being pinned, is noticing when you concede an attack, look to defend and then escape.

The art of escape is tricky, trying to attack to escape could result in your arms being barred or leaving yourself exposed for a choke, trying to explode to escape leaves you wide open to a barrage of attacks.

By keeping your guard strong, and looking patiently for an opening, you limit the ability and frustrate the attacker, improving the chances of escape.

3. Bluffing

After you’ve been training for a while, and can recognise your own mistakes, you can use them to your advantage especially against a more accomplished grappler than yourself. By bluffing, you give yourself the opportunity to humiliate a higher grade, something you should jump on. By making a deliberate mistake to draw in your opponent you effectively bait their move allowing you to counter there approach and turn the tide of the grapple.

Bait for the opening and then capitalise. This runs the risk of not working, and takes patience and practice, but can be a powerful tool to add to your BJJ arsenal.

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History of BJJ – The Helio Lineage – Part 1

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu’s (BJJ) history goes back many years through the Gracie family to Mitsuyo Maeda, the original teacher. He was a Judo practitioner but evolved and bettered it to form Jiu-jitsu. Maeda finally settled in Brazil and opened a Jiu-jitsu academy where one of his students was Carlos Gracie, the elder brother of Helio Gracie. In 1925 Carlos and Helio Gracie opened their own Jiu-jitsu academy.

Helio Gracie and The Birth of Brazilian Jiu-jitsuhelio drawing

Helio Gracie was only 14 when his older brother was training students at a house in Rio de Janeiro. Due to the doctor’s recommendation, Helio was not allowed to train with the other students and had to sit and watch while others learned. This did not deter him however as he learned and memorized the moves and techniques.

It was not until he was 16 years old that Helio finally got the chance to put what he had learned to the test. Helio, even with his small size and frail body, was able to accomplish the techniques successfully but also realized that these were difficult for him to execute. He was eager to make these techniques work for him and started making changes in order to adapt them to his weak body. Instead of relying on strength and speed, Helio emphasized on the perfection of timing and leverage. He was able to modify almost all of the techniques and through much practice, trial and error, was able to create what we today call Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.


The Rise of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Helio gave open challenges to all the top martial artists in Brazil in order to prove himself and the effectiveness of his new martial arts system. Out of the 18 matches that he fought, one was against the world wrestling champion Wladek Zbyszko and also against the number 2 Judoka in the world at that time called Kato. Helio was able to choke Kato unconscious well under 6 minutes into the fight.

Being able to defeat the world’s number 2 Judoka in such an effective way paved way for Helio to fight the Judoka world champion, Masahiko Kimura. Helio was outweighed by almost 80 pounds when he met Kimura in the ring. Even though Kimura won, Helio’s techniques had impressed him greatly. He requested Helio Gracie to come to Japan and teach as none of those techniques existed in Japan. This recognition by the world’s best gave Helio the morale boost to dedicate himself to refining the art of BJJ.

Helio Gracie and his former student Waldemar Santana are the only ones to have fought a no-holds-barred fight for a whopping 3 hours and 40 minutes! This is the world’s longest uninterrupted fight in history. Helio Gracie is regarded in Brazil as the first sports hero of the country.

This is the story of the man who started it all, Helio Gracie! He is the father of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and his legacy continues with his sons and other family members. If you want to learn the ways of BJJ the way it were taught by the man himself then join us at Arashi Do Martial Arts in Edmonton.

We will continue about the history of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and the Helio lineage in Part-2 of this article.


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The Stages of a Threat

Street Self DefenceWhen attacked on the street, one of two things will happen:

1. It will be a surprise attack, where you need to react immediately with whatever technique you have available.

2. The threat will build more slowly, where you have some time to plan for a proper counter-attack.

If you get forewarning of the attack, try to remove yourself from the situation before it escalates to a physical encounter. If somebody grabs or strikes you, you may need to engage your opponent for an unbalancing move, but this is not always necessary. If you have thought about possible scenarios beforehand, you may be able to de-escalate the situation, even if you have already been struck. Evaluate whether this is an isolated strike or grab, or whether there is a further threat to your safety. Granted, it is difficult to make such split second decisions in the midst of battle, so it helps to have done a considerable amount of thinking about possible scenarios beforehand. The nature of the threat can also be determined by knowing your opponent’s reason for attacking you. Is he looking for a fight? Is he venting his anger? Is he out to rob or control you? If you can’t de-escalate or get away, an unbalancing technique may be appropriate.

Once you have unbalanced your adversary, again try to get away. This may not always be possible, and you might decide to stay and subdue him on the ground. If you are the only one present, and there is little chance that somebody else will come and help you, a press to a sensitive part of your opponent’s anatomy may not be enough, because as soon as you let up, your opponent may again try to hurt you. A sharp blow, a breaking or dislocation technique, or a choke to render him unconscious may be more appropriate.

If it becomes necessary to engage an adversary, your actions must be done with full intent. You must be committed and powerful. A strike, grab, or unbalancing move does not work off of “technique” alone. Even if your technique is very accurate, if there is no power or intent behind it, it will not work. In the training hall, you might see people fly yards away when you redirect the motion of their attack. But on the street, the attack is not likely to happen with so much obvious momentum that you can really send your opponents flying that far. And if you can see the attack coming from a mile away, you can just as easily flee it all together.

How much force should one use? In theory, the answer is simple: enough to subdue the attacker, without seriously injuring or killing him. In reality, however, the answer is not so simple. If the attack is unexpected, you have little knowledge of your attacker’s motive, so it is more difficult to decide just how far to go. You must ensure your safety, until you no longer perceive a threat. The more you train in self-defense and chaotic situations, the easier it is to decide at the spur of the moment how much offense to use. This is because you train yourself to be more alert to situations that might require defense or offense, and so you are more aware of your own capabilities. If you train often, your mind will constantly be on self-preservation and, as a result, you will condition yourself to being ready with a moment’s notice.

Another interesting issue is how to determine when it is necessary to defend yourself at all, especially if it is a surprise attack. If a friend or co-worker pushes you from behind in an act of playfulness, it would be inappropriate to turn around and throw him hard on the concrete floor. So, even if you’re taken by surprise, you must still give yourself a moment to assess the situation.

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