No Gi Reflections #5 | No Gi classes are still a rarity here in the UK

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In the quest to improve my own No Gi game by breaking through a recent stagnancy phase I have been experiencing, I took to our friend, the search engine to see what classes were available to me within as smaller radius as possible.

The result? Not many! Though there are a few clubs in the Surrey county area, all of them offer only one No Gi class per week. One! I would have thought the recent boom of Mixed Martial Arts’ popularity over the last decade would have spawned more interest from the community, creating such a demand for No Gi classes that clubs would have to lay them on more frequently. Not the case.

Why is this? To be honest, I am not sure entirely but my leanings are towards the fact that beginners, in my opinion, should start their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey wearing the Gi. And because BJJ is an artform and sport, in and of itself, it makes sense that classes are focused on Gi techniques. However, from a business stand point, if the demand is there for No Gi classes, why wouldn’t you put them on? That I do not understand. What is entirely plausible, however, especially in the UK, is that there is just no way near the demand for No Gi to be taught and experienced as a sport.

It’s only since the recent arrivals of the ‘Submission Only’ tournaments in the States that No Gi has gained traction as a sport and profession in its own right. That means for the UK it’s going to be at least another decade before there’s enough interest to warrant selling to a market and providing regular classes for.
MMA gyms incorporate No Gi by default when training in the cage, simply because the No Gi aspect is intrinsic to full contact fighting, the only difference being striking is permitted. So for the grapplers that don’t particularly enjoy taking knuckles to the face, like myself, attending the MMA classes are not really an option.
It’s a little frustrating as someone like myself is caught in a grey area. I can’t justify a monthly membership to train only once a week, and if I pay as I go at the 3 clubs that are in vicinity, I end up spending nearly twice the amount per month compared to a monthly membership at one club.

“Just train Gi!” I hear you cry. It would make sense, however, I’m not interested in perfecting my Gi game. Why? Because I started there as a kid and it gave me a great foundation but the aspects of No Gi that I enjoy are not present in the Gi game; the minimalist nature of having nothing to hold, the increased pace, the reduced amount of friction, Sub-Only tournaments etc.

So what to do?

Well, it’s a difficult one but the solution I’m leaning towards is to take 2 classes a week, 2 private lessons per month, plus rolling with my friends outside of class time once a week (what you would describe as ‘open mat’) and making a point to roll with at least one of my students once per week, totalling anything from 4-5 No Gi sessions per week.

It was Eddie Cummings, current EBI Welterweight Champion, who said ‘If you don’t have the discipline to do it whilst you’re an amateur and it’s impractical, you won’t have the discipline to do it as a professional when it’s convenient.” (I’m paraphrasing – you can watch the awesome interview where he goes into more detail about his path to becoming a pro from being a lab technician, here.)

Let’s see how it goes with regards to breaking through my Gi-less plateau!


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Harry Cloudfoot is a writer and explorer of movement and mind. You can check his social media if you want but you'd be better off going and doing something, instead.
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