By Hywel Teague from BJJ Hacks
Jiu jitsu is devastatingly efficient and capable of completely incapacitating someone, but it suffers a stigma when compared to the manly art of caving someone’s skull in. Led by the testosterone-supplemented Chael Sonnen (who proclaimed he didn’t like lying between another man’s legs), it seems that a growing number of MMA fighters actively scorn Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Walk into a gym that offers classes in multiple disciplines and the MMA classes are usually packed while the jiu jitsu session struggles to attract participants. Wannabe cage fighters will happily pound away at a floorbag or grappling dummy and tell anyone within earshot how they train full contact three times a week, but you rarely hear them describe drilling guard passes or guillotines with the same level of enthusiasm.
Buoyed by the popularity of the UFC, it’s easy to see why MMA is the cool thing to do. It’s fun, rewarding, and a great workout. But hitting Thai pads and practising a little bit of ground and pound is not MMA.
Mixed martial arts is a synthesis, a name given to a combination of styles that is in essence freestyle fighting. It doesn’t matter if your kick came from karate or kickboxing, and few people can tell the difference between a wrestling throw and a judo trip.
Jiu jitsu is different. The submission holds that make the art so devastatingly effective can be found in other grappling styles, but nobody does them as well as those from the Arte Suave. The UFC was created by the Gracie family to showcase this style, and they proved without doubt that a knowledge and understanding of jiu jitsu was essential if you were to step into a cage.
Anyone delving into MMA should know that you need to have a good grasp of the ground game if you hope to stand any chance of walking out with your pride (and limbs) intact. If you’re looking to fight MMA it makes sense that you’d better get specific and train nogi and wrestling, otherwise you’ll be woefully unprepared for what awaits. Sure, MMA guys have a lot of plates to spin; they need to balance their striking and grappling and juggle strength and conditioning sessions with planning their strategy. The early stages of a career are where one lays their foundations, and solid pros often use the off-season as a perfect time to sharpen neglected skills. Whatever the motivating factor, putting the gi on is a very worthwhile activity.
Training in a gi can only make you a better MMA fighter, and here are a few reasons why:
1: The more time you spend on the mat, the better
If you go to a gym where there are only two or three MMA classes a week, then that’s 2-3 hours you’ll spend doing a mix of stand-up, clinch work and submission grappling. Depending on the focus of the session, you could do an hour of stuff on the floor, or none at all.
Boost the amount of time you spend on the deck by jumping in the jiu jitsu class – it’ll make your grappling (and MMA) better. Trust us.
2: If you can escape when wearing a gi, you can escape damn near anything when nogi
Boxers hold weights in their hands when they shadowbox. When they drop the weights, their hands are a whole lot quicker as a result. It’s the same reasoning behind running while wearing a weighted vest, or dragging a sled. Once you take away the weight, your body moves a hell of a lot faster.
Wearing a gi has much the same effect. The added weight and friction of the cloth makes it harder to move when you’re on your back, and you’ll learn how to escape tight submissions without relying on low-percentage explosive movements.
3: If it’s good enough for the best, it should be good enough for you
Do you know how many UFC champions, past and present, are black belts in BJJ? Fifteen. Yup, fifteen! If you don’t believe me, head to Wikipedia and take a look. From Jose Aldo to GSP and Anderson Silva, they’ve all put the work in to earn the coveted ‘faixa preta’ – and not just nogi. GSP trains in the kimono with Renzo and Roger Gracie, and it’s not hard to find videos of Aldo competing in the gi back when he was a purple belt.
None of them could be described as ‘grapplers’ but if you doubt the usefulness of a black belt in the cage, take a look at Silva’s epic 2010 submission win over jiu jitsu-trasher Sonnen. A better display of the effectiveness of jiu jitsu is hard to find.
THE BLACK BELT CLUB
The below list of successful fighters are all jiu jitsu black belts who regularly train in the gi. Their success is a prime example of how training in the gi helps benefit your nogi and MMA repertoire.
BJ PENN: Black belt under Andre Pederneiras
NICK DIAZ: Black belt under Cesar Gracie
DEMIAN MAIA: Black belt under Fabio Gurgel
ANDERSON SILVA: Black belt under Antonio Nogueira
SHINYA AOKI: Black belt under Yuki Nakai
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: Black belt under Bruno Fernandes
Issue 23, with cover star Rickson Gracie, is AVAILABLE NOW! See what’s inside HERE.